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Major Vidler

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Major Vidler (1798-1880) of Hastings

1880 Obituary [1]

MR. MAJOR VIDLER was born in the year 1798 at Battle, in Sussex.

He commenced the active duties of life when twenty-three years of age as a builder and monumental mason at Hastings, some of his works in this capacity still remaining as evidence of his good taste and skill ; and in 1841 he was elected Expenditor or Surveyor to the Commissioners of levels within the rapes of Pevensey and Hastings, a position he held for thirty-nine years, indeed, during the remainder of his life, which ended on the 5th of June, 1880, when he had reached the advanced age of eighty-two.

During his residence in Hastings he filled several important public offices, and was one of the founders, and an active member, of the Mechanics’ Institute, in the success of which he always evinced a deep interest.

Before that body he, in 1877, gave a lecture on "Our Sea Defences,” described in a local journal (The Hastilzgs and St. Leonards News of March 9, 1877), as having been “delivered in a homely, chatty style,” and “illustrated by a model of a groyne and sea-wall, and by a collection of geological specimens.” The lecture in question, besides being slightly autobiographical, detailed the practical experience he had gained in the personal superintendence of the levels of Cuckmere, Bourne, Willingdon, Pevensey, Hove, and Bulverhythe, having a sea frontage of nearly 30 miles. He had charge of the formation of sea-defences, and of the management of the internal drainage of 14,000 acres of marsh land, all below the sea-level at spring tides, protected only by a bar of loose shingle-which at the time he took office was in a very weak and dangerous state,-as well as of the distribution of water during summer. He made the subject of the movement of sea-beach one of his studies, and held the belief, contrary to the opinions of others, that shingle travelled seawards. He asserted that during an on-shore gale all the large rolling-stones were washed away, and nothing was left but the sea-grit, which the builders carted away, and then 1ittle remained to protect the coast. Since the removal of beach from the front of Pevensey levels was stopped, there had been a greater accumulation on the shore, and the levels were safer.

He spoke approvingly of the system of low groynes, with a rise of not more than 1 in 10, constructed of faggot work, and thought the points of the groynes should be carried down into the sand, a plan he said he had first adopted in Blue Anchor bay, Old Clive, Somersetshire. For the accumulation of beach in front of Pevensey levels, groynes had been erected before 1609, when instructions were given for their repair ; but believing that the effect of the groynes was to diminish the beach, as the coast and buildings adjacent thereto had been subject to constant degradation and destruction, Mr. Vidler, in 1866, removed all obstructions to the travel of shingle. His idea was to have a parallel work sufficiently porous to counteract the force of the on-shore waves, so that the beach would lie on it, and yet be strong enough to keep its position.

The conclusions he arrived at from his experience were that groynes were useless to protect a foreshore unless there was an impenetrable barrier of cliff, or a strong sea-wall, to receive the force of the waves, as they fell over on the lee side ; that he had never known a groyne accumulate beach to the windward over three times its own length, so that if a groyne were 150 feet long, it would need groynes to be placed at every 450 feet to afford protection; and that if groynes were erected only a few inches above the level of a still-water springtide, they would soon be destroyed unless supported by lower groynes on the lee side to ease off the force of the on-shore waves.

The Court of Commissioners of the Pevensey levels, on hearing of Mr. Vidler's death, placed on record a resolution expressive of deep regret at the loss they had sustained, and of their opinion of the able and faithful manner in which his duties had been discharged.

He was universally respected for his sterling qualities and genuine manliness of character.

Mr. Vidler was likewise for several years consulting engineer to the Commissioners of Rye harbour, the entrance to which was materially improved, in an inexpensive manner, under his direction.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in January 1869.

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