Disappointed in love, in 1759 Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, retreated to Lancashire to devote himself to coal and canals. When his agent, John Gilbert, introduced him to the Staffordshire Schemer James Brindley, the two men formed an unlikely alliance that would alter the face of the country.
While his ingenuity and zeal chimed well with Bridgewater's ambitions, at a time when the demands of rising commerce were beginning to conflict with long-established land-owning interests, Brindley soon discovered that his association with the duke could make for friction. If being a peer's protégé carried him into the public eye, it also brought him calumny, vituperation and insult. Nevertheless, throughout his years of wealth and fame during which he forged an enduring friendship with potter-turned-canal promoter Josiah Wedgwood he remained steadfastly loyal to the patron to whom he owed his breakthrough.
Drawing upon eighteenth-century letters, pamphlets, committee minutes and maps, the Bridgewater accounts books and long-lost probate inventory of Brindley's estate, this book charts the dynamics of a remarkable business relationship in a fast-changing world.