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British Industrial History

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Frederick Purdon

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Frederick Purdon (1853-1897)

1871 Living at 15 Essex Villas, Kensington: Wellington Purdon (age 55 born Ireland), Civil Engineer. With his wife Elizabeth C. Purdon (age 54 born Ireland) and their three children; Kate Purdon (age 20 born Ireland); Frederick Purdon (age 19 born Ireland), Scholar and Engineer; and Henry Atwell Purdon (age 14 born Kensington). Two servants.[1]


1897 Obituary [2]

FREDERICK PURDON was born on the 24th April, 1853, at Kingstown, Co. Dublin, where his father, Mr. Wellington Purdon, was then occupied as Resident Engineer on the construction of the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway round Bray Head.

He was educated at Blackheath School, and afterwards went through the Applied Sciences Department of King’s College, London.

He was articled to his father, and after obtaining some special office training and drawing experience, spent two years in the works of Messrs. Beyer, Peacock & Co. at Gorton.

He subsequently had a short experience of locomotive work on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, under the late Mr. William Martley.

The year 1874 was spent, still as a pupil, with Messrs. De Bergue and Co., occupied in the sinking under compressed air of the cylinders for the foundations of the original Tay Bridge. In one of these cylinders he met with a serious accident, being struck on the head by some earth falling from a “skip.” His complete recovery occupied some months.

From 1875 Mr. Purdon was engaged for nearly four years as one of the Resident Engineers on the Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore Railway, where, amongst other work, he had charge of the erection of the Blackwater River Viaduct and the bridge over the Dungarvan Estuary, the latter involving a difficult foundation for the southern abutment.

After this he travelled in the United States.

From 1880 to 1885 he was continuously engaged as Resident Engineer on the construction of tramways, being successively in charge of the North London Suburban, the Stockton and Darlington district, and the Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham steam tramways.

In 1885 Mr. Purdon entered into partnership with Mr. H. E. Walters. They carried on practice as Civil Engineers at No. 2, Great George Street, Westminster, and took out several patents for mechanical inventions and improvements amongst these being a water-motor for utilizing the current of running streams and tideways; also patents for roller bearings, at which, in conjunction with friends, Mr. Purdon worked assiduously for some years. These last-named inventions have been acquired by the Roller Bearings Company, which is now carrying out many widely varying applications of them for avoiding rubbing friction of axles by substituting a rolling action. The Electric Railway Companies have been amongst the earliest to recognise the large economy thus obtained.

In 1887 Mr. Purdon visited India and reported upon tramway projects for Madras. His wide experience and practical knowledge of the subject led to his being fully occupied with parliamentary schemes for tramways, and upon these he was busily engaged when his premature death occurred on the 11th March, 1897, after a few days’ illness. Mr. Purdon’s genial and sympathetic nature, straightforwardness of character and abundant energy, combined with his varied training, helped him greatly in his professional career and brought him a large circle of friends.

He was elected an Associate Member on the 2nd March, 1886.



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