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John Thomas Woodhouse

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John Thomas Woodhouse (1809-1878)

1851 of Overseal, near Ashby de la Zouch.[1]


1879 Obituary [2]

NR. JOHN THOMAS WOODHOUSE, the eldest son of Mr. Jonathan Woodhouse, a well-known mining engineer of his time, was born at Overseal, Leicestershire, on the 19th of Nay, 1809. He was left an orphan at an early age, and was brought up by his guardian, Mr. Edward Mammatt (agent to Lord Noira, afterwards first Marquis of Hastings, and to George, second Marquis of Hastings), and was educated first at Ashby Grammar School, and afterwards at Repton School.

After leaving school he was articled to Mr. John Twigg, of Chesterfield, who then had a considerable practice as a mining engineer in the Derbyshire and adjacent coalfields.

About the year 1831 Mr. Woodhouse commenced to practise as a civil and mining engineer, at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

On the death of Mr. Mammatt, in 1835, he became mining engineer to the Marquis of Hastings, at the Moira and Gresley collieries, having already given proof of that great ability which, in after life, was developed in a remarkable degree. Meanwhile, in addition to holding this and other important appointments, he entered into partnership with Mr. Twigg, which continued until the death of the latter, in 1S39.

Mr. Woodhouse, being endowed with great talent and skill in the performance of professional work, having indomitable perseverance and remarkable energy, gradually raised himself to a prominent place amongst the engineers of the time. Besides holding the appointment already noticed, he was the responsible mining engineer of the extensive collieries at Moira, Oakthorpe, Measham, Gresley, Baddesley, Wylren, Shipley, Hallam, Workington, the Oaks, Wharncliffe, Silkstone, Woolley, and a large number of other extensive undertakings in different coal-fields of the kingdom.

He will also be remembered as the first mining engineer who solved the problem of the continuity of the Coal Measures under the Permian strata in the Midland coal-fields, by putting down a bore-hole to a considerable depth at Lady Lee, near Worksop, in the year 1835. He thus practically settled, to the satisfaction of the Duke of Newcastle, the question which Sir Roderick Murchison and other geologists had theoretically determined.

He opened and developed the large collieries at Cinder Hill, in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, where several shafts were sunk through the superincumbent Magnesian Limestone to the Coal Measures. It was principally owing to his professional advice and skill that the extensive collieries at Staveley, belonging to the late Mr. Richard Barrow, were so successfully opened and developed. Among many difficult works which he brought to a successful issue may be named the winning of the Bettisfield Collieries, near Bagillt, in the North Wales coal-field. After encountering great, and almost insuperable obstacles, he succeeded in sinking the shafts through quick-sands on the banks of the Dee, and thus opening a large coal-field previously unavailable.

In addition to the important engagements in connection with these undertakings, he had a large consulting and general practice, and acted as mining engineer to the Duchy of Lancaster, the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Newcastle, the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Leeds, the Marquis of Anglesea, and many other large coal owners and lessors. He was also consulting engineer on mining matters to the Midland Railway Company, and to several other similar companies.

In 1856 Mr. Woodhouse entered into partnership with the late Mr. Parkin Jeffcock, a former pupil of his, and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; and this partnership continued until the death of Mr. Jeffcock, at the explosion at the Oaks collieries, in December 1866, when his life was lost in heroically endeavouring to save the lives of others.

In 1866 Mr. Woodhouse was appointed one of the members of the Royal Commission to inquire into the coal supply of Great Britain, and was thus employed as a Royal Commissioner until 1871, when the Commission completed their valuable labours. On account of his large professional experience and sound judgment, he frequently acted in the capacity of sole arbitrator, or umpire, in important colliery and other disputes, and in many cases large sums of money and difficult points of engineering practice were involved. In this capacity he generally settled the matters before him in a manner satisfactory to the parties concerned.

In 1872 he was appointed one of the arbitrators under the South Staffordshire Drainage Commission, having Mr. Hawksley (Past-President Inst. C.E.), and Mr. Dowdswell, &c., as his colleagues; and he performed the duties of arbitrator to the satisfaction of the coal and iron masters of the South Staffordshire district within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

During his professional career Mr. Woodhouse had a considerable number of articled pupils, in whose welfare and preparation for professional life he took the greatest interest, and did everything in his power to forward their aims in life. Mr. Woodhouse was of a genial and hospitable disposition. He had a large circle of friends, and, as he was a keen and ardent sportsman, he especially delighted. in having the company of those of congenial tastes with him at his shooting quarters in Scotland, to which he resorted annually for more than thirty-five years. He was warm in his attachments, abiding in his friendships, and generous almost to a fault ; he possessed a high sense of honour and justice, and was always ready to promote any charitable or benevolent work by his money and influence; and his death leaves a void which will not easily be filled up.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. on the 18th of May, 1852, and occasionally took part in the discussions at the meetings, and was always anxious to promote the interests of the Institution in every way. He was also a Fellow of the Geological Society, Vice-President of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers, Vice-President of the Derbyshire Institute of Civil and Mining Engineers, Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was one of the original founders, and first President, of the South Yorkshire Viewers’ Association.

In 1873 he was appointed by the Home Office one of the three Examiners of the Midland District for examining candidates for certificates of competency as mining managers.

He died very suddenly from heart disease, at Scarborough, on the 27th of September, 1878. Although he had been for some months previously in failing health, no immediate change for the worse had been noticed, and on the day of his death he had taken his accustomed exercise, and appeared in no worse health and spirits; but at half-past eight o’clock in the evening, whilst apparently asleep, he peacefully passed away, without any sign of pain or suffering.

He was buried on the 5th of October, in the churchyard at Overseal, where other members of his family lie.


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