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Richard Redmayne

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1937.
1956.

Richard Augustine Studdert Redmayne KCB, MICE, MIMM, MIME, FGS (22 July 1865 – 27 December 1955) was a British civil and mining engineer.

Redmayne worked a manager of several mines in Britain and South Africa before becoming a professor at the University of Birmingham. He was a leading figure in improving mine safety in the early twentieth century and would become the first Chief Inspector of Mines, leading investigations into many of the mine disasters of his time. He became the president of three professional associations, the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy the Institution of Professional Civil Servants and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Redmayne was the author of several books documenting coal mining practice in the twentieth century, one of which was acknowledged as a standard reference text for other engineers. His work in mine safety and increasing mine output during the First World War was acknowledged with an appointment as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, chevalier of the French Legion of Honour and a companion of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Throughout his life he was a dedicated civil servant and served on many of the inter-war committees for the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau and the Ministry of Transport.

Redmayne was born at Low Fell, Gateshead, County Durham, to John Marriner Redmayne, an alkali manufacturer and later Mayor of Gateshead [1], and his wife, Jane Anna Fitzgerald Studdert Redmayne.

He received an education at Durham College of Science in Newcastle-upon-Tyne before being apprenticed to William Armstrong, a mining engineer, at Hetton Colliery in Pittington.

He was elected a student member of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers on 13 December 1884 and obtained a First Class Certificate of Competency as a Manager of Mines on 28 October 1887.

Redmayne became an under-manager at Hetton before transferring to South Africa in 1891, where he became the manager of Walmsley Collieries near Newcastle, Colony of Natal. Whilst in South Africa he became a member of the Federated Institution of Mining Engineers.

Returning to Britain in 1894 he became the manager of a colliery at Seaton Delaval in Northumberland.

He married Edith Rose four years later with whom he would have one son, John, and two daughters.

In 1902 Redmayne was given the chair in mining engineering at the newly founded University of Birmingham. Whilst there Redmayne sought to promote universities as a means of training engineers over the more traditional apprenticeship system. Under his direction the university became the first in the country to house an ore dressing laboratory and a model underground coal mine. During his professorship Redmayne sat on several committees and inquiries investigating safety procedures and working practice in coal mines. These included the committee which recommended an eight hour day for coal workers implemented as the Eight Hour Act in 1906 and the Royal Commission into accident prevention in 1908 which also resulted in tighter safety regulations.

From 1908 to 1913 Redmayne was appointed a commissioner to inquire into mine disasters at the Hamstead, Maypole, South Moor, Whitehaven, Little Hulton, Cadeby and Senghenydd. The disasters he investigated caused a loss of 1250 lives in total. In recognition of his work improving mine safety Redmayne was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1914.

Redmayne resigned from the university in 1908 in order to take up a job at the Home Office as the first Chief Inspector of Mines. Perhaps his most significant achievement in this role was his work with Sir Malcolm Delevingne in bringing about the Coal Mines Act of 1911 which significantly increased the safety of mines. During the first part of the First World War Redmayne served as head of the Production Department of the Control of Coal Mines.

From 1917 to 1919 he was the chief technical advisor to the Controller of Coal Mines and in 1919 acted as an assessor to Sir John Sankey who was the chairman of the Royal Commission on Coalmines.

From 1918 he was also the chairman of the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau, resigning as chief inspector in 1919 to dedicate more time to the bureau and to set up a private engineering consultancy. He chaired the bureau's examination and entry board from 1912 until 1950.

Redmayne continued to sit on government committees well into his old age and was the independent chairman of the National Concilation Board on Road Motor Haulage from 1934 until 1938 and as chairman of the Road Haulage Wages Board from 1938 until 1941.

Redmayne was an active member of many institutions throughout his life, starting with his election as a student member of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers on 13 December 1884. He became a member of the Federated Institution of Mining Engineers in 1889 and would be elected an honorary member in 1909. He was elected to the presidency of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy in 1916, the first of several such offices.

In 1922, during his tenure as chairman of the Imperial Resources Bureau, he became the first president of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants an office to which he was successfully re-elected every year until his death. He served as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers for the 1934-5 session and was a fellow of the Geological Society. He was also made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and a companion of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Redmayne was the author of several publications during his lifetime. The first of these was his co-authorship of Colliery Working and Management with Harrison Bulman which was acknowledged as a standard text and was reprinted several times. His five volume Modern Practice in Mining is a comprehensive account of the coal mining industry of his time and was written from 1908 to 1932. His autobiography Men, Mines and Memories was written in 1942 and his account of the war, The British Coal Mining Industry During the War was written in 1923.

He died, aged ninety, at his home in Little Hadham, Hertfordshire on 27 December 1955.


1956 Obituary [2]

Just after our last issue had gone to press, we learned with deep regret of the death of Sir Richard Redmayne, which occurred at his home at Little Hadham, Herts, on December 27th.

Sir Richard, who was in his ninety-first year, had an eminent place in the profession of mining engineering. He was an authority on all aspects of coal mining and colliery operation, and until three or four years ago was practising as a consultant. It could not be said that Sir Richard had retired; in recent times, in his increasing age, he had reduced his activities, but to the end he maintained a lively interest in all the affairs of his profession. He kept himself informed of every development and trend in present day coal mining, as is evidenced by an article - undoubtedly the last from his actual pen - on "Coal in 1955," which will appear as part of our annual review. Our personal regret at his death is mingled with a measure of pride as we recall that, a few weeks ago, Sir Richard readily agreed to prepare the review of the coal mining industry which he had regularly contributed to our columns for many years past.

Richard Augustine Studdert Redmayne, who was the fourth son of the late John Marriner Redmayne, was born at Low Fell, Co. Durham, in 1865.

He studied at the Durham College of Science, and in 1883 entered the Hetton Collieries as an apprentice. In his autobiography, Men, Mines and Memories, Sir Richard commented that in his day the training of a mining apprentice was severe! His chief, he said, was a strict disciplinarian and hard task-master, insisting on his young apprentices learning "by actual participation therein most of the practical work carried on in the mine."

At one period of his apprenticeship, Sir Richard recorded, he used to rise daily at 2.30 a.m., walk to the mine a mile and a half away, descend at 3.30 a.m. with the fore-shift deputies, and remain underground, travelling the workings, until 10.30 a.m. In the afternoon, he was required to attend the office in order to write a report on his underground work and to do other administrative work!

When his apprenticeship was over, Sir Richard remained at Hetton as an under manager. Altogether, he spent eight and a half years there. It was at Hetton that Sir Richard first experienced, in December 1886, a colliery explosion; in the subsequent years of his career he took a prominent part in the progress of safety in mines.

Sir Richard left Hetton in 1891 to go to South Africa, where for the next two years he was engaged in mine management in Natal, and in surveying mining properties.

He returned to this country in 1893 and became resident manager at the Seaton Delaval collieries in Northumberland. Sir Richard lived and worked at Seaton Delaval for just over nine years, and then, in March, 1902, he was appointed to the chair of mining in the then recently established University of Birmingham. As a preliminary to that appointment, Sir Richard spent some months in Canada and the U.S.A. to see what was being done in mining schools there. The equipment and efficiency of those schools, he reported, impressed him greatly.

Sir Richard's work at Birmingham University of which Sir Oliver Lodge was then the principal, continued for six years. His curriculum for the mining school was devised to give a thorough grounding in the principles of pure science during the first two years of the course, the third year being devoted to the application of the scientific knowledge acquired. During his years at Birmingham University, Sir Richard was able to engage in consulting work, and he also served on two important Government committees. The first of them was the Eight Hours Committee, set up "to inquire into the probable economic effect of a limit of eight hours to the working day of coalminers." The other committee was one set up, early in 1908, by the Royal Commission on Accidents in Mines, "to visit and inspect representative collieries in different parts of the United Kingdom and to make inquiries into the causes of and means to prevent accidents from falls of ground, underground haulage, and in shafts." Sir Richard was appointed chairman of the committee and said himself, many years later, that its work formed one of the most interesting investigations with which he was ever concerned.

At about the same time, Sir Richard was appointed by the Home Secretary to hold a formal investigation into a disaster at the Hamstead Colliery, near Birmingham. This disaster was a fire at the bottom of the downcast shaft, the initiating cause being the ignition of a large case of candles kept there for supplying the miners with their daily ration on going to work.

Undoubtedly, Sir Richard's services on these two committees and in the Hamstead investigation led the Home Secretary of the day to invite him, in the spring of 1908, to occupy the newly created office of Chief Inspector of Mines. At first, Sir Richard demurred; he was not anxious to leave the school which he had so successfully established at Birmingham University, nor to relinquish the consulting work he was able to do. But the Home Secretary made a second approach to him, and later in 1908 he began his duties as Chief Inspector of Mines, an appointment in which he certainly enhanced the reputation which he had already gained. Already, there was in mind the preparation of the Parliamentary Bill which subsequently became the Mines Regulation Act of 1911. Sir Richard's experience contributed in no small measure to the framing of that Act.

He occupied the office of Chief Inspector of Mines for twelve years, in which time, to quote his own words, "there occurred some of the greatest colliery disasters in the history of British mining." All of them were subjected to the most thorough investigation by Sir Richard; his detailed reports on those investigations and on many aspects of mining practice never failed to recommend measures which could be taken to improve safety in mine operation. We have before us as we write a list, prepared by Sir Richard himself at our invitation a few years ago, of the reports which he compiled during his years as professor of mining at Birmingham and during his tenure of the Chief Inspector's office. It is a formidable document, but it emphasises the breadth of his expert knowledge and the meticulous care with which he carried out all his duties. The first world war - just prior to which he was created K.C.B.added considerably to Sir Richard's responsibilities.

In 1918, Sir Richard was appointed chairman of the Imperial Mineral Resources Bureau, and two years later he resigned his position as Chief Inspector of Mines. Thereafter, he resumed his work as a consulting mining and civil engineer.

In this period as a consultant he was frequently called upon for services to the Government. In this connection, his evidence before the Samuel Commission in 1925 and before the subsequent Royal Commission on Subsidence from Mining carried considerable weight in the formulation of the reports of those bodies. Nor will Sir Richard's many services to the professional Institutions be quickly forgotten. He was a past-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, a member of the Institution of Mining Engineers, and a Fellow of the Geological Society. In addition, from the time of its formation in 1922 up till his death Sir Richard was president of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants; its work was one of his special interests. In the performance of all his duties Sir Richard not only gave readily of his outstanding technical ability, but he also displayed a kindly and thoughtful character which could not fail to impress all who were privileged to know him.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1871 Census
  2. The Engineer 1956/01/06