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Charles Sanderson (1824-1870)

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Charles Sanderson (1824-1870)

Born in Sheffield on the 21st of July, 1824, the third son of Mr. Henry Sanderson, Engineering Surveyor to Lord Fitzwilliam.

Employed in the office of Mr. Fuller, of Reading, and subsequently with Mr. Moses Dodd, of the same town.

1841 Engineering work was offered to him on the Great Western Railway. For some years he worked under the direction of Mr. Brunel in every department of engineering construction. Several lines were selected and laid out by him in various parts of the country.

1857 Not being on the staff of the GWR, he promoted the Stratford-on-Avon railway. After many delays and the surmounting of numerous obstacles, that line was completed under his direction, and opened for traffic.

1860 When the Stratford railway had been opened, he was offered the Chief Engineership of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India railway, which he accepted in December of that year.

1862 he resigned the appointment and returned to England

1868 Appointed Resident Engineer on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.

1870 On 20th January, died at the house of his friend, Mr. Henry Conder, Traffic Manager G. I. P. in Bombay


1871 Obituary [1]

MR. CHARLES SANDERSON was born in Sheffield on the 21st of July, 1824.

He was the third son of Mr. Henry Sanderson, Engineering Surveyor to Lord Fitzwilliam. The father was a man of remarkable mental capacity; and that he also possessed considerable professional ability is incidentally evidenced by a letter in which Lord Fitzwilliam recommends the son to the notice of one of the Commissioners for the Metropolitan Drainage. Mr. C. Sanderson had prepared a scheme for the drainage of London ; and Lord Fitzwilliam writes:- 'If the author of it has inherited the abilities of his father, who was in my employ and died the beginning of this year (1849), I am sure that anything he suggests will, at the least, be worthy of consideration.' But the fortunes of the family were variable, and at the early age of sixteen Charles Sanderson left home to push his own way in the world.

He first found employment in the office of Mr. Fuller, of Reading, and subsequently with Mr. Moses Dodd, of the same town. In the latter appointment he, it is believed, projected, and certainly executed, a map of the country 10 miles round Reading. But as this was drawing to a close, in the year 1841, engineering work was offered him on the Great Western railway. To that system, accordingly, he attached himself, and for some years worked, in connection with Mr. Bertram, M. Inst. C.E., under the direction of the late Mr. Brunel, V.P. Inst. C.E., in every department of engineering construction. Several lines were selected and laid out by him in various parts of the country; and in the formation of various Great Western branches and extensions, more particularly the Berks and Hants, the Oxford and Rugby, and the Birmingham and Oxford, every practical detail passed through his hands and was executed to the satisfaction of his chiefs. Mr. Brunel testified to the promptitude, accuracy, and neatness of his work, and Mr. Bertram spoke of the great energy, intelligence, and efficiency in everything committed to his care.

It was while connected in this way with the Great Western railway that Mr. Sanderson was elected an Associate of the Institution, on the 6th of December, 1853. He was transferred to the class of Members on the 9th of April, 1867 ; and to the day of his death he took great interest in its proceedings.

The time, however, came when Mr. Sanderson felt it important to seek to make an independent position for himself in the engineering world. He had never been attached to the regular staff of the Great Western railway, but simply had a large amount of work, in connection with that company, put into his hands, with other general engineering business, such as the drainage of towns, &., - and he foresaw, that in the then position of engineering matters, and especially in the then position of the Great Western Company, this work might fail him. Accordingly, in the year 1857, he became concerned in the promotion of the Stratford-on-Avon railway, a short branch connecting the birthplace of the immortal dramatist with the Great Western railway at Hatton. After many delays and the surmounting of numerous obstacles, that line was completed under his direction, and opened for traffic.

For this work he received the highest commendation from Colonel Yolland (the Government Inspector), a voluntary testimonial from Sir Robert Hamilton, of the most generous character, and an official testimonial from the Directors, couched in the handsomest terms.

