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John Ward (1811-1858)

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John Ward (1811-1858)


1862 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN WARD was born at Newlands in the parish of Bywell, St. Peter, in the county of Northumberland, on the 7th of January, 1811.

He was brought up by his father to his own trade, that of a wheelwright; but having, like many of the natives of that part of England, a strong mechanical turn, he soon became dissatisfied with the work upon which he was engaged, and he bound himself apprentice to Messrs. Robert and William Hawthorn, engineers, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

After completing his term of service in their locomotive engine-works, he obtained the situation of engine-wright at Haswell Colliery, in the county of Durham, when Mr. T. E. Forster (M. Inst. C.E.) was grappling with the most formidable difficulty ever encountered in coal-mining in the North of England, sinking through the deep quicksand underlying the great magnesian limestone. During the course of some repairs to the pumping-engine, the pump-spears fell down the shaft, and killed one of the engine-wrights. This accident was the cause of Mr. Ward quitting the employment of the Haswell Company, an attempt having been made, unfairly, as he considered, to fix him with the responsibility of having left the pump-spears improperly secured.

The Butterley Iron Company then engaged him in their engineering works near Alfreton, Derbyshire, and he was employed under their engineer, Mr. Joseph Glynn (M. Inst. C.E.), in the execution of the iron bridge over the River Ouse, at Haddlesey, in Yorkshire, and also on several of the works designed by the same engineer for draining the fens of Cambridge and Lincoln and in other parts, by the application of steam power.

He was then sent out as engineering manager for the firm of Messrs. George Jessop and Co., of the Phoenix Ironworks at Calcutta, where he arrived about the end of the year 1848.

On the retirement of the Messrs. Jessop from the concern, Mr. Ward, in conjunction with Mr. Webber and Mr. Francis, carried on the works for some time, but eventually Mr. Ward resigned his situation with the manufacturing branch, and acted only as their consulting engineer.

He had long been aware of the necessity for additional steam power for towing ships on the Hooghly - to that he directed his attention, and commencing with the 'Lion' and the 'Vulcan' steam-tugs, he afterwards purchased in England a more powerful vessel, the 'Phoenix,' for which he reconstructed the engines of a ship of war.

Upon the commencement of the East Indian Railway, Mr. Ward took a contract for seventy miles of the line, near Patna, including a long brick viaduct across the River Soane.

In the course of the summer of 1856 he came to England, and when he returned, took out with him several brickmaking machines and small bucket-dredgers upon the principle of the marine dredging engines, adapted by himself for the purpose of rapidly and cheaply excavating the brick (or cylinder) wells upon which the foundations of the bridges are usually constructed in India. The breaking out of the Indian mutiny putting a stop temporarily to the railway-works, caused severe inconvenience to many of the contractors, and like the others, Mr. Ward was obliged to discontinue his contract. He concurred with the other Europeans in organizing the volunteer force for the defence of Calcutta, and served in the corps until he was seized by the disease to which he fell a victim, and he died at Calcutta on the 10th of January, 1858.

Mr. Ward was a thoroughly good mechanic of the old millwright class; he worked both in wood and iron equally well, and his constructive ability enabled him to undertake and carry on an entirely new kind of work in a country where mechanical appliances were almost unknown, and to execute with the comparatively untaught Indians constructions previously considered to require the power and energy of Europeans.

Mr. Ward joined the Institution as a Member in the year 1856, and took much interest in the proceedings. He enjoyed the reputation of being a highly honourable man, of a retiring disposition, confident in his own powers, but unwilling to obtrude his opinion, or to influence others, by the parade of his experience. He was highly esteemed in India, and his premature decease was much regretted.


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