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George Sibley

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George Sibley (1824-1891)

1824 August 12th. Born in London the son of Robert Sibley and his wife Mary Ann Knowsley

Married to Henrietta Ellen Richardson (1825–1853)

1848 Birth in Stoke, Somerset, of son George Arthur Sibley (1848-1853)

1850 Birth in London of son Robert Knowsley Sibley (see footnote)

1851 Living at 39 Great Ormond Atreet, London: Mary Ann Sibley (age 62 born St. George East, Mddx.). With her three sons Robert Lacon Sibley (age 32 born St. George East, Mddx.), Surveyor - Unmarried; George Sibley (age 26 born St. George the Myrtyr, Mddx.), Civil Engineer; and Septimus Willm Sibley (age 20 born St. George the Myrtyr, Mddx.). Also George's wife Henriette Ellen Sibley (age 26 born St. Margaret West, Mddx.) and their two children George Arthur Sibley (age 2 born Stoke, Somerset) and Robert K. Sibley (age 9 Months born St. George the Myrtyr, Mddx.). Also a visitor and four servants.[1]

1852 Birth in Bengal of son Charles Henry Sibley (1852–1854)

1891 October 25th. Died at the Mount, Caterham age 67. Probate to his brother Septimus William Sibley. Buried St. Mary's, Caterham.


Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52

SIBLEY, GEORGE (1824–1891), civil engineer, born on 12 Aug. 1824, was son of Robert Sibley, one of the first members of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

From 1831 to 1838 he received his education at University College school, London. After serving an apprenticeship with his father in London, he obtained employment in 1845 as assistant engineer on the Bristol and Exeter railway under Isambard Kingdom Brunel [q. v.], and afterwards under Charles Hutton Gregory.

In 1851, through James Meadows Rendel [q. v.], he received the appointment of assistant engineer on the East India railway, and was placed in charge of the Chandernagore district. His promotion was rapid.

In August 1853 he was placed in charge of the Beerbhoom district as resident engineer, and in this position designed the two largest brick arch-bridges in India, those over the Adjai and More. In December of the same year he was made a district engineer.

About 1857 he was appointed deputy chief engineer under Turnbull, and in 1859 chief engineer of the North-West Provinces division. On the death of Samuel Power he became, in April 1868, chief engineer of the whole line and a member of the board of agency. During his service in the North-West Sibley completed the Allahabad Jumna bridge, then the largest railway bridge in the world, constructed the Delhi Jumna bridge, and designed all the works at Delhi connected with the railway.

In 1869 he was involved in a controversy with the Indian government, which had issued a notification implying that the civil engineers received commissions from others than their employers. The accusation does not appear to have been justifiable, and Sibley, with the other engineers, addressed a strong remonstrance to the government.

In January 1875 Sibley left India on furlough, and shortly after retired. In consideration of his services he was made a companion of the order of the Indian Empire. He resided in England in a house which he built on the summit of Whitehill, Caterham, devoting himself to literary and scientific pursuits. He died of heart disease on 25 Oct. 1891, leaving a considerable legacy for the purpose of founding engineering scholarships and encouraging native students at the university of Calcutta. Like his father, Sibley was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

A brother, Septimus Sibley (1831–1893), physician, was for many years resident surgeon of Middlesex College Hospital, and was the first general practitioner elected to the council of the Royal College of Surgeons. He published ‘A History and Description of the Cholera Epidemic in London in 1854,’ besides papers in ‘Medico-Chirurgical Transactions’ (British Medical Journal, 25 Mar. 1893).


1892 Obituary [2] [3]

GEORGE SIBLEY, born on the 12th of August, 1824, was the son of the late Robert Sibley, who was one of the earliest members of the Institution and who served on the Council for several years.

He was educated at University College School, London, from 1831 to 1838. While at school, though he obtained a prize in Latin, his tendency was decidedly towards mathematics, among his competitors in that subject being Sir Henry Doulton, Principal Greenwood, and other men since distinguished in various walks of life.

On leaving school he served the usual period of apprenticeship with his father who was practising in London as an Architect and Civil Engineer.

In 1845 he was employed as an Assistant Engineer on the Bristol and Exeter Railway under the late I. K. Brunel, and afterwards under Mr. (now Sir) Charles Hutton Gregory.

Six years later he went to India, having been appointed by the late James Meadows Rendel an Assistant Engineer on the East Indian Railway.

On arrival in Calcutta Mr. Sibley was placed by the late George Turnbull, then Chief Engineer, in charge of the Chandernagore District, which was being constructed by Hunt, Bray and Emslie as contractors.