Now it happened that, in the earlier part of his engineering career, Mr. Sanderson had occasion to refer to the late Mr. Robert Stephenson on some matter of business; and Mr. Stephenson, who had that consideration for younger men in the profession which was such a noble feature in his character, had evidently been favourably impressed ; for in the year 1858 Mr. Sanderson received a note intimating that Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Berkley had jointly recommended him “as a fit person to fill an important engineering appointment in India,” and fixing the time for an interview. Mr. Sanderson, however, was already committed to the Stratford project and very solicitous to complete it ; and the negotiations accordingly, for the time, fell through. But in 1860, when the Stratford railway was opened, an offer was made to him of the Chief Engineership of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India railway, which he accepted in December of that year.

His position on the line was defined by the most explicit "Instructions "from Sir Charles Wood. But difficulties had already arisen in connection with the staff, and a short time sufficed to show that the task he had undertaken was a hopeless one; and in the earlier part of 1862 he resigned the appointment. In March of that year he returned to England to lay the state of things on the railway before the Directors, who voted him a certain sum of money in consideration of the early termination of his arrangements with them. It was a great satisfaction to Mr. Sanderson, in connection with that unfortunate business, that almost, the entire body of the staff joined spontaneously in a vote of entire confidence in him as their chief, and forwarded the same to Colonel French, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, on his arrival in India.

In the year 1862 the so-called Cotton Famine was at its height, and manufacturers were casting about in every direction for substitutes for the precious fibre ; and one eminent firm in the North of England was especially anxious to try the growth of jute in a congenial clime. Mr. Sanderson was strongly persuaded that it could be grown in the region of the Neilgherry Hills ; and, being by this time much attached to Indian life, undertook to conduct the experiment there. Either his new occupation, however, or the climate of the Hills did not suit his health ; or a hankering after his old professional life depressed him, for he was compelled, under medical orders, to leave Coonoor; and, an appointment on the Madras railway being offered him, he accepted it, and wa8 once more in his right element. After fulfilling the duties of this position for a short time, the contractor of the north-eastern portion of the line, intending to return to England made handsome proposals to Mr. Sanderson to become his chief agent in his absence. This position he occupied for some months, when circumstances arising that prevented the return to England of the gentleman whose representative he was to be, he resigned the now unnecessary office, receiving a liberal acknowledgment from his employer for so doing.

After being engaged for brief periods on various other works, Mr. Sanderson, finally, in April, 1868, received, from Mr. Berkley and Mr. Rushton, an appointment as Resident Engineer on the Great Indian Peninsula railway.

In the service of that company he continued till his death, which occurred on the 20th January, 1870, at the house of his friend, Mr. Henry Conder, Traffic Manager G. I. P. railway, Bombay. He had never spared himself at work. Possessing as he believed a robust constitution, and being passionately devoted to his profession, he allowed himself altogether insufficient rest and insufficient recreation. He had, moreover, a highly sensitive and scrupulous constitution of mind which took everything to heart, and made things matters of conscience which many are able to regard as trifles. And these things co-operating with-an Indian climate had broken him down in what might otherwise have been his early manhood. He received during his brief illness the most devoted attention from a large circle of friends ; who also immediately upon his decease set on foot a subscription to erect a monument to his memory ; members of his old staff, on the Bombay and Baroda railway, leading the way with their contributions. In private life-a man of the most refined tastes, of the simplest habits, of a most amiable disposition-he was beloved by all who knew him.

Often careless of his own personal interests, in professional matters his conscientiousness and caution were extreme. The interests of his employers he felt to be a solemn trust that he was bound religiously to discharge. Nothing that could be saved would he allow to he expended; nothing that could be suggested to give efficiency to the undertaking would he at any time withhold from them ; no departure from the terms of contract would he ever countenance. It is also quite certain that not a single farthing of indirect emolument ever passed into his hands. This severe integrity sometimes caused him to be misunderstood, as was to be expected, by those with whom he had to deal ; and occasionally made him enemies for the time ; but it won him the respect of all upright men ; and his unmistakable generosity and unselfishness generally converted even his temporary adversaries into ultimate admirers and friends. He lived and died in the fear of God, having nobly done his duty in that state of life unto which it had pleased God to call him ; and those who were the most nearly related to him cherish his memory with reverent affection.


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