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William Frederick Faviell

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William Frederick Faviell (1822-1902), railway contractor on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. Described as a 'conceited and obstinate man' with a 'very disagreeable and offensive manner' who treated people under him 'as if they were dogs or inferior beings'[1]

1822 Born at Kirby Overblow, Yorkshire, the son of Mark Faviell (1786-1861), a Farmer, and his wife Mariah Bourn (1791-1868)

1847 Married in Colchester to Sarah Oliver Carr and they had nine children

1861 Living at Down Place, Compton, Surrey: Wm. Frek. Faviell (age 38 born Herkly Overton, Yks.), Contractor and Farmer of 365 acres employing 12 men and 4 boys. With his wife Sarah Oliver Faviell (age 36 born Colchester) and their six children; Eveline Alice Faviell (age 10 born born Egham); Fredrick Henry Faviell (age 9 born Bombay, India); Arthur Ernest Faviell (age 5 born born Egham); Nora Constance Faviell (age 3 born Kirton, India); Edith Beatrice Faviell (age 1 born Essex); Percy Ralph Faviell (age 3 months born Compton). Also his niece Lucy Maxfield (age 17 born Wath on Deane). Six servants.[2]

1871 Living at Down Place, Compton, Surrey: Willm F. Faviell (age 48 born Kirkby), Landowner. with his daughter Eveline Alice Faviell (age 20 born Egham). Also one visitor. Five servants.[3]

1891 Living at Palasseiroe Mansions, Hove. William F. Faviell (age 68 born Farrley), Retired Railway Contractor and Widower. Also his niece Alice J. Phillips (age 32 born Essex). Four servants.[4]


1902 Obituary [5]

WILLIAM FREDERICH FAVIELL the fourth son of Mr. Mark Faviell, was born at Kirkby Overblow, near Wetherby, Yorkshire, on the 26th July, 1822. His father had for many years been engaged in the construction of canals, bridges and public works as a contractor.

The subject of this notice was educated at a private school at Lincoln, and at the age of seventeen was engaged by his brothers to assist them in the construction of part of the Manchester and Leeds Railway near Wakefield and Horbury.

In 1840, on the completion of that work, he was employed on the Dearne and Dove Canal; and in 1841 he assisted in superintending some work on the Eastern Counties Railway near Colchester, on which line his brother had a contract.

From 1842 to 1846 he assisted his father in some drainage improvements in Lincolnshire, as well as in surveys for new railway undertakings.

In October, 1846, the Directors of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway accepted the tender of Mark Faviell & Son for the construction of about six miles of that line between Harrogate and Ripon, the management and direction of which work rested mainly upon Mr. W. F. Faviell as partner with his father in that contract, which was completed in 1849, and in the same gear on the completion of that, his first contract, Mr. Faviell left Yorkshire to reside in Egham, Surrey, having in January, 1847, married the eldest daughter of Mr. John Carr, of Colchester.

In 1850 he entered into a contract, in partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. John Maxfield, for an extension of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway to Northallerton. When that work was fairly started in the latter part of 1850 Mr. Faviell joined Mr. Henry Fowler, brother of Sir John Fowler, Past-President, and sent in a tender for the first railway contract in Western India, from Bombay to Tanna, which tender was accepted by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company.

Mr. Fowler left for Bombay in December, 1850, and after collecting materials and assistants for the work Mr. Faviell followed in February, 1851, to actively prosecute the work, which, though not, a long or a heavy contract, was a new and strange enterprise to carry out in that country. Mr. Fowler’s health failed after a few months’ exposure to the climate of India, and compelled his return to England. The execution of the contract then devolved entirely upon Mr. Faviell, and was completed to the satisfaction of the Company, the line being opened for traffic on the 16th April, 1853. That was the first line of railway opened for public traffic in India, and in its construction the first locomotive engine used in Asia was introduced on the 23rd February, 1852, for ballasting the line near Bombay.

Early in 1854 Mr. Faviell returned with his family to England, to recruit his health, which had suffered from exposure to the sun in directing the operations on that contract.

In November, 1855, Mr. Faviell again left England for Bombay, as the Directors of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway had accepted his tender for the construction of the Bhor Ghat Railway Incline, 15 miles in length, and the continuation of the railway from the top of the incline toP oona, a distance of 40 miles. The works on the Bhor Ghat Incline were of great magnitude, and the line into Poona contained a large amount of masonry and several large viaducts. They were pushed on with great vigour, and nearly 20,000 men were engaged at one time until the memorable year of the mutiny, which broke out in May, 1857.

Although Bombay and Western India were not the scene of much actual fighting, yet the regulations found necessary by the Government in reference to labour and transport aat great crisis, proved a severe check to the operations. The number of work-people available was much reduced, and the price both of material and labour seriously advanced. The contractor persevered, however, and in 1858 finished 3 miles of the Bhor Ghat Incline, and the 40 miles on to Poona, opened for traffic from Khandalla to Poona in that year.

There was still a considerable amount of work to be done on 12 miles of the lower part of the Bhor Ghat Incline, and as labour was now more difficult to procure, and the cost greater than the contract prices, the contractor made application to the Acting Board of Directors in Bombay for an increase on the rates, which being refused, Mr. Faviell surrendered his contract, being paid for all the work and materials to that date on the contract terms.

In the meantime the Board of Directors in England, under the advice of Mr. Robert Stephenson, the Consulting Engineer, had consented to an increase on the contractor’s terms; but there being no telegraph to India at that time, the information did not reach Bombay until the day after Mr. Faviell’s departure by steamer for England in May, 1859.

Mr. Faviell’s health was so much injured by the great strain and anxiety of the previous four years, that the change to England was necessary, and it was not until 1861 that he felt strongen ough to make two or three journeys to Spain, for the purpose of taking up some railway works in that country, which, however, he did not succeed in obtaining on satisfactory terms.

At the close of 1862 the Crown Agents for the Colonies accepted, on behalf of the Government of Ceylon, Mr. Faviell’s tender for the construction of 73 miles of a very difficult railway in that country, and in February, 1863, he left England with a large staff to carry out that important work. The railway-the first constructed in Ceylon-runs from Colombo to Kandy, and, as many who have travelled upon the line since its completion may have noticed, the country at the foot of the hills between 30 and 50 miles from Colombo, is full of rank vegetation, and malaria so infested the district that many lives were sacrificed, and the progress of the works constantly interrupted before this portion of the railway could be completed. The heavy works and tunnels on the Kadugannawa Incline, of 1 in 45 for 12 miles, also involved much anxiety and responsibility to the contractor. The whole line was completed to Kandy and opened through for traffic in August, 1867, and Mr. Faviell returned to England in the following September, much broken in health by continued attacks of ague and fever, which clung to him for some years.

It was not until the year 1877 that, Mr. Faviell entered into a contract with the Government of the Cape of Good Hope for the construction of 120 miles of railway in the Eastern provinces extending to Graaff Reinet, and also in 1879 for a further contract of 54 miles to Cradock. Those works, ably directed by Mr. J. A. Kendrew, who had assisted him in Ceylon, were completed to the satisfaction of the Cape Government in 1881.

During the last twenty years of his life Mr. Faviell was not engaged professionally, and devoted himself to agricultural pursuits and to the rearing of stock, in which he took great interest.

He died at his residence, Sandhurst, Tunbridge Wells, on the 3rd July, 1902, in his 80th year.

Re was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4th February, 1868.


1902 Obituary [6][7]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Building the Railways of the Raj. 1850-1900 by Ian J. kerr. p56
  2. 1861 Census
  3. 1871 Census
  4. 1891 Census
  5. 1902 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  6. The Engineer 1902/07/18.
  7. The Engineer 1902 Jul-Dec: Index: Miscellaneous