Benjamin Outram, one of the most remarkable civil engineers of the early Industrial Revolution, was born in Alfreton, Derbyshire, the son of a land agent.
Outram was an assistant to William Jessop on the Cromford Canal but soon became a leading engineer and eminent canal surveyor. When the Derby Canal Act was passed on 1793 Outram supervised its contruction. The canal was completely opened to navigation on 30th June 1796. It originally ran from the River Trent at Swarkestone to the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre via the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone Lock.
He went on to work for the Nottingham and Nutbrook canals in the East Midlands, the Ashton and Peak Forest canals in the North West, and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, a major trans-Pennine route, as well as numerous smaller schemes. Outram also developed an improved system of horse-drawn railways, using L-section cast-iron plate rails on stone sleepers, and supervised the construction of several hundred miles of such lines including many feeders from collieries to nearby canals.
In 1790 Outram established and ran the Butterley Company, the largest coal and iron concern in the East Midlands. This company was to export cast iron products all over the world.
Return to Derbyshire People menu