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Joshua Richardson

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Joshua Richardson (1799-1886)

1834 Joshua Richardson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a Civil Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1838 Insolvent. 'Joshua Richardson, formerly of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, afterwards of Conder-cum-Villa, township of Benwell, Northumberland, Bird-hill, parish of Whickham, Durham, Whitelee, parish of Elsdon, Northumberland, Camphouse, near Jedburgh, Jedburgh, Kelso, and Melrose, county of Roxburgh, Edinburgh, Peebles, county of Peebles, and Lanark, Hamilton, and Glasgow, county of Lanark, Civil Engineer, and late of Claremont-place, Gateshead, Durham, Civil Engineer.'[2]

1850 '...Joshua Richardson, of Neath, in the county of Glamorgan, Civil Engineer...' concerning the winding up of the Sea Fire Life Assurance Company.[3]


1886 Obituary [4]

JOSHUA RICHARDSON, one of the oldest Members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was born at Bishop Wearmouth, in the county of Durham, on the 10th of February, 1799.

He was descended from a family long noted in the north of England for upright conduct, sound judgment, and great decision of character. His father, John Richardson, in 1814, was one of the first men who introduced steam-power for the grinding of bark in his tanyard, and utilizing it as the motive-power in his flour-mills. The novelty of this adaptation created great interest in the district, and numerous visitors from a distance came to witness the successful application of this powerful accessory to science.

Joshua Richardson received a sound education; his mental development was not rapid, but he was very persevering, and being of a reflective temperament, studious habits, and a hard reader, associating also with intelligent companions, he obtained much information in scientific knowledge, natural philosophy, and general literature, also in geology. He always traced his predilection to engineering to the delight he had as a boy watching day by day the progress of the erection of the high-level bridge at Sunderland, over the river Wear, at that time regarded as a marvel of engineering skill. He was trained in youth for mercantile pursuits, and it was not till early manhood that he resolved to pursue the profession of a civil engineer.

He became an articled pupil of George and Robert Stephenson, about the time of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, when the railway system was about being generally adopted in the country. He had the privilege of close intercourse with Robert Stephenson, to whom he was much attached, also of being introduced to some of the leading engineers at that time.

He prized the opportunity afforded of becoming acquainted with practical engineering in the factory and drawing-offices of Robert Stephenson and Co., at Newcastle, and used to advert to the instruction gained there as being of service to him in his after career.

He assisted in surveying several of the early railways, and had to give evidence on the levels of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway before a Parliamentary Committee. His first appointment, as Resident Engineer, was under Robert Stephenson, on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway and harbour. The gradients of the railway were such as to require a tunnel, and a steep incline was worked by means of a stationary engine and rope. This railway was the first in the south of England opened for general traffic. He took an active part in the arrangements, and its completion was the cause of great rejoicing in Canterbury and the vicinity.

On the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, as belonging to the engineering staff, he was placed on one of the locomotives in the procession. In after-life he would dilate on the triumphant success of the enterprise-though sadly, clouded by the melancholy death of Mr. Huskisson, of which mournful event he was an eye-witness.

He surveyed a line of railway from Newcastle to Shields, and was employed on some of the Midland railways. After completing his term of pupilage, he was appointed Engineer and Manager of the works of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway.

In 1832 he settled in the North. He was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 28th of January, 1834, and took great interest, when opportunity offered, in attending the meetings. He was appointed Engineer of the, new Water Company in Newcastle, and prepared the Parliamentary plans and estimates for the waterworks, and superintended their construction. The Commissioners of the River Tyne and the Newcastle Corporation engaged him to survey and report on the deepening of the river.

In 1836 he published his report 'On the best practical means of improving the navigation of the River Tyne, with an appendix on the River Clyde at Glasgow.' Previous to this, the second edition of his 'Observations on the proposed Railway from Newcastle-on-Tyne to North Shields' was issued.

For several years his time was devoted to the promotion and preliminary surveys and plans of railways in the North of England and Scotland, also in colliery practice.

Desirous for the improvement of the colliers and others resident. in the North Durham district, with the aid of the late Mr. Hutt, M.P., and some local gentlemen, he took an active part in establishing the Literary and Mechanical Institution in Burnopfield, of which he became Vice-President. The Newcastle Corporation awarded him a premium for the original plan of the steam-boat jetty erected on the River Tyne, the principle of which was afterwards adopted in several other seaports.

On the completion of the London and Croydon Railway in 1839, he was elected Engineer of the Company and Manager of the working details of the line. Subsequently he removed into Wales, on his appointment as Engineer and Managing Director of extensive collieries and railways in Glamorganshire.

He was also engaged to select, and to survey, the line of the Vale of Neath and Merthyr Railway, and he prepared the necessary plans and estimates; the works were afterwards executed under the patronage of the Great Western Railway, to whom the line is now leased. He obtained the premium offered for the best plan of the Burnham Docks and Harbour in Somersetshire. He had considerable practice in reporting on the coal-fields, and the best mode of working the coal of North and South Wales, the Forest of Dean, and the West of England, and was engaged on slate quarries, lead, iron, and copper mines.

He had professional employment in Belgium and in France, where he. furnished a report 'On the extensive deposit of magnetic iron ore at Dielette, near Cherbourg, and the best mode of working and converting it, with estimates, plans, and sections. This report, was published in 1866.

For a long series of years he was the Consulting Engineer of the late Lord Craven for his coal-fields in the Clee Hills, Shropshire, and at Coventry in Warwickshire. He acted in the same capacity for Sir William R. Clayton, Sir Charles Boughton, the Neath Abbey Coal Company, and many others. In the valuation of coal property and colliery plant he was often applied to as a trustworthy authority. In law, in arbitration, and in Chancery suits connected with engineering, he had much experience, and was frequently required to examine, report on, and give evidence in the public Courts.

Of his publications, the work 'On the Prevention of Accidents in Mines' was a subject he had naturally considered, and felt convinced that if the sanitary measures practised in the best regulated collieries were legally enforced, they would tend to diminish suffering and loss of life. The book was very favourably reviewed by the press. It had a wide circulation, and obtained the attention of several members of the Government. Lord Wharncliffe wrote to him respecting its object, and arranged for his giving evidence before a Committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the subject of inspection of mines. After the Bill enforcing inspection was passed, Joshua Richardson had frequent intercourse on professional subjects with the newly-appointed inspectors, especially with his old experienced acquaintance, Mr. Matthias Dunn, of the Northern district, and with Mr. Herbert Mackworth, of South Wales, who always enjoyed conferring and consulting with him on topics affecting the safety of mining operations.

He was extremely neat and methodical in the arrangement of his books, papers, plans, and correspondence ; noted for writing clear, explicit, and comprehensive reports, and often surprised those who consulted him by the correctness of his geological and engineering knowledge.

He was the Author of four Papers communicated to the Institution; namely, 1. 'On the Ventilation of Mines,' read on the 23rd of March, 1847; 2. 'The Coal-field and the Coal of South Wales,' read on the 13th of February, 1849.

At a time when the rapid exhaustion of the coal in Great Britain was occupying the public mind and creating alarm, this Paper attracted much attention, and was, by permission of the Council, re-published in the Bristol and Glamorgan Directory. 3. 'On the Explosion of Fire-damp which occurred in the Eaglebush, or Eskyn Colliery, near Neath, South Wales, on the 29th of March, 1848, read on the 20th of February, 1849.3 4. 'On the Pneumatics of Mines,' read on the 1st of February, 1853. For the first of these papers he received a Telford medal, and for the others premiums of books.

He much valued the Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution, which were to him treasures of science, and each volume was duly read and the plans examined. He had the whole series from the beginning, neatly bound and arranged, and until late in life he would comment with enthusiasm on the amount of practical engineering they embodied. Desirous of spreading the advantages of the Institution, he frequently recommended young rising engineers to become candidates for admission, taking care that none but those who fulfilled the stipulated conditions should aspire to the honour. He was warmly interested in young men entering on active life, especially in those employed by him, watching over and advising them for good. He showed much tact in managing and organizing bodies of working men, maintaining his authority and yet gaining their respect and regard.

For many years he was a contributor to the columns of the 'Mining Journal,' discussing the various topics engrossing the attention of engineers.

In 1846 he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society. He was a good walker, and occasionally accomplished 40 miles a day ; the exploring of rocks, examining the strata, collecting fossils and other specimens, were all sources of pure pleasure, as well as being serviceable in mining and engineering operations. He would often encourage his younger friends to pursue this branch of knowledge, so as to enhance the interest of their excursions and pedestrian tours.

Not only as a man of science was Joshua Richardson active and energetic, but he was equally so in the cause of philanthropy. Kindness and tenderness of heart were his distinguishing characteristics, and he could not witness misery and suffering without desiring so relieve it ; as far as circumstances warranted, he was prompt to succour the distressed. He had not wealth to bestow, but he had the pen of a ready writer; was a good and fluent speaker, and could eloquently plead the claims of justice and humanity.

Often solicited to take part on the platform in public matters, he was bold to speak according to his convictions, but was no blind partizan. Trained as a member of the Society of Friends, and sound in the faith of that Christian body, he maintained and advocated the doctrine of peace and good-will to all mankind, and he was local Secretary of the Peace Society. He took part as well in the Anti-Slavery cause. He was deeply imbued with the love of the Bible, and the sublime truths of the gospel, and for ten years he was Secretary of the Neath Auxiliary Bible Society. He united with others in forming a Benevolent Society in Neath for the relief of the deserving poor, and acted as secretary. He was eminently the friend of education, believing it to be the basis on which mainly depended the progress and elevation of the lower classes.

The ignorance prevailing in some parts of Wales, especially amongst the colliers, deeply impressed him with the need of elementary schools. Encouraged and assisted by some of the best and most benevolent men in the district, and by their generous co-operation, he was instrumental in establishing ‘Neath School Society,' of which the British School, with similar schools, were the results. He with others took a warm interest in the erection of commodious schools for boys, girls, and infants. For upwards of twenty years he acted as Government correspondent, manager, and honorary secretary, and was said to be 'the mainspring of the movement.' He was also Honorary Secretary to the school in connection with the Neath Abbey Ironworks.

In 1872, at a numerous meeting at the Town Hall, Neath, he was presented by the friends of education, as a testimonial of their approval, with a silver tea- and coffee-service of elegant design, on which the following inscription was engraved: 'Presented to Joshua Richardson, M. Inst. C.E., F.G.S., in recognition of his services in the cause of unsectarian education in Neath, 1872.'

Though of a retiring, unobtrusive disposition, he was cordial, courteous, and refined, with a well-stored mind full of resources, and ho possessed good conversational powers. He was thoroughly domestic in his habits ; home was his delight, and his chief earthly happiness was in the bosom of his family. The one great sorrow of his life was the loss of his only son, of whom he could rarely speak in after-life without deep emotion.

He died on the 22nd of March, 1886, at the age of eighty-seven.


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