John Jackson (engineer)

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"Docks and Harbours". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1909.

Sir John Jackson CVO FRSE LLD (4 February 1851 – 14 December 1919) was an eminent British engineer who in later life served as Unionist Member of Parliament for Devonport, from 1910–18, retiring from politics when his constituency was merged into another.[1] He was proprietor of the major British engineering firm of John Jackson Ltd asnd the shipping company Westminster Shipping Co Ltd.


Born at 15 Coney Street in York,[2] the youngest son of Edward Jackson (1789-1859), a goldsmith. His father was very elderly when he was born (62) and died when he was only eight, leaving him to be raised by his mother, Elizabeth daughter of David Ruddock of Horbury.[3] He was educated at Holgate Seminary.

He was apprenticed to William Boyd, engineer in Newcastle from 1866 to 1868 before studying engineering at Edinburgh University under Peter Guthrie Tait. On Tait's death in 1901, Jackson endowed a research fund named after him. On graduation from Edinburgh he returned to Newcastle to work with his brother, William Edwin Jackson, a building contractor. His first major contract was Stobcross Docks in 1876.[4]

His greatest engineering work in Britain from 1896-1907 was the extension of the Keyham Yard at Devonport Royal Dockyard at a cost of neary £4 million. During this period Jackson was a member of The Plymouth Institution (now The Plymouth Athenaeum) from 1897-1899.[5]

In 1894 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his services to engineering. His proposers were Sir John Murray, Peter Guthrie Tait, Alexander Crum Brown, and Alexander Buchan.[6]

His main work 1894/1895 was the Manchester Ship Canal and it was for this work which he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1895. His company was then renamed from John Jackson Ltd to Sir John Jackson Ltd.

In later life he moved to 48 Belgrave Square in London and also bought a major country estate at Henley Park at Henley-on-Thames.

He first stood for office as the Conservative candidate in the 1904 Devonport by-election, losing to Liberal candidate John Benn. He stood for the seat