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British Industrial History

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William Atkinson

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William Atkinson (1825-1907), Civil Engineer

1871 Living at Edward House, The Avenue, Beckenham, Kent: William Atkinson (age 45 born Manchester) Civil Engineer. With his four sons; Herbert Deerman Atkinson (age 8 born Builth, Brecknockshire); Llewelyn Birchall Atkinson (age 7 born Builth, Brecknockshire); Claude William Atkinson (age 5 born Beckenham, Kent); and Harold Waring Atkinson (age 2 born Beckenham, Kent). Four servants.[1]

1908 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM ATKINSON was born at Manchester in 1825.

He was educated at schools of the Society of Friends at Bristol and Falmouth, and gained his practical experience at the Avonside Ironworks. During this period he made himself proficient in mathematics, and later he acquired several modern languages. I

n 1846 he commenced practical work on the engineering staff of the East Lancashire Railway, the cast-iron bridge which crosses the railway at Bury being designed by him at this time.

Subsequently he was engaged on the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway works, including the Standedge tunnels between Saddleworth and Huddersfield.

In 1852 he was appointed one of the resident engineers on the Isabel II Railway in the north of Spain, the section of which he was in charge crossing a mountain summit at a height of 3,000 feet.

Soon after the completion of the Spanish line, he superintended the construction of 38 miles of the Mid-Wales Railway, from Llanidloes to Brecon. This was finished in 1864, but before its completion, Mr. Atkinson had left for Italy to lay out a difficult section of the Royal Sardinian Railway.

In 1865 Mr. Atkinson took offices in Westminster and engaged in consulting practice. In 1868 he undertook a mission to Canada in connection with the projected Inter-Colonial Railway in Nova Scotia ; and later he visited Spain to inspect and report on railway and irrigation works, and on certain coal-mines. He also acted for some time as Engineer to the Central Bahia Railway of Brazil.

For a considerable period he was architect and engineer to Messrs. Huntley and Palmer, designing numerous additions to their factory, and he only ceased acting for them on his retirement from professional work.

His keen interest in the development of engineering science never failed, and he did not hesitate, when nearly 60 years of age, to join evening classes in electrical engineering under Professor Ayrton.

In Beckenham, Kent, where he lived, he took at one time an active part in local affairs, both in the inauguration of a scheme of main drainage and in the initiation of public elementary education under the School Board. He also acted as overseer, and assisted in carrying out an entire revision of the valuation of this large parish. He was actively interested in the temperance movement, and there was scarcely a society or institution in the neighbourhood, of which he was not an officer or member.

He gave up professional work in 1890, and for some years subsequently travelled abroad for part of each year, latterly living quietly at home in the contented pursuit of gardening and photography.

He died after a few days’ illness on the 7th April, 1907, in his eighty-second year.

Mr. Atkinson was elected a Member of The Institution on the 5th April, 1859.

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