Benjamin Outram

Benjamin Outram (1 April 1764 - 22 May 1805) was an English civil engineer, surveyor and industrialist.

Personal life

Born at Alfreton in Derbyshire, he began his career assisting his father Joseph Outram, who described himself as an "agriculturalist" but this covered many duties from arbitrating in the many disputes which arose from the enclosures acts to advising on land management and surveying for new mines. In this, he was scrupulously honest and well respected.

In 1803 he had a son, Sir James Outram.

He died of a brain fever in London in 1805. After his death, in 1809 Benjamin Outram and Company was renamed Butterley Company ltd.


Early career

When William Jessop was approached to design and build the Cromford Canal he found an able assistant in the 24 year-old Benjamin. Construction of the canal, particularly Butterley Tunnel, revealed substantial mineral deposits. Butterley Hall came on the market and Francis Beresford, solicitor to the canal company, bought the freehold of the hall and its estate. He leased it on a moiety to Outram until the latter had acquired enough capital for a fifty percent holding.

Established canal and railway engineer

This was the beginning of the ironworks, 'Benjamin Outram & Company' which began trading in 1790. The following year William Jessop and John Wright, a Nottingham banker, also became partners. Outram became the leading advocate in the construction of tramways using L-section rails, which along with the wagons were manufactured at his ironworks. His first tramway was a line slightly over convert|1|mi|km in length, built to carry limestone from quarries at Crich to Bullbridge Wharf on the Cromford Canal, for use by his works.

In 1792 he became engineer for the Nottingham Canal and in 1793 the Derby Canal, working in the meantime on the Nutbrook Canal.

He is perhaps best known for the convert|44|ft|m long single-span Holmes Aqueduct on the Derby Canal, which opened in February 1796 and was one of the first cast-iron aqueducts (it was demolished in 1971). It was cast by Benjamin Outram & Company and predated Thomas Telford's longer aqueduct on the Shrewsbury Canal at Longdon-on-Tern by one month.

An important extension to the Derby Canal was the Little Eaton Gangway, a feeder for the Derby Canal built on the pattern of that at Crich. Such tramways became an important part of his later canals. A common misconception is that the word "tramway" comes from Outram's surname but the word actually derives from the Low German word "traam" meaning "a beam" (of a wheelbarrow). Outram always referred to tramways as railways.

Outram was the consulting engineer for the construction of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which included the pioneering Standedge Canal Tunnel. In 1794 he was the engineer for the Peak Forest Canal, which included the Marple Aqueduct. The climb from Bugsworth was negotiated by the convert|6|mi|km Peak Forest Tramway. Stodhart Tunnel on this tramway is believed to be the first railway tunnel in Derbyshire. In 1796 he reported on the extra funds needed to complete construction of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal.Citation | title = Waterways Engineers and Surveyors from Nimmo, Alexander | url= | publisher = Jim Shead | accessdate = 2008-08-26 ] In 1798, he was retained to complete the final section of the Ashton Canal which included the Store Street Aqueduct, among the first to solve the problem of skew arches.

Outram also built railways for the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal and was asked to advise on railways for the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. He predicted within a few years of their introduction that railways would become the principal mode of transport. In 1799 he wrote, while building the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal railway at four foot two inch gauge, "it appears that many hogsheads and packages require carriages . . . wider than those at Derby and Crich" and "it seems desirable that all extensive railways should be of the same width and that width should be sufficient to suit all the purposes of trade".



Schofield, R.B., (2000) "Benjamin Outram 1764-1805 : an engineering biography", Cardiff : Merton Priory, ISBN 1-898937-42-7

External links

* [ Biography of Benjaim Outram at David Kitching's Home Page]

NAME= Outram, Benjamin

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