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Richard Boxall Grantham

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Richard Boxall Grantham (1805-1891)


1892 Obituary [1]

RICHARD BOXALL GRANTHAM was the eldest son of the late John Grantham, Civil Engineer, and was born in Church Street, Croydon, on the 13th of December, 1805.

He was sent to school at Edenbridge, Kent, and on leaving, at the age of about sixteen, commenced his professional education in the drawing office of the late Augustus Pugin, the architect. Among his fellow pupils were the late Charles Mathews the younger, Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Pennethorne, and Benjamin Ferrey, who all subsequently attained distinguished positions. While there, he measured and prepared the drawing of the colosseum or diorama in the Regent’s Park which appeared in Pugin and Britton’s 'Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London.' It may be noted that the office hours were at that time from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M.

In the year 1823 Mr. Grantham went to Ireland to assist his father, who had been occupied since 1819, under the late John Rennie, in making a survey of the Shannon for Government, for the purpose of reporting on works for the prevention of floods in the valleys of that river and its tributaries. This report was printed in the form of a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury.

Soon afterwards he was engaged with his father in rebuilding the bridges over the Shannon at Limerick, Killaloe, and Portumna, with arches of increased span so as to give more waterway for floods. He also assisted his father in introducing steam navigation on that river from Killaloe to Shannon Harbour.

Later on he and his brother, the late John Grantham, were employed with their father by Messrs. John and George Rennie in surveying a line of railway from London to Birmingham now forming part of the Great Western system. In 1834, the year after his father’s death at Killaloe, he was appointed to the county surveyorships of King’s County and Clare, and, in 1836, to the surveyorship of the county of Limerick.

At the end of 1836, Mr. Grantham returned to England and was engaged by the late I. K. Brunel as an assistant on the construction of the Great Western Railway, superintending in particular the Brent Viaduct, and afterwards as resident engineer carrying out the branch line from Gloucester to Cheltenham, known at that time as the Cheltenham and Great Western Union.

Leaving the service of the Company in 1844, he came to London and established an office in Robert Street, Adelphi. For the next two years he was employed, principally by Sir John Rennie, in making, surveys for railways, among which the principal were the London and Manchester Direct, the Direct Northern, the Direct Norwich, the Birmingham and Gloucester, the Derbyshire, Worcester and Staffordshire, the Chester and Manchester, the Newry and Enniskillen, and a portion of a line from London to York.

The railway mania having abated, Mr. Grantham turned his attention to sanitary matters, and in 1847 went to Paris to examine the Abattoirs, a description of which he furnished to the Institution1 in the hope of establishing a similar system in London.

He prepared designs for a cattle-market and slaughter-houses at Islington, a company being formed for the purpose of erecting them, and, although its objects were not realised, the present market and slaughter-houses were constructed on very similar lines.

He was then busily employed on a variety of works; in 1852 he surveyed a portion of what is now the direct Portsmouth line of the London and South-Western Railway under the late Mr. Errington; from 1854 to 1857 he assisted John Glutton in the disafforesting and drainage of Hainault Forest, Essex, now a valuable agricultural property; and in 1858 he surveyed a line from London to Bury St. Edmunds for Messrs. M'Clean and Stileman.

In 1856 and following years he was engaged in constructing the Forest of Dean Central Railway which he had previously surveyed, and which is now worked as a branch of the Great Western Railway, and he afterwards made several surveys in and near Monmouth and the Forest of Dean.

His experience on the Shannon, and in carrying out the drainage of Hainault Forest and other similar works, led Mr. Grantham to recognise the want of improvement in legislation on the subject of arterial drainage in this country. He therefore associated himself with John Clutton and J. Bailey Denton in drawing public attention to the matter, and attended a meeting at the Hanover Square Rooms in December, 1860. This led ultimately to the passing of the Land Drainage Act, 1861, under which he was appointed inspector, subject to the instructions of the Inclosure Commissioners. For the following three years he was engaged with Mr. Clutton in carrying out the marling of about 1,500 acres of Crown property in Delamere Forest, Cheshire. He presented a detailed description of this work and of the geological features of the county to the Royal Agricultural Society, at which he subsequently took part in the discussion upon a Paper on the 'Reclamation of Land from the Sea.'

