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Charles Greaves (1816-1883)
1862 of East London Waterworks, Old Ford
1884 Obituary 
CHARLES GREAVES was born at Amwell, in Hertfordshire, on the 19th of October, 1816.
He was the eldest son of Charles Greaves, formerly of St. Paul’s Churchyard, London, and Charlotte Mylne, daughter of Robert Mylne the eminent architect, who designed old Blackfriars Bridge, and for nearly fifty years held the post of architect and surveyor to St. Paul’s Cathedral, as well as being Resident Engineer to the New River Waterworks for the same period.
Mr. Greaves’s early years were spent on Dartmoor, thence he went to the school of the well-known Dr. Mapat Cheam, in 1824. Remaining there for about two years, he returned to his family, who had removed to Devonport, and there he entered the Classical and Mathematical School, that had recently come under the rule of his father’s cousin, the Rev. Henry Addington Greaves. His career at school was not marked by any special brilliancy, but rather by steady perseverance and unflagging industry.
When only thirteen years of age, young Greaves’s father died very suddenly, and the boy, the eldest of a family of six children, at once grasped the idea that his first duty was to be a stay and comfort to his widowed mother, and for upwards of thirty years, notwithstanding the cares and anxieties of a busy, active life, he was unremitting in his attention and consideration for her.
He was articled to Mr. J. M. Rendel, Past-President Inst. C.E., at Plymouth, on the 2nd of September, 1831. The late Mr. Nathaniel Beardmore, M. Inst. C.E., and Sir John Coode, M. Inst. C.E., who had been schoolfellows with Greaves, were also fellow-pupils with him.
He was fond of carpentering, and had a room at home fitted up as a carpenter’s workshop, with lathes, &c., and here the trio spent many an hour making models of railways and bridges, and studying astronomy.
Mr. Rendel had an extensive practice, and whilst serving his articles Greaves gained considerable experience in various parts of the country, especially with reference to floating bridges, those employed to cross the River Tamar Laving been designed by Mr. Rendel at this time.
He was also engaged in making surveys of the River Severn at Newnham for the Severn Ferries.
At the expiration of his pupilage, in 1837, Mr. Greaves was for a short time employed in the office of his uncle, Mr. William Chadwell Mylne, but within a year he returned to his old master, and remained with him superintending various engineering projects in Stamford, Sunderland, and Poole, and making surveys of the Severn, near Newnham, for the Severn Ferries.
In 1830-41 he was principally engaged in the construction of floating-bridges for Portsmouth and India. The removal of the bridges from Bristol was a work of difficulty and danger. Those constructed for Portsmouth met with a terrific gale whilst being towed round to Portsmouth, and mere in great peril.
In 1841 Mr. Greaves was employed at the works of Messrs. Acramen and Morgan, Bristol, on the construction of floating-bridges for the River Hooghly, and in January 1842 he left England for Calcutta to superintend their erection; but this enterprise was not carried out owing to certain questions that arose respecting pruperty. He remained in India for upward of five years, mostly engaged in making observations and preparing schemes, and was for some time engineering superintendent of the Steam-Tug Company, for whom he built a factory at Garden Reach, where he resided until 1846.
Mr. Greaves, however, left India in 1847, and returned to England, and for a short period held the post of Engineer to the Metropolitan Sewage-Manure Company, and was employed by Mr. Mylne in making a survey of the New River.
In 1861, upon the retirement of Mr. Wicksteed, M. Inst. C.E., from the post of Engineer to the East London Waterworks, then a comparatively small undertaking, Mr. Greaves was appointed as his successor. He forthwith threw his whole energy into his work, and found that his duties were exceptionally heavy; but this only nerved him to cope with them in the effective manner which was habitual to him, whatever the work that came to his hand.
About this time the East London Company’s principal pumping-station was situated at Old Ford, Bow, and consisted mostly of two single-acting engines called the “Twins,” and the open reservoirs and basins on both sides of the River Lee. The enormous growth of population and houses in the East London district demanded an increased supply of water, and Mr. Greaves at once proceeded to erect additional engine-power. The Cornish engine at the Old Ford Works was, it is believed, one of the first pumping-engines fitted with the double-beat valve. The Cornish and Wicksteed engines being unable to cope with the increased demands for water for the district, reserve power had to be considered, resulting in the erection of the “Ajax” 72-inch cylinder, and the “Hercules” 85-inch, making altogether, with the old works, a total of six pumping-engines at Old Ford station.
The population and growth of the East of London still progressing at a rapid rate caused Mr. Greaves to turn his attention to the supply of new filtering works, which should be further removed from the polluting and contaminating influences of populated districts further up the valley of the Lee, and on land that would admit of greater extension of steam-power when required. Filter-beds had been constructed at Lee Bridge, and a large Cornish engine of 100-inch cylinder, called the “Victoria,” with a campanile and standpipe, had been erected, and a 42-inch main had been laid between Lee Bridge filter-beds and the Old Ford filtered-water basins; but these were not sufficient to cope with the increased supply demanded by the Company.
The sometimes foul state of the River Lee, caused by flood-water, caused considerable anxiety to the directors at the time. Ultimately the Walthamstow reservoirs were constructed with a canal across the intervening marsh to Lee Eridge, and afterwards the Chingford culvert and the large “Maynard” reservoirs were added to the system. The ultimate addition of the race-course reservoir perfected the fine series of impounding reservoirs in the valley of the Lee, which, with their well-kept islands, present a picturesque appearance, and form a most important addition to the storage requirements of the Company.
Finding it expedient that the “Victoria” Cornish engine at Lee Bridge should have further augmentation, Mr. Greaves recommended additional engine-power, and he subsequently erectcd the “Prince” and “Princess” engines, having cylinders of 85 inches diameter, together with additional filter-beds and the engine-house, which forms a bold object on the side of the Lee Bridge Road.
In consequence of the small volume of water and state of the Lee during dry summers, Mr. Greaves advised the Company to seek powers in Parliament to obtain a supply of water from the River Thames, which were granted in 1867.
The pumping-station at Hanworth, Niddlesex, with its three Cornish engines, enginehouse, and campanile, was then constructed, in conjunction with a set of filter-beds, and a 36-inch main some 18 miles long, bringing the water to a service-reservoir at Finsbury Park; and, at the same time, the Company erected at Sunbury a pair of “Bull” engines for raising the water from the Thames intake to the filtering and pumping-station at Hanworth.
Within five years of his appointment as Engineer Mr. Greaves received the special thanks of the Directors of the East London Waterworks Company, and a handsome gratuity for the able manner in which he had superintended the outlay of upwards of £300,000 in new works, &c.; and in 0ctober 1873 a gratuity of £1,000 was presented to him “in recognition of his valuable services, he having during a period of twenty-one years, devised and carried out works at an expenditure of upwards of £1,000,000; the works having been well designed, and executed in a substantial and permanent manner, and with an anxious regard to economy.”
In addition to his duties as Engineer Mr. Greaves was frequently employed as an arbitrator on water-questions. He was examined as a witness before the “Select Committee on the Metropolitan Fire Brigade” in 1877, and gave evidence in reference to the East London Waterworks Company and their distributory works, this evidence showing the Company’s ability to meet the question of fires in their district. Mr. Greaves always advocated strongly the introduction of constant water-supply, and to him the East London Waterworks Company are, in a great measure, indebted for the energetic manner in which this system was carried out in their district. He largely contributed to the present advanced state to which the constant-supply system has been brought. He was a very hard worker; his whole mind was for many years continuously directed to thc interests of his Company. It is the opinion of those who knew him intimately that there are few engineers in this country who so thoroughly understood pumping-engines and every appliance connected with water-supply. He let no detail of the works or management escape him, but always carefully regulated and directed every department himself. Though severe in discipline, to himself as well as others, he was extremely just, and was most thoroughly respected by all who knew him.
In 1875 Mr. Greaves retired from the active duties of Resident Engineer, and became Consulting Engineer to the Company, and practised from that date, on his own behalf, at Westminster Chambers, Victoria Street.
In the year 1879 Mr. Greaves was elected President of the Royal Meteorological Society, of which he had beon a Fellow since 1851, and during the two years he held the chair, turned his attention to the study of hygrometry and its future progress. During his term of office he institutcd a series of popular lectures by well-known meteorologists, defraying all the expenses from his private means. These lectures were afterwards published under the title of 'Modern Meteorology.'
For many years he carried on observations on rainfall, percolation and evaporation from water, and the results are to be found in a Paper read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, February 29th, 1876.
Relinquishing his professional duties, Mr. Greaves, in 1878, took a suite of offices in Surrey Street, overlooking the Thames Embankment, where he pursued his studies in meteorology, and evinced great application and determination in endeavouring to account for some of the more complex phenomena appertaining to this interesting science. Any subject connected with rainfall, evaporation, and the formation of clouds, obtained great attention from his analytic and reflective mind.
He was moreover a large-minded man, and took a deep interest in various subjects. He spent much time in biblical study, particularly on prophecy. In his latter years, as the great pressure of responsibility was removed, the natural playfulness and generosity of his disposition, and his open-handed charity came out prominently.
After failing health of six months, Mr. Greaves died of heart disease at Sunhill, Clevedon, on 4th of November, 1883, regretted by many professional brethren, who in past years had been associated with his great labours, many of whom, up to the most recent period of his life, would consult with him and receive kindly advice from his long-tried and varied experience in hydraulic and waterworks construction.
Mr. Greaves was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 2nd of May, 1848. He was also a Fellow of the Geological Society, and a Member of the Society of Arts.
Mr. Greaves married in 1851 Miss F. C. Beardmore, a sister of his fellow-pupil Nathaniel Beardmore.