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Robert Richardson

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Robert Richardson (1812-1891)

1840 Robert Richardson of Bures, Suffolk, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1862 Robert Richardson, Engineer, 26 Great George Street, Westminster.[2]


1892 Obituary [3]

ROBERT RICHARDSON was one of the few surviving members of the Institution whose career was commenced before the general introduction of railways.

He was born in the year 1812, and served a regular pupilage with Henry Robinson Palmer, a Vice-President and one of the founders of the Institution, who was then completing the gates for a new entrance to the London Docks, and carrying out the Blakeney Harbour improvements on the coast of Norfolk. Mr. Richardson contributed to the Institution some account of the first of those works, an Abstract of which was printed in the Minutes of Proceedings.

He afterwards became a paid assistant to Mr. Palmer, and was engaged on the works for converting the Mersey and Irwell Canal into a ship canal from Manchester to Liverpool, and also on the Neath Harbour tidal works.

On the death of Mr. Palmer in 1844 he entered as a draughtsman the service of the East London Waterworks Co, which, however, he left not long afterwards to become a draughtsman and subsequently one of the, Resident Engineers on the Eastern Counties Railway. After its completion to Colchester, he acted as Assistant Engineer, under Mr. Bruff, on the Eastern Union Railway works to Ipswich, on the Hythe Branch Railway in Essex, and on the Hadleigh and the Stour Valley lines in Suffolk. During those engagements he laid out the Cannock Chase Railway in Staffordshire, now a great coal mining district.

On the 24th of May, 1847, he took out, in conjunction with the late W. Bridges Adams, a patent for an improved mode of securing the joints of rails, to render them firmer and more durable, and to prevent the dangerous 'tipping' of the joint s1eepers.

This was known as the 'fish-joint.' There has been some discussion as to the relative shares of Mr. Richardson and Mr. Adams in this invention, but it is believed that a reliable account of the circumstances which led to the taking out of a joint patent was given in the course of the discussion upon Mr. Adams’ Paper on 'Railway Permanent Way.'

In the year 1851 Mr. Richardson started on his own account in Westminster, taking an office at No. 26, Great George Street, where he practised for twenty years as a Civil Engineer. Among the works he carried out were railways in North Wales, and the Coblenz-Trier line in Germany, both of which he laid out in conjunction with Charles Spooner.

For some years he was managing director of the Permanent Way Co, which had been established to introduce and work patents for the improvement of railway permanent way. Many inventions in which it was interested were adopted by several of the principal railway companies.

He was also a Vice-President of the Inventors Institute, a director of the Lambeth Bridge Company and of the Tower Subway Company, engineer for the Waterworks and Public Salt-water Baths at Worthing, and carried out for the Dowager Lady Bath works for the water-supply of Muntham Court, her residence near Worthing.

In conjunction with John Imray he surveyed and laid out in 1870 a light railway, which it was proposed to construct from Moorgate Street to a spot near the Agricultural Hall at Islington. Everything was ready for going to Parliament, but the promised deposit not being forthcoming the scheme had to be abandoned. In association with Mr. Charles Liddell he attempted unsuccessfully to obtain from the French Government permission to carry out works for the improvement of Boulogne Harbour.

In the year 1871 Mr. Richardson removed to Caterham Valley, where he was occupied in promoting a local branch line. Five years later he and William Dempsey, in conjunction with Mr. Guebhard of Paris, who had formerly acted as foreign agent to the Permanent Way Company, endeavoured to promote a company to work the Mekarski system of compressed-air traction on tramways. Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful.

In 1882 he finally gave up work, left Caterham Valley and settled in Guernsey, where he lived in retirement until his death, which took place on the 21st of March, 1891. As a young man he had been an ardent sportsman, and while hunting on one occasion experienced a severe fall, from the effects of which the lower part of his body gradually became paralyzed. For some few years before his death he was incapable of moving without help, but through all that period of suffering he was cheerful and unselfish, and though much crippled in fortune as well as in health, was always ready to assist a friend in need, or a deserving case for charity, frequently at the cost of some personal sacrifice. He was modest and retiring, although a genial and agreeable friend ; shrewd and sensible, and a good practical engineer with no pretensions to theoretical knowledge, for which he trusted to others whom he possessed the judgment to select.

Mr. Richardson was elected a Graduate of the Institution on the 24th of March, 1840, and was transferred to the class of Associate on the 11th of January, 1848, and to that of Member on the 13th of February, 1849. On the 30th of Nay, 1876, he was enrolled by order of the Council as a Life Member 'in consideration of his long connection with the Institution.'


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