Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 136,320 pages of information and 219,072 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
William Parkes (1822-1889)
Civil Engineer of 8 Grove Road, Surbiton, and 23, Abingdon Street, Westminster.
Died aged 66, suddenly. 
1889 Obituary 
WILLIAM PARKES was born near Gloucester on the 6th of October, 1832.
He was educated at Bristol College and at University College, London, and being at that time of a delicate constitution, the doctors advised him to adopt a profession which would give him as much outdoor life as possible. With this view he entered the office of Mr. Hemming, an engineer in Bristol, in 1838, and after being there for a certain time, he obtained employment under the contractor who was then constructing the Great Western Railway.
In 1845 he entered the office of the late Mr. James Walker, Past-President, Inst.C.E., and while with him assisted in the preparation of the surveys and plans for various large works.
In 1847 he was sent to Alderney by Mr. Walker to report on the proposed harbour there, and, on the commencement of the works shortly afterwards, he acted as Resident Engineer under Mr. Walker, holding the position for two years.
In 1849 Mr. Parkes returned to London, and early in 1850 he started an office of his own in Parliament Street. He still retained his connection with Mr. Walker, who employed him to make reports and surveys for the River Dee Improvement scheme and other works of a similar nature in England, besides which he made surveys for various railways which were then in contemplation. In 1853 he was asked by Mr. (now Sir Charles Hutton) Gregory to go to Italy to superintend the work of draining Lake Fucino, but after spending a considerable amount of time and trouble the work was taken out of the hands of the English Engineers, and Mr. Parkes returned to England.
About this time Mr. Walker having been requested to report on the proposal to construct a harbour at Kurrachee, Mr. Parkes was deputed to go to India to make surveys and gather materials for the report, and on his return he prepared the plans for the breakwater in conjunction with Mr. Walker, but no work was started at Kurrachee for some years afterwards.
In 1860 Mr. Parkes was employed in the designing and erection of several lighthouses in the Red Sea and the Cerigo lighthouse in the Mediterranean. In 1864 he presented to the Institution a description of this work, for which he was awarded a Telford premium. He also superintended the construction in England of the lighthouse which was erected on the Island of Sombrero in the West Indies.
In 1868 he went out to Kurrachee, and the construction of the breakwater was commenced, Mr. W. H. Price being left in charge of the work as Resident Engineer, and Mr. Parkes returning to England with the appointment of Consulting Engineer. This breakwater, which was completed in 1873, was the first instance of the now well-known “sloping-block ” system being carried out on a large scale.
In 1873 Mr. Parkes was instructed to go to Madras to report as to the formation of a harbour at that place, and in 1875 he submitted to the Government his proposed design, consisting of two parallel breakwaters running out from the shore and turned round at the ends. This was accepted, and work was started there in 1876, Mr. Parkes going out to Madras to organize the staff and set the works going. The harbour was on the point of completion in 1882, when a cyclone visited Madras, which had the effect of destroying the outer arms of the breakwater, and a Committee of leading Engineers was appointed in London to consider the best way of restoring the works, and on their recommendations the ruined portions of the breakwaters were ordered to be reconstructed on a strengthened design, which work is still in progress.
At the time of his death Mr. Parkes was still acting as Consulting Engineer to the Madras Harbour Works, and was also the Engineering agent for the supply of wharf materials, dredging plant, &c., to the Kurrachee Port Trust for the inner improvement of the harbour. He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 3rd of February, 1846, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 17th of April, 1860. His sudden death from heart disease at his house at Surbiton caused the greatest sorrow, not only to his immediate relatives, but to a large circle of friends both in London and at Surbiton, where for many years he had taken a prominent part in the management of local affairs.