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Thomas Clark

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Thomas Clark (1810-1857)

1841 Thomas Clark of Tottenham, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1858 Obituary [2]

MR. THOMAS CLARK was the second son of Mr. Thomas Clark, a native of Ely, Cambridgeshire, but who removed to Tottenham, in Middlesex, about the year 1804, and there carried on the business of a builder, to which he subsequently added that of well-sinking and boring.

It appears that Mr. Goode, then of Cambridge, in 1820, bored an artesian well in the London basin, at Tottenham. In the following year he was also engaged on the premises of Mr. Matthews, of Tottenham, in boring to the sand beneath the London and plastic clays, being provided with tools, for which he had obtained a patent. It was while employed upon this work, that the elder Clark took the hint, and was afterwards fortunate enough to obtain some large contracts for well-sinking.

In 1822, these artesian wells flowed 4 feet or 6 feet above the surface in high situations, but now (1857) at the same localities the water does not reach within 20 feet to 25 feet of the surface.

The younger Clark was born in the year 1810, and was originally brought up as a carpenter, an occupation which he followed until he was twenty-two years of age; after which time he was engaged with his Father in well-sinking and boring, until 1835, when the business was transferred to him.

Early in 1839, he was engaged in sinking the well at Messrs. Hanbury’s brewery. This was commenced near the middle of a land-spring-well 16 feet in diameter ; and in order to avoid the usual inconveniences of pumping and excavating, Mr. Clark performed a large part of the work with an auger, or ‘miser,’ instead of by the usual methods of well-sinking.

One of his most important works was the well at the Royal Mint, on which he was engaged in 1843. In this the ‘miser,’ which enabled the operations to be continued without pumping, was also employed. The cylinders, in lengths of about 30 feet each, regularly followed the ‘miser,’ and as soon as they reached the chalk, the operation was considered safe. At Messrs. Watney’s distillery, the cylinders used were 11 feet in diameter.

In both these cases, the ‘miser’ was 5 feet in diameter, and was turned by twelve men ; the cup, which was 14 inches in depth, being capable of holding as much soil as would fill an ordinary one-horse cart. Although Mr. Clark did not claim to be the first who employed this instrument, the late Mr. B. Vulliamy, Assoc. Inst. C.E., having used an auger many years previously for a similar purpose,l yet he believed, that no one, up to that time, had used such large tools, or had employed them so extensively as himself.

In the Royal Dockyard, Woolwich, he bored a well 600 feet deep into the chalk, whence a supply of one thousand gallons of water per minute was said to have been obtained, at a depth of about 70 feet from the surface.

Mr. Clark also bored wells at St. Alban’s, at Portsmouth Dockyard, at Haslar Hospital, and at many other places. He made the trial borings for the Southampton Well, reported in favour of the undertaking, and, upon the failure of the first Contractor, continued the operations for a time. He likewise prosecuted some tedious borings in Ireland, in search of coal.

In a discussion at the Institution, in 1843, he gave the results of his experience in sinking and boring wells, for a considerable distance on both sides of the river Thames. He stated, that the water rose from the chalk to very different levels, in the various wells and bore-holes which he had sunk ; that the average depth at which the chalk was reached was 220 feet, the water generally rising to 70 feet from the surface, except near to the river, where it rose to within 50 feet ; that at the Wandsworth Lunatic Asylum, the depth to the chalk was 323 feet, the water rising to within 30 feet of the surface ; and that he had not observed the supply of water to be affected so immediately after rain as had been represented. Subsequently, in 1850, in a discussion on the depression of the chalk water-level under London, he expressed the opinion, that no diminution had occurred in the chalk springs, but that the observed depression was entirely attributable to the sand-springs.

Mr. Clark died on the 21st August, 1857, at the age of forty-seven years, leaving a widow, two sons, and two daughters, the elder son following his Father’s business. The immediate cause of his death was consumption, brought on by a cold, caught by getting wet, in going down a large well at Norwich, when in a delicate state of health.

He joined the Institution, as an Associate, in the year 1841, and was a regular attendant at the meetings, taking part in the discussions when they referred to subjects in which he was interested.


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