Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,512 pages of information and 233,943 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
John Grant (1819-1887), Assistant-Engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works
1888 Obituary 
JOHN GRANT, whose death occurred suddenly on Saturday the 24th of March, 1888, was the eldest son of Ewan Grant of Glasgow, and was born in that city on the 22nd of May, 1819.
He had acted as assistant engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works and the preceding Commissioners of Sewers, for close upon forty years.
Mr. Grant’s professional career commenced in the office of Mr. Clinnie, of Paisley, N.B.
In 1838 he removed to Devonshire, and assisted the late Mr. Robert Park, of Glasgow, in making surveys for the Tithe Commutation Commission. On the conclusion of work, he was employed on the Exeter and Yeovil Railway.
In 1845 Mr. Grant married Miss Whitaker, of Exeter, and it is related that, the engineering staff of the above railway being completely worn out by their labours in making the parliamentary survey, this lady, during most inclement weather, and before the completion of the western railway system went alone to London, and arranged for the deposit of the plans. For this service Mrs. Grant was officially thanked by the Directors.
Some articles contributed to the Exeter papers, on the waste of land in the county, brought Mr. Grant under the notice of Lord Ebrington (now Earl Fortescue), and of Mr. Edwin Chadwick, C.B., - the veteran sanitarian - who were both members of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, and through their influence he was appointed, in April, 1849, Assistant Surveyor of the commission, his designation being, in 1852, altered to that of Engineer. The district assigned to him was the central, on the south side of the river.
Upon the formation of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1856, Mr. Grant was appointed Assistant Engineer, and put in charge of the whole of the southern district of the metropolis, the northern district being apportioned, the western half to Mr. T. Lovick, and the eastern portion to Mr. Edmund Cooper; but upon Mr. Cooper's retirement in 1870, these districts were apportioned between Mr. Lovick and Mr. Grant. Mr. Grant taking, in addition to his previous district on the south, the western portion of the northern district, extending as far east as the Ranelagh sewer, and including the districts of Fulham and Hammersmith, Kensington, Paddington, and Chelsea, and a part of St. Margaret, Westminster.
In addition to the general supervision of this extensive district, Mr. Grant superintended the execution of so much of the main drainage works and street improvements, as were situate within his district ; amongst the most prominent of these were, the low-level sewer, extending from Putney to Deptford, with a branch from Spa Road to Deptford, the pumping-station at Deptford, which - as the first erected of the four sewage-pumping establishments, the high-level sewer from Balham to Deptford, and its branch from the Crystal Palace to Deptford; the storm-overflow into Deptford creek, which was recently extended by him to the Thames, the outfall sewer, 11 feet 5 inches in diameter, from Deptford to Crossness, and which was carried in tunnel in a curved route under the town of Woolwich ; the extensive outfall works at Crossness, embracing a large pumping-station and a covered reservoir of 6 acres.
On the north side of the river, Mr. Grant superintended the construction of a portion of the low-level sewer, and the whole of the Chelsea Embankment, the Albert Embankment on the Surrey side having been previously carried out under his supervision. Besides the main intercepting sewers, many large works were carried out by him, in connection with the improvement of the main valley lines of sewers, as the Effra and Falcon Brook and deep lines of sewer laid down to convey the drainage of the low-lying parts of Southwark into the intercepting system, and more recently the construction of a tunnel sewer to form an outlet, for the drainage of Eltham. Amongst the more important street improvements, were Southwark Street, the widenings between Camberwell Green and Peckham, and quite recently, the new street in continuation of Great Dover Street, and the widening of Walworth Road.
In November, 1869, Mr. Grant was appointed to act temporarily as Engineer-in-Chief to the Board during the illness of Sir J. W. Bazalgette, and was subsequently thanked by the Board for the able manner in which he had performed his duties.
In the execution of the extensive system of arterial drainage committed to his charge, Mr. Grant naturally had to test the quality of very large quantities of building materials, especially of Portland cement, which had been chosen as the cementing material in the construction of the sewers, &c. In 1858, when Mr. Grant commenced his experiments, Portland cement was looked upon with much suspicion, owing to its then unreliable character. It is chiefly owing to the laborious series of many thousand tests, carried out by Mr. Grant during a period of thirty years, that this constructive material has reached and maintained the high position which it now occupies. Not only were the properties of the cement itself thoroughly investigated, but new uses were found for it. Among these may be mentioned the backing of the granite blocks composing the face of the Albert and Chelsea embankments with cement concrete, instead of with the brickwork or rubble which had hitherto been used for that purpose ; and the construction of large sewers of concrete with merely an internal skin or facing of brick. These and other improvements effected a very considerable saving in the construction of the public works entrusted to his charge, and they have since been adopted in numerous similar cases. The results of many of Mr. Grant’s experiments on Portland cement were embodied in three Papers read before the Institution . For these Papers, a Telford Medal and prizes were awarded to him.
Since 1880, Mr. Grant had accumulated the results of a large additional number of tests which it is probable, had his life been spared, would have been communicated to the Institution. He was in constant communication with most European authorities upon cement-testing, and his great personal experience was always at the disposal of those interested in the subject without fee or reward. His investigations were published by Messrs. Spon in 1875.
In addition to the above, Mr. Grant collected the data for, and wrote three valuable reports for, the Metropolitan Board of Works. The first was on the Artizans’ Dwellings of Glasgow, and was written in 1877, after carefully examining into the subject on the spot. This report caused him to be invited to give evidence before the Commission on Artizans’ Dwellings, of which Lord Cross was Chairman. The second, written in 1881, was on the “Fish-Supply of the Metropolis,” and was of a very exhaustive character. In order to collect material for this report, Mr. Grant visited the principal fishing ports of the east coasts of England and Scotland. The third, written in 1885, was on sludge filter-presses, for information on some foreign forms of which a visit was paid to Germany.
Mr. Grant had been confined to his house for a month before his death, having been suffering from pleurisy and cruralgia; but he had notwithstanding insisted upon carrying on his official business, writing a large number of letters daily, and frequently seeing his assistants. Up to 9 P.M. on the day of his death, he was engaged with one of his assistants, and he died of syncope within half an hour afterwards. Of no one could it more truly be said that he died in harness. A letter written to an official at Spring Gardens, was dated 8.30 P.M., an hour before his death.
Mr. Grant was exceedingly painstaking, and aimed at a high standard of perfection in all his work. He was a kindhearted and most conscientious man, who lived out his Christian principles in everyday life, and was affable to all however humble their position. In him the public have lost a good and faithful servant, and his subordinates a kind and considerate superior. He had been a widower for many years, and leaves a son and daughter to mourn his loss.
Mr. Grant was elected a Member of the Institution on the 3rd of December, 1861.
1888 Obituary 
"The unexpected death of Mr. John Grant, M. Inst. C.E., Assistant-Engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works, has created a widespread feeling of regret, especially in the ranks of the profession in which the deceased had achieved so honourable a position.
At an early age Mr. Grant removed from Scotland to Devonshire, where he was associated with Mr. Park in the survey for the Tithes Commutation Commission. He was afterwards engaged in survey work connected with the Exeter and Yeovil Railway.
Taking considerable interest in sanitary subject, he became acquainted with Mr. Erwin Chadwick, and ultimately came to London, where in April, 1849, he received the appointment of Assistant-Engineer to the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers, his designation in 1862 being altered to that of Engineer. While on the staff of the Commission he worked at first under Mr. John Roe, and afterwards under Mr. Frank Foster and Mr., now Sir Joseph Bazalgette.
On the creation....[more]
1888 Obituary