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British Industrial History

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Benjamin Hall Blyth (1849-1917)

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Benjamin Hall Blyth (1849-1917) of Blyth and Westland

Son of Benjamin Hall Blyth (1819-1866)

1849 Born in Edinburgh

1881 Civil Engineer living in Kingston upon Thames, with Millicent Blyth 28, Elsie W. Blyth 4[1]

1891 Civil engineer living in Edinburgh with Benjamin H. Blyth 41, Millicent Blyth 38, Elsie W Blyth 14[2]

1901 Benjamin H Blyth 51, civil engineer, lived in Edinburgh with Millicent Blyth 48[3]

1917 Died in Edinburgh; one of his executors was Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Hall Blyth RE[4]


1917 Obituary [5]

BENJAMIN HALL BLYTH, Past-President, son of a Member of The Institution of the same name, who occupied a prominent position in the profession during the busy railway times between 1844 and 1864, was born in Edinburgh on the 25th May, 1849. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School and at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. at the early age of 18; and he then entered the office of Messrs Blyth and Cunningham as an apprentice, the partners in the firm being his uncle, Edward L. I. Blyth, and George Miller Cunningham, his father having died in 1866. During his apprenticeship, the firm was engaged, among other large works, on the construction of the Callander and Oban Railway, 70 miles in length, through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, and Mr. Blyth had thus the best possible opportunity of obtaining a practical knowledge of every variety of field work, which stood him in good stead when he came personally to have the oversight of extensive works.

At the conclusion of his apprenticeship in 1871, he was assumed as a partner in the firm, and although more than once laid aside by illness, he led a very strenuous professional life almost up to the day of his death. Mr. E. L. I. Blyth retired from business in 1886, and Mr. D. M. Westland, who had been for many years with the firm, was assumed as a partner, the name of the firm being changed to Cunningham, Blyth and Westland. Mr. Cunningham retired in 1896, and the firm was continued under the name of Blyth and Westland, Mr. Blyth and Mr. Westland being the sole partners until Mr. Blyth's nephew, Mr. B. Hall Blyth, junior, joined them in 1910. Mr. Westland retired from business in 1913.

It would be an endless task to enumerate all the works in which Mr. Blyth took part, but some of the more prominent may be mentioned. The first large work of which he personally took charge, was the new Citadel Station at Carlisle, involving the re-construction of the lines of four Railway Companies entering from the south, and three from the north, so as to entirely separate the passenger and goods traffic and avoid several dangerous railway level crossings. The whole works cost nearly £400,000. At the same time his firm was constructing, for the Caledonian Railway Company, the Central Station in Glasgow with its connecting lines, including a large viaduct, with four lines of rails, over the Clyde, the total cost of the works being about £500,000; and also a large new dock at Grangemouth at a cost of over £300,000.

Other stations which have been built or re-constructed by his firm include the General Station at Perth, the Joint Station at Paisley, Bridge Street Station in Glasgow, Princes Street and Waverley Stations in Edinburgh, and the Central Station at Leith. Among many bridges designed and built by his firm, may be mentioned the new Broomielaw Bridge over the Clyde at Glasgow, the new North Bridge connecting the old and new towns of Edinburgh, the Victoria Bridge over the Dee at Aberdeen, the Victoria Bridge over the Tay at Perth, besides bridges over the Tweed, the Spey, the Ayr, the Gala, and other rivers, and three bridges under the Forth and Clyde Canal for roads leading out of Glasgow. One of the last works on which Mr. Blyth was engaged was a large new dock at Methil, mainly for the shipment of coal from the extensive coalfields in Fife. This work, the third dock constructed by his firm at the same port, involved an immense sea wall, more than a mile in length, and as it was fully exposed to the severe storms so frequent on the East coast, its construction involved many very difficult problems. Mr. Blyth was well known in the Parliamentary Committee Rooms, where he was held in high esteem, and he was also much engaged in Court, Cases and Arbitrations.

He was elected a Member of The Institution in 1877, a Member of Council in 1900, Vice-President in 1911, and President in April 1914, for the year 1914-1915, being the first engineer practising in Scotland on whom the honour of President had been conferred. While holding the office of President, Mr. Blyth was asked by the War Office to preside over a Commission, to be nominated by him from among leading Members of The Institution, to advise as to the designs, material, and method of construction in connection with the hutted camps throughout the country consequent on the great War. Most of the then existing hutted camps were inspected and a voluminous report was prepared and handed to the War Office for future guidance. He was also the first Chairman, and was largely instrumental in the formation of the Metropolitan Munitions Committee, but failing health ultimately compelled him to resign that position.

Mr. Blyth had many interests outside his profession. He contested the County of Haddington on three occasions in the interests of the Unionist Party; he was known both in Scotland and England as one of the keenest of golfers, and at the time of his death he was Chairman of the Edinburgh and District Tramways Company, and Director of the National Bank of Scotland, the Edinburgh Life Assurance Company, and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children. In 1873 he joined the Royal Company of Archers, which is the King's Body-Guard for Scotland, and remained a member during the rest of his life.

Mr. Blyth died at his summer residence in North Berwick on the 13th May, 1917, within a few days of completing 50 years of professional life.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1881 census
  2. 1891 census
  3. 1901 census
  4. National Probate Calendar
  5. 1917 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries