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William Brown Clegram

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William Brown Clegram (1809-1889)


1889 Obituary [1]

WILLIAN BROWN CLEGRAM, whose death occurred on the 3rd of June, 1889, was born on the 1st of October, 1809, at Shoreham, Sussex, where his father, who began life as a sailor, had settled in order to take charge of improvement works designed by him for the harbour at that place.

The elder Clegram had frequently visited that port as shipmaster, and was the successful candidate for the premium offered by the authorities for a design that would fix the harbour mouth, which up to that period was constantly shifting, owing to the movement of the shingle. His methodical and practical observation of the local conditions led him to compete, and was the cause of his succeeding, in a race for which he had not been specially trained. From this time he adopted the profession of engineering, and took charge of the works which he had designed.

The subject of this notice was brought up by his father to the profession, and before he quitted Shoreham in 1827 had assisted him in his drawings and surveys. At this time Mr. Clegram, senior, was selected to take charge, under Mr. Telford, Past President Inst. C.E., of the Gloucester and Berkeley ship-canal, then not yet completed.

His son almost at once took service in the same concern, being appointed Clerk in 1829. Whilst holding this office he had leisure for assisting his father in designing new basins, quays, graving-docks, and other works at Gloucester; and in 1861 he succeeded to the post of Engineer and Superintendent. At this time the important and practically untried system of towing by means of screw steam-tugs was introduced on this canal, and formed the subject of a Paper, 'Results of the Employment of Steam-Power in Towing Vessels on the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal.'

Mr. Clegram was always an ardent advocate for the retention and improvement of the water-ways of the country, and had more than once to sink personal feelings as well as capital in their defence and advancement.

In conjunction with the late Mr. T. E. Harrison, Past President Inst. C.E., he carried out important improvements at the sea entrance to the canal at Sharpness the position of which was the subject of long and mature deliberation, rendered none the easier by the consideration that it was necessary to provide access for vessels of some 3,000 tons displacement in a tide-way where the tide frequently set at the rate of 7 knots an hour. That these works proved equal to the requirements of the trade of the district, for fifteen years, is evidence of his sound judgment and power of acquiring technical knowledge from others; and that they can scarcely be said now to be on this footing is due to the fact that Mr. Clegram had to make the most of the funds, provided in a great measure by his untiring activity, in a district not specially favoured with a redundant or too vigorous population.

The works consisted of open wooden piers on either side of the entrance into a tidal-basin with lock, floating-basin, graving-dock, and connecting-cut to the old works. He was also one of the prime movers in the founding of the Severn Bridge. Perhaps the chief noticeable features of his character were the wide range of his attainments, and the thoroughness with which he was wont to grasp every detail of the work that he set himself to carry through.

He was a good artist, a keen observer of nature, at home with both microscope and telescope, a great reader, and an accomplished musician. To all about him he was ever considerate and courteous, with a kind word for every one with whom he came in contact. His advice was at all times eagerly sought by his more intimate friends, and his judgment relied upon as sound and trustworthy. He was, like his father, a systematic recorder of daily events, small and great, which included meteorological observations.

He was associated in early life with the Brunels, father and son, and with Admiral (then Captain) Beechey, during his important work of surveying the Estuary of the River Severn, and officially the late Mr. Telford, Mr. James Walker, and Sir William Cubitt, the latter having been his proposer at the Institution.


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