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British Industrial History

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Evan Owen Williams

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Sir (Evan) Owen Williams (1890-1969) was a British engineer and architect, known for being the principal engineer for Gravelly Hill Interchange, known popularly as Spaghetti Junction, as well as a number of key modernist buildings, including the Express Building in Manchester and Boots D10 Building in Nottingham.

1890 March 20th. Born at 16 Caroline Terrace in Tottenham, London, the the son of Evan Owen Williams, a Welsh-born grocer and Mary Roberts. Originally both farmers, they both moved to London some years before Owen was born. Williams had two sisters and two brothers. Mary Kate, died young, but the second born, Elizabeth Maud, became an author. Owen had an older brother, Robert Osian, who was a successful banker and came out of retirement to manage the finances of his brother's engineering practice which was launched in 1940.

Attended Tottenham Grammar School and excelled in mathematics.

1907 Apprenticed to the Electrical Tramways Co in London and at the same time did an engineering degree at the University of London.

1912 Employed as engineer and designer with the Trussed Concrete Co.

1919 Started his own consulting firm, Williams Concrete Structures.

Appointed chief consulting civil engineer to the British Empire Exhibition which included the old Wembley Stadium. The commission also included the Palace of Industry building in Brent, the first building in the United Kingdom to use concrete as the exterior. The building was listed in 1997 in recognition of this but was delisted in 2004 after an appeal by a property developer. Williams was recognised for his achievements and recognised a knighthood in 1924.

Through the exhibition, Williams came into an association with its architect, Maxwell Ayrton, which led to their working together on the design of Williams's bridges in Scotland.

Williams designed his buildings as functional structures sheathed with decorative facades. More an engineer than an architect, Williams produced a series of reinforced concrete buildings during the period between the wars.

After World War II he worked on developing the first plan for Britain's motorway system. His other works include the Dorchester Hotel, the Boots pharmaceutical factory in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, the M1 motorway and the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham, south London.

In the 1940s the company expanded and became Sir Owen Williams and Partners. This followed the building of the Daily Express Building, Manchester which Williams designed. Contrary to popular belief, the Manchester building was the only one of the three Express Buildings which Williams designed – the others in Glasgow and London were designed by Ellis and Clark. Although Williams was more of an engineer than an architect, the Manchester Express Building was lauded for architecture and demonstrated his proficiency as an architect.

Owen Williams' grandson, Richard Williams, was Chief Executive of the Owen Williams Group until its acquisition by Amey in 2006.

1969 May 23rd. Died.


1969 Obituary [1]



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