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John George Blackburne

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John George Blackburne (1815-1871)


1872 Obituary [1]

John George Blackburne was born in London, on the 4th of June, 1815; but his father, who was a Lancashire man, removed back to his native county, and sent his son to school at Worksop.

The scanty means of the father necessitated the son’s early application to business; so Mr. Blackburne was articled on the 31st of May, 1828, for seven years, to Mr. William Dunn, then practising as a land and mining surveyor in Oldham, and in whose office J. F. Bateman, M. Inst. C.E., F.R.S., was at the same time a pupil.

On the 5th of June, 1835, Mr. Blackburne became Mr. Dunn’s partner; this connection was dissolved by the death of Mr. Dunn on the 27th of June, 1840. By this time Mr. Blackburne had exhibited such an aptitude for business, that he was largely employed as a surveyor in promoting or opposing schemes for railways in South Wales and Lancashire.

During the railway mania of 1844-6 he was employed, under Mr. Hawkshaw, Past-President Inst. C.E., in surveying and laying out a system of railways which was to place Oldham in direct communication with Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne, Rochdale, and Saddleworth. The Act was obtained, but a change in the aspect of things rendered the abandonment of the undertaking necessary. It was not until twenty years after these lines were laid out, that Mr. Blackburne had the satisfaction of seeing the whole network completed.

In 1853, he designed and superintended the erection of the Dukinfield New Bridge, which rendered the road from Ashton to Dukinfield more convenient and easy, as well as shorter.

Some years previously he had had charge of the Spotland Reservoirs, near Rochdale, as well as the superintendence of all new street works and sewerage for the Borough of Oldham. This latter duty he continued to perform until the appointment of a borough surveyor in 1863.

In 1854-5, he acted as surveyor for the new Oldham Waterworks at Piethorn, of which Mr. Bateman was the consulting engineer, and George Emmott the resident engineer.

In 1858, he laid out the Oldham, Ashton, and Guide Bridge railway (5.5 miles), and superintended its construction, as well as at the same time having charge of the works on the Hydo and Marple railway (4.5 miles).

In 1859, he laid out the Marple, Kew Mills, and Rayfield rai1way (6.5 miles), and the Stockport and Woodley railway (3 miles); and afterwards acted as engineer for the execution of both lines. The heaviest works on these railways were the Park bridge, the Marple and the Goyte Cliff viaducts, the former of which was entirely of masonry, comprising ten spans of 50 feet each, and 90 feet in height, while the Marple viaduct consisted of thirteen stone arches of 50 feet span, and a height of 120 feet, with an iron lattice girder bridge over the Peak Forest canal, having opening of 87 feet; and the Goyte Cliff viaduct has seven spans of masonry, also of 50 feet, and a height of 85 feet., with an iron plate girder bridge over the river, having aonp ening of 82 feet.

The only other feature on the whole of the works was the prevalence of laminated clay, which rendered the cuttings and embankments very troublesome, and the cost of construction proportionately great.

In. 1862, Mr. Blackburne made his son, John William Blackburne, M. Inst. C.E., his parher.

In 1864, he and Mr. Emmott were appointed engineers to the Ashton and Stalybridge (Corporations) Waterworks, which scheme was, after a severe contest, got safely through both Houses of Parliament. These works (now nearly completed) were for some time under the joint superintendence of Mr. Blackburne and Mr. Emmott, until the latter gentleman resigned his responsibility on account of failing health.

In 1865, Lord Howard of Glossop applied for powers to construct waterworks for the supply of Glossop, and his lordship entrusted the Parliamentary scheme, and subsequent execution of the undertaking, to Mr. Blackburne.

In 1868, he was consulted by the Oldham Corporation, as to the boat way of obtaining an additional supply of water for that town. He reported upon two schemes, viz., Denshaw and Greenfield. The Corporation decided upon applying for the latter as the largest and best, but, although a strong case was made out, the Committee of the House of Commons decided that the towns of Ashton, Stalybridge, and nukinfield, had a prior claim on that gathering ground. This expression of opinion led the authorities of those towns to seek for the necessary powers, which were obtained in the following year, when Mr. Bateman acted as engineer to the scheme, the main features of which closely resembled Mr. Blackburne’s.

In 1869 the Oldham Corporation, acknowledging the absolute necessity for an extra water supply, ordered plans to be prepared for reservoirs at Denshaw, and an extension of their existing works at Piethorn. Mr. Blackburne was appointed engineer to the undertaking, and had been actively making arrangements for the vigorous execution of the works when he died.

In 1855 he was admitted a Member of The Institution of Civil Engineers, and in thsea me year he became a Fellow of the Geological Society, and in 1866, a Member of the Manchester District Society of Surveyors and Valuers. He was the first President of the latter Society, and was, at the time of his death, the Treasurer of it.

From 1853 to 1871 he was constantly engaged on Parliamentary business, as his clear-headedness and thorough knowledge of all branches of the profession rendered him a good witness, and thus either a great support or an awkward adversary. For many years he had been an authority on mining cases in Lancashire, where his name 'had become a household word.' He also enjoyed a large practice as witness, arbitrator, or umpire in disputed compensation, water-right, and other similar cases; for in no branch was he more highly trusted and esteemed for his honesty of purpose and straightforward conduct.

Besides being so fully immersed in the calls of his profession, he took an active interest in the educational and other kindred institutions of Oldham, and was for nearly twelve years in command of the 31st Lancashire Rifle Volunteers, having, at the time of his death, reached the rank of Lieut.-Colonel.

In June, 1870, he had a threatened attack of paralysis, having suffered for years greatly from pain in the head; and the doctors strongly advocated a complete withdrawal from business. This advice was to a great extent acted upon for some months, and as a relaxation, he attended the Wellington Barracks in London, in February, 1871, for the purpose of obtaining his certificate of proficiency.

With the return of health, however, came back that strong desire for active occupation of mind and body that had ever distinguished him, and which had obtained for him a reputation which will long survive. Towards the end of August he again complained of pain in the head, and on the 28th of September, whilst viewing some property near home, he was seized with dizziness. The doctor was sent for and advised rest; but in the afternoon of the following day Mr. Blackburne had a paralytic stroke, followed by an attack of apoplexy, which terminated fatally on the 30th of September, 1871.


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