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James Potter

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James Potter (1801-1857)

1824 James Potter, Long Port, Staffordshire, Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1830. Marriage. At Monk's Kirby, Mr. James Potter, Civil Engineer, third son of J. Potter, Architect, of Lichfield, to Sarah, eldest daughter of Mr. Power of Stretton-under-Fosse.[2]


1858 Obituary [3]

MR. JAMES POTTER, third and youngest son of the late Mr. Joseph Potter, architect, of the city of Lichfield, was born on the 10th of March, 1801.

After quitting school, at the age of sixteen, he passed several years in his Father’s office, where he became acquainted with the rudiments of drawing, and more particularly with those branches relating to engineering - his Father being at the time the Surveyor of Public Works of the county in which he resided, and also Engineer to the Grand Trunk Canal Company.

He was afterwards articled to the late Mr. W. Brunton, of the Eagle Foundry, Birmingham, where he acquired considerable practical knowledge, which proved very serviceable to him in after-years.

On leaving Birmingham, about the year 1822, he again passed a short time in his Father’s service, and was engaged in making the designs for the iron bridge, of three arches, then about to be erected over the river Trent, at Salthouse, and now called Chetwynd Bridge. He also held the post of Resident Engineer at one, or two bridges erecting at that period under his Father’s direction.

In 1822, the Grand Trunk (Trent and Mersey) Canal Company having come to the determination to form a new tunnel through Harecastle Hill, near Congleton, Cheshire, Mr. Telford was, at the suggestion of their Engineer, who felt unwilling to take upon himself the sole responsibility, called in to examine and to report upon the practicability of making a second tunnel. This navigation, including the original tunnel, was constructed by the celebrated James Brindley, but the tunnel was of such limited dimensions, as to be quite unfitted for the traffic which had been developed.

Mr. Telford having reported that it was both practicable and desirable to make a larger tunnel, was, after a delay of two years, authorised to make the necessary arrangements. He then recommended that Mr. James Potter, whom he described as 'an active, intelligent young man,' should be appointed Resident Engineer.

The works were commenced immediately, and the tunnel was completed within three years after the commencement of the operations. It was built parallel to the former tunnel, at a distance of 26 yards, and was 2,926 yards in length, 16 feet in height, and 14 feet in breadth.

After it had been worked for two years, Mr. Telford made a minute examination of the tunnel, and found that every part was quite perfect. In a subsequent report to the committee, he stated, 'I did not observe one crack, or fissure, or even one decayed brick, which, in a work of such magnitude and difficulty, performed in the short period of three years, is, I venture to believe, without parallel. Although the materials are thus excellent, and every facility was afforded, I consider it just to state the merit which is due to the Resident Engineer, Mr. James Potter, for the accuracy with which he set out the line, and his unceasing attention and perseverance in providing materials and conducting the works.' Again Mr. Telford, alluding to the tunnel in a private correspondence, says, 'I congratulate you on your successful exertions upon those difficult works, which are the most perfect of their kind, and which do you much honour.'

The great reservoir at Knipersley, belonging to the same Company, which was in progress at the same time as the tunnel, was also superintended by Mr. Potter.

About the year 1830, the Oxford and Birmingham Canal underwent considerable alterations, for the purpose of shortening its course, on which occasion Mr. Potter was appointed Resident Engineer, a duty which he fulfilled to the entire satisfaction of the Company, and with credit to himself.

In the year 1835, or 1836, he undertook the management of the Croydon division of the South-Eastern line of Railway, from which he was released in 1837, in consequence of the consolidation of the first portion of that line with the London and Brighton Railway, by whom the length was to be made. He was subsequently employed for about six months in Mr. Rastrick’s office.

Afterwards, in the year 1845, he became Assistant-Engineer on the London and Brighton Railway, and the whole of the tunnels on the main line from London to Brighton were constructed under his sole superintendence, and were executed with the most perfect success. He also superintended the construction of part of the Brighton and Chichester Railway.

Before he had well completed this engagement, he was appointed Resident Engineer of the new line of railway from Sheffield to Hull, the tunnels being more especially under his direction. He continued to fill this office until the year 1852, when he was appointed Engineer-in-chief to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, the duties of which office he fulfilled with ability and integrity until within a short period of his death, which took place, after a brief illness, on the 23rd of August, 1857.

Mr. Potter was a very old Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, having been elected on the 1st of June, 1824; but his constant residence in the provinces did not admit of his frequently attending the meetings and taking part in the discussions, which is the more to be regretted, as his great practical experience would have enabled him to impart much useful information.



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