|Born||9 April 1811|
|Died||2 June 1891 (aged 80)|
|Institutions||Institution of Civil Engineers (president)|
|Projects||London Circle Line|
|Significant design||Suez Canal (inquiry)|
Sir John Hawkshaw FRS FRSE FRSA MICE (9 April 1811 – 2 June 1891), was an English civil engineer. He served as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers 1862-63. His most noteworthy work is the Severn Tunnel.
He was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, the son of Henry Hawkshaw, and was educated at Leeds Grammar School. Before he was 21 he had been engaged for six or seven years in railway engineering and the construction of roads in his native county, and in the year of his majority he obtained an appointment as engineer to the Bolivar Mining Association in Venezuela. But the climate there was more than his health could stand, and in 1834 he was obliged to return to England.
He soon obtained employment under Jesse Hartley at the Liverpool docks, and subsequently was made engineer in charge of the railway and navigation works of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Company. In 1845 he became chief engineer to the Manchester and Leeds Railway, and in 1847 to its successor, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway for which he constructed a large number of branch lines. One such was the Manchester and Southport line surveyed by his associate Clement Wilks and as well as the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway near Heckmondwike. In 1850 he moved to London and began to practice as a consulting engineer, at first alone, but subsequently in partnership with Harrison Hayter. In that capacity his work was of an extremely varied nature, embracing almost every branch of engineering.
He retained his connection with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Company until his retirement from professional work in 1888, and was consulted on all the important engineering points that affected it in that long period. In London he was responsible for the Charing Cross and Cannon Street railways, together with the two bridges which carried them over the Thames; he was engineer of the East London railway, which passes under the Thames through Sir Marc Brunel's well-known tunnel; and jointly with Sir J Wolfe-Barry he constructed the section of the Underground railway which completed the inner circle between the Aldgate and Mansion House stations.
In addition, many railway works claimed his attention in all parts of the world—Germany, Russia, India, Mauritius, etc. One noteworthy point in his railway practice was his advocacy, in opposition to Robert Stephenson, of steeper gradients than had previously been thought desirable or possible, and so far back as 1838 he expressed decided disapproval of the maintenance of the broad gauge on the Great Western, because of the troubles he foresaw it would lead to in connection with future railway extension, and because he objected in general to breaks of gauge in the lines of a country.
The construction of canals was another branch of engineering in which John Hawkshaw was actively engaged. In 1862 he became a chief engineer of the Dutch North Sea Canal ship-canal. He may fairly be said to have been the saviour of the Suez Canal. About that time the scheme was in very bad odour, and the khedive determined to get the opinion of an English engineer as to its practicability, having made up his mind to stop the works if that opinion was unfavourable. Hawkshaw was chosen to make the inquiry, and it was because his report was entirely favourable that Ferdinand de Lesseps was able to say at the opening ceremony that to him he owed the canal.
As a member of the International Congress which considered the construction of an inter-ocean canal across Central America, he thought best of the Nicaragua route, and privately he regarded the Panama scheme as impracticable at a reasonable cost, although publicly he expressed no opinion on the matter and left the Congress without voting. Sir John Hawkshaw also had a wide experience in constructing harbours (e.g. Holyhead) and docks (e.g. Penarth, the Albert Dock at Hull, and South Dock (formerly the City Canal) of the West India Docks in London), in river-engineering, in drainage and sewerage, in water-supply, etc.
He was engineer, with Sir James Brunlees, of the original Channel Tunnel Company from 1872, but many years previously he had investigated for himself the question of a tunnel under the Strait of Dover from an engineering point of view, and had come to a belief in its feasibility, so far as that could be determined from borings and surveys. Subsequently, however, he became convinced that the tunnel would not be to the advantage of Great Britain, and thereafter would have nothing to do with the project. He was also consulting engineer to the Severn Tunnel, which, from its magnitude and the difficulties encountered in its construction, was one of the most notable engineering undertakings of the 19th century. Following the inundation of the tunnel working in 1879, he employed Thomas A. Walker as lead contractor to complete the work.
He is also known for his construction of the Brighton sewerage system.
In 1835 he married Ann Jackson (d.1885). Ann and John had six children: Mary Jane Jackson (1838), Ada (1840), John Clarke (1841), Henry Paul (1843), Editha (1845), and Oliver (1846). Ada died of hydrocephalus in 1845. Oliver died in 1856 having contracted typhoid fever whilst the family were holidaying in Pitlochry, Scotland. His son, John Clarke was also a civil engineer.
He died in London on 2 June 1891.
Honours and awards
He was knighted in 1873.
He was elected an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1880.
- Beaumont, Martin (2015). Sir John Hawkshaw 1811-1891. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society www.lyrs.org.uk. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-9559467-7-6.
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- "Amsterdamsche Kanaal-Maatschappij". Algemeen Handelsblad. 21 November 1864.
- "Severn Tunnel (1)". Track Topics, A GWR Book of Railway Engineering. Great Western Railway. 1971 . p. 181. ISBN 0-85059-080-9.
- "The History of the Brighton Sewage System". 29 November 2016.
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- Watson, Garth (1988). The Civils. Thomas Telford. p. 251. ISBN 0-7277-0392-7.
- Beaumont, Martin (2015). Sir John Hawkshaw 1811-1891. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society www.lyrs.org.uk. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-9559467-7-6.
- JDW, http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/pubs/the-sir-john-hawkshaw
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