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British Industrial History

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Theophilus Nicholls

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Theophilus Nicholls (1835-1883)

1879 Birth of son. 'NICHOLLS, wife of Mr. T., C.E., South Indian Railway, Trichinopoly, India, at Hetherington-road, Clapham, Dec. 19.'[1]

1884 Obituary [2]

THEOPHILTUS NICHOLLS was born on the 15th of June, 1835, and obtained his education at a private school.

After leaving school he thought he would like to go to sea, and, having made a preliminary voyage in a coasting-vessel owned and commanded by a relative, he was placed by his father with the Captain of the ship “Tamar,” in which vessel he went to Australia and back. This voyage seemed to have weaned him from his desire to be a sailor, and he was afterwards articled to his brother, Mr. John Nicholls, an architect and surveyor, then of Lancaster House, Adelphi.

He soon acquired efficiency as a draughtsman, and having completed the two years of his articles, obtained one or two short engagements in other offices, and afterwards went, for about twelve months, to Messrs. Ransomes and Sims, of Ipswich.

In the year 1856 he entered the offices of Messrs. Locke and Errington, MM. Inst. C.E., and was engaged as a draughtsman, and likewise in surveying and levelling up to the date of Mr. Errington’s death in 1862, when he was retained under Messrs. Galbraith and Tolme, MM. Inst. C.E., and from the date above named until 1871, he acted under Mr. W. R. Galbraith, the Chief Engineer of the London and South-Western Railway, as Resident Engineer of the Southampton and Netley, and the Aldershot branches of that line.

On the completion of the last-named work, Mr. Galbraith recommended him to Mr. G. B. Bruce, Vice-President Inst. C.E., the Chief Engineer of the South Indian Railway, and he was appointed a District Engineer on that railway under Mr. Logan, the Chief Resident Engineer. He spent thirteen years in India in charge of the construction of that line in various districts, and, amongst other works, had to superintend the erection of the Palar bridge, the largest on the company’s line.

About October 1883, Mr. Nicholls’ health began to fail, and the company’s superintending physician told him to keep quiet and away from excitement. In the following December signs were apparent that his mind had given way, and on the 19th he appears to have had a sunstroke, and was sent on January 2nd to the Madras General Hospital, and subsequently to the asylum; then, on April 26th, he wrote that he had recovered from his sunstroke, and that the company had agreed to send him home via the Cape for the benefit of a sea voyage. Shortly before he arrived at St. Helena he had another attack, and died on his arrival at that place on the 29th of August, 1883.

Mr. Nicholls was a thoroughly competent engineer, and possessed those qualities of temper that enabled him to get on smoothly and harmoniously with his official superiors and with the contractors under his orders. His untimely death caused unaffected regret.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 4th of March, 1870, during one of his visits to England.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Pall Mall Gazette - Monday 22 December 1879
  2. 1884 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries