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Charles Geach

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Charles Geach (1808-1854)

1855 Obituary [1]

MR. CHARLES GEACH, M.P., born in Cornwall, in the year 1808, was descended from an ancient and respectable family in the West of England.

After receiving a plain substantial education he was placed as a junior clerk in the Bank of England, through the interest of his Uncle, Captain Gichard, who being Mayor of Penryn, and the returning officer at the election for the Borough in 1825 of Mr. Freshfield, the Bank Solicitor, was enabled to secure this first step in the future career of his Nephew.

Even amidst the number of young men in a similar subordinate position, young Geach contrived to render himself conspicuous for his methodical habits, attention to discipline, aptitude for business, and strict probity, so that on the formation of a branch establishment at Birmingham, under Sir George Nicholls, he was selected as one of the staff. The change of locality opened to him a new source of observation, and he soon became known and trusted by the men of business among whom he was thrown; after a few years of unwearied application, perceiving that promotion was still far distant, and that in accordance with the general policy of Boards of Directors, there was every disposition to exclude all hope of rising to a situation of trust, and of adequate remuneration, he determined to carve out his own fortune.

Only a short time previously, the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank had been formed, and a few gentlemen believing that there was still ample room for another establishment of a similar nature, projected the formation of the Midland Banking Company, of which they tendered the management to Mr. Geach. This flattering offer was accepted without hesitation, and in the year 1836, he entered upon the important and responsible duties, which he performed, until the year 1851, with equal credit to himself and benefit to the Company, and under his bold and skilful management, the Midland soon became one of the most prosperous of the provincial Banking Companies.

His quick perception, foresight and accurate judgment enabled him to avoid trusting unwisely, whilst his kindness and consideration induced him to lend timely and valuable assistance to men in whose probity he had confidence, and many blessings have been invoked on his head, by those to whom friendly aid was given in the time of need.

Commensurate with the growing prosperity of the Bank, was the improvement in Mr. Geachs own private position; he gradually became engaged in large commercial and manufacturing concerns, and on being returned to Parliament as Member for Coventry, in 1851, he resigned the position of Manager of the Midland Bank, into the hands of his worthy friend and colleague Mr. Edmunds, still continuing, as a Managing Director, to take great interest in the proceedings of the concern. On his retirement, the shareholders testified their appreciation of his valuable services by presenting him with a costly service of plate, and by causing his portrait, painted by Partridge, to be hung in the boardroom of the Bank.

It was very natural, that his admitted commercial and administrative talents should produce the offer to him of many advantageous investments; and he gradually became a partner in several important manufacturing establishments, such as the Patent Shaft and Axle Works, at Wednesbury, the Woodside Iron Works and Foundry, near Dudley, and the Park-gate Iron Works, Rotherham, besides taking an interest in several other concerns, and eventually engaging in Railway Contracts.

From the Works at Wednesbury, which became celebrated for the superior quality of the manufacture, Messrs. Walker and Co. supplied the principal lines of Railway in this country, in America, and on the Continent, with Axles, Tyres, Wheels, &c.

At the Woodside Foundry, with which Mr. Geach became connected in 1846, on the decease of Mr. John Joseph Bramah, Messrs. A. B. Cochrane and Co. were enabled to undertake gigantic contracts, which they executed with remarkable skill.

On the agitation of the question of the removal of the London Water Companies Stations to greater distances from the Metropolis, Mr. Geach stepped forward, and undertook to supply to the Lambeth Water Company, at a comparatively low price, a main of pipes thirty inches in diameter, of the hitherto unexampled length of ten miles, under heavy pumping pressure, for conveying to the Reservoirs, at Putney and Brixton, the water raised from the Thames, above Kingston; giving the best proof of his confidence in the engineering plans of Mr. Simpson, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, by individually taking a considerable interest in the undertaking.

So with respect to the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park; he not only substantially promoted the undertaking, but devoting all the powers of the Woodside Foundry to the task, those works produced the great bulk of the cast-iron frame-work of the building, arrangements being made for casting from thirty to thirty-six girders and forty-eight columns per day, the latter being all bored and turned within the same time.

