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William Colson

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William Colson (1840-1901)

1902 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM COLSON, born on the 12th November, 1840, was the second surviving son of the late Mr. H. Colson of Ringwood, Hants.

His early experience in practical engineering was gained on the various works carried out by the South Western Railway Company in connection with the doubling of the Southampton and Dorchester line.

From 1865 to 1868 he was engaged on the construction of the Millwall Docks for Messrs. Kelk and Aird, the contractors.

On the completion of that work, he joined the staff of the late Mr. E. A. Bernays, the then Admiralty Superintending Civil Engineer in charge of Chatham Dockyard Extension, one of the largest dock works of that time. For five years he took an active part in the supervision of those important works, and during that time was laid the foundation of that practical knowledge of dock construction and organization of labour for which in after years he was conspicuous.

In 1873 Mr. Colson was engaged for Messrs. Aird and Sons as Chief Agent on the construction of the Birmingham and West Suburban Railway, and from 1876 to 1880 he was employed on the Royal Albert Docks on the Thames, as Principal Agent for Messrs. Lucas and Aird, in whose hands the contract for the work had been placed. During the period 1881 to 1884 he was engaged in the construction of the Alexandra Docks at Hull, and of the Tilbury Docks on the Thames. These were all works of magnitude and importance, presenting many difficulties which were successfully overcome.

In 1887, in company with the late Mr. Priestley, he visited Gibraltar, on behalf of Messrs. Lucas and Aird, for the purpose of reporting as to the practicability and probable cost of constructing a commercial dock in Gibraltar Bay. He was also at that time carrying out the widening of the Wellington Dock entrance at Dover. During the same year, 1887, he visited Demerara, for the purpose of reporting on the treatment of the deep foundations for the then proposed cathedral. The contract for the Hodbarrow sea-wall and embankment was commenced in 1889, and was completed under his direction. This sea-wall was constructed in a very exposed position, for the purpose of excluding the sea from a large area of foreshore, under which were the workings of the Hodbarrow Mining Company.

In 1891 Mr. Colson took charge of the construction of the new entrance to the Tyne dock, a work of exceptional difficulty in consequence of the close proximity of the new work to the old fairway and entrance, which had to be kept open during the execution of the new work. In 1892 the extension of the Southampton Docks was commenced for the South Western Railway Company. These works comprised an extensive reclamation from the mud lands of Southampton Water, and the construction of docks, deep-water quays and other ancillary works to accommodate the largest passenger liners engaged in the transatlantic trade. He continued his connection with these works as Chief Agent for the contractor, Sir John Aird, Bart., up to the date of his death, which took place at Southampton on the 25th September, 1901, in his 61st year.

Mr. Colson was an acknowledged expert as regards cost and practical methods of dock construction and deep-water works generally. He had great power of readily grasping difficulties and of devining means of meeting them, and as an organiser of labour he was exceptionally able. By those over whom it was his lot to rule, and indeed by all with whom he came in contact, he was held in high esteem. Always kind and considerate and ready with practical help, he is greatly missed and regretted by a large circle of both professional and private friends.

Mr. Colson was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 4th April, 1882.

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