The Brindley Memorial


The spring from which water flows continuously on this site was undoubtedly a decisive reason for the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon village of Wruenele in about 700 AD and would have been the main source of water for most of the population and farm animals up to the arrival of a piped supply in the 20th century.

In 1875 a memorial, sponsored by the Masonic Lodge in Buxton, was built on the source of the spring to James Brindley who was born in the parish at Tunstead in 1716 and became a nationally famous engineer and designer of canals. James and his family lived here until 1726, receiving their early education from the local vicar. It is alleged that Brindley was illiterate – “he could not read and wrote only with difficulty” – and it is said that he carried the designs of his canals and mills in his head rather than on paper, often retiring to his bed to think the problems through. His greatest achievements in canal design and construction ran from 1759 through to his premature death from pneumonia complicated by diabetes on 27th September 1772. His birthplace is commemorated by a plaque set into a stone on the original location of the family cottage at Tunstead.

He became famous for his design of mills and steam engines but his main claim to fame came from the surveying, design and construction of canals and their associated aqueducts. The principal canals designed by Brindley were the Bridgewater, the Trent and Mersey, the Coventry, Droitwich and Birmingham Canals, the Leeds and Liverpool, the Oxford Canal and the Chesterfield Canal. His canals revolutionised the transport and hence costs of fuel and materials and vastly expanded the scope and pace of the Industrial Revolution. Economic acceleration led, within 25 years, to a trebling of the population of the Staffordshire Potteries which many of his canals served.

The Scottish author Thomas Carlisle wrote of Brindley : “The English are a dumb people. They can do great acts but not describe them. Whatever of strength the man had in him will be written in the work he does. The rugged Brindley had little to say for himself. He has chained seas together. His ships do visibly float over valleys, and invisibly through the hearts of mountains; the Mersey and the Thames, the Humber and the Severn have shaken hands”.