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Hamilton Henry Fulton

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Hamilton Henry Fulton (1813-1886)


1887 Obituary [1]

HAMILTON HENRY FULTON was a son of Mr. Hamilton Fulton, civil engineer, who, after having been engaged in some of the most important works of Mr. John Rennie, senior, and of Mr. Telford, Past-President Inst.C.E., was appointed in 1819 State Engineer to North Carolina and Georgia, U.S.

Mr. H. H. Fulton was born in 1813, at Charles Street, London. He accompanied his parents to America, and was educated at the Athens University, Georgia.

After the return of the family to England in 1829, he became pupil to his father, and on the death of the latter in 1834, he was at once placed upon important works by the younger John Rennie, then recently knighted.

In 1839 he was engaged upon the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, and three years later had become resident engineer for the reclamation works of the Wrigland district at the mouth of the River Nene. On the 6th of May 1845, Mr. Fulton was elected a Member of the Institution. About the year 1846 he commenced practice in the Adelphi, and soon afterwards removed to Great Queen Street, and subsequently to Great George Street, Westminster.

Among the earlier works for which Mr. Fulton was engineer from the inception of the Parliamentary plans to completion, were the West London and Crystal Palace Railway, with the branches to the London and Brighton line at Norwood and at Battersea. In the construction of this line Mr. Fulton acted in conjunction with the late Mr. G. P. Bidder, Past-President Inst.C .E. The works were heavy, and one of the tunnels passed immediately under the Crystal Palace. This undertaking, the forerunner of the present system of suburban railways south of London, now forms part of the main line of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway having its terminus at Victoria.

Among other works, followed, in 1855, the extension, by the Stokes Bay Railway and Pier Company, of the London and South-Western Railway to Stokes Bay, for the purpose of improving the communication with the Isle of Wight; and the Ryde and Ventnor Railway; in 1856, an extension by the Milford Railway Company of the South Wales broad-gauge railway to Milford; in 1860, the Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway, and from 1859 to 1863 the surveys and Parliamentary plans for the Act known as the Manchester and Milford Railway.

About this time also Mr. Fulton's scheme for crossing the Severn, and thus connecting the Great West Railway's system, at a point near the Chepstow bridge, with South Wales, became known. The main feature of this project was a bridge eclipsing in magnitude any hitherto constructed except on the suspension principle. The main span was 600 feet, and the height above high-water 95 feet. Besides this there were to have been two spans each of 265 feet; thirty spans of 150 feet, twenty-six of 120 feet, and twenty-seven of 90 feet each. Under the title of the South Wales and Great Western District Railway, the scheme was brought before Parliament in the Session of 1865, with Mr. (now Sir John) Fowler, Past-President Inst. C.E., and Mr. H. H. Fulton, as engineers. Beyond this stage the work did not proceed, but the recently completed Severn Tunnel connecting the Great Western system with South Wales, and having therefore the same object, is only a short distance below the line of Mr. Fulton’s proposed bridge.

About this period another proposal made by Mr. Fulton in advance of the times, was to cross the River Mersey between Liverpool and Birkenhead by a high level railway bridge. In this case the spans were to have been 400 feet. The superstructure was to consist of lattice girders giving a clear headway of 120 feet above high water, and the distance from shore to shore, in the line of the bridge, was about three-quarters of a mile. But like the Severn, the Mersey was destined to be first crossed by a tunnel, and this work, opened during 1886, has been carried out on the same line as the bridge proposed more than twenty years ago by Mr. Fulton.

But railway engineering in this country had rapidly declined, and Mr. Fulton, born and nurtured in the strength of the early railway-times, only attained his professional maturity in their decadence. His active mind had long been intent on other branches of engineering. Sewerage and water-supply more particularly engaged his attention, and in May 1867, his well-known scheme for the future water-supply of the Metropolis was laid before the Royal Commission on water-supply. At that time two great projects for a supply by gravitation from Wales were considered. By the Northern scheme introduced by Mr. Bateman, Past-President Inst. C.E., it was proposed to impound the head waters of the Severn, including the rivers Tanat, Tyrnwy, and Banw. The Southern scheme advocated by Mr. Fulton included the headwaters and upper tributaries of the Wye. In favour of his scheme Mr. Fulton wrote, “The Wye-basin being more thinly inhabited than the other large river-basins of England and Wales, its water is at present of less utility, and its proposed abstraction will be of less inconvenience than in any other case.” Mr. Fulton’s estimate of the net rainfall available for water-supply and compensation to the river was 30 inches per annum, and subsequent observations seem to justify his expectations. The total drainage-area stated to be available was divided into four districts, covering 281,761 acres, or 440 square miles; but of this it was proposed, in the first instance, to utilize only No. 1 district, having an area of 93,752 acres, or 146 square miles.

Upon this smaller area, Mr. Fulton had laid out six reservoirs, having an aggregate capacity of 26,250,000,000 gallons, and yielding, on the basis of Mr. Fulton’s moderate estimate of the rainfall, 130,000,000 gallons a day for London, after allowing as compensation to the rivers one-fourth of the available rainfall, a condition which, while diminishing the floods, would have more than doubled the dry-weather flow. The proposed aqueduct to London commenced in No. 1 district at the most southerly of the impounding-reservoirs in the Elan Valley. The altitude here is about 590 feet above Ordnance Datum, and the aqueduct, as then laid out, would have had a total length of about 180 miles to the service-reservoirs at Totteridge, near Barnet, at an elevation of 276 feet above Ordnance Datum, and at a distance of 8 miles from the Marble Arch. The estimate for this first section of the scheme was at that time £7,000,000. It is now eighteen years since the Royal Commission sat for the investigation of the various schemes proposed for the water-supply of the Metropolis. Liverpool has already appropriated a portion of the Northern scheme, including the upper waters of the River Vyrnwy, with its tributaries, the Cowny and Marchnant. Large areas for the supply of pure water in this country become rarer year by year; but the district selected by Mr. Fulton is little, if at all, changed, and if ever the Metropolis seeks a supply from a distant source, it is probable that part at. least of Mr. Fulton’ scheme will be included.

The last project of importance with which Mr. Fulton was intimately connected, was that of the Manchester Ship Canal. He conceived that a waterway to connect Manchester with the sea, to be worthy of the support of the Manchester people, must be a navigation unbroken by locks-a channel along which vessels might pans in either direction without hindrance at any time.

The idea was a bold one, and although on the one hand it involved difficulties, from which the old system of inland-navigation was free, it promised on the other benefits which the locking-system could not afford. As a matter of construction, the amount of excavation was necessarily greater in Mr. Fulton’s plan; but, as the water-level was lower, railways would have been passed under with more moderate alterations of their levels. At Manchester the hulls of vessels would have been much below the general surface of the ground ; but in point of discharging the disadvantage of this is less than might appear at first sight. However discharged, cargo must be placed in hoists of some kind, and the extra charge upon the goods for increased height of lift would be insignificant.

Mr. Fulton’s scheme appears to have become publicly known in 1876, and early in 1877 it was brought under the notice of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce by Mr. George Hicks. In April 1877, the Chamber held a special meeting on the subject, and adopted a resolution to the effect inter alia, ”that it would be of the greatest service to the interests and trade of the district to have an improved waterway.” It was not, however, until 1882 that any further important step was taken.

At a meeting held on the 27th June in that year, at the residence of Mr. Daniel Adamson, M.Inst.C.E., the present Chairman of the Manchester Ship-Canal Company, Mr. Fulton explained at length his scheme to more than seventy representative men, including the mayors of the various towns interested. The project included the formation of a trained channel from the deep water of the Upper Mersey Estuary, near Garston, to Runcorn, and of a tidal canal from Runcorn to Manchester. At Manchester the depth of water at low tide was to be 22 feet, which, added to l5 feet rise on ordinary spring-tides, would give 37 feet at high water. The entire length of the proposed canal would be 37 miles ; its minimum width at the surface 228 feet, and at the bottom 80 feet. At Manchester, there was to be a basin 8,000 feet long and 700 feet wide, having an area of 1284 acres, and more than 3 miles of quayage. The estimated cost was £4,500,000. At this meeting a provisional committee was formed with powers to obtain a detailed survey.

On the 7th of July following, Mr. Fulton and Mr. Leader Williams, M. Inst. C.E., were appointed engineers, and instructed to make a survey and to furnish a joint report. Mr. Williams, however, had already given his allegiance to the lock-system, and it is no cause for surprise that two engineers, starting upon such radically different principles, should fail to agree and find it necessary to present independent reports. This, as a matter of fact, they did; and finally, on the report of Mr. Abernethy, Past-President Inst. C.E., in favour of the lock-system, Mr. Williams’s scheme was adopted on the 26th September, 1882. Thus ended Mr. Fulton’s connection with another great project.

Mr. Fulton died on the 10th of August, 1886, at his residence, Bedford House, Chiswick, in his 74th year. In this short review of his professional life, it has only been possible to refer to some of the principal works which he carried out or projected; but it is sufficiently obvious that the very foresight which placed some of his projects in advance of the times often proved of less value to him from a business point of view than to others who, at later periods, though possibly in a modified form, gave practical realization to those projects.


1886 Obituary[2]

"Mr. Hamilton Fulton.—The late Mr. Hamilton H. Fulton, Mem. Inst. C.E., was formerly a pupil of his father. The latter after practising in Great Britain for many years with Messrs. Rennie and Telford, became chief engineer to the States of North Carolina and Georgia, U.S. A. At the death of his father he became a pupil of the late Sir John Rennie, and was afterwards for years his principal assistant, and aided him in carrying out some of his numerous and most important undertakings, including the improvement of the River Nene navigation and the River Ouse outfall navigation. Mr. Fulton was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the year 1845. In the year 1853 an Act was obtained upon the plans designed by him for the construction of the West London and Crystal Palace Railway, a line from the London and South-Western (Windsor and Richmond line) to the Crystal Palace Park, a distance of about 5| miles. The works with branch lines to the London and Brighton line, at Norwood, and to the Chelsea suspension bridge, were subsequently carried out from beginning to completion by him. In the year 1855 the Stokes Bay Railway and Pier Co obtained an Act to extend the London and South Western Railway from Gosport to Stokes Bay, with a pier to enable passengers to land at all times of the tide. These works were designed and carried out by Mr. Fulton. The Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway, a line from Salisbury to West Parley, near Wimborne, a distance of 18} miles, was also designed and carried out by him. He was also engaged in connection with the Milford Docks and with the Manchester and Milford Railway, for which an Act was obtained in the year 1860 to construct a line from Llanidloes to Pencader, being a length of 51} miles. During the past sixteen years the deceased gentleman was prominently before the public in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal project. In the year 1870 he made a preliminary survey and report upon the practicability of improving the Rivers Mersey and Irwell, so that ocean-going steamers might reach Manchester. From the year 1870 Mr. Fulton has been untiring in his endeavours to keep the proposal before the public, and it was entirely due to his labours that the project was so warmly I taken up and supported in the year 1882 and subsequently.


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