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Bertram Henry Majendie Hewett

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Bertram Henry Majendie Hewett (1874-1933)

1933 Obituary[1]


Mr. Bertram Henry Majendie Hewett, whoso death we regret to record, occurred at West Kirby, Cheshire, on Tuesday, November 14, at the age of fifty-eight, had been engineer-in-charge of the works connected with the construction of the Mersey Tunnel since 1925, and two years ago was appointed to be manager when the tunnel opened. He had had a long experience in this branch of his engineering, and it is to be deplored that the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee have been thus untimely deprived of his valuable services.

Mr. Hewett was born at Shalford, Surrey, on December 23, 1874, and was educated at Sherborne. He received his early technical training at the Central Technical College, London, and from 1896 to 1898 was pupil with the late Sir Benjamin Baker, the late Mr. James Greathead and Mr. (now Sir) Basil Mott, being engaged on the construction of the Central London Railway. He later acted for the same firm as resident engineer for the extension of the City and South London Railway from Stockwell and Clapham, and thus early began his connection with tunnelling operations. On the conclusion of this work in 1900, he was appointed second resident engineer for the extension of the same railway from Moorgate-street to Islington, which consisted of about 1 miles of shield-driven cast-iron double tunnel, and was then employed for about a year in Sir Benjamin Baker’s office, where he was engaged in the preparation of schemes for the development of the rapid transit facilities of London and in superintending the erection of ventilating plant on the Central London Railway.

In 1903, Mr. Hewett was appointed topographer to a geological expedition to the Karakoram Himalayas in Kashmir, and in this capacity made detailed surveys of the glacier system and fixed the positions and altitudes of several previously unobserved peaks.

A year later he went to the United States on appointment as resident engineer for the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under the Hudson River. In this capacity, as well as later, when he became general resident engineer of the North River Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels, he acquired further experience of this class of work under very difficult conditions, and conducted a number of experiments and tests which were necessitated by the fact that these tunnels had to be driven through extremely soft materials. He subsequently joined the firm of Jacobs and Davies, consulting engineers, and, while he was vice-president of this concern, was connected with reclamation work at Bombay, the East River Tunnel, New York, for tunnels in Mexico, and the design of the proposed tunnel underneath the Hoogli River below Calcutta. His firm also acted as consulting engineers for all the new construction involved in the extensive dual subway system of New York.

In 1925, Mr. Hewett became re-associated with Sir Basil Mott, who, with Mr. John Brodie, had been appointed consulting engineers for the construction of the new vehicular tunnel below the Mersey at Liverpool, and took up the position of resident engineer for that work. This tunnel, which is now nearing completion, will be the largest sub-aqueous tunnel in the world. The under-river portion is 44 ft. in internal diameter, and, with the approaches, the total length will be nearly 3 miles. Preliminary tunnels were driven along the line of the future main tunnel from both sides and met within an inch, both for line and level, in April, 1928. Since then work has been actively carried on, about 1,500 men having been employed at one stage of the operations. The equipment includes three sets of ventilating plant, which will be capable of delivering 4,000,000 cub. ft. of fresh air into the tunnel per minute, thus ensuring that the proportion of carbon monoxide will never oxceed four parts in 10,000. The width of the roadway will be 36 ft., that is, it will be capable of taking four lilies of traffic abreast.

Mr. Hewett was elected an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1900, and was transferred to the class of member in 1910. He was also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in connection with his work in Kashmir, and was awarded the Thomas Fitch Rowlandson prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers for a paper on the construction of the Pennsylvania tunnels, which he wrote in collaboration with Dr. William Lowe-Brown. He was joint author with Mr. Johannesson of an authoritative work on “ Shield Compressed Air Tunnelling.”

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