Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,372 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Matthews

From Graces Guide

Sir William Matthews (1844-1922) of Coode, Son and Matthews

1844 Born in Penzance, son of John Matthews, elder brother of Thomas Matthews.

1922 Obituary [1]

"A distinguished member of the engineering profession has been lost by the death of Sir William Matthews, which took place at his house in Hampstead on Sunday evening last. Sir William had been in indifferent health for some time, and about eighteen months ago he, on the advice of his doctor, gave up active work.

William Matthews was the elder son of the late Mr. John Matthews, his younger brother being Sir Thomas Matthews, until lately chief engineer to the Trinity House. He was born at Penzance, of which his father was town surveyor, on March 8th, 1844, and he was therefore approaching the completion of his seventy eighth year. After receiving his early education privately in Cornwall, he entered his father's office at the age of fifteen and remained there for a couple of years. He then spent a year (1861-2) in the drawing office of Messrs. Sandys, Vivian and Co engineers, of Copper House, Hayle, near St. Ives, in Cornwall, a firm which, at that time, had a considerable reputation as makers of heavy pumping and mining machinery..."

Read more of this obituary in The Engineer 1922/01/13.

1922 Obituary [2]

Sir WILLIAM MATTHEWS, K.C.M.G., Past-President, was born in Penzance on March 8th, 1844. His father was Civil Engineer of that borough and carried out many public works, he was the constructor of the harbour, main drainage and water supply, and he designed the Penzance (new) town hall, which is acknowledged to be one of the most imposing buildings of the kind in the county.

On leaving school Sir William served for a time in the then wellknown engineering works of Messrs. Sandys, Vivian and Company, near Hayle, and, when the works ceased to be busy, he entered his father’s office, where he remained some years, gaining valuable experience as a surveyor and engineer. That Sir William and his younger brother, Sir Thomas Matthews (late engineer-in-chief to the Trinity House) should both have risen to eminence in their profession is largely a tribute to the influence of the father; for the latter, in addition to his great technical ability, was remarkable for his indefatigable energy; and this invaluable quality, by precept and example, he early instilled into his two sons.

When Sir William was about twenty years of age the Corporation of Penzance instructed their engineer to undertake some extensive harbour improvements, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Coode was consulted on the project. In connection with the scheme a very comprehensive survey of the harbour was found to be necessary, and William Matthews was entrusted with the work, which he executed with such thoroughness and ability that Sir John offered the young man a post on the engineering staff of his London office, where, by dint of downright hard work and all-round capacity Matthews speedily rose to be chief assistant, a position he continued to fill until in 1892, he was made a partner in the firm, which also included Sir John’s son, Mr. J. C. Coode. Thenceforth the concern was carried on under the style of Coode, Son and Matthews.

The many important engineering works which were executed by Sir John are well known ; and the subject of this memoir (such had been his studious perseverance under his father) was able, almost from the first, to render his new chief very efficient aid in preparing designs and estimates for harbour, river, and clock undertakings. In course of time he was entrusted with the entire control of the office and home connection when Sir John was professionally absent in the Colonies, and himself visited and inspected works in progress at the following, among other places, namely Ceylon, Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, the Malay Straits, the Cape, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and Malta.

The firm, with which Sir William was connected for more than half a century, have long acted as consulting engineers to the Crown Agents for the Colonies, and he was the senior consulting engineer to those authorities in order of date, having occupied the position for nearly 10 years. By the Admiralty, too, Messrs. Coode, Son and Matthews were frequently employed in connection with works at naval bases, and reported and advised on the dockyard extension works at Keyham, Devonport, also as to the sheltering breakwaters required for the protection of the Grand Harbour at Malta during strong north-east winds, which latter work was, however, carried out by the Director of Works Department. But the naval harbour at Dover was the chief undertaking with which the firm was connected for the Admiralty, a work the execution of which occupied 13 years, a total area of 690 acres being enclosed for naval and commercial purposes. Messrs. Coode, Son and Matthews were the chief engineers for this great undertaking, but it was carried out under the Naval Works Act, Sir Henry Pilkington and Sir Edward Raban being successively engineers-in-chief, and Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, the contractors. The original Admiralty Pier was increased in length 2,000 feet, the extension being 100 feet in height 60 feet of which wits below low water.

