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British Industrial History

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James Eldridge

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James Eldridge (1814-1884)

1884 Obituary [1]

JAMES ELDRIDGE was born at Seddlescombe, Sussex, in 1814, and was educated at the Westminster Training College as a schoolmaster.

He was appointed to a school at Kewent in Gloucestershire about 1837, and remained there till 1852. Here he did a considerable amount of land surveying, chiefly in connection with agricultural matters, but occasionally on railway surveys ; he was also engaged on the gasworks at Newent.

In 1853 he was employed by Mr. R. P. Spice, M. Inst. C.E., upon extensions being carried out at the Richmond, Wandsworth, Kingston-upon-Thames, Watford, Hoddesdon, and other gasworks; and in the following year took sole charge of the Richmond Works for Mr. Spice, who was then lessee of them.

In 1864, the lease having expired, the directors appointed Mr. Eldridge their Engineer and Manager, and there he remained till his death on the 31st of May, 1884. During his connection with the Richmond Gas Company, he twice remodelled and rebuilt the works to meet the increasing requirements of the town.

Always desirous of introducing any improvements in the manufacture or purification of gas, he was the first to adopt exclusively the use of West’s stoking apparatus ; and his own adaptations of Coffey’s Still as a washer attracted a good deal of notice among gas-engineers.

He was one of the promoters of the Southern District Association of Gas-Engineers and Managers. The preliminary meeting was held at his house, and he was President during the first year. He was also one of the oldest members of the Gas Institute, and took an active part in the management in its earliest days.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 7th of March, 1871, subsequently being transferred to the Associate Member class, and was also a Member of the Society of Engineers, of the Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. One of the Richmond papers thus refers to Mr. Eldridge’s death:

“It is not often that the local Press has to record the death of one so generally respected as Mr. Eldridge, the well-known Engineer to the Richmond Gas Company. Owing to an amiable modesty, his merits were not so well known as they deserved to be; but no higher praise could be bestowed on his Christian worth than the kindly remark of one who knew him intimately (in, as well as out of business), that he was even a better man than he seemed to be. His influence over the not always very promising labour element with which he was associated, was distinguished by so gentle and persuasive a firmness that he won the goodwill and respect of many who would have resisted severity, and who can well bear loving testimony to the practical value of his kind and wise words in reforming their characters and saving their pockets. There are those who think sermons may only be effectual through licensed pulpits and State-regulated channels, forgetting that the lives of good men, such as James Eldridge, may be a daily sermon prompted and sanctified by the Great Teacher Himself.”

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