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Corbet Woodall

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Sir Corbet Woodall (1841-1916) Engineer and leading figure in the gas industry, of the Phoenix Gas Co, the Gas Light and Coke Co, and Ellington and Woodall

1865 Woodall married Anne, daughter of W. H. Whiteman of Croydon.

1882 Joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

1882-1900 Partner in Ellington and Woodall

1885 of Palace Chambers, 5 Bridge Street, Westminster, S.W.

1891 Corbet Woodall 79, civil engineer, lived in Chislehurst with Anne Woodall 51, Henry Woodall 24, Edith A Woodall 21, Harold W Woodall 19, Martha K Woodall 17, Gertrude M Woodall 15, Lilian R Woodall 13, Ethel Woodall 11, John C Woodall 7[1].

Later his partnership was Corbet Woodall and Son, at Palace Chambers

In all the Woodalls had five daughters and five sons, four of whom entered the gas industry[2]:

  • Henry went into partnership in his father's consultancy (presumably Corbet Woodall and Son) and also became a director of the Gas Light and Coke Company.
  • Harold Whiteman Woodall was an engineer at Bournemouth and, in partnership with Arthur Duckham, developed the use of vertical retorts for gas making in Britain in place of the traditional horizontal retorts. Their contracting firm, Woodall–Duckham, became internationally known.
  • John Woodall became a mechanical engineer in the motor industry[3]



1916 Obituary [4]

Sir CORBET WOODALL, D.Sc., was born in Liverpool on 27th August 1841, and was educated at the Crescent School in that city.

His early knowledge of gas manufacture was obtained under his brother William, who was at that time manager of the Burslem Gasworks, but he served his apprenticeship to the late Mr. Robert Morton at the works of the Woolwich Equitable Gas Co., where he became Mr. Morton's assistant.

In 1865 he obtained the position of gas engineer to the Corporation of Stockton-on-Tees, and while in their service he carried out the enlargement and reconstruction of the gasworks. While at Stockton he was consulting engineer to several companies in the district, and erected the works of the North Ormesby Gas Co.

He left Stockton in 1869 and returned to London to enter the service of the Phoenix Gas Co., at their Vauxhall Works, of which Mr. Morton was then engineer.

On Mr. Morton being appointed chief engineer of the London Gaslight Co. at Nine Elms, his former assistant was chosen as his successor at Vauxhall. This position he held until the amalgamation of the Company with the South Metropolitan Gas Co., when he gave up the active management of gasworks.

In 1880 he commenced practice as a consulting engineer in Westminster; the practice rapidly increased, and there were few arbitration, Parliamentary, or other proceedings in connexion with gas undertakings of any importance in which he or his firm were not retained as advisers.

From 1882 to 1900 he was in partnership with the late Mr. Edward B. Ellington as regards hydraulic power matters.

He attained the highest position in the gas industry of the world when, early in 1906; he succeeded Sir William T. Makins, Bart., as Governor of the Gas Light and Coke Co. At that time the Company was making one-eighth of the gas supplied to Great Britain, and by the beginning of 1912, mainly through his instrumentality, the price of gas had been reduced by 5d. per 1000 cubic feet to 2s. 6d., at which it remained until war conditions compelled an increase.

Two features in connexion with his tenure of this position stand out prominently, namely, the introduction of co-partnership and the formation of a corps of Territorials. The scheme of co-partnership has justified its adoption, and other companies with whirls he was connected have also adopted the system.

He also introduced, in association with the London County Council, a scheme for the training of lads as gas-fitters, and another effort to produce competent workmen was the establishment of weekly lectures to the employees engaged in fitting and outdoor work.

In 1913 he received the honour of knighthood by the King, and in the previous year the University of Leeds bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

He was, from 1911, a Justice of the Peace for the Bromley Division of Kent.

His death took place at Torquay on 17th May 1916, in his seventy-fifth year. He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1882, and was a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He was a Member of the British Association of Gas Managers, of which he became President in 1878; and he was President of the Institution of Gas Engineers in 1913, the jubilee year of the organization.


1917 Obituary [5]

SIR CORBET WOODALL, who died at Torquay on the 17th March, 1916, at the age of 75, was well known and greatly respected as a leading figure in the gas industry, with which his father and two brothers were also associated.

Born on the 27th August, 1841, at Liverpool, he served (1859-64) as pupil and assistant to Mr. R. Morton, Engineer to the Woolwich Equitable Gas Company. He was then for 5 years Engineer to the Corporation Gas Works, Stockton-on-Tees ; he also built gas works at North Ormsby, and was Consulting Engineer to several companies in the district.

Leaving Stockton in 1869, he entered the service of the Phoenix Gas Company, of which Mr. Morton was then Chief Engineer, at Vauxhall, and succeeded Mr. Morton in 1872. He constructed the large gas-holder in Kennington Lane in 1878, and also carried out in that year, in conjunction with Mr. William Sugg, an experiment in street-lighting in the Waterloo Road, which was an unqualified success.

In 1880 he retired from the active management of gas works, and commenced to practice as a Consulting Engineer in Westminster; since then there have been few arbitration, parliamentary or other proceedings in connection with gas undertakings of any importance in which his firm have not been retained as advisers.

From 1882 to 1900 he was in partnership with the late Mr. E. B. Ellington, M. Inst. C.E., in connection with the introduction of hydraulic power-supply. This period was marked by the foundation of the General Hydraulic Power Company, Limited, of Southwark ; the London Hydraulic Power Company ; and supplies in Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. In 1906 he succeeded Sir William T. Makins, Bart., as Governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company, which benefited greatly by his leadership.

Two movements which Sir Corbet Woodall had much at heart were co-partnership and the Territorial forces. He introduced co-partnership among the employees of the Gas Light and Coke Company and other companies with which he was connected ; and he was Honorary Colonel of the 19th Battalion of the County of London Regiment ("Rangers"). He was knighted in 1913, and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science of the University of Leeds.

He was President of the Institution of Gas Engineers in 1913, and was Chairman or a Director of numerous gas undertakings. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was elected a Member of the Liverpool Engineering Society on 12th January, 1887.


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