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Ernest Romney Matthews

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Ernest Romney Matthews (1873-1930), Chief Drainage Engineer to H.M. Office of Works and a former Chadwick Professor of Municipal Engineering at the University of London


1930 Obituary[1]

"The news of the death in London, on November 6, of Professor Ernest Romney Matthews, at the early age of 57, will he received with regret by a wide circle in the engineering profession. A former Chadwick Professor of Municipal Engineering at University of London, University College, Gower-street, Mr. Matthews had held the position of Chief Drainage Engineer to H.M, Office of Works since November, 1920. The third son of the late Mr. William Henry Matthews, Chief Officer of Coast Guards, Hastings Division, and one of the few survivors of the ill-fated troopship Birkenhead, which sank in tragic circumstances off Cape Agulhas in 1852, Mr. E. R. Matthews was born on January 16, 1873, He received his general education at St. Michael Private School, Hastings, and, in -1890, at the age of 17, entered the office of Mr. P. H. Palmer, Borough and Waterworks Engineer of Hastings. After serving for some years as junior assistant he became senior assistant and obtained a considerable amount of general experience. In 1898, when only 25, Mr. Matthews was appointed Borough Engineer of Bridlington, Yorkshire, During his tenure of that office, which he retained until 1914, he designed and carried out a number of important undertakings. These included main drainage works, road improvements, electricity works, waterworks extensions, sea defence works, harbour and sea-front improvements, retaining walls, and bridge construction, Mr. Matthews became Chadwick Professor of Municipal Engineering at University of London, University College, in 1914. He was also appointed consultant to the Troon Town Council, Ayrshire, the Walton-on-the-Naze Urban District Council, and the Bognor Town Council, in respect of sea defence works. In 1915, Professor Matthews joined the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium as a specialist sanitary officer. He held the rank of captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorials) and commanded the 34th and 57th Sanitary Sections. He was responsible for the water supply to the troops and also for sanitation; in recognition of his services he was twice mentioned in Despatches. Upon returning to this country in 1919 he resumed his Professorship at University College, and continued to occupy the Chair until November 1, 1920. At this time he also took an office in Victoria Street and practised as a consulting engineer. On November 1, 1920, he entered upon his duties as Chief Drainage Engineer to H.M. Office of Works, and during the subsequent years he designed sewerage, drainage, and sewage disposal works. Among these may be mentioned the re-drainage of Broadmoor criminal lunatic asylum, of Hampton Court Palace, and of the Houses of Parliament, and drainage works for the Government’s Hull Housing Scheme.

Professor Matthews was for many years a contributor to our columns. He was, for instance, the author of a long series of articles on “ Coast Erosion and Protection,” the first of which appeared in Engineering, vol. xciv, page 282 (1912). Among his other articles, to mention only two, are “ Wave Action on Breakwaters ” (vol. xcvii, page 175, 1914), and Sewers in Bad Ground and Deep Cuttings ” (vol. xcvi, page 843, 1913). On several occasions he dealt ith coast erosion and sea defence works in able papers presented at meetings of the British Association. As long ago as 1904, when he was only 31 years of age, he read a paper before the Institution of Civil Engineers, entitled “ Erosion on the Holderness Coast of Yorkshire.” Professor Matthews was for many years a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Royal Geographical Society, and of the Geological Society. He became an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on April 3, 1906, and passed to full membership in January 23, 1923. He was elected a member of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers and of the Royal Sanitary Institute in 1898. In October, 1905, he was made a fellow of the latter Institute, and later served on the Council. For long a member of the Society of Engineers, Mr. Matthews was awarded the Bessemer Premium for his paper on the Bridlington parade extension works in 1905.


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