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British Industrial History

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Henry Willey Reveley

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Henry Willey Reveley (1788-1875) was a civil engineer responsible for the earliest public works at the Swan River Colony, the foundation of the state of Western Australia.

1788 Born in Reading the son of Willey Reveley and his wife Maria (later Gisborne). His father was an architect, who assisted Jeremy Bentham in the design of his Panopticon prison. His mother, Maria, married John Gisborne (or Gisbourne) after the death of Reveley.

In 1799 the family went to live in Pisa, Italy, where he graduated as a civil engineer at the University of Pisa.

1824 January 20th. Married Robertina Amelia Fielding (b. 1790, also known as Amelia), the sister of Copley Fielding.

1836 He worked in London before being appointed the first Colonial Civil Engineer at the Cape Colony, where he arrived in January 1826. One of his principal tasks was to improve Table Bay Harbour. His best-known building is St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on Somerset Road, Cape Town.

In May 1828 he was dismissed as incompetent by the Governor, Richard Bourke.

When James Stirling called at the Cape with the colonists aboard the Parmelia, he employed Reveley to help establish the new colony in the west of Australia. He and his wife embarked on Stirling's vessel and arrived at what would become known as Fremantle in 1829. His first commission was the simple buildings at the temporary settlement of Garden Island. Once the colonists were landed at Fremantle, and Stirling had established his settlement at Perth, Reveley was to become the engineer responsible for all public works. These buildings included barracks for the military, the first Government House, and other official buildings of the Swan River Colony. His design for a twelve-sided gaol at Fremantle, known as the Round House, remains largely intact and is preserved as a heritage site that overlooks the west end of the High Street.

Reveley's other works include Perth's Old Court House, opening a channel at the Swan River near the Causeway, and plans for a harbour and breakwater at Fremantle. He also executed a Tuscan design for a water-mill, a first for Stirling's colony, on his holding which became the grounds of the Old Perth Boys School and the Old Perth Technical School. His style has been described by West Australian architect and historian Ray Oldham as "simplified Georgian"

1837 Reveley built a breakwater and a 57 metre long tunnel for the local whaling company that linked their Bathers Beach Whaling Station to Fremantle's High Street. The five month of digging was completed in January 1838. This rapid progress was possible because the rock under Arthur's Head although load bearing and sound was capable of being mined with a pick axe.

1838 Disappointed with his prospects, Revelley left the colony in November 1838 to return with his wife to England, where he lectured on arts and science and published two articles on Western Australia, one on timbers, the other on immigration policy.

1861 Living at Sunnyhill, Parkstone, Dorset: Henry W. Reveley (age 72 born London), Scientific Civil Engineer. With his wife Clewalina Reveley (age 70 born London)

1875 January 27th. He died at Reading, the town of his birth

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