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George Baker Forster

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George Baker Forster (1832-1901)

1832 Born at Haswell the son of Thomas Emerson Forster


1901 Obituary [1]

GEORGE BAKER FORSTER was born at Haswell in the county of Durham on the 13th October, 1832, his father, Mr. Thomas Emerson Forster, the well-known mining engineer, being at that time the resident Viewer at Haswell Colliery.

The subject of this notice was educated at Shincliffe under the Rev. Isaac Todd, and afterwards at Repton School and at St. Peter’s School, York.

In October, 1850, he went up to Cambridge University, where he entered at St. John’s College; and in January, 1854, he graduated with mathematical honours, proceeding to the degree of M.A. in 1857. He also attained considerable distinction as an oarsman, and in June, 1853, rowed in the Cambridge University crew which met Oxford at Henley Regatta.

On leaving Cambridge Mr. Forster served his apprenticeship as a Mining Engineer with Mr. T. G. Hurst at Rackworth Colliery, after which he held the management of Netherton Colliery under his father, as well as appointments at Framwellgate Moor and Tyne Main Collieries.

In 1858 he was appointed Viewer of Cowpen Colliery, which was acquired in that year by its present owners; and that position he continued to hold until his death - a period of over 42 years.

Shortly after the date of his appointment to Cowpen, North Seaton Colliery was amalgamated with the concern, as well as the coalfield underlying the Cambois estate. New winnings were carried out by Mr. Forster, both on this royalty and on the Newsham royalty at Cowpen; and the output of the combined collieries was raised from the small figure at which it stood in 1850 to that which it has lately attained, of over one million tons per annum.

Mr. Forster was also associated with the development of Blyth Harbour, for which he had been a Commissioner since the passing of the Act creating the Blyth Harbour Commission. The labours of that Commission have conferred great benefits on the coal trade of the Blyth district, and have created a prosperous and commodious port, which is now entitled to rank with the Tyne and Wear as one of the great coal-exporting harbours of the north-east coast.

Mr. Forster also sank and laid out Bearpark Colliery near Durham, and Longhirst Colliery near Morpeth, and carried out important developments at the Nunnery Colliery, Sheffield.

In later years he was Consulting Engineer to the Wallsend and Hebburn Coal Company, and superintended the important operation of re-opening Wallsend Colliery after a stoppage of forty years, a work in which he took the greatest interest.

In the West Cumberland Coalfield Mr. Forster, in conjunction with his father, for some years superintended Lord Lonsdale’s Collieries at Whitehaven, and was well known in that district in connection with Lord Lonsdale’s and Mr. Curwen’s estates.

In addition to active colliery work, Mr. Forster had a very extensive practice as a consulting Mining Engineer, for a considerable period in partnership with his father and Mr. T. G. Hurst, and latterly with his son, Mr. T. E. Forster. He was mineral agent to numerous royalty owners in the north of England, and in 1890 he sat as a member of the Royal Commission on Mining Royalties, a Commission which had the rare distinction of presenting a unanimous report.

Mr. Forster was always ready to afford valuable advice and active assistance in case of accident or difficulty, not only at the collieries with which he was personally connected, but in all places where his long experience and profound knowledge of mining were of value.

In January, 1862, when the terrible disaster at Hartley Colliery wrecked the shaft and caused the death of two hundred men, he was one of the first to reach the scene of the accident, he took active charge of the hazardous work of attempting to rescue the imprisoned men, and was frequently in the shaft until the bodies were found.

At a later time he took a leading part in directing the work of rescue and restoration after the explosions at Seaham, West Stanley, Elemore, aqd Usworth Collieries, as well as ant umerous other minor accidents.

Mr. Forster was Vice-chairman of the Northumberland Coal Owners Association, and also of the North of England United Coal Trade Association. He was a member of the Northumberland Joint Committee from its commencement, and of the Conciliation Board for the regulation of wages.

In 1857 he was elected a Member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers; he became President of that Institute in 1881, and held the office for a term of three years. He was also a Fellow of the Geological Society. He was a Justice of the Peace for the County of Northumberland, and for a long period Chairman of the magistrates in the Blyth Petty Sessional Division. He was for many years a member of the Board of Examination under the Coal Mines Regulation Act and an Examiner of applicants for certificates of competency under that Act.

Mr. Forster was the first Chairman of the School Board established at Cowpen after the passing of the Education Act of 1870, and he held that position for a period of twenty-one years. Throughout his career he took a deep and broad-minded interest in all educational matters; he was a hearty supporter of Mechanics’ Institutes, and of everything that tended to secure the well-being of the men employed at the collieries with which he was connected. With those men Mr. Forster’s relations were of the happiest nature, and he was never so thoroughly pleased with and interested in his work as when it brought him into direct contact with the officials and workmen of the collieries under his charge. He had the rare capacity of arousing enthusiasm in those who served under him he possessed the tact and sympathy which workmen readily understand and appreciate; and, above all, his dealings with them were marked by a spirit of absolute fairness and most scrupulous regard for truth and justice. These characteristics won, in a degree which few employers have enjoyed, the esteem and confidence not only of his own men but also of all the workmen of the surrounding district.

Mr. Forster died at his residence, Farnley Hill, Corbridge, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, on the 18th January, 1901.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 21st May, 1867.


1901 Obituary [2]

GEORGE BAKER FORSTER, the eminent North Country mining engineer and coal-owner, died on January 19, 1901, at his residence at Farnley Grove, Corbridge, near Newcastle-on-Tyne. He was the son of the late Thomas Emerson Forster, and was sixty-eight years of age.

He was educated at Repton School, at St. Peter's School, York, and at St. John's College, Cambridge. He enjoyed a very large practice as a mining agent for royalty proprietors, including Lord Lonsdale, the Earl of Zetland, Lord Boyne, and many others. He was a member of several Royal Commissions, including the Royal Commission to inquire into the high price of coal in 1894. Mr. Forster was extensively consulted in all matters relating to mining arbitrations, and was in full work until his death. He was the first arbitrator appointed in 1875 after the boom in the coal trade, to settle wages, and he enjoyed the confidence both of masters and men. Joining the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers in 1857, of which he was president for three years, lie was vice-chairman of the United Coal Trade, and also of the Northumberland Coalowners' Association from 1885 until his death.

On the occasion of the Hartley Colliery accident in 1862, when 200 lives were lost, he was one of the leading men who conducted the explorations, and one of the first to reach the bodies of the unfortunate miners. He was a Justice of the Peace for the county of Northumberland, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a Fellow of the Geological Society.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1883.


1901 Obituary.[3]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1901 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1901 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  3. The Engineer 1901 Jan-Jun: Index: Miscellaneous