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Gilbert Gilkes

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Gilbert Gilkes (1845-1924) of Gilbert Gilkes and Co

son of Bedford Gilkes of Nailsworth

His uncle was Edgar Gilkes.

1924 Obituary[1]


We regret to have to announce that the death of Mr. Gilbert Gilkes occurred at his residence at Kendal on the 13th inst., on his seventy-ninth birthday, after a long illness. Mr. Gilbert Gilkes was the son of Mr. Bedford Gilkes, of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. He received his early education at the Friends School, Kendal, on leaving which, in 1861, he served as an articled pupil to Messrs. Gilkes, Wilson and Co., of Middlesbrough, for 3 1/2 years, remaining in this firm’s service for seven years subsequently. In this connection he was occupied with bridge, engine and blast furnace work. At the age of 21. he was engineer-in-charge of the large bridge on the River Dee at Kirkcudbright. He rose to, be general .manager of Messrs. Gilkes, Wilson and Co., afterwards Messrs. Hopkins, Gilkes and Co., before leaving. After some time spent in Birmingham, in 1881 he purchased the business of Messrs. Williamson Brothers, of Kendal, hydraulic engineers, and thence forward devoted himself to hydraulic work and the design and application of hydraulic turbines, water wheels, &c. His experience of bridge work continued to be of service to him, and he was engineer for a bridge at Kendal in 1887, though most of his work by that -time was concerned with the hydraulic-power branch of engineering.

In the early days of modern water-power developments Mr. Gilkes was responsible for carrying out a number of important private installations and, in conjunction with Mr. D. J. Pennington, installed plants at Balmoral and Chatsworth. At the time that he took over Messrs. Williamson’s business practically the only turbine manufactured was the Vortex turbine of Professor James Thomson. The business of the firm was gradually developed until their work included mixed-flow turbines of different types, Pelton wheels and the Turgo impulse type for high falls, invented by Major Crewdson. A description of this type of turbine and its distinctive features as compared with the Pelton wheel will be found recorded in Engineering (vol. cxvi, page 279), where we give an account of the installation by Messrs. Gilbert Gilkes and Co., Limited, of a plant at Cynwyd, North Wales.

Mr. Gilkes retained the chairmanship of the firm up till 1920. He was pre-eminently interested in the civil engineering side of water-power projects, and latterly was wont to leave mechanical design to others. It may be mentioned that in an international competition in connection with the first project for utilising the power of Niagara, a scheme planned by Messrs. Gilkes and Pennington was awarded second prize.

Very active in public work, Mr. Gilkes was a Justice of the Peace for Westmorland and for Kendal. He was an original member of the Westmorland County Council, and an Alderman from 1895 till 1921. For 21 years he was Chairman of the County Education Committee, and from 1895 onwards was Chairman of the Kendal Education Committee. For three years in succession he was Mayor of Kendal.

He was an original member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and for some time was a member of the Council of the Cleveland Institution of Engineers. He became an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1886 and was transferred to full membership in 1892. He was succeeded in 1920 in the chairmanship of the firm by his nephew, Mr. N. F. Wilson."

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