From 1861 to 1883 he held as Drainage Inspector, forty local inquiries, resulting in the formation of as many drainage districts. Amongst those inquiries was one in 1871 for the purpose of forming a large drainage area in the upper valley of the Thames above Oxford, the outcome of which was the passing of the Thames Valley Drainage Act, constituting a drainage board for dealing with improvements in the main river and having under its control six district boards entrusted with powers for improving and maintaining the tributaries. The total watershed of this district was 826,900 acres and the taxable area 55,472 acres. He contributed to the Proceedings of the Institution a valuable Paper dealing with the whole question.

In the winter of 1872-73 Mr. Grantham was sent by the Inclosure Commissioners to inquire into and report upon the floods in the valleys of the rivers in Somersetshire, 69,000 acres of which were then inundated. A large part of this area was again under flood during last autumn. The report was printed and laid before the House of Commons. An Act called the Somersetshire Drainage Act was passed in 1876, constituting a drainage district upon similar lines to the Thames Valley Drainage Act, with a watershed of 607,360 acres and a taxable area of 121,437 acres.

For some years he had interested himself in the sewage question, and had been associated with Mr. J. Bailey Denton in prosecuting inquiries on the subject.

In 1869 he attended the meeting of the British Association at Norwich, and was the means of obtaining the appointment of a committee, of which he was nominated chairman, to inquire into the treatment and utilization of sewage.

After reporting for several years the Committee concluded in favour of the disposal of sewage on land, where practicable, as the best means of purifying it. He subsequently carried out many sewerage and sewage-disposal works, and for several years was engaged with Messrs. Glutton in executing drainage and other works on the estates of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests.

It may also be mentioned that in 1860 he was appointed, in conjunction with his brother, Mr. John Grantham, engineer to the Northern Railway of Buenos Ayres, and that for some years he acted as engineer to the Quebrada Railway Company in Venezuela, a portion of that line being carried out under his direction and superintendence; it was intended to connect some copper mines with the coast, and had been personally surveyed many years previously by the late Sir John Hawkshaw.

But perhaps the most recent and noteworthy work by which Mr. Grantham’s name will be remembered is the reclamation of Brading Harbour in the Isle of Wight, which he carried out to completion in 1879-80. The harbour, comprising some 700 acres, was reclaimed about the year 1620 by Sir Hugh Myddelton, but the sea subsequently destroyed the embankment. The present embankment is 35 feet wide, and forms the high road from St. Helen’s to Bembridge. New timber wharves and sluices for the discharge of the River Yar were built, and the railway from Brading to Bembridge was carried out, under his direction.

From the first meeting of the British Association at York in 1831, Mr Grantham was a frequent attendant at its annual gatherings, the last occasion on which he was present being at the Bath meeting in 1888. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1833, and continued the connection up to the date of his death. He was associated with the founders of the Surveyors Institution, and promoted its interests by serving on the Council from 1872 to 1883, and by contributing several Papers.

From the time he entered Mr. Pugin’s office until 1891, about seventy years in all, Mr. Grantham’s life was one of continuous hard work, and to the end the desire to be at work was strong within him. As a husband and father he was the kindest and most generous of men. Conscientious and ardent in his work and of a sanguine temperament, difficulties never caused him to despond or ruffled his prevailing good temper. Genial, bright and courteous in manner, he was fond of society, particularly that of men of science, and it was a pleasure to him to attend the meetings of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers and of the Geological Club, which until a year ago he did frequently. He was elected and acted as President of the former society in 1890. He attended at his office as lately as Friday, the 27th of November, but the effort overtaxed his strength, for on the following Sunday he lost all power of moving and gradually sank, passing peacefully away on the 5th of December, 1891.

Mr. Grantham was elected a Member of the Institution on the 25th of June, 1844, and was at the time of his death one of its oldest members. In former years he frequently attended its meetings, and, in addition to the Papers referred to, for both of which he received Telford premiums, he presented a clinometer which was placed in the library of the Institution.


1891 Obituary [2]




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