John Towlerton Leather
John Towlerton Leather
|Occupation||Civil engineering contractor|
John Towlerton Leather (1804–1885) was a British civil engineering contractor.
In his early career was employed by the Sheffield Waterworks company, and involved in the construction of several dams. He entered private practice in 1839, initially in partnership with Mr Waring (of Waring Brothers).
He was contracted on civil engineering works including railways, harbour walls and bridge foundation construction. In the 1860s he was a consulting engineer on the Dale Dyke Dam which collapsed causing the Great Sheffield Flood.
John Towlerton Leather was born in Beeston Park, Yorkshire on 30 August 1804. He trained under his uncle George Leather, engineer of the Aire and Calder Navigation, and of the Goole docks. In 1829 he began his own practice in Sheffield, and became engineer of the Sheffield Waterworks in 1833.
In 1839 he entered into partnership with Mr Waring (later of Waring Brothers) as contractors - they were involved in construction of parts of the Midland Railway (Chesterfield) and London and North Western Railway (Chester and Crewe). The partnership with Waring ended and Leather undertook the construction (c.1846-9) of the Tadcaster to York section of the York and North Midland Railway's York to Leeds line, the construction of which was abandoned before it was completed. Between 1847 and 1850 he carried out the Erewash Valley Line. In the mid 1850s he was contracted to carry out improvements to the River Nene, which were also abandoned. In 1849 he was awarded the contract for the construction of the breakwater at Portland Harbour.
In 1864 the Dale Dyke Dam, the construction of which he had been supervising, collapsed, causing the Great Sheffield Flood which killed over 200 people. Expert opinion at the time differed over the causes of the collapse. The jury at the inquest into the disaster stated that sufficient care had not been taken in the construction of the works.
He was employed by the War Office in the 1860s, for the construction of the sea forts at Spithead, as well as Fort Gilkicker and St Helens Fort. In 1867 he was contracted together with George Smith to construct an extension of the Portsmouth Dockyard, which was completed 1877.
Married twice, he died in Leeds on 6 June 1885.
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- Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng (1886) pp.262-263
- Minutes of the Proceedings (1886) p.435