Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,119 pages of information and 210,773 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
John Taylor (1817-1891), consulting engineer, of John Taylor and Sons (of London)
1817 Born in Sunderland
1892 Obituary 
JOHN TAYLOR was born in May, 1817, in Sunderland, where his early years were spent. He was the only son of Mr. John Brough Taylor, M.D., who had gained considerable eminence both in his profession and as an antiquary, but who unfortunately succumbed to an attack of typhoid fever at the early age of thirty-six, his son, the subject of this memoir, being only eight years old, and lying dangerously ill of the same complaint at the time.
As soon as he was well and strong enough, he was sent first to the Grammar School at Sunderland and afterwards to Houghton-le-Spring School.
At the age of fourteen, on account of the straitened circumstances of his mother, it became necessary to take him away from school, and he was placed in the office of a merchant at Sunderland. It soon became apparent,, however, that his tastes inclined strongly towards mechanical work, so after about three years of mercantile training, he, at the advice of his principal, determined to devote his energies to engineering.
While thus employed he was fortunate in making the acquaintance of the late James Simpson, who was engaged as arbitrator on some dispute with the contractors. In the following year he was engaged by Mr. Simpson, and from that date till Mr. Simpson’s death, in 1869, Mr. Taylor acted for him, and became his chief and confidential adviser.
Mr. Taylor’s first work under Mr. Simpson was with the Chelsea Water Co, the intake of which was then at Pimlico. For that Company he was engaged upon the design and construction of the first experimental filter-bed for purifying potable water. As the only filters then in existence were those used by paper-makers, he made visits to paper-mills in all parts of the country, in order to obtain the best information possible. The design for the first waterworks filter was very similar to that still in common use, very slight modifications only having been introduced during the last fifty years.
In 1840 Mr. Taylor became Manager and Head Draughtsman of Mr. Simpson’s works in Pimlico, and in that year made the drawings for, and superintended the construction of, the first steam-engine made at that establishment.
Two years later he left the works at Pimlico, and became Mr. Simpson’s Chief Assistant at the office in Westminster, in which capacity he prepared most of the parliamentary schemes upon which his chief was engaged, and also was largely responsible for the designs of the various works constructed. Among these may be mentioned the long pier at Southend, and the waterworks at Newcastle-on- Tyne, York, Cardiff, Reading, Cambridge, Bristol, Aberdeen, Carlisle, Copenhagen, and various other cities.
In 1849 the Lambeth Waterworks Co decided to remove its intake from Lambeth to Thames Ditton, and Mr. Taylor took part in the design and construction of the new works, into which were introduced many novel features since universally adopted.
During the greater part of the year 1857 Mr. Taylor was engaged in making an elaborate series of gaugings of the flow of the sewers in the Metropolitan area for the Royal Main Drainage Commission, and in connection with this he furnished the Commission with a report upon the effect of initial velocity of flow upon the readings of the notch-gauge. This may be found in the library of the Institution as an Appendix to the Report of the Commission. For many years he estimated daily the volume of the River Thames at Surbiton, communicating to the Institution tabulated results of his calculations.
In 1869, on the death of Mr. Simpson, Mr. Taylor entered into partnership with Mr. James Simpson, since deceased, and at the same time was appointed Chief Engineer to the Lambeth Waterworks Company, and Consulting Engineer to the Bristol, Cardiff, Newport (Mon.), and many other provincial water companies.
About this time he obtained parliamentary powers to carry the intake of the Lambeth Waterworks Company up to West Molesey, so as to be above the inflow of the River Mole, and in 1872 this important extension, including the aqueduct to the Ditton Works and the impounding reservoirs, was successfully carried out.
The partnership with Mr. Simpson terminated in 1882 by efflux of time and was not renewed, but Mr. Taylor continued to act as Consulting Engineer for the various Water Companies above mentioned.
In 1882, on the resignation of the late James Muir, Mr. Taylor was appointed Chief Engineer to the New River Co, in addition to his other engagements. This post he held until 1890, when feeble health compelled him to resign it.
In 1882 he took into partnership his two sons, who had previously acted as his assistants. This partnership lasted up to his death, and although for some years past failing health prevented his taking as active a part in professional work as he wished, nevertheless he attended daily at his office up to the time he was seized with a severe stroke of paralysis, which, after a brief illness, terminated fatally on the 26th of November, 1891.
Mr. Taylor was the Author of a series of letters on 'London Water-Supply,' published in. the Courier newspaper between November, 1866, and April, 1867, chiefly bearing on the questions of constant service and a future source of supply. A reprint of these letters is in the library of the Institution.
Mr. Taylor was elected an Associate on the 6th of June, 1848, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 7th of December, 1869.