Frederick Banister

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Frederick Banister
Born Frederick Dale Banister[1]
(1823-03-15)15 March 1823
London, England
Died 22 December 1897(1897-12-22) (aged 74)
Forest Row, East Sussex, England
Resting place Holy Trinity, Forest Row, East Sussex[2]
51°05′53″N 0°01′59″E / 51.0981°N 0.0330°E / 51.0981; 0.0330
Education Preston Grammar School
Occupation Civil engineer, architect
Years active 1838–1896
Employer London, Brighton and South Coast Railway
Known for Chief Engineer, LB&SCR
Notable work Manchester, Bury and Rossendale Railway, Cliftonville Estate, 1862 extension of London Bridge, Bluebell Railway, Oxted Line, Port of Newhaven
Predecessor Robert Jacomb-Hood
Successor C.L. Morgan
Board member of LB&SCR
Spouse(s) Nancy Eleanor Richardson (1847–1864) Her death
Annie Fisher(1866–1897) His death
Children Mary Elizabeth Banister, Herbert Banister, Katharine Mary Myres

Frederick Dale Banister MICE (15 March 1823 – 22 December 1897), was an English civil engineer, best known for his 35 years as the Chief Engineer of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR).[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in London on 15 March 1823, he was educated privately until his parents moved to Lancashire, where he completed his schooling at Preston Grammar School.[1]

Articled as an apprentice to John J. Myres of Preston when he was aged 15, he gained experience in surveying and levelling, and in the valuation of damage caused to various properties by the construction of railways.[1]

In 1844 he joined the civil engineering business of Charles Cawley, and was directly responsible for setting out the first few miles of the Manchester, Bury and Rossendale Railway (MB&RR).[3] The proposed route through the Irwell Valley was approved by the Chief Inspector of Railways Major General Sir Charles W. Pasley on 23 September 1846.[3] While undertaking the works, the MB&RR amalgamated with another proposed railway to form the East Lancashire Railway.[3] Banister was subsequently placed in charge of preparing the surveys and necessary UK Parliament submissions to extend the line, which hence became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.[1][3]

1846–1849: Move to Brighton, first period with the LB&SCR[edit]

In light of his continuing but minor health issues, he was strongly advised by his physician to move to the South Coast of England.[1] With this in mind he took a period of leave with relatives in Brighton, East Sussex in the Spring of 1846, during which he happened to obtain an appointment with Robert Jacomb-Hood, then Chief Engineer of the LB&SCR.[1][4]

Appointed as an assistant engineer to Jacomb-Hood, he was placed in charge of the construction of the branchline from New Cross to the River Thames at Deptford Wharf, where he was to also design, survey and manage the construction of a new dock system to replace the 1844 closed Deptford dockyard.[4]

1849–1859: Civil Engineer and Architect[edit]

After completing the line in 1849, Banister retired from the railway to set up his own Civil Engineering and Architecture business in Brighton. Engaged mostly in works in and around the Brighton area, his most notable piece was to lay out and begin the development of the Cliftonville Estate in modern Hove, the associated waterworks (both later sold to the LB&SCR), and building of model dwellings for the labouring classes, along the lines of models set out by the Terry family of York and the Cadbury family at Bournville, Worcestershire.

1860–1896: Chief Engineer, LB&SCR[edit]

After Samuel Laing retired as chairman of the LB&SCR at the end of 1855 to pursue a political career, Deputy-Chairman Leo Schuster replaced him, instituting a policy of rapidly expanding new routes throughout South London, Sussex, and East Surrey. Some of these routes were financed and built by the company itself, while others were built by independent local companies, set up with the intention of connecting their town to the growing railway network, and with the intention of sale or lease to the LB&SCR.[5]

On the retirement of Jacomb-Hood in 1860, Schuster appointed Banister as Chief Resident Engineer to LB&SCR. While Banister's Civil Engineering and Architecture practice had been successful, he had always kept contact with the railway, undertaking sub-contract works for them where requested. Schuster resultantly accelerated the speed of mileage increase of the LB&SCR, adding a further 177 miles (285 km) of track between 1857 and 1865.[5]

