A collection of 45 notebooks and maps linked to famous canal pioneer James Brindley will go under the hammer next year.
The auction house is expecting to attract national interest in the works from the man, who is famous for creating the first major English canal and who Birmingham’s Brindleyplace is named after.
Notebooks, maps and copies of Acts of Parliament leading to the creation of canals in the West Midlands have been consigned to a sale at Halls, in Shrewsbury, on February 13.
Its art and books expert William Lacey said the notebooks were saved from a bonfire during an office clearance in the 1960s, as the Kidderminster vendor recognised their significance.
The specialist expects the collection to fetch in excess of £5,000 at auction, with museums and other institutions among the likely bidders.
“An expert in industrial archaeology has viewed the collection which he described as fantastic and of national importance,” he said.
“James Brindley was king of canal developments in the West Midlands and at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.
“The notebooks appear to have been handwritten by Brindley’s assistants and refer to the pioneering development of canal systems. The importance of the canal network cannot be underestimated, as it allowed coal and manufactured goods to move around the country much more efficiently and cost effectively.”
Born at Tunstead, near Buxton in 1716, Brindley was responsible for a network of canals totalling 375 miles which included the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and Coventry and Oxford Canals. He also constructed the watermill at Leek, which is now the Brindley Water Museum.
An apprentice millwright at the age of 17, Brindley quickly established himself as a competent engineer, having improved the performance of the steam engine and draining of the Clifton coal mines.
By the age of 26 he had founded his own business, initially constructing mills and working with steam engines before becoming a canal engineer. He was responsible for the construction of the Bridgewater Canal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s coal mines at Worsley to the city of Manchester, which was completed in 1765. This is considered to be the beginning of the great age of canals in the United Kingdom.
Brindley was practical in his approach to his work and disliked drawing plans or putting his ideas on paper.
He solved many of the initial problems of canal building by trial and error, the solutions often being in his head and not written down.
Brindley believed it would be possible to use canals to link the four great rivers of England: the Mersey, Trent, Severn and Thames in a “Grand Cross” of waterways across the country. But he would not live to see his dream realised.