In August, 1853, he was promoted to Resident Engineer, and placed in charge of the South Beerbhoom District, in which capacity he designed, amongst other works, the bridges over the Rivers Adjai and More. The former, which was built under his immediate supervision, consisted of twenty-nine arches of 50 feet span, and the latter, built under the superintendence of the late William Clark and A. C. Bell, acting under Mr. Sibley, consisted of twenty-four arches of 50 feet span. These are the largest brick arch-bridges in India.

Mr. Sibley was advanced, in December, 1853, to a District Engineer.

About 1857 he was appointed Deputy Chief Engineer under Mr. Turnbull, and in December, 1859, Chief Engineer of the North West Provinces Division, extending from the Kurrumnassa a little above Buxar to Delhi.

On the death of Samuel Power he was, in April, 1868, appointed Chief Engineer of the whole line (Howrah opposite Calcutta to Delhi and Allahabad to Jubbulpore, a length of 1,525 miles) now open throughout, and a Member of the Board of Agency.

During his service in the North West Mr. Sibley completed the then largest railway bridge in the world - the Allahabad Jumna, the superstructure, fourteen spans of 212 feet, being designed by Messrs. A. M. and G. W. Rendel, and the foundations by Edward Purser. This bridge has a railroad above and a carriage and footway beneath.

He also constructed the Delhi Jumna bridge, twelve spans of 211 feet, he designing the foundations, and the Messrs. Rendel the superstructure.

A very handsome brick single-arch bridge of 90 feet span was also built over the Jhirna on the Agra branch by the late Hamilton Lee-Smith. All the works at Delhi, including those necessitated by passing through the Fort, the Selimghur Bridge, and the handsome station, were designed by Mr. Sibley.

While these works will always attest to his engineering ability and skill, his services to the East Indian Railway Company were of the greatest importance, however, in his administrative capacity as a Member of the Board of Agency in Calcutta from 1868 to 1875. He then had control of the engineering, the locomotive, the carriage and wagon, and the telegraph departments, and only those who were intimately connected with him in his work knew how largely the success of the company was due to his powers of organization and hard work, and to the initiation of important reforms which in later years added materially to the prosperity of the line.

In 1869 the honour of the profession was unjustifiably assailed by the Government of India in a Notification, the intention of which was plainly to charge Civil Engineers with recognizing as legitimate the receipt of commissions from others than their immediate employers. Mr. Sibley, with his usual energy, immediately took steps to protest against this insinuation, and, in conjunction with other prominent engineers in India, addressed to the Government a remonstrance couched in the strongest and most indignant terms. The Institution took the matter up, and some correspondence passed with the Secretary of State for India which was printed in full as an Appendix to the Report of the Council for that year.

Mr. Sibley left India in January, 1875, on twelve months’ furlough, and retired from the service of the East Indian Railway Company on the 14th of January, 1876.

After his retirement he built a house on the top of Whitehill, near Caterham, one of the highest hills in Surrey ; it was constructed of concrete, and was one of the largest private houses in this country for which that material was used. There he spent the greater part of the summer months.

Every winter he went abroad ; in recent years always to Teneriffe. He had been a great traveller, having visited many remote and uncivilized regions, and to the last he kept up the habit of constant out-door exercise by taking daily walks. Most of his time was now devoted to literary and scientific pursuits, the outcome of which were various contributions to technical journals. He was very musical, and during his travels acquired a good colloquial knowledge of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindostani - a man of remarkable individuality, holding views on most subjects of a decided and rather advanced nature, and in politics a republican. He was clever at making complicated mental calculations,. and in working out mathematical problems.

He rarely made notes when inspecting works, but on returning to the office, after several days’ absence, he would write a report of the inspection, quoting facts and figures from memory.

His reports were invariably sent out in his own handwriting, as a rule without alterations or corrections, and it was no doubt partly due to this facility that he was able to get through so much original work. Perhaps his individuality was most marked by his vegetarian habits. At the age of nineteen he became a total abstainer and a strict vegetarian, acting upon the principle that it was not right to destroy animal life or even that which might become animal life.

Mr. Sibley enjoyed perfect health up to the winter of 1890-91, when he had, while in Teneriffe, one or two attacks of shortness of breath, which he attributed to asthma. On returning to England in the spring it was discovered that he was suffering from a pronounced form of heart disease, from which he died on the 25th of October, 1891, at the age of sixty-seven years.

In recognition of his services in India, Mr. Sibley was created a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. He left a considerable legacy, for the purpose of founding engineering scholarships and of encouraging native engineering students, to the University of Calcutta, of which he had been appointed a Fellow by the Governor-General in Council on the 19th of January, 1872.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 5th of February, 1850, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 13th of April, 1858.


His son, Robert Knowsley drowned in the Thames, aged 24 on 30th April 1875.[4]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Census
  2. 1892 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. The Engineer 1891/10/30, p363.
  4. The Engineer 1875/05/07