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Walter Charleton Hughes

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Sir Walter Charleton Hughes (1850-1922), civil engineer in India.


1922 Obituary[1]

Walter Charleton Hughes was born on September 22nd, 1850. He received his early education first at private schools and afterwards at King's College, London, of which, by the way, he in after years became Fellow. In 1868, at the age of eighteen, he went out to India to take up an appointment with the Bombay Public Works Department. During the next nineteen years he saw service in various districts and in 1887 was made secretary to the Government of Bombay in the Department, a post which he held until 1892.

During the period 1892-1898, and again from 1900 to 1910, he was chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Port of Bombay; and from 1898 to 1910 chairman of the Bombay Improvement Trust. That is a bald record of what was in reality a period of forty-two years of strenuous work, in a peculiarly trying climate. During it the Port of Bombay grew from comparatively small dimensions into a shipping centre of first importance, and in the development Sir Walter played a leading part. Prior to 1858 Bombay had no wet dock. The trade of the port was carried on by means of open-ended tidal basins constructed at right angles to the shore line. In that year the Elphinstone Company was formed to acquire what had up to then been a number of small undertakings and to consolidate them into a homogeneous whole.

The new company did well at first, and was considerably aided by tho outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, which brought about an abnormal call for cotton from India. Bombay had a time of extraordinary prosperity, in which the company shared, and it spent more money on improvements than was actually warranted. Getting into financial straits in 1867 it applied to the Government for a loan. Its request was refused, and, instead, a Port Trust to acquire the undertaking of the company and other smaller properties was constituted. The new body was not, however, brought into being till 1873, five years after Hughes had gone to India. One of the first constructional works of importance which it carried out was the Prince's dock, which had an area of 30 acres. That dock was followed by the Victoria, which is alongside it, and which is of 25 acres in extent. It was completed in 1888.

Exactly how far Sir Walter was concerned in those works we do not know, but for subsequent development the initiative was certainly very largely his, though the plans were actually prepared by Mr. P. Glynn Messent.

Sir Walter was not interested only in the Port of Bombay. He was largely concerned, too, in remodeling the city itself, and was responsible for a scheme of re-building congested areas which cost nearly five million sterling to carry out.

Returning to England in 1910, Sir Walter entered the firm of the late Sir John Wolfe Barry, and still continued his connection with the Bombay Port Trust as consulting engineer. He also designed constructional and railway works for various parts of the world, including Russia, during the earlier years of the war. He was, too, for some time chairman of the company which acquired from the Government the port of Richborough with a view to developing it as a ferry port.

Sir Walter was made C.I.E. in 1900, and received the honour of knighthood in 1906. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, having been elected in January, 1885.



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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1922/04/07