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Edward Leader Williams

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Edward Leader Williams (1802-1879)

His eldest son was Edward Leader Williams (1828-1910), designer of the Manchester Ship Canal[1].


1879 Obituary [2]

MR. EDWARD LEADER WILLIAMS was born at Reading in the year 1802.

After being educated at Dr. Valpy's school, he settled at Worcester, where the neglected state of the river Severn occupied his attention, and plans were prepared for its improvement, which were produced, with models, in 1835, at a large public meeting. The result was the formation of a Severn Navigation Company, Mr. Thomas Rhodes, M. Inst. C.E., being appointed the consulting engineer, and Mr. E. L. Williams the resident engineer. Detailed surveys and plans were then made, and a Bill was deposited for the session of 1837 ; but it was thrown out on the second reading by a majority of 149 to 124.

Under the advice of Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Cubitt, Past-President Inst. C.E., the plans were modified, to lessen the opposition to the measure, which was again introduced into Parliament in 1838, but had to be withdrawn.

It was now determined to abandon the idea of a Severn Navigation Company, and instead, in 1842, after great opposition, an Act was passed giving power to Commissioners to improve the river and to levy tolls. Locks and weirs were constructed between Stourport and Worcester, which, with the dredging and embanking operations between Worcester and Gloucester, are fully described in a Paper presented to the Institution by Mr. Williams, for which a Telford Medal was awarded.

In 1852, after a fierce parliamentary contest, which lasted five years, other powers were obtained, and works were constructed at Tewkesbury, as detailed in a subsequent communication to the Institution, for which he received a Council Premium.

In 1869 the sanction of Parliament was given for the construction of locks and weirs near Gloucester, which were completed in 1872. Thus, after many years of parliamentary struggles, Mr. Williams's original plans for the improvement of the Severn from Stourport to Gloucester were carried out ; and a river which was previously only navigable at times, is now used by steamers and river craft all the year round.

Although the improvement of the Severn was the great work of his life, he was much engaged in general practice. His character, and the esteem in which he was held, are well described in a long article in the 'Worcestershire Chronicle ' (March 1, 1879) from which the following extract is made :

"Mr. Williams joined to lively and pleasing manners and a cultivated intellect, well stored with general information, a happy faculty of clear and lucid exposition, by the exercise of which he seldom failed to produce the impression he was desirous of producing on those with whom he had to deal, and which enabled him to demonstrate, even to disaffected minds, the correctness and the feasibility of his conclusions. In this respect he was almost unrivalled. Orderly, methodical, and systematic, no one could have conducted the manifold affairs he had to deal with with greater exactitude and regularity. Whenever he took up a thing he conducted it with undeviating patience and unremitting steadfastness to the desired end, and never abated one jot of heart or hope under a concurrence of hostile circumstances which would have disheartened a less resolute mind and discomfited any one not gifted with a well-grounded confidence in his own abilities and powers, and a firm resolution never to stop short on this side of success. He never gave in or knocked under, but bore up manfully through all contradictions and adversities, and by persistent encounter, overcame opposition and forced it to give way. He was a fine specimen of the manly, self-trusting character, and it will be generally felt that in him our city has lost a man of no common mould. In the relations of domestic life he was affectionately beloved ; to the social circle he was endeared by pleasantness and good humour, and the ‘troops of friends’ whom he had acquired during a sojourn of well nigh fifty years amongst us, will concur with his bereaved family in grieving over the decease of one so richly abounding in talents, integrity, and moral worth.”

Mr. Williams was elected a Member of the Institution on the 30th of June, 1846, and he died at Worcester on the 26th of February, 1879, in the 77th year of his age.


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