When the Crystal Palace was transferred to Sydenham, Mr. Geach became a Managing Director, and devoted to it much of his valuable time and talents, and his decease was probably more prejudicial to that undertaking, than to any other in which he was engaged.

He was one of the 'concessionnaires' of the Western of France Railway, was connected with the Danish and other foreign lines, and was either a Director of, or largely interested in, several railways in England. He took great interest in the project of the large iron ship, now constructing by Mr. J. Scott Russell (M. Inst.C). E ), at Millwall, and when Mr. Brunel’s designs were finally decided upon being carried into execution: he embarked largely in the undertaking.

His influence was generally felt at Birmingham; in 1843-4 he was elected an Alderman, and very won became Mayor of the borough. He promoted all measures of local improvement, was a strenuous supporter of Free-trade doctrines, and the Anti- Corn Law League; yet amidst his great public and private avocations, he found time to perform the duties of Accountant to the Birmingham Savings’ Bank, perhaps the best-managed concern of the kind in the kingdom, and in order to give the necessary confidence to the depositors, he ostensibly retained the responsibility of the post, long after he had ceased to do more than assure himself regularly of the accuracy of the accounts.

In the year 1851 he entered Parliament as Member for the Borough of Coventry, and at the general election in 1852 he was again returned, in spite of a strong opposition. His politics had decidedly liberal tendency, and though by no means an eloquent speaker, he always commanded attention, by his evident practical acquaintance with his subject and the enunciation of good common-sense. Nearly the longest speech he ever made in Parliament (and that extended only over some three, or four minutes), was in the debate on the address in answer to the Queen’s speech at the opening of the Session of 1852, when he rebuked a Member for using the term 'upstart usurper,' in reference to the present Emperor of France; contending with becoming spirit, and amid the approving cheers of a large majority of the House, that a man who had been elected by the suffrages of a free people as their ruler, and in whose favour 4,000,000 of votes had been recorded at one election, and 7,000,000 at another, was at least entitled to be spoken of with respect, in the representative assembly of a friendly nation. His later speeches in Parliament were directed against the proposal, in the Purity of Elections’ Bill, to disfranchise the freemen, whose alleged venality he denied; the attempt to put down flags and processions at elections, which he stigmatized as an interference with the only means which the unenfranchised had of expressing their political opinions ; and against the imposition of the penny stamp upon bankers’ cheques.

Mr. Geach was very regular in his attendance in the House, and was a valuable Member of Committees ; and there is reason for believing, that the devotion of so many hours daily and nightly to these onerous duties, in a mephitic atmosphere, injured his naturally strong constitution to such an extent, that when he was attacked by the complaint under which he ultimately sunk, he had not strength to resist. After the prorogation of the House, and a few weeks’ relaxation on the moors of Scotland, his health appeared to be renovated, but on his return to London he was seized with intermittent diarrhoea and subsequently with an affection of the right leg, from which he suffered intense pain, and against which, in his weak state, he could not struggle, and in spite of very skilful medical treatment, and the most affectionate attention on the part of his family, he expired on the 1st of November 1854, at the comparatively premature age of forty-six years.

“Of Mr. Geach, it may justly be said, that he combined great energy and decision of character with much generosity and simplicity. The high position to which he attained, the wealth and honours which, by the exercise of his talents, he acquired, never betrayed him into anything like ostentation, or pride. He was in Parliament, as at the Bank, the Railway Board, and in every position in which he moved, the same plain man of business. He was always in earnest in what he did; and, to that circumstance, probably, he was indebted for a career of undeviating success rarely equalled.”

His advice and co-operation were sought in almost all the great undertakings of the day, his judgment was universally respected, and he enjoyed, in a pre-eminent degree, the confidence and esteem of all with whom he was connected, as he did the regard of a large circle of friends, whilst in the world he was looked up to as one of those energetic, enterprising men, who give vitality to every speculation in which they engage, and who by the uprightness of their transactions and the justness of their views, uphold worthily the credit of the British capitalist and manufacturer.

He had not been long connected with the Institution of Civil Engineers, having only joined it as an Associate Member in the year 1850, but he was a frequent attendant at, and communicated papers to, the meetings, took part in the discussions, served on the Council during the Session of 1853-4, and exhibited anxiety to promote the welfare of the Society by all the means in his power.

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