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Peter Schuyler Bruff

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Peter Schuyler Bruff (1812-1900)

1840 Peter Bruff of Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1900 Obituary [2]

PETER SCHUYLER BRUFF, born on the 23rd July, 1812, obtained his early engineering experience under Joseph Locke, Past-President.

The knowledge of railway construction thus gained he subsequently turned to account in the Eastern Counties, where his great work was the establishment of railway communication between Colchester and Norwich. The old Eastern Counties Railway had been constructed from Shoreditch as far as Romford, in 1835; in the following year it was carried to Brentwood, and in 1843, after considerable delay, Colchester was reached.

Owing to various difficulties no further progress was made until 1845, when the Eastern Union Railway Company was formed, and a direct line from Colchester to Ipswich was constructed under the superintendence of Mr. Bruff, Mr. Locke being the consulting engineer. The line was subsequently continued to Bury St. Edmunds and to Norwich. Mr. Bruff acted as Engineer and Manager to the Eastern Union Company, until in 1862 that and various other systems were amalgamated under the style of the Great Eastern Railway Company. Many of the branch lines and connections by which the present system was completed were planned by Mr. Bruff in the years following 1846; among them may be mentioned the Woodbridge extension, branches from Manningtree to Harwich, Bentley to Hadleigh, Bury St. Edmunds to Thetford, and Beccles to Tivetshall; the Tendring Hundred line from Colchester to Walton-on-the-Naze, with a branch to Clacton-on-Sea; and the Norwich and Spalding line. Although for a long time the struggle was an uphill one, the Great Eastern Company having at first mainly to depend on agricultural traffic, Mr. Bruff lived to see it establish a line of steamers to the Continent develop a valuable connection through Lincoln with the North of England, and open out an enormous suburban traffic.

Mr. Bruff's work was not confined to railway engineering. At the time of the extension of the line to Harwich his attention was drawn to the lack of potable water in that town, and he undertook to supply that deficiency; but it may be doubted whether he would have begun the task if he had had any idea of the difficulties to be encountered.

His first attempt to get water was by deep boring at Harwich, which proved unsuccessful. Nothing daunted, he determined to pierce through the chalk, in the hope of obtaining water from the lower greensand, which he expected to find beneath. After boring for over 1,100 feet, however, carboniferous limestone was struck, and the well had to be abandoned.

Mr. Bruff made a further attempt at Dovercourt, where he succeeded in obtaining a supply which lasted for some years. It was never quite satisfactory, however, in point of quality, and a third boring was made at Bradfield. This also proved unsuccessful, and the promoter was finally driven to Mistley, where he struck a good supply, which is now carried to Harwich, over a distance of 10 miles.

In 1850, in conjunction with the late Mr. Hawkins, of Alresford, Essex, Mr. Bruff developed the works for the water supply of Colchester, which some years later passed by purchase into the possession of the Corporation of that town.

For many years the gradual formation of a bar across the mouth of the Orwell and Stour estuaries was viewed with anxiety by all interested in the ports of Harwich and Ipswich.

In 1844 (power) was granted by Parliament for the formation of a breakwater from Beacon Cliff, to divert the current towards Landguard Point, and also for dredging the shoals at the entrance to the harbour, in order that access might be afforded to first-class vessels. But the danger was not averted by the adoption of those measures, and, when Mr. Bruff was appointed Engineer to the Harwich Harbour Conservancy Board, about the year 1865, this was the problem he had to take in hand. After a full and careful study of the tidal currents, he designed and constructed a curved jetty at Landguard Point, which had the effect of completely destroying the bar, and, as a direct consequence, of preserving the ancient ports of Harwich and Ipswich, and of opening the way for the creation of Parkeston Quay.

In the development of many east coast watering-places Mr. Bruff took an active part. At Walton-on-the-Naze he constructed gas- and water-works, a pier, the Clifton Hotel and several lodging-houses. At Clacton-on-Sea he erected the pier and the Royal Hotel, and brought the town into communication with the Great Eastern Railway system.

He also acted as Engineer for the Corporation of Ipswich in designing and carrying out the main drainage of the greater part of that town, and, at a later date, he was largely instrumental in the establishment, by private enterprise, of a system of tramways through some of its principal streets.

In his earlier days Mr. Bruff was an active member of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, of which he acted for many years as Chairman of the Committee.

Until recently he discharged his duties as Chairman of the Tendring Hundred Waterworks Company, and Engineer to the Harwich Harbour Conservancy Board, and was able to pay occasional visits to London. He died from natural decay at his residence, Handford Lodge, Ipswich, on the 24th February, 1900, in his eighty-eighth year.

Mr. Bruff, at the time of his death, was one of the oldest members of the Institution, having been elected an Associate on the 19th May, 1840, and transferred to the class of Members on the 8th April, 1856.

In 1850 he contributed to the Proceedings a 'Description of the Chapple Viaduct upon the Colchester and Stour Valley extension of the Eastern Counties Railway.'


1900 Obituary [3]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1840 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. 1900 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. Engineering 1900 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index