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Henry Vignoles

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Henry Vignoles (1827-1899).

Died 1899 aged 71.[1]

1899 Obituary [2]

HENRY VIGNOLES, born on the 16th November, 1827, was the third son of Charles Blacker Vignoles, Past-President, who was at that time carrying out Government surveys in the Isle of Man.

Henry, with his elder brother Hutton, was for a year or two placed under the care of Dr. Garvey, Master of a boys school in Douglas, until his removal to Liverpool, where his father was engaged under George Stephenson on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

On his mother's death in 1834, Henry and his younger brother were placed at a preparatory school in London, from which they were removed four years later to Dinting Vale, near Glossop, in Derbyshire, their father having been appointed Engineer-in-Chief to the Sheffield and Manchester Railway.

In 1840-41 the two brothers were sent to Repton School, under the Mastership first of Dr. Macanlay, and afterwards of Dr. Peile. From Repton they were removed to the Manchester Grammar School under Mr. Richards and the Rev. Dr. Germon.

In 1843 Henry Vignoles was sent to Ireland to join his eldest brother Charles, who had been appointed Engineer to the Shannon Commission.

In 1846 he accompanied his father to Warsaw and ultimately to St. Petersburg;, where his father had undertaken important engineering works for the Czar Nicholas I., including the erection of the famous suspension bridge over the Dneiper at Kieff.

In order to obtain a thorough knowledge of Russian, Henry Vignoles was placed with a family at Toola, where that language is spoken in its greatest purity ; but after two years he, with his elder brother Hutton, joined their father’s staff of engineers at Eieff, amongst whom was a celebrated mathematician from Trinity College, Dublin, Mr. E. Whiteford, whose computations for the proposed bridge were verified and approved by the wellknown Rev. Dr. Romney Robinson, Head of Armagh Observatory.

The subject of this notice was somewhat of a favourite with the Czar Nicholas, who on various occasions visited the works of the Kieff Bridge. On one of these visits, before the platform of the suspension bridge was completed, the Czar hesitated about crossing the river, and the engineers suggested that he should be rowed over in a boat which had been built by the staff. His Imperial Majesty declined, adding, 'But I think if I went in a boat at all, I should feel safer with four Englishmen than any other persons in the world.' The model of the Eieff Bridge, which Mr. Vignoles presented to the Czar, is still to be seen in the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg.

On leaving Russia, Henry Vignoles was appointed by his father co-resident engineer with his brother Hutton on the Frankfort, Wiesbaden and Cologne Railway ; and in the next year, 1854, he became Chief Resident Engineer on the Western Railway of Switzerland - the second line constructed in that country.

The lines included those from Geneva to Lausanne, from Morges to Yverdon and Nenchatel, and from Fribourg to Berne. One of the first wrought-iron trellis bridges used in railway construction was erected on this line near Morges. The Resident Engineer has recorded that on the opening day no one but the driver would venture with him on the locomotive engine, though crowds were collected expecting to witness the fall of the bridge, and the certain death of the two rash individuals on the engine.

In 1858 Henry Vignoles was appointed by his father Chief Resident Engineer on the Tudela and Bilbao Railway through the Cantabrian Pyrenees ; and in the following year he married Miss Isabella Whipham, a native of Devon, whom he had first met at Wiesbaden. This lady survives him.

In the formidable task of the diversion of the River Ebro he was ably assisted by Philip Sewell. The ascent over the mountains to the summit-level at Gujuli, nearly 2,200 feet above the sea, had been previously laid out by the Spanish engineers at a gradient of 1 in 40, but this was reduced to 1 in 66 in the final construction of the railway by Mr. C. B. Vignoles.

Henry Vignoles was afterwards head of his father’s staff in the construction of an important railway in Poland, Thomas Brassey having undertaken the contract; and his last professional work was the railway from Douglas to Peel, and Douglas to Port Erin, the first railway in the Isle of Man.

In his later years Henry Vignoles lived for some time in Florence, but finally he resided in London until his death, which took place on the 16th June, 1899.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 2nd February, 1864.

1899 Obituary [3]

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