Harry Yeadon

Born and raised in Accrington, Harry Yeadon studied engineering at University before joining the forces during the Second World War and being deployed to Italy, where he saw the early Autostrade. On his return he took up work with Lancashire County Council and spent most of his career there, first working under Sir James Drake and eventually replacing him as County Surveyor and Bridgemaster.

Biography

The Pennine Way footbridge over the M62, one of many structures Harry Yeadon oversaw
The Pennine Way footbridge over the M62, one of many structures Harry Yeadon oversaw

1922 - 2015

When he first joined Lancashire County Council in 1950, Yeadon was assigned to the highways and bridges department, initially working on minor highway improvement schemes. By 1956 he had risen through the ranks sufficiently to work on the design of a number of innovative bridges on the M6 Preston Bypass.

Yeadon progressed to work on the M62 Barton High Level Bridge, then as site engineer on the M6 Warrington to Preston section and then Preston to Lancaster section. Working for the North Western Road Construction Unit, he was a key figure in constructing the Lancashire side of the M62 Pennine section. The distinctive red and white rose boundary county markers on that section were Yeadon's invention.

On Sir James Drake's retirement, Yeadon took over as County Surveyor and Bridgemaster. However, the county of Lancashire was much smaller following the 1974 local government reorganisation. This meant that Yeadon's position had much less influence, particularly given that the authority was nearly surrounded by urban districts which were not interested in intra-urban road projects. Nonetheless, thanks to Drake, Lancashire's core road network was largely in place already. Yeadon continued to push through projects such as the M65 and M58.

One of the final road projects that were started before Yeadon's retirement was an access road from the M55 to the new car parks in Blackpool, close to what had been Blackpool South train station. His colleagues had it named Yeadon Way in his honour - though the irony that he spent his career building motorways and ended up with an unclassified single-carriageway taking his name has not passed him by! (The pub at the end of the road was named Yeadon Way after the road, so he also has a pub of his own.)

Yeadon retired to a strikingly modernist home in Lytham St. Anne's, not far from the road that bears his name, and became a board member of the Motorway Archive Trust, writing the Archive's book on the motorways of the north-west region. He died on 8 February 2015.

Key achievements

  • Influential work on various key road schemes in the Lancashire area, particularly the Preston Bypass.
  • Worked as part of the forward-thinking group at Lancashire County Council, headed by Sir James Drake, that successfully campaigned for the provision of a dense and well-engineered road network. Following Drake's retirement Yeadon continued this work, including taking deputations to West Yorkshire to discuss further motorway Pennine crossings.

Interview

On April 12 2006 I was fortunate to be able to visit Harry Yeadon at his home, where I recorded this interview. It covers his career from start to finish; details of the achievements and internal politics of Lancashire County Council and the North Western Road Construction Unit; working with Sir James Drake; and such diverse topics as how the Ministry of Transport inadvertently demolished a bridge on a minor road in rural Lancashire, and the political wrangling that surrounded the M65.

It starts by asking how he first became interested in civil engineering.