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John Francis Porter

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John Francis Porter (1810-1865)


1867 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN FRANCIS PORTER was born at Carlisle on the 11th of August, 18lO. His father was an iron-master, who effected many improvements in the production of bars, chain-cables, &c. Through his enterprise the Carlisle and Solway Ship Canal was originated ; and subsequently, the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, for which he was selected by the Earl of Carlisle as his Lordship’s director. He also, in co-operation with the Liverpool authorities, succeeded, against much opposition, in establishing the public testing-machine at Birkenhead.

Mr. J. F. Porter did not undergo the ordinary apprenticeship either to a civil engineer, but having the run of his father’s works, and constantly aiming at self-improvement, he probably acquired a more general knowledge of engineering than he would have done in any other way.

At the age of sixteen, while still at school, he showed in a remarkable manner his application in acquiring a thorough knowledge of mechanics ; but until a later period of his life than that just named, he was afflicted with a stammering of speech, so much so that at times he could not articulate at all.

After some months’ consultation in London, and lengthened residence with Mr. A. M. Hartley, the Glasgow elocutionist, this stammering was partially overcome, but a hesitation of speech affected him throughout life, and it was at times very distressing to himself, as well as embarrassing to strangers with whom he had professional intercourse.

In 1839 he removed from Carlisle to London, and entered into an engagement with the late Mr. T. Cubitt (Assoc. Inst. C.E.), as principal Engineer of his works at Thames Bank, and at Burham, Kent. He remained connected with Mr. Cubitt for nearly twenty years, during which period he planned and superintended the execution of the whole of the machinery for those extensive works, and therein effected many improvements. In a mercantile point of view he did much service in developing and perfecting the brick-making machine, originally known as Ainslie’s ; so that the Burham resources had no difficulty in meeting the enormous requirement for bricks at Belgravia, both as regarded the large quantity produced and their superior quality.

On relinquishing this engagement, in the year 1853, he commenced business on his own account in Westminster, as a civil and consulting engineer, holding the office of consulting engineer to the late Mr. Alderman William Cubitt, M.P. (Assoc. Inst. C.E.).

He next became connected with the erection of some public baths and wash-houses for the French Government, which ultimately claimed the whole of his attention. At this time he removed with his family to Pans, where he remained for a considerable period. On his return from France, at the close of the year 1857, he was for some months engaged with his brother, Mr. George Porter, of Carlisle, in constructing brick-making machines for the East Indian Railway Company ; but he soon entered into an engagement with the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, as Resident Engineer for the extension of their supplies ; and ultimately, under Mr. J. R. M'Clean (Past-President Inst. C.E.), he was employed in the formation and superintendence of the Burton-on- Trent extension of these works. Having nearly brought them to a conclusion, he was taken suddenly ill, and, after much suffering, died at his residence in Walsall, on January 26th, 1865. His remains were borne to the family vault in the cemetery at Wallason, Cheshire.

Mr. Porter was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 4th of April, 1843, and he frequently attended the meetings and took part in the proceedings of the Institution.


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Sources of Information

  1. 1867 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries