Egerton, Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater

Egerton, Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater
SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
b. 21 May 1736
d. 9 March 1803 London, England
English entrepreneur, described as the "father of British inland navigation".
Francis Egerton was the younger of the two surviving sons of Scroop, 1st Duke of Bridgewater, and on the death of his brother, the 2nd Duke, he succeeded to the title in 1748. Until that time he had received little or no education as his mother considered him to be of feeble intellect. His guardians, the Duke of Bedford and Lord Trentham, decided he should be given an opportunity and sent him to Eton in 1749. He remained there for three years and then went on the "grand tour" of Europe. During this period he saw the Canal du Midi, though whether this was the spark that ignited his interest in canals is hard to say. On his return to England he indulged in the social round in London and raced at Newmarket. After two unsuccessful attempts at marriage he retired to Lancashire to further his mining interests at Worsley, where the construction of a canal to Manchester was already being considered. In fact, the Act for the Bridgewater Canal had been passed at the time he left London. John Gilbert, his land agent at Worsley, encouraged the Duke to pursue the canal project, which had received parliamentary approval in March 1759. Brindley had been recommended on account of his work at Trentham, the estate of the Duke's brother-in-law, and Brindley was consulted and subsequently appointed Engineer; the canal opened on 17 July 1761. This was immediately followed by an extension project from Longford Brook to Runcorn to improve communications between Manchester and Liverpool; this was completed on 31 December 1772, after Brindley's death. The Duke also invested heavily in the Trent \& Mersey Canal, but his interests were confined to his mines and the completed canals for the rest of his life.
It is said that he lacked a sense of humour and even refused to read books. He was untidy in his dress and habits yet he was devoted to the Worsley undertakings. When travelling to Worsley he would have his coach placed on a barge so that he could inspect the canal during the journey. He amassed a great fortune from his various activities, but when he died, instead of leaving his beloved canal to the beneficiaries under his will, he created a trust to ensure that the canal would endure; the trust did not expire until 1903. The Duke is commemorated by a large Corinthian pillar, which is now in the care of the National Trust, in the grounds of his mansion at Ashridge, Hertfordshire.
Further Reading
H.Malet, 1961, The Canal Duke, Dawlish: David \& Charles.

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

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