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British Industrial History

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James Cooper (1817-1862)

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James Cooper (1817-1862)

1836 James Cooper of Kentish Town, a pupil in an engineers office, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1851 Partner in Walker, Burges and Cooper


1863 Obituary [2]

MR. JAMES COOPER was born at Highgate, in the year 1817.

Soon after leaving school he entered the factory of Messrs. Cooper, of Old Street, where he only remained a short time, but where he acquired useful practical knowledge, which was of service to him in his future career.

After studying for some time under Mr. Hale, land surveyor at Colchester, he entered the office of Messrs. Walker and Burges, as a pupil, in the year 1835, and he rendered himself so useful that he subsequently continued with them as an Assistant, and finally was admitted into partnership with the firm in 1851.

Under the direction of, and in connection with, Messrs. Walker and Burges, he enjoyed rare opportunities of observing, and of being actively engaged in, many of the great engineering works of the period, such as the Caledonian Canal, the Middle Level Drainage, the Admiralty Works at, Dover, Jersey, Alderney, Plymouth, &C., the Birmingham Canal, and the Lighthouses for the Corporation of the Trinity House, with many other important undertakings.

Whilst he was in charge of the works at the Edystone Lighthouse, in 1839, when it was decided to carry out Smeaton’s intention of filling up the cavern in the rock, he nearly lost his life from one of those sudden risings of the waves to which the sea there is subject. The mason standing beside him was swept away, and was drowned, but Mr. Cooper continued his labours until the hazardous work was completed.

His decease was very unexpected, as there were not any symptoms which induced any anticipation of such an event. On Sunday, after church, he took a walk of only a few miles, and returned apparently without fatigue. After dinner his sisters quitted the dining-room, leaving Mr. Cooper and his father in conversation. On the servant going to the room to summon them to tea, both father and son appeared to be asleep; the former awoke, but the latter had in his slumber peacefully passed away. His death occurred on the 2nd of March, 1862.

The opportunities he enjoyed professionally were unusually good, and had his life been spared he might have taken a high position.

Mr. James Cooper was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1836, was transferred to the class of Graduates in 1838, and to that of Member in 1847. He was a very constant attendant at the Meetings, and frequently took part in the discussions.


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