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British Industrial History

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William Barber

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William Barber (1817-1876)

1877 Obituary [1]

MR. WILLIAM BARBER was born in the Parish of St. James, Piccadilly, on the 15th of December, 1817.

He began his engineering career as a pupil with the late Mr. Francis Bramah, M. Inst. C.E., and subsequently with Messrs. Bramah and Robinson, of Pimlico, in whose factory he remained for five years from October 1833.

He was afterwards engaged by the late Mr. I. K. Brunel, V.-P. Inst. C.E., as assistant on the Bristol and Exeter railway, under Mr. W. M. Peniston, M. Inst. C.E., the Resident Engineer, with whom he remained at Uphill, Somerset, until June 1840, when he was moved to Bridgewater. Here he had the chief direction of the creosoting of the permanent way timbers, bridges, &C., and measured up the permanent way and timber work between Bridgewater and Taunton, including the sidings at the station at the latter place.

In December 1844 Mr. Barber, still under the auspices of Mr. Brunel, proceeded to Plymouth to occupy a similar position in the service of the South Devon Railway Company, and on the completion of the work in March 1847 he came to London as one of the secretaries to Mr. Brunel, by whom he was held in great esteem, remaining at the office in Duke Street until the death of Mr. Brunel in 1859. Then, for a few months, he was auditor of the engineering accounts of Mr. R. P. Brereton, M. Inst. C.E., Mr. Brunel’s successor, and in September 1860 became secretary to Mr. (now Sir John) Coode, M.Inst.C.E.

In 1875 Mr. Barber acquired considerable property, which enabled him to retire from the profession.

Mr. Barber was distinguished for his accuracy and power of continuous work; and he manifested a special aptitude for accounts. His admirable business habits and capacity were not confined to earning a livelihood for himself, but were often placed at the disposal of others, and in one instance he gratuitously managed the estate of the orphans of an early friend during their long minority, a task which involved the sacrifice of much of his spare time through several years.

His connection with the Institution would have dated from the 26th of January, 1841, when he was passed by the Council as a Graduate, but ill-health induced him to withdraw his application for admission, which remained in abeyance until 1871, when he again came forward, and was elected an Associate on the 7th of March in that year.

He died from heart disease on the 3rd of November, 1876.

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