... James Brindley, the canal builder                               (Click to enlarge)



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Part of a suite of etchings created as a sculpture proposal about James Brindley, the canal builder, and his involvement with Coventry.

This series of etchings was created as a proposal for a sculpture for Coventry. The design was unsuccessful and the story is full of irony.

Canals were the internet highway of the late 18th century. They were the new life-blood of any town's economy, and vast fortunes were to be made.

James Brindley was the genius who knew how to build canals - he was very inventive in his methods and designed some 375 miles of waterways.

He lived an unenviable existence, latterly on the back of his horse. He would spend little more than a fortnight in each place, the next canal builder or town clamouring for his time elsewhere.

Brindley used to arrive at a site, survey it, and would often then retire to a darkened room for days at a time. This son of a drunken farm worker had little formal education and preferred to work out his ideas in his head rather than on paper. It was in this way he fathomed out these enormous engineering solutions.

This approach was unconventional, but tolerated, as was the fact that Brindley would, of course, go on to work for his current employer's commercial competitor. His results spoke for themselves.

Brindley began work in Coventry, but after not much more than a year into construction, the high standards that he demanded became too much for the company who were already struggling financially. They dismissed his services at more or less the point that the new Coventry Canal was joining the Oxford Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.

The result has become a monument to this lack of forsight. The levels at Hawkesbury were some 6 inches (150mm) different from each other, as well as being a good distance out of line with each other. This caused serious problems in both engineering and economic terms.

My brief was to link the newly refurbished canal basin via five miles of reopened canal paths to Hawkesbury Junction.

My proposal was to place a lifesize bronze of Brindley, watching the canal basin from his 'darkened room'; and an identical bronze standing on the bridge at Hawkesbury Junction, looking towards Oxford. But this was not to be!


Location: Indoor

Size: Large

Dimensions: Plate Size: 21cm x 26cm

Medium: Soft Ground Etching

Edition size: Edition of 50

Collection: Private & Artist`s Collections

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