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William Chadwell Mylne

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William Chadwell Mylne (1781-1863)

1842 William Chadwell Mylne of the New River Head, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1870 Obituary [2]

MR. WILLIAM CHADWELL MYLNE, F.R.S., the son of Mr. Robert Mylne, F.R.S., the architect of old Blackfriars bridge, was born in London on the 6th of April, 1781.

He was the hereditary representative of at least eight consecutive generations, commencing in Scotland towards the close of the sixteenth century, who have followed the same calling. Of his youth and early education it has not been very clearly ascertained beyond a suggestion that he had not at first been intended either for the engineering, or the architectural profession, in consequence of his elder brother having been destined for it, who eventually entered the Navy and died at an early age. He however had, from the nature of his father’s works, early association with engineering.

Thus, in 1797, he assisted with young Golborne to stake out the lands purchased for his father’s great scheme of the Eau Brink Cut above Lynn, but which came to a standstill, from want of proper enterprise, until Rennie, in 1817, secured the necessary capital and executed the work.

Subsequently he was occupied on his father’s well-known project, the Gloucester and Berkeley ship canal, with 70 feet of water surface.

He succeeded his father as Engineer of the New River Company in the year 1811, having been previously appointed for three years assistant engineer. This gave the main bent to his career, and thenceforward his name is associated with the water supply of London.

He was likewise extensively engaged in the supply of water to many important towns in the United Kingdom, and to some places on the Continent, carried out large drainage undertakings in the fen districts, designed and superintended the erection of St. Mark's Church, Myddelton Square, as well as other buildings, and had a considerable practice as a surveyor and valuer, being for fifty years Surveyor to the Stationers' Company, and as a valuer he was employed by the Crown in connection with improvements in the Strand. At the date of his appointment by the New River Company the only water-works on the north side of the Thames were those of that company, the London Bridge Waterworks, the York Buildings, and the Chelsea Company's Works.

In his capacity as Engineer to the New River Company, one of his first undertakings was to substitute cast-iron pipes throughout their district, between Charing Cross and Bishopsgate Street, for the numerous wooden mains dating from Sir Hugh Myddelton's time, which were found insufficient to stand the requisite pressure, and to erect steam-engines for raising the water to a higher level than the Clerkenwell reservoirs. These several works are said to have cost a quarter of a million sterling.

In consequence of the purchase by the Company of the water-works connected with old London Bridge and the York Buildings, a powerful steam-engine was, by the terms of the agreement, erected at Broken Wharf, Thames Street, to take water from the Thames in case of accident to the New River. This was used only occasionally, during extreme drought or frost, and has since been wholly removed. The cast-iron suction main was 33 inches in diameter, which was then considered a large size.

About the year 1828, he constructed fifty acres of settling reservoirs at Stoke Newington, with a steam-engine for raising the water to a higher level, for the better supply of the upper and outlying districts on the northern side of the metropolis.

In 1850 he gave evidence before the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission of the General Board of Health, on the supply of water to the metropolis. He had then been in office about forty years. His evidence showed that he was favourable to the use of 4-inch tubular drains, and of 6-inch or 9-inch branch sewers with proper inclination, and also to the abandonment of cisterns and tanks, and the resort to the constant supply for dwellings of the lower classes, - but for those only, - and he appeared to be aware of the difficulty of carrying out an entire change in connection with the then existing arrangements of the Company.

In later years the introduction of new water companies to meet the rapid growth of the metropolis led to many parliamentary struggles, in which Mr. Mylne took a prominent part. In compliance with "The Metropolis Water-works Act, 1852," the reservoirs at the New River-head were converted into filter-beds, whence the lower districts are supplied. The reservoir in Claremont Square was deepened, and arched over to prevent the water from being affected by the atmosphere and the London soot, and the water is raised by pumping into this reservoir, together with a large proportion from the Stoke Newington reservoirs, from which the upper districts are supplied.

