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Robert Benson Dockray

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Robert Benson Dockray (1811-1871)

1850 Became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.[1]


1872 Obituary [2]

MR. ROBERT BENSON DOCKRAY, the third son of Mr. David Dockray, at one time a mill-owner and manufacturer near Manchester, was born on the 13th of November, 1811.

His mother’s maiden name was Benson; his parents belonged to the Society of Friends, and he was educated at Friends’ schools, first at Kendal, and subsequently at Darlington; but in 1847 he became a member of the Church of England.

On the completion of his studies he spent a year in his father’s office; and in 1833, on the recommendation of the late Mr. Edward Pease, he was admitted into the office of the Stockton and Darlington railway at Darlington as an improver, anxious to obtain all the benefit he could from the staff of the oldest railway company in the kingdom. Here he had access both to the accounts and to the engineering plans of the railway, and though never articled, was mainly instructed by the late Mr. T. Storey, M. Inst. C.E., besides having the indirect advantage of contact with the officials of the line.

In December, 1835, he was appointed by Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P., Past-President Inst.C.E., one of the Assistant Engineers to Mr. Thomas L. Gooch, M. Inst. C.E., on the London and Birmingham railway, and was placed in charge of a length of 10 miles, from Birmingham to near Hampton in Arden.

On the completion of the line between Birmingham and Rugby, on the 7th of March, 1838, he was appointed Resident Engineer at Birmingham of that section; and finally, on the 12th of June, 1840, the directors resolved 'that Mr. Dockray be appointed Resident Engineer for the entire line of railway.' This appointment he retained on the amalgamation of the London and Birmingham railway in the London and North-Western system.

During the time he occupied this post he carried out the following branch railways - the Coventry and Leamington; the Coventry and Nuneaton; the Rugby and Leamington, and the Buckinghamshire. The labour and anxiety involved in the execution of these works, in addition to his duties on the main line, brought on a severe nervous and neuralgical affection, which resulted in his losing the sight of one eye. After several years’ suffering he, on the 18th of September, 1852, resigned his office of Resident Engineer of the southern division. Previous to this, in October, 1845, the directors presented him with the sum of one thousand pounds, as a testimony to 'the engineering skill, zeal, and assiduity' which he had displayed 'during the whole period of his services.'

Mr. Dockray was also presented with a large silver snuff-box, on the opening throughout of the London and Birmingham railway on the 17th of September, 1838, by the clerks and overlookers connected with his department. A larger testimonial, given him on the 27th of December, 1848, by seven hundred brother officers and private friends, consisted of a service of plate of the value of £200, a purse of sixty guineas, E500 stock of the London and North- Western Railway Company, and a portrait of himself by the late Mr. Henry Phillips.

Mr. Dockray, on his appointment to the post of Resident Engineer in 1840, went to live at Berkhamstead, removing to Hampstead in the following year. On retiring from professional life, he went to Ramsgate for a few years, but returned to Hampstead in the winter of 1856.

Finally, in 1862 he removed to Lancaster, where he remained for the rest of his life. Mr. Dockray, when in health, was a very active, intelligent, and energetic man, fond of his profession, and desirous of carrying out all the work he undertook on the most improved methods. Precise and exact in everything, he was rather a good administrator than possessed of much originality or genius. Nevertheless Mr. Gilbert Scott, R.A., the architect, wrote of the round engine-house and other buildings constructed by him at the Camden station, as models in their way - not knowing who designed them.

In person he was under the ordinary size, but well formed, and capable of going through more worth an his physique implied. For many years he interested himself in benevolent pursuits, and in such public business as his health allowed him to undertake. He was a constant visitor at the Hampstead workhouse; and at Lancaster was secretary to nearly all the Church Societies, a visitor at the national schools and the dispensary, and a member of various committees of religious and charitable institutions. He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 13th of June, 1843; and, in 1849, received a Telford medal for his 'Description and Drawings of the Camden Station, London and North-Western Railway.'

He died at Lancaster on the 8th of September, 1871, in his sixtieth year.



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