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British Industrial History

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John Somerville (1832-1892)

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John Somerville (1832-1892)

1893 Obituary [1]

JOHN SOMERVILLE, born in Scotland in 1832, was first employed in a subordinate capacity at the Wolverhampton Gasworks.

He then proceeded to London and entered the service of the Commercial Gas Co.

From 1859 to 1869 he acted as Engineer and Manager to the Maidstone Gas Co, during which time he reconstructed and rebuilt the works, erecting a gas-holder and tank and adding new apparatus and machinery.

He also designed and constructed gasworks at East Peckham and Sittingbourne in Kent and chemical works at Marston in the same county.

In January, 1869, Mr. Somerville was appointed Engineer to the Dublin Gas Co, which office he held until 1874. For the next four years he was engaged in the management of gasworks at Newbridge, Mullingar, Roscrae, Thurles and Kilkenny.

In 1878 he left Ireland and was for a few months employed at Rotherhithe by the Surrey Consumers Gas Co, which, in the following year, was amalgamated with the South Metropolitan Gas Co. He joined the united companies, and when the Phoenix Gas Co was also incorporated he took charge of the works at Bankside, Southwark. In addition to the duties of this post he devoted a considerable amount of time and ability to assisting George Livesey, then Chief Engineer to the South Metropolitan Gas Company, in the preparation of various drawings for the first of the series of large gas-holders erected at the Old Kent Road Works. He held the post of Manager at Bankside until his death, which took place after a few hours’ illness on the 15th of December, 1892.

Mr. Somerville was the inventor of several clever contrivances for improving the details of gas manufacture and was also one of the first to introduce a stoking machine, while in charge of the Dublin Works. He was a great advocate of generating and regenerating furnaces, which he was the means of introducing into several works on the Continent and in America. In disposition he was kind and straightforward, alike to his employers and to those working under him.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 13th of January, 1874.

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