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Joseph Phillips

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Joseph Phillips (1828-1905)


1906 Obituary [1]

JOSEPH PHILLIPS died at Folkestone on the 18th October, 1905, in his seventy-eighth year. Born in 1828, he commenced his engineering career at an early age under Messrs. H. and W. D. Grissell, of the Regents Canal Ironworks, and after the expiration of his articles, he entered in 1850 the service of Messrs. Fox and Henderson, by whom he was entrusted, during the succeeding 6 years, with the superintendence of several important works, including the Newark Dyke bridge and the construction of the large roof over New Street station, Birmingham, for the London and North Western Railway.

In the execution of these works, Mr. Phillips was afforded, at the outset of his career, an excellent opportunity for the exercise of that administrative talent and resourceful ability upon which his later reputation was based, For the description of the New Street station roof which he presented to the Institution in 1855, he was awarded a Telford premium.

In 1857 he transferred his services to Messrs. Cochrane and Company, with whom he remained until 1864, representing them on the works of the Charing Cross bridges and railway, the Runcorn bridge over the Mersey, Clifton suspension bridge and other important works.

In 1864 he engaged in private practice in Westminster, became Consulting Engineer to the Park Gate Iron Company, and, enjoying the confidence of many prominent engineers and others, he laid the foundation of what seemed an assured future.

While still practising as a Civil Engineer he gradually drifted into contracting work. In this capacity he undertook, among many other works, the Whitehaven docks, extensions of the Derby waterworks, pier and landing-stages at Ilfracombe, and dock gates and harbour works at Weymouth and Plymouth, and was about to enter upon more extensive operations when he was struck down by a serious illness, which deprived him of the ability to carry out his plans. Called upon to undergo a severe operation, his recovery was long and tedious, but thanks to medical skill and his indomitable spirit, Mr. Phillips was eventually again able to attend to his professional interests, which had suffered greatly from his long absence. Illness, however, had left its mark upon even his vigorous constitution, and with health somewhat impaired, he was obliged to remove into the country, a step entailing almost complete severance of his associations with Westminster.

Having secured the contract for the Great Western Railway Dock extension, he made his headquarters at Plymouth and subsequently carried out the Didcot and Newbury branch railway, dredging work on the River Hamoaze for the Admiralty, part of the Plymouth promenade pier, the reconstruction of Angarrack viaduct on the Great Western Railway, and other contracts. By far the most important enterprise with which he was associated, however, and almost the last in which he actively participated, was the construction of the Forth Bridge, for which, doubtless on account of his expert knowledge of large bridges, he was asked by the Engineers to estimate. Mr. Phillips not only made up an estimate for this remarkable structure, but he and his partners, Sir Thomas Selby Tancred and Mr. Francis Falkiner, associated themselves with Mr., now Sir William Arrol, who had entered into a contract for the construction of the bridge as originally proposed on the suspension system. As resident partner at South Queensferry for the contractors, generally known as Tancred, Arrol and Company, Mr. Phillips bore the onerous responsibility for the general management of the whole contract - a task for which his sound judgment and wide experience, allied with the industrious habits of a lifetime, well fitted him.

After the completion of the Forth Bridge, Mr. Phillips undertook the Forfar and Brechin railway contract, but with increasing age, his infirmities began to tell heavily upon an enfeebled constitution and eventually his sight totally failed him. Although he remained in harness almost to the last, his career may be said to have ended with the closing of the last rivets in the girders of the giant cantilevers overhanging the waters of the Firth of Forth.

Mr. Phillips was above all things a man of action, and his steadfast faith in the virtue of close application to work to solve all troubles and difficulties was the keynote to his character. A resolute and masterful man, shrewd and self-reliant in his dealings with men and affairs, he was intolerant of incompetency and shams, but it was the intolerance born of conscious ability. Withal, he possessed a capacity for endurance and a patient fortitude in adversity, which enabled him to meet ill-fortune with undiminished courage and confidence.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 6th March, 1860.



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