Messrs. Coode, Son and Matthews were also frequently consulted by the Board of Trade, the India Office, the Mersey Conservancy, the Humber Conservancy, the Tyne Commissioners,, and other public bodies. In 1905 Sir William reported very carefully on the Humber, and submitted some valuable data concerning that river. The large artificial harbour of Colombo, the extension of the harbour and docks at Cape Town, the rebuilding of the north pier at the entrance to the Tyne (executed in conjunction with Sir John Wolfe Barry), the new pier at Folkestone, and the harbour of refuge at Peterhead (having a low-water area of 285 acres), are some other of the important works which were carried out by the firm of which Sir William was for so many years the senior partner.

In 1904 the firm completed a sea-embankment in the estuary of the Duddon at Hodbarrow, in Cumberland, with a-view to shut out the sea from an extensive area of foreshore (about 170 acres), there being a rich and abundant deposit of haematite iron ore, 300 feet below the bed of the water, to be won. It was necessary that the work, which was of novel construction should be watertight and capable of resisting heavy seas from the south-west. The closing of the barrier to shut out the tide involved some anxiety, but was accomplished successfully.

In later years Sir William was engaged in the construction of a wet and a graving dock at Singapore. The former is 24.5 acres in area, with a depth of 30 feet at low water ordinary spring tides, and the graving dock 846 feet long on the floor, having an entrance of 100 feet in width at coping level, and a depth over the sill of 34 feet at high water ordinary spring tides, this being probably the largest dock of its kind in the East. There was also the reconstruction of the main wharf having a length of 4,400 feet, with 33 feet of water alongside at low water.

In 1901, as also in 1905, Sir William visited Singapore and inspected the above-mentioned works. At the same time he advised the Straits Settlements as to the taking over of the works and property of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company, and gave evidence in an arbitration held at Singapore on this subject.

Sir William, who (as should have been stated before) was a pupil of Sir John Coode, became an Associate Member of The Institution of Civil Engineers in 1870, a full Member in 1876, and President in among them tho Royal Commission on Coast Erosion in 1906, the 1907. He was a member of various Conmissions and Committees, and the Royal Commission on Oil Fuel and Engines in 1912. He International Technical Commission on the Suez Canal in 1908, was chairman of the British Standards Cement Committee, and of the Committee on Reinforced Concrete appointed by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1908. He was also chairman of the Committee appointed by that Institution in 1916 to investigate the Deterioration This is a most important inquiry, and its success has been largely of Timber, Metal and Concrete exposed to the action of sea-water. due to the first chairman’s zeal and energy.

The Institution of Civil Engineers throughout the long period Sir William Matthews’ whole-hearted attachment to the interests of his connection with it, and the esteem in which he was held by his colleagues, was fittingly expressed by the following resolution passed by the Council on their receipt of the intelligence of his death, and subsequently adopted by the members assembled in General Meeting :- ‘‘ The Council record their deep sense of the loss sustained by the Institution in the death of its Past-President, Sir William Matthews, K.C.M.G., and offer their sincere condolence to his relatives. During Sir William Matthews’ membership of the Institution, for a period of 51 years, he was one of the most earnest supporters of its activities, and his membership of the Council for a period of 24 years was marked by zealous attention to every which was valued by his colleagues, no less than the matter which came before that body, and a wise judgement personal charm with which he invested his co-operation in their business.”

For services in connection with colonial harbours Sir William was the Order 5 years later, He was also made an officer of the Order of Leopold, together with his late partner (Mr. J. C. Coode), fur services in connection with the harbour of Zeebrugge, so notorious during the great war. The firm of Coode and Matthews was reconstructed in 1912, and again in 1921, and now consists of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, C.M.G., F.R.S., Mr. M. P:G. Wilson, Mr A. T. Coode (Sir John Coode’s grandson), Mr. H. H. G. Mitchell, and Mr. A. G. Vaughan-Lee. in his firm at the end of 1917, but continued to attend the office and Through failing health Sir William retired from active partnership give consultative advice to the remaining partners until the end of 1920. He died on January 8th, 1922, in his seventy-eighth year. integrity, and liked by all for his pleasant unassuming manners, Sir William was much respected in the profession for his sterling while his assistants, and the many young engineers he had trained, regarded him with reverence and affection, for he was one of the most helpful and considerate of chiefs.

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