Williams, Sir Edward Leader

Williams, Sir Edward Leader
SUBJECT AREA: Canals, Civil engineering
b. 28 April 1828 Worcester, England
d. 1 June 1910 Altrincham, Cheshire, England
English civil engineer, designer and first Chief Engineer of the Manchester Ship Canal.
After an apprenticeship with the Severn Navigation, of which his father was Chief Engineer, Williams was engaged as Assistant Engineer on the Great Northern Railway, Resident Engineer at Shoreham Harbour and Engineer to the contractors for the Admiralty Pier at Dover. In 1856 he was appointed Engineer to the River Weaver Trust, and among the improvements he made was the introduction of the Anderton barge lift linking the Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal. After rejecting the proposal of a flight of locks he considered that barges might be lifted and lowered by hydraulic means. Various designs were submitted and the final choice fell on one by Edwin Clark that had two troughs counterbalancing each other through pistons. Movement of the troughs was initiated by introducing excess water into the upper trough to lift the lower. The work was carried out by Clark.
In 1872 Williams became Engineer to the Bridgewater Navigation, enlarging the locks at Runcorn and introducing steam propulsion on the canal. He later examined the possibility of upgrading the Mersey \& Irwell Navigation to a Ship Canal. In 1882 his proposals to the Provisional Committee of the proposed Manchester Ship Canal were accepted. His scheme was to use the Mersey Channel as far as Eastham and then construct a lock canal from there to Manchester. He was appointed Chief Engineer of the undertaking.
The canal's construction was a major engineering work during which Williams overcame many difficulties. He used the principle of the troughs on the Anderton lift as a guide for the construction of the Barton swing aqueduct, which replaced Brindley's original masonry aqueduct on the Bridgewater Canal. The first sod was cut at Eastham on 11 November 1887 and the lower portion of the canal was used for traffic in September 1891. The canal was opened to sea-borne traffic on 1 January 1894 and was formally opened by Queen Victoria on 21 May 1894. In acknowledgement of his work, a knighthood was conferred on him. He continued as Consulting Engineer until ill health forced his retirement.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted. Vice-President, Institution of Civil Engineers 1905–7.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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