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British Industrial History

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Alexander Lambert

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Alexander Lambert (c1837/c1843-1892)

Lead diver of the Severn Tunnel build using equipment invented by Henry Albert Fleuss

Married Eliza (1854-1928)

1880 'Fleuss's diving apparatus has been used with much success the Severn Tunnel. The inventor himself appears to have failed to accomplish what was desired; but a professional diver named Alexander Lambert put on the Fleues dress, reached the bottom the shaft under 35 feet of water, and walked 1,020 feet up the heading, where he succeeded in closing some sluices and shut an iron door, having been cut off from all communication for an hour and a half, This is a crucial test of the great value of Fleuss's dress when worn by a plucky diver like Lambert. The ordinary diving gear has been tried without success, the great length of tubing required rendering the operation impracticable.'[1]

1881 Living at 265 Bow Common Lane, Mile End Old Town, London: Alexander Lambert (age 36 born Scotland), a Submarine Diver. With his wife Eliza Lambert (age 27 born Southwark).[2]

1885 Siebe Gorman's chief diver, Alexander Lambert, was sent by the company to the Canary Islands, and the wreck of the Alphonso XII. Sunk on route to Cuba, the Alphonso carried £100,000 in gold coin, which the underwriters were extremely anxious to recover. The wreck lay in over 180 feet of water, deeper than any salvage diver had ever been. In a series of dives Lambert used explosives to blast through several decks until, at a depth never before achieved, he found the treasure. Lambert and a fellow diver recovered nine out of ten boxes of coin although, during his last dive Lambert, recovered two boxes and stayed too long at that great depth, succumbing to the dreaded 'bends'.[3] He was forced to retire after this operation.[4] Other divers in this operation were David Tester and F. J. Davies. Lambert is reputed to have earned £4,000 for this task.

c1890. Short newspaper article published in the U.S. circa 1890, describes a routine day at work for the legendary Lambert: "I can give you one of Lambert's; he once had a thrilling-fight with one (shark) at the bottom of the Indian ocean. He had been sent to the island of Diego Garcia to fit copper sheets on a coal bunk that had been fouled by a steamer, and was annoyed during his operations by the same shark for nearly a week.The monster was temporarily scared away, however, every time, Lambert opened the escape valve in his helmet and allowed some air to rush out. One day Lambert signaled to his attendants for a big sheath knife and a looped rope. Having these, Lambert used his bare hand and a bait and waited until the shark commenced to turn on its back, when he stabbed it repeatedly, passed the noose around its body and signaled for it to be drawn up. The diver brought home the shark's back as a trophy."[5]

1891 Living at 57 Straham(?) Road, Bethnal Green: Alexander Lambert (age 48 born Edinburgh), Living on Means. With his wife Eliza Lambert (age 37 born London).[6]

1892 May 29th. Died in Mile End age 55.

1892 Probate. 'Lambert, Alexander of 51 Hawthorne Cottage, Grove Road, Mile End, Bow, Middlesex, marine diver, died 29 May 1892. Administration London 16 July to Eliza Lambert, widow. Effects £406 10s.'[7]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Shields Daily Gazette - Monday 29 November 1880
  2. 1881 Census
  3. John Player Cigarette Cards
  4. Ocean Pulse: A Critical Diagnosis edited by John T. Tanacredi and John Loret
  5. Unknown newspaper
  6. 1891 Census
  7. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations