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William Thorold

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1859. Steam condensing apparatus.

William Thorold (1798-1878)

Norwich engineer.

1826 William Thorold, Civil Engineer, Melton Windham, Norfolk, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1829 June. Death of Thomas Telford, the second son of Mr. Thorold, Civil Engineer.[2]


1879 Obituary [3]

MR. WILLIAM THOROLD was born on the 9th of October, 1798, at Northwold, on the confines of the Bedford Level in Norfolk.

He was the son of a farmer, and in 1812 commenced life by assisting his parents.

Afterwards he took a farm at Melton, Norfolk, and until 1827 continued the business in his own person, and up to 1831 by means of bailiffs.

While attending the opening of the Eau Brink Cut, in 1821, he determined to become a Civil Engineer; and, acting on advice received through a friend from Mr. Telford, he entered on the trade of a millwright and engineer at Norwich, in 1828, making mills of all kinds, steam-engines for draining, grinding corn, and propelling boats ; constructing sluices, roads, catch-water drains ; and superintending rural architecture, and building Union workhouses.

While so employed he discovered that the circulation of water in a steam-boiler was as essential as the circulation of blood in the human body, and sent a Paper on the subject to the Institution of Civil Engineers, as also a Paper 'On Turnpike Roads.'

In 1826 he published a pamphlet 'On the Means of Making Norwich a Port,' by a canal from Reedham to a point near South Town, and he was employed by Sir W. (then Mr.) Cubitt to make some of the works required for the locks at Mutford Bridge, now the property of the Great Eastern Railway Company.

In 1829 he published another pamphlet, 'On the State of the Law relative to Patents for Inventions.'

Mr. Thorold was proud of having been complimented on his knowledge of road-making by Thomas Telford. For many years he was Surveyor to the Norwich, Swaffham, and Mattishall, the Norwich and Scole, the Norwich and New Backenham, the Norwich and North Wolshaw, and the Norwich and East Dereham turnpike roads. He also constructed a new direct road between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

His establishment was destroyed by fire early in 1840, but he soon got it in to order again, and constructed a large quantity of contractors’ plant, railway switches, drainage engines, and a stationary engine for the Norfolk railway.

The following extract from a list of works executed by him, which was submitted to the Commissioners of the River Witham Drainage, when a candidate for the post of Surveyor to the Board in 1863, may be cited as an example of his general practice. 'New water corn mill and water sluice on a dry turnip field at Heacham, near Hunstanton, and in sight of Boston Stump, for H. Styleman, Esq., and, after so built, bringing the river from an old mill-head (above the new mill) within an embanked pool covered with a pie-crust puddle over the turnip ground; then cutting a tail drain or leat for the new mill to the river below another old mill, and lowering and underpinning a road-bridge to obtain 13 feet fall in all.'

Mr. Thorold was awarded two silver medals in 1827 by the Society of Arts’; one for a machine for slicing turnips, the other for the improvement of the reel of Captain Manby’s life-saving apparatus.

In 1847 and 1848 he was engaged principally in the manufacture of turntables which came into use on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, the Great Eastern, and the Midland railways, and at Portland breakwater, and on a railway in Norway.

But railway work slackening in 1849 and 1850, and his eldest son showing no decided tendency to mechanical pursuits, he closed his establishment at Norwich early in 1851. Henceforward he retired to a great extent from active business, but practised as a consulting engineer, and retained his road surveying appointments, far back as the 30th of January, 1827, when he was elected an Associate; he was transferred to the class of Members on the 8th of June, 1830.

In May 1845, he contributed 'An account of the failure of the Suspension Bridge of Great Yarmouth' which had occurred a few days previously; and for some years afterwards he occasionally joined in the discussions on the Papers.

Mr. Thorold was a man of great physical strength. Although for the last few years of his life he was almost blind, he took great interest in the reports of the Proceedings of the Institution, which were read to him, and he kept up as far as he could, almost to the latest day of his life, with the principal engineering questions of the day.

He died at Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, on the 17th of December, 1878, in his 81st year.



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