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Thomas Penson

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Thomas Penson, or Thomas Penson the younger (c.1790-1859) was the county surveyor of Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire. An innovative architect and designer of a number of masonry arch bridges over the River Severn and elsewhere.

c,1790 Born on of Thomas Penson the elder, (c.1760-1824), who had been the county surveyor for Flintshire from 1810 to 1814, but had been dismissed when the bridge at Overton-on-Dee collapsed. Thomas Penson the younger, completed its replacement.

Thomas Penson the younger, was a pupil of the architect and bridge designer Thomas Harrison of Chester.

He was also the surveyor for the Montgomeryshire Turnpike Trusts and was responsible for the design of many new roads in the county. He became county surveyor for Denbighshire around 1820.

1813 One of his first recorded projects was the rebuilding of Overton Bridge on the River Dee south of Wrexham. In August 1813, the single-span masonry bridge that his father had been constructing collapsed. Penson senior was dismissed and, supervised by architect John Carline II (c.1758-1834), Thomas Penson took over, realising the double-arch sandstone crossing that stands today.

1814 Married Frances Kirk, daughter of the Wrexham iron master Richard Kirk (1747–1839), and initially lived at Overton-on-Dee. They had two sons: Thomas Mainwaring Penson (died 1864) and Richard Kyrke Penson (died 1885), both of whom were architects.

1817 He was appointed Montgomeryshire County Surveyor, a post in which he continued until 1859.

By 1823 he had moved to Oswestry, where he set up his office, known as "Penson's Chambers" at 35 Willow Street; while he lived at 19 Willow Street.

1839 his wife inherited from her father Gwersyllt Hall or Hill near Wrexham, which Penson re-modelled in Neo-Jacobean style, which they then used as their main residence.

Among Penson's pupils was J. W. Poundley, who was to become the Montgomeryshire County Surveyor 1861, and the Welsh poet John Jones (Talhaiarn).

1839 Became an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

1840 Penson was Mayor of Oswestry

1848 He became a fellow of the RIBA

1852 Appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Denbighshire.

1859 Thomas Penson died at Gwersyllt on 20 May 1859.


Penson's work as a bridge builder in Montgomeryshire has been surveyed in detail by C. R. Anthony who lists 62 bridges built to Penson's designs in Montgomeryshire. He relied on contractors to build his bridges, such as David Davies, who built the approach roads to Llandinam Bridge in 1846.

In February 1852, the Severn flooded, damaging a number of bridges for which Penson went on to design replacements. Other bridges credited to Thomas Penson include:

  • Abermule Bridge, also known as Brynderwen Bridge, 1852, 33m span cast iron arch bridge, castings by the Brymbo Iron Co
  • Caerhowel Bridge. Penson designed a two-span cast iron arch bridge at Caerhowel in 1858 to replace a timber structure destroyed by floods. Against his advice, a suspension bridge designed by James Dredge had been built in 1854, only to collapse four years later under the weight of three lime wagons, killing one man.
  • Llandinam Bridge
  • Caersws Bridge, at Caersws, 1821, three elliptical masonry arches
  • Long Bridge, at Llanidloes, 1826, three-span masonry arch bridge, replaced a wooden bridge
  • Long Bridge, at Newtown, 1827, masonry arch widened by Penson with cast iron arches in 1857
  • Felindre Bridge, at Mount Severn, 1848, segmental or elliptical masonry arch bridge
  • Short Bridge, Llanidloes, 1849, masonry arch bridge
  • Cilcewydd Bridge, 1861, masonry arch bridge
  • New Bridge over the river Dee
  • Llanymynech Bridge over the River Vyrnwy.
  • Sontley Bridge, Wrexham. Dated 1845. Ironwork cast by R. and W. Jones of the Ruabon Foundry.

1861 Obituary [1]

MR. THOMAS PENSON, who joined the Institution as an Associate in the year 1839, was an architect in extensive practice, and held for a long period the appointment of County Surveyor for Montgomeryshire. Up to the present time it has not been possible to obtain the materials for his Memoir; but it is hoped that they may eventually be procured for future publication.

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