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William Brentnall

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William Brentnall (1829-1894)


1894 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM BRENTNALL, born on the 30th of March, 1829, was a native of Ilkeston in Derbyshire, where his father was in business as a builder and contractor.

In 1855 he became an assistant to the late Edward Price, who had entered into a contract with the Brazilian Government for the construction of the Dom Pedro Segundo Railway from Rio de Janeiro to the foot of the Serra S. Anna, a distance of 40 miles. Mr. Brentnall, whose position was that of Superintendent of Bridge Construction, suffered, whilst on those works, from ague and yellow fever, which proved fatal to many of the English assistants.

He returned home in 1858, and was then engaged for Mr. (now Sir Robert Rawlinson in superintending the construction of part of the West Ham Main Sewerage.

From 1864 to 1870 he was employed as Resident Engineer, under the late John Lawson, on the sewerage of Keswick, Cockermouth and Workington, and on the waterworks of Maryport.

In 1870 Mr. Brentnall was appointed Surveyor and Waterworks Engineer to the borough of Tunbridge Wells. During the twenty-four years he occupied that position he carried out considerable extensions to and improvements in the collecting, impounding and distributing arrangements of the waterworks. These comprised the construction of a storage-reservoir - containing 45,000,000 gallons - formed by two earthen embankments across a valley in bad ground and made watertight by an internal lining of concrete and asphalt; the erection of a considerable addition to the pumping-station buildings and a duplication of the pumping-plant and rising-main; and many alterations of the internal distributing-pipes, with an extension of a subsidiary gravitation supply, which resulted in considerable saving in pumping-charges. By careful arrangements for the detection of waste and by conciliatory treatment of householders, the consumption of water was reduced to 18 gallons per head, including street-watering, as low a rate as can reasonably be expected in a fashionable residential town.

Mr. Brentnall also erected a sewage-pumping station for a suburban district unprovided by the two gravitation outfalls to the north and south farms. This included a small covered reservoir; a substantial brick-building, containing a pair of gas-engines; and a rising-main delivering the sewage into the southern outfall system. He carried out an extension of the Southern Farm and laid many miles of new sewers. One of his chief works was the design and construction of the Grosvenor Bridge, which carries a public road by three plate-girder spans over the South Eastern Railway near the goods station. He laid out the Borough Cemetery and the Corporation Recreation Grounds; carried out numerous street and town improvements; had charge of the maintenance of between 40 and 50 miles of roads; and recently designed and built the handsome Council Chamber and Mayor’s Parlour in the Town Hall, and also rebuilt the Municipal Offices.

Mr. Brentnall died on the 20th of June, 1894, after several weeks’ illness. An operation, performed at Guy’s Hospital, disclosed the fact that he was suffering from a cancerous tumour, to touch which would have caused immediate death. The wound healed, but nothing could be done to save his life and he died six days after the operation.

His early training in the practical details of the building trade admirably fitted him to direct and supervise works of construction. He was never content unless he obtained the best work of its kind in every department, and he has left a mark upon the town of Tunbridge Wells which will be an enduring memorial of many years’ faithful service.

He was elected an Associate on the 1st of February, 1876; was subsequently placed among the Associate Members; and was transferred to the class of Member on the 29th of May, 1883.


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