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Henry Robert Woolbert

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Henry Robert Woolbert (1822-1875)

1875 Obituary [1]

MR. HENRY ROBERT WOOLBERT, the only son of the late Mr. John Henry Woolbert, was born in London on the 24th of May, 1822, and commenced his professional career as a student in the engineering department of the Military School of Brussels, where he remained for four years.

Leaving in 1844, he was appointed to the partial supervision of works on the Norfolk and on the Southampton and Dorchester railways, under Mr., now Sir Morton Peto, Bart., Assoc. Inst. C.E. The latter engagement brought him in contact with the London and South-Western, of which system the Southampton and Dorchester forms part, and resulted in his entering the service of the South-Western Company as an Assistant Engineer.

Mr. Woolbert was thus engaged from 1849 to 1853, when he returned to Sir Morton Peto as Sub-manager of the extensive operations being carried out at King’s Lynn for the Norfolk Estuary Company, under Mr. Fowler, Past-President Inst. C.E.

On the suspension of these works in 1856, he was employed by Messrs. Brassey, Peto and Betts, in negotiations, surveys, estimates, supervision, &c., in connection with railways and other works in Germany, Italy, France, Algeria, and Russia. In these capacities he led an active life for seven years, and made many friends, among them Baron Erlanger, the well-known French financier.

Mr. Woolbert’s extended experience of foreign works made him a valuable assistant to engineers having undertakings on the Continent, and in 1863 his services, as chief Resident Engineer, were obtained for the preliminary surveys of the Royal Sardinian railway, extending over 240 miles of difficult country.

These studies were completed and the works begun under Mr. Woolbert’s supervision in 1866, after which he became chief assistant to Mr. Piercy, M. Inst. C.E., and in that position inspected and reported upon all his foreign works in progress, including the Vendee railway and the Roman waterworks.

In 1870 and 1871 Mr. Woolbert prepared the plans for the projected supply of water to the city of Naples, which were approved by the Giunta of the municipality.

In 1871 he accompanied Mr. Betts, Assoc. Inst., C.E., to Egypt, to assist in maturing a scheme for the construction of irrigation canals in that country; but the death of the latter in January 1872 caused the project to be abandoned, and Mr. Woolbert returned to England.

In 1873 he made a journey to Spain in connection with the plans for the Saragossa waterworks; but his last professional engagement was that of Joint Engineer with Mr. W. H. Thomas, M. Inst. C.E., of the Cornwall Mineral railways, constructed by Sir Morton Peto.

Mr. Woolbert’s health had been gradually failing since September 1873. In 1874 he suffered a slight stroke of paralysis. This confined him almost constantly to his bed, and was followed by asphyxia, which resulted in death on the 17th of September, 1875, at the age of fifty-four.

Mr. Woolbert’s chief characteristics were a love of travel and a distaste for an inactive life. He was a good linguist and no mean musician; he also, in early life, attained considerable proficiency as an artist, but cultivated these accomplishments only as ameans of recreation.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 3rd of December, 1872.

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