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British Industrial History

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Charles Pratt Sparks

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Charles Pratt Sparks (1866-1940) of Ferranti

1866 Born in Kensington

1882 Pupil of Hammond Electrical Engineering College

1883 Worked for Hammond and Co

1884 Assistant to S. Z. de Ferranti

1885 Assistant engineer Grosvenor Galley Electrical Lighting Co under S. Z. de Ferranti

1888 Second engineer to London Electric Supply Corporation

1891 Works manager to S. Z. de Ferranti Ltd

1895 Advanced from associate to member of Institution of Electrical Engineers

1901 Civil engineer[1]

1907 His brother, Hubert Conrad Sparks, joined him in partnership as Sparks and Partners consulting electrical engineers[2]

1911 Charles Pratt Sparks, consulting engineer, living in Surbiton with his wife Mabel Florence 41, Cedric Harold 18, Joyce 11[3]

1915 Charles P. Sparks, President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.[4]

1940 Death in Worthing

Also possibly of Charles P. Sparks and Partners? Blackfriars House, New-Bridge Street, London, E. C. 4[5]


1941 Obituary [6]

CHARLES PRATT SPARKS, C.B.E., was born in Kensington on the 13th May, 1866, and died on the 7th December, 1940.

He was educated at Repton School and at Faraday House (then the Hammond Electrical Engineering College), and was thus one of the first to benefit from the wise foresight of Robert Hammond.

Sparks served as a pupil to Messrs. Ferranti in 1884 and later served as one of S. Z. Ferranti's assistants in the work of devising and developing electrical distribution with alternating current at very high voltage.

In 1887 he became a partner with Ferranti and Francis Ince, having been put in charge of the Grosvenor Gallery Station the previous year. He assisted in the laying of the 10,000-volt underground mains from Deptford, in which Ferranti, of course, and Lord Kelvin were engaged and which work revealed new phenomena calling for urgent solution, all of which is now common knowledge.

In 1891 Sparks was appointed Manager of Messrs. Ferranti Ltd., and when new works were constructed at Hollinwood Sparks was the General Manager. After three years of manufacturing he returned to London as Chief Engineer to the County of London Electric Supply Company. He filled an active part in the various schemes for improving the electricity supply of London about the years 1905 to 1910.

Sparks, with his brother Hubert, formed a consulting partnership, in which they were later joined by his son Algernon. The firm carried out many engineering schemes for industrial plants, collieries, etc., in various parts of the world.

He became a director of the Kensington and Knightsbridge and St. James's Electric Supply Companies, and of the latter company he was elected Chairman.

His work for The Institution was notable. He joined as a Student in 1885, becoming an Associate in 1889 and a Member in 1895. He served for many years on the Council and was Chairman of the Wiring Rules Committee from 1900 to 1915, when he was elected President, which honour was again conferred on him in 1916. He was thus one of the very few who twice have filled the position. They were difficult years and right well did Sparks perform his arduous duties. In his work he was quick to realize the difficulties of others and treated his assistants with consideration.

In 1915 he was awarded the Paris Premium for his paper on "Electricity Applied to Mining." In short, he was one of the band of pioneers - of whom few, alas, are left - who, under the leadership of Kelvin, Ferranti, John Hopkinson and many others, laid the foundations of electricity supply as we know it to-day. His four sons have filled notable places, two in engineering, one in the regular army and one in the medical profession. He was greatly blessed in his family life and only those who knew this side of his interests realized the strength of his affection and his very just sense of pride.


1940 Obituary [7]



1940 Obituary [8]

We regret to have to record the death, on December 7th, of Mr. Charles Pratt Sparks, C.B.E., at the age of seventy-four. Mr. Sparks was born in London in 1866, and after education at Repton he entered the Hammond Electrical Engineering College, an establishment that preceded Faraday House. In 1884 he became a pupil of the Ferranti-Hammond Company and in 1887 entered into partnership with Mr. Ferranti and Mr. Francis Ince. From 1886 to 1891 he was associated with the Grosvenor Gallery electrical installation. He was appointed to supervise the laying of the first 10,000-volt transmission mains for the London Electric Supply Corporation. In 1889 he was given the post of Chief Engineer to the County of London Electric Supply Company and ultimately he became Engineer-in-Chief of that undertaking. Later on in life he established a high reputation as a consulting electrical engineer.

Mr. Sparks took an active part in the work of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He was one of the Senior Vice-Presidents of that body when the death of Lord Kelvin, in December, 1907, left the presidential chair vacant, and, with Mr. Frank Gill, he conducted the business of the institution until Colonel Crompton was elected to fill the presidential vacancy. In 1915 he himself was elected to the president's chair, a position which he held for two years. Mr. Sparks was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.



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Sources of Information

  • Electrical Engineer Records