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British Industrial History

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Thomas Bell (1810-1874)

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Thomas Bell (1810-1874) of Bristol Waterworks


1875 Obituary [1]

MR. THOMAS BELL was born in 1810 at Letheringsett, near Holt, Norfolk.

At an early age he was apprenticed to his father, who carried on business as a millwright, and was engaged in putting up and repairing mills in the neighbourhood.

In 1832, he removed to London and obtained employment with Messrs. Hunter and English, of Bow, as outdoor foreman, to superintend the sinking of wells and the erection of mill machinery. He had charge, among other works, of the sinking of a well at the Hampstead Road Reservoir, for the New River Company, a work attended with many difficulties, on account of the nature of the strata through which the well was sunk.

It was here that Mr. Bell brought himself under notice by untiring energy and by the tact he displayed, especially in the adoption of cast-iron linings for walling back the sandy soil. The well in question was 183 feet deep; and during the latter part of the work constant supervision was demanded, in consequence of the expectation that the chalk would soon be penetrated. On this being successfully accomplished, the water rose to a great height in the well.

After leaving Messrs. Hunter and English in 1839, Mr. Bell took charge of the erection of some machinery in connection with the Nottingham Old Waterworks, and was subsequently appointed Engineer to the company, which position he held until the year 1845, when the old and the new companies were amalgamated.

He then became General Superintendent for the construction of the Bristol Waterworks under the late Mr. James Simpson, Past- President Inst. C.E., having also assisted in preparing the parliamentary plans and sections for the same. Here his sterling qualities were again displayed in surmounting the difficulties incident to the line of works, which extends over upwards of 16 miles, comprising tunnels, aqueducts in masonry and iron, and compensation and storage reservoirs.

In the year 1851, Mr. Bell was appointed Resident Engineer to the Company, and occupied that position until his death. Latterly he was engaged in sinking a well at Chelvey, near Bristol, for the supply of the city, which, on account of the large quantities of water, had to be walled, but the work was successfully accomplished. While Engineer to the Bristol Waterworks, he brought out a waste-water-preventing valve, for water-closet purposes, which is still in extensive use.

Mr. Bell was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4th of April, 1854, and, after some months of failing health, died in Bristol on the 19th of May, 1874.


1874 Obituary [2]



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