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British Industrial History

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William Dempsey

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William Dempsey (1817-1893)

1858 of 25 Great George Street, Westminster.[1]


1894 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM DEMPSEY was born in London on the 3rd of May, 1817, and was educated privately. He and his elder brother, George, were early members of the Mechanics Institute founded by Dr. Birkbeck, and eagerly took advantage of the opportunity of self-education thus afforded.

In 1840 he obtained an appointment as a draughtsman in the firm of Fox, Henderson and Co of Birmingham, with whom he remained until 1845.

In the latter year - at a time when railway enterprises were springing up all over the kingdom - William Dempsey joined his brother in London, where they worked night and day for some time in preparing plans for several projected lines. Unfortunately, however, the projects upon which they were occupied fell through, and William was glad to obtain an engagement in the works of Bramah, Cochrane and Deeley at Tipton.

In 1849 he was employed under Robert Stephenson on the works of the Britannia Bridge. He then returned to Messrs. Fox, Henderson & Co., for whom he was engaged in the construction of the great Exhibition buildings of 1851, and subsequently in their reconstruction at Sydenham as the Crystal Palace.

Some two years later Mr. Dempsey started business on his own account and in 1857 was appointed Consulting Engineer in England to the Railway Department of the Government of South Australia. In that capacity he designed and superintended the manufacture of several iron bridges and roofs, among which may be mentioned the Murray River bridge, the Hamley bridge over the River Light, the Port Adelaide swing-bridge and an iron roof for the goods-shed at Adelaide. He also prepared the requisite drawings and specifications, supervised the manufacture of and tested many thousand tons of permanent-way materials of all kinds.

In 1863 he was also appointed Consulting Engineer to the Scottish Australian Mining Company in all matters connected with the providing in England of the machinery and plant required extensive coal mines in the Colony. In addition to these offices he filled for a time that of Consulting Engineer to the Government of Queensland.

For some time before his death, which took place at Kenilworth on the 18th of October, 1803, Mr. Dempsey had lived in retirement.

The predominant features of his character were great capacity for work and inflexible uprightness. In his business relations he was just and generous to a degree, but his natural modesty perhaps made him appear diffident and retiring. Socially he was a most amiable and cheerful companion. Mr. Dempsey was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 6th of March, 1866, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 15th of March, 1870.


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