The rapid growth of the LB&SCR came to a halt in 1866 with the collapse of London bankers Overend, Gurney and Company. The subsequent UK financial crisis the following year brought the railway to the brink of bankruptcy.[5] A special meeting of shareholders was adjourned, and the powers of the board of directors were suspended pending receipt of a report into the financial affairs of the company and its prospects. The report made clear that the railway had over-extended itself with large capital projects sustained by profits from its passenger traffic, which suddenly declined as a result of the crisis. Several of the country lines were losing money, and resultantly Schuster was forced to resign in favour of new chairman Peter Northall Lawrie.[6] This led to a period of network consolidation, and engineering adjustment of the LB&SCR system by Banister to cope only with defined traffic bottlenecks. It was not until the return of Laing as chairman in 1867 and the financial upturn from the 1870s, that Banister was again requested to design and survey new railway projects.[6]

Major projects[edit]

During his 35 years in residence as Chief Engineer, Banister was responsible for identifying and then the design, surveying and construction of all the extensions and important works to be undertaken by the LB&SCR. These included:[1]

Port of Newhaven[edit]

From 1864, under instruction from the LB&SCR, Banister designed the port and transport access system for the LB&SCR owned Newhaven docks. After guiding the required approvals through parliament, Banister personally managed the works without contractors.[1][6]

The project began in 1864 with the construction of the Seaford Branch Line from the East Coastway Line at Lewes. This would allow the supply of building materials to enable construction of the port improvements at Newhaven. However, due to the financial crisis of 1867, the project was placed on indefinite hold.[6]

It was not until 1870 that Laing gave Banister the approval to undertake the improvements to the docks at Newhaven, including:[1][6]

  • The provision of additional quays
  • The construction of new sea-walls
  • New entrance piers and lighthouses
  • The building of a concrete breakwater, extending seawards for 800 yards (730 m).

The resultant works allowed access for the LB&SCR's new larger passenger steamships, and created through reclamation several new acres of land which were subsequently developed and then sub-leased to various industrial companies.[1][6] The town of Newhaven greatly expanded on the back of the works, as they allowed a large increase in both trade and subsequently population.[1][6]


After completing the widening of the Brighton Main Line from East Croydon to Coulsdon in January 1896, Banister retired from the LB&SCR again, replaced by Charles Langbridge Morgan.

Married twice, his first wife Nancy Eleanor Richardson (1823–1864), died at the age of 40 and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery.[2] His second wife was Annie Fisher. Banister had ten children, including Mary Elizabeth Banister who died the year before him in 1895; and Herbert Banister who died in 1901.[2] A third child, Katharine Mary married Thomas Myres (the son of his former master, John J. Myres) in 1871. Thomas Myres was an architect who designed many of the LBSCR's station buildings.[13]

Banister died at his home in Forest Row, East Sussex on 22 December 1897.[1] He is buried in the cemetery of Holy Trinity Church in Forest Row (plot No.194190), with the grave of his second wife in the adjacent plot.[2]

His personal copies of various architectural drawings when designing buildings for the LB&SCR are held by the Royal Institute of British Architects.[10]

Dale Road in Purley is thought to take its name after Banister. The street was laid and built up with houses destined for LB&SCR staff shortly after his death.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Frederick Dale Banister". Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Frederick Dale Banister". Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Wells, Jeffrey (1995), An Illustrated Historical Survey of the Railways in and Around Bury, Challenger Publications, ISBN 1-899624-29-5 
  4. ^ a b Turner, John Howard (1977). The London Brighton and South Coast Railway 1 Origins and Formation. Batsford. ISBN 071340275X. 
  5. ^ a b c d Turner, John Howard (1978). The London Brighton and South Coast Railway 2 Establishment and Growth. Batsford. ISBN 0713411988. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Turner, John Howard (1979). The London Brighton and South Coast Railway 3 Completion and Maturity. Batsford. ISBN 0713413891. 
  7. ^ Heap, Christine and van Riemsdijk, John (1980). The Pre-Grouping Railways part 2. H.M.S.O. for the Science Museum. ISBN 0-11-290309-6.  p.78.
  8. ^ Oppitz, Leslie (2003). Lost Railways of Kent. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-85306-803-4. 
  9. ^ A. C. Elliott. The Cuckoo Line. Wild Swan Publications Ltd. pp. 33, 139. ISBN 0-906867-63-0. 
  10. ^ a b "Major accessions to repositories in 2005 relating to Architecture". The National Archives. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Surtees, Dr John (2002), Eastbourne, A History, Chichester: Phillimore, ISBN 1-86077-226-9 
  12. ^ Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith (1985). Brighton to Eastbourne. Middleton Press. ISBN 0-906520-16-9. 
  13. ^ Green, Alan H. J. (July 2013). "The railway buildings of T. H. Myres". Newsletter of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society (159): 12.