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Francis Fox (1818-1914)

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Francis Fox (1818-1914)

Note: Not to be confused with Francis William Fox of Bristol

1818 Born at Plymouth

Succeeded Isambard Kingdom Brunel as engineer to the Bristol and Exeter Railway.[1]

1861 Francis Fox living at Upper Byron Place, Bristol (age 42 born Plymouth), a Civil Engineer. With his wife Charlotte (age 35 born Monmouth) and their children Charles Prideaux (age 5 born Bristol), Anna Mary (age 3 born Bristol), Charlotte Eli (age 1 born Bristol) and Florence M. (age 4 months born Bristol). Two servants. [2]

1861 Awarded the Telford Medal for his paper on various forms of permanent way[3]

1871 Francis Fox living at Glenside, Long Ashton, Somerset (age 52 born Plymouth), a Civil Engineer. With his wife Charlotte (age 45 born Monmouth) and their daughters Charlotte Elizabeth (age 11 born Bristol) and Florence Monkhouse (age 10 born Bristol). Three servants. [4]

1881 Francis Fox living at Alpenfells, Long Ashton, Somerset (age 62 born Plymouth), Civil Engineer. With his wife Charlotte (age 55 born Monmouth) and their children Charlotte E. (age 21 born Bristol) and Florence M. (age 20 born Bristol). Two servants. [5]

1891 Francis Fox living at Alpenfells, Long Ashton, Somerset (age 72 born Plymouth), Civil Engineer. With his wife Charlotte (age 65 born Monmouth) and their daughters Charlotte E. (age 31 born Upper Byron Place, Bristol) and Florence M. (age 30 born Upper Byron Place, Bristol). Two servants. [6]

1901 Francis Fox living at (?) Torquay (age 82 born Plymouth), Civil Engineer. With his wife Charlotte (age 75 born Monmouth) and their daughters Charlotte E. (age 41 born Bristol) and Florence M. (age 40 born Bristol). Two servants. [7]

1914 Died at Teignmouth


1914 I.C.E. Obituary [8]

PRANCIS FOX, second son of Mr. Robert Were Fox, was born at Plymouth on the 12th September, 1818, and was educated at the Friends’ schools at Croydon and Sidcot.

In October, 1835, he became a pupil of Mr. Edwin O. Tregelles, and was engaged on the erection of gasworks and other works of construction. Before the expiry of his articles he was taken into partnership by Mr. Tregelles, and this association continued until the retirement of the latter from active professional life in 1842.

During this period Messrs. Tregelles and Fox were engaged in the construction of railway slips for raising vessels at Plymouth and Falmouth, the erection or reconstruction of gasworks, and other works.

In 1839 Mr. Fox was associated with the project for the Cornwall Central Railway, and during the succeeding 4 years he was engaged on various engineering works on his own account, including taking sections for some of the numerous railway schemes of that epoch.

In July, 1846, he joined the staff of Mr. I. K. Brunel, as an Assistant Engineer on the South Wales Railway, then in course of construction, and on the opening for traffic of the sections on which he had been engaged, he acted as contractor’s engineer for the construction of a length of the same railway in Carmarthenshire: in 1854, after its completion, he acted in a similar capacity on the Falmouth branch of the Cornwall Railway, until the suspension of the contract works.

At the close of 1854, Mr. Fox was appointed engineer of the Bristol and Exeter Railway, which position he held until its amalgamation with the Great Western Company at the beginning of 1876, when he retired from the post.

When Mr. Fox entered on his duties, the permanent way and ballast of the main line and branches were in an extremely defective condition. With characteristic energy and determination, Mr. Fox at once set himself to the improvement of the line, and the reconstruction or enlargement of the principal stations.

The Chard Branch and the Cheddar Valley Railway were also constructed under his direction. The mixed gauge was laid on the main line, and, on Mr. Fox’s recommendation, the block system was introduced, the South Eastern, and Bristol and Exeter Companies being the first to adopt the “absolute block” system,

In 1860 he contributed a Paper on “Iron Permanent Way” to the Proceedings, for which he was awarded a Telford medal.

The passenger stations of the Great Western and Bristol and Exeter Companies at Bristol had long been found altogether insufficient for the greatly increased traffic, and a joint station, in which the passenger traffic of those companies, as well as that of the Midland Company, could be accommodated and interchanged, was felt to be a pressing necessity.

In 1865 Mr. Fox submitted a scheme for a joint station, which was eventually approved by the three companies and carried out under his supervision.

After ceasing to be engineer of the Bristol and Exeter division of the Great Western Railway, the Great Western Company entrusted to Mr. Fox the design and construction of the works of the Weston-super-Mare loop line and station, and those of the Exe Valley and Tiverton and North Devon branch lines.

He also designed and carried out flour-mills, silo buildings, cocoa factories, etc.

In more recent years Mr. Fox designed and constructed extensive flood-prevention works in Bristol for the Corporation, and later, an important improvement at Bristol in the substitution of a permanent stone bridge of ample width for the former narrow drawbridge over the Floating Harbour.

Mr. Fox withdrew from active professional life at the close of the year 1893. He was an enthusiastic lover of natural scenery, and many of his summer holidays were spent in pedestrian and other excursions on the Continent.

On his retirement, Mr. Fox went to reside in Bath, whence he subsequently removed to Torquay, and later to Teignmouth. In these towns he spent a happy evening of life, interesting himself in the engineering work going on around and in young engineers who were starting in their profession. In spite of his age his faculties were exceptionally keen and active, and he was always ready to enjoy the company of his friends as well as to discuss the engineering and political problems of the day.

He died at Teignmouth on the 13th March, 1914, at the advanced age of 95.

Mr. Fox was elected a Member of The Institution on the 1st May, 1860.


1914 Obituary [9]

'The late Mr Francis Fox, after being educated at Croydon, Sidcot, and Plymouth, was an engineering pupil with Mr. Edwin O. Tregelles at South Wales, from 1835 to 1839 and was engaged in the erection and reconstruction of gas works at Merthyr and other towns in South Wales, Exeter and St. Austell; also in the erection of a railway slip for vessels at Falmouth. He also spent a part of his term of pupilage as an improver at Neath Abbey Iron Works.

In 1839 he was taken into Partnership with Mr. F. O. Tregelles, and, until 1842 was engaged in the following works: The proposed Cornwall Central Railway, a railway slip for vessels at Plymouth, erection of a fireproof factory at Bristol, and erection of gas works at Sidcot School. From 1843-44 he was engaged on his own account in the erection and addition to a woollen factory at Wellington, Somerset.

In July, 1846 he joined the staff of I. K. Brunel as an assistant engineer, and remained with the firm until 1851, during which time the construction of the South Wales Railway in Glamorgan was carried out.

In 1851 he acted as contractors' engineer in the construction of the South Wales Railway in Carmarthenshire, and also on the Truro and Falmouth section of the Cornwall Railway. From December, 1854, to March, 1876, Mr. Fox was chief engineer of the Bristol and Exeter Railway.

During that period of 12¼ years he designed and carried out new stations at Weston, Taunton, Exeter, and several smaller ones, and other works, including the Branch Railway, Cheddar Valley Railway, new dock gates and improvements at Bridgwater Docks, new railway lines from main line to dock, with iron-girder opening bridge across the river Parrett, Bristol joint station for the Great Western, Midland, and Bristol and Exeter Companies.

From 1876 to 1895 Mr Fox carried out the following works:—The Weston loop line and station, the Tiverton and North Devon Railway, the Exe Valley Railway, new flour mills at Bristol, Bristol floods prevention, extensive work on the Froom and Bedminster, St. Augustine's Bridge and covered water space. The two latter were works for the Bristol Town Council.

In 1860 Mr. Fox was elected a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. He contributed a paper on "Iron Permanent-ways" to the proceedings over which Mr Geo. Bedder [Bidder] presided, and for this he was awarded the Telford medal.—' The Teignmouth Gazette.'


1914 Obituary.[10]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1924/10/10
  2. 1861 Census
  3. The Engineer 1861
  4. 1871 Census
  5. 1881 Census
  6. 1891 Census
  7. 1901 Census
  8. 1914 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  9. Western Daily Press, 21 March 1914
  10. Engineering 1914 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index