Born in Bristol, he was initially apprenticed to a local millwright and – guided by noted engineers Thomas Telford and John Rennie - he progressed to practice as a consulting civil engineer, moving to London where, from 1811, he was also engineer to the West Middlesex Waterworks Company (the engine house and other buildings involved in a scheme to pump water from reservoirs at Barnes to Hammersmith and other parts of London were designed by him).
He designed the first suspension bridge to span the River Thames in London: Hammersmith Bridge, opened in 1827. He also designed a suspension bridge across the Thames in Marlow, Buckinghamshire (built 1829-1932) and Norfolk Bridge, a suspension bridge over the River Adur in Shoreham, West Sussex (1834, replaced in 1923).
Internationally, he is revered for his design of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge across the Danube in Budapest, Hungary. The first bridge linking Buda and Pest, it was designed by Tierney Clark in 1839, with construction supervised locally by Scotsman Adam Clark (no relation). It opened in 1849.
Tierney Clark is also credited with the design of a tunnel between Higham and Frindsbury, near Rochester in north Kent for the Thames and Medway canal. The canal was not a success but the tunnel was subsequently adapted for use by the Gravesend and Rochester Railway.
Tierney Clark lived and died in Hammersmith in west London. His memorial in the local parish church, St Paul’s, shows an outline of his design for the nearby bridge – since replaced by a design by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Further afield, there is a street in Buda named after him and he is commemorated by an annual award made by the Association of Hungarian Consulting Engineers and Architects: the Tierney Clark Award for Civil Engineering.