Other covered reservoirs were erected about the same time at Highgate and Hampstead, into which the water mas pumped by steam power. Extensive filter-beds were constructed at Stoke Newington, in connection with a large pumping establishment, whereby the upper districts of the metropolis are now supplied with filtered mater.

Filtering-beds were also constructed at Hornsegy; and the New River was shortened several miles, by cutting off much of its circuitous course, whilst the remaining portions of it were deepened, widened and improved, to the spring-head at Chadmell, near Ware. The connection with the river Lee was altered, so as to yield a larger supply of water than formerly ; and the drainage of the town of Hertford, above the source from whence the supply from the river Lee was taken, was removed, and thus prevented from contaminating that part of the stream. The adoption of these modern improvements of filtration, covered reservoirs, and more powerful machinery, rendered necessary by the Act before referred to, are said to have cost the company nearly three quarters of a million sterling.

During the period of his association with the New River Company Mr. Mylne was engaged in numerous works unconnected with the company, and he furnished many able reports. These related to drainage, docks, and water supply.

He was much engaged in giving evidence in railway parliamentary contests, particularly on the details of cost of construction. In the Fen district he was much occupied. He carried into effect works for the improvement of the river Ouze, between Littleport and Ely, and others on the river Cam, and the drainage of Burnt Fen and the country adjacent. He reported on other various works respecting the south level of the Fens.

Amongst his reports mere one on Lynn Harbour, one on the banks of the river Ouze below Denver Sluice, and one (dated 1825, in conjunction with the late Mr. James Walker, Past President Inst. C.E.) “in consequence of the late intended Eau Brink Act,” addressed to the Corporation of the Bedford Level and the Commissioners of Eau Brink Drainage.

Amongst his works was the intercepting drain at Bristol, by which the sewage was removed from the floating harbour. He made designs for the suspension bridge at Clifton, and also for piers at Portishead at the mouth of the Avon, for the mail-packets.

His reports include several on proposed docks, as at Birkenhead, and also on the encroachments of the Mersey and other rivers; and from his position and reputation, his evidence was frequently sought by commissions and parliamentary committees.

In 1847 Mr. Mylne and Mr. H. B. Gunning, as “ surveying officers” under the “Act for making preliminary Inquiries in certain Cases of Application for Local Acts,” conducted several inquiries, and reported to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests on the Leeds Water-works Bill and the Leeds and Thirsk Waterworks Bill, on the Rochdale Water-works Act Amendment Bill, on a bill for Darwen, Derby, and other proposals.

Mr. Mylne was consulted upon the Glasgow old Water-works ; and for Birmingham he gave a detailed report with estimate. There was also a project for the supply of water for Paris in 1815, with which Professor Donaldson was associated ; and subsequently there was another project in 1836.

As surveyor to the New River Company, he laid out their property, near Islington, for the streets and buildings, which have been since carried out as he proposed.

For the University of Cambridge, he designed and superintended the erection of Gerrard’s Hostel Bridge over the river Cam. It was a single-arched iron bridge, erected by the Butterley Company: Illustrations of it (Plates 95, 96, and 97) will be found in Hann and Hosking’s “Theory, Practice, and Architecture of Bridges” (Weale, London, 1843).

Mr. Mylne was for upwards of fifty years a member of, and for many years Treasurer of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 28th of June, 1842, and he served on the Council for five years, from 1844 to 1848, both inclusive. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on the 16th of March, 1826, and he was likewise a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and of the Royal Astronomical Society. His retiring disposition caused him seldom to take part in scientific discussions; but he took a keen interest in all questions of progress, and during his long career judiciously availed himself of the opportunities afforded him of adopting the new inventions of the age.

He had retired from professional life for two or three years before his death, which occurred at his residence, Great Amwell, Herts, on Christmas Day, 1863, in the eighty-third year of his age. His genial habits, kindly feelings, and strict integrity, won for him the esteem of his professional brethren, and the respect of all associated with him, not excepting the artisan, whose interests he at all times appreciated and considered.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1842 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. 1870 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries