Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Scottish engineer, surveyor and cartographer. William Bald was born in Burntisland, Fife, Scotland, in 1788 or 1789.   In 1803 he was apprenticed to the cartographer and engineer John Ainslie.   After mapping the Scottish Western Isles, he came to Co. Mayo in 1809 on the recommendation of the officers of the British Ordnance Survey to make a Grand Jury map of the county. At the same time he took a post under the Bogs Commission. His map of Co. Mayo was completed in 1816 and engraved in Paris in the 1820s. By 1824 he had also carried out property surveys in Cos. Sligo, Galway, Roscommon, Laois and Offaly.   In Mayo he supervised the construction of a number of roads and bridges.  He also supervised the building of four piers in Co. Mayo - at Achill Sound, Inishturk, Saleen, and Tarmon - to designs by ALEXANDER NIMMO [1] ALEXANDER NIMMO [1] ;  but, according to Wilkins, 'on each occasion there was a lack of satisfaction, due largely to Bald's profligate expenditure'.(1) 

Bald went to work in France in 1826 but in the early 1830s he returned to Ireland, where he was again engaged on a number of Board of Works schemes. In 1833 he examined and reported upon Drogheda harbour, having been given responsibility for the execution and modification of plans by Nimmo, who had died in January 1833.(2) During the years 1833 and 1834, he was superintending engineer directly responsible to the Board of Works for the Antrim Coast Road, between Larne and Ballycastle.(3) He also designed the Kenmare and Bantry road(4) and the suspension bridge at Kenmare. In 1838 he produced a report on the means of embanking and reclaiming land behind Tramore Strand in Co. Waterford(5)  and also proposed the creation of a fishing harbour at 'Lady Cove' on the west side of Tramore bay.((6)  The following year he reported on a proposed harbour and pier at Glenarm, Co. Antrim.(7)  He was engineer - with THOMAS JACKSON WOODHOUSE -  THOMAS JACKSON WOODHOUSE - to the Ulster Railway line from Belfast to Armagh and also to a number of other projected lines.(8)  He left Ireland in 1839 and spent the rest of his life in Scotland and London, where he died in 1857.

Bald was an active participant in the early meetings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, although not apparently a member. In May and June 1837 he read four papers on Irish subjects to the institution: 'On the velocity of the Water in Belfast Harbour' read on 2 May, 'Account of some blasting operations through the white limestone on the Antrim Coast Road', read on 23 May, 'Further observations on blasting the white limestone of the Antrim Coast' read on 30 May, and 'A practical method of forming the stones of an elliptic arch' (method employed in constructing bridge over the Owenmore River circa 1820).(9) The following year, on 19 June, he read a further paper 'On the construction of roads on deep bogs and moss'(10) He presented a model of Clare Island to the institution in 1838 (11) and a set of his maps of County Mayo in 1839.(12)

Bald's pupils and assistants included PATRICK KNIGHT  PATRICK KNIGHT and JOHN YEATS.  JOHN YEATS.

RIA: elected member, 1822.(13)



For a fuller account of Bald's activities as a cartographer see J.H. Andrews, Plantation Acres (Ulster Historical Foundation, 1985), 254,286-9,302,308,351,357,371,380,384,443. Andrews cites two accounts of Bald's life by M.C. Storrie: 'William Bald, F.R.S.E.,surveyor, cartographer and civil engineer', Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr., 47 (1969), 205-31, and 'The man who built the Antrim Cost Road', Geogr. Mag. 43 (1971), 249. The most  recent account of his life is by Iain Sommerville in in Burntisland Online: William Bald, http://www.burntisland.net/bald.htm  (last visited Aug 2009).

(1) Noel P. Wilkins, Alexander Nimmo, Master Engineer, 1783-1832: public works and civil surveys (Irish Academic Press, 2009), 354.
(2) 1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833),  6;  he presented a copy of his Report of the Harbour of Drogheda to the ICE in 1838 (Min.Proc. ICE 1, Session 1838, 13).
(3) 1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 10 & plan; 2nd Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1834),  plan 5.
(4) 2nd Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1834),  plans 17-19.
(5) Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 227-229.256-258.
(6) Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 281-282.
(7) Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal II (1839), 82-83(illus.).
(8) Min. Proc. ICE 1, Session 1837, 37-38,40-42,43-44.
(9) Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 234.
(10) Min. Proc. ICE, Session 1838, 50-51.
(11) Min.Proc.ICE 1, Session 1838, 19.
(12) Min. Proc. ICE Session 1839, 26.
(13) Jones transcripts from Thom's Directory, 1850.

7 work entries listed in chronological order for BALD, WILLIAM

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Date: 1820
Nature: Attributed to Bald
Refs: Information from Ted Ruddock, Edinburgh (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc.2008/44)

Date: 1832ca
Nature: Execution & modification of Nimmo's plans
Refs: 1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 6

Date: 1833-1834
Nature: Designed and supervised by WB.
Refs: 1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 10; 2nd report, 1834, plans 6-14; M.C. Storrie, 'The man who built the Antrim Coast Road', Geogr. Mag. 43 (1971), 249.

Date: 1833-34
Nature: Wooden bridge over River Bann, supported by 5 wooden abutments, 24 feet wide, with paling 3½ ft high 'with a piece of built stone capped with cut stone'. Inscr. 'Designed by William Bald, engineer, executed by Kenneth Mathieson, 1834.'
Refs: 1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 8 & plan; 4th report, 1836, 9; A. Day, P. McWilliams & L. English, eds., Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Vol. 22, 39

Date: 1834
Nature: -
Refs: 2nd Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1834), plans 17-19

Date: 1837-1841
Nature: Wrought iron suspension bridge with two half catenaries of pairs of chains, suspended from central tower on island in middle of estuary. FS laid 1838 by Marquess of Lansdowne. Paid for jointly by Marquess of Lansdowne and Board of Works. Cost £5000 (or £7280?). First bridge of its kind attempted in Ireland. Model by W[sic] Uniacke Townsend exh. at Dublin Industrial Exhibition, 1853.
Refs: Photocopy of specifications, sketch elevations, plan and section of proposed bridge, with accompanying letter from WB to Co. Burgoyne, Board of Works, Dublin, dated Jun 1837 in IAA (RP.D.78.6); Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 315-317(illus.);  Mr & Mrs S.C. Hall, Ireland (1841-3), I, 162; J. Windele, Historical and Descriptive Notices of the City of Cork (1849), ?; R.C. Cox & M.H. Gould, Civil Engineering Heritage: Ireland (1998), 269; www.kenmare.com/history

Date: ?
Nature: New bridge over River Bundorragha. designed and built by WB.
Refs: Plaque on bridge (information from Brendan O'Donoghue)

Author Title Date Details
Bald, William 'An account of the survey and map of the county of Mayo' 1836-40 Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 1 (1836-40), 245-7
Bald, William 'On Limestone in Ireland' 1840 Civil Engineer & Architect's Journal 3 (Jun, 1840), 198-9 (written in Jun, 1837).
Bald, William 'Some account of blasting the white limestone in the County of Antrim, in Ireland'
1840 Paper read before Inst.CE, published in Civil Englineer & Architect's Journal 3 (amay, 1840), 165.
Storrie, M.c. 'William Bald, FRSE, c.1789-1857; surveyor, cartographer and civil engineer' 1969 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 47 (1969), 205-31.
Storrie, M.c. 'The man who built the Antrim Cost Road' 1971 Geographical Magazine 43 (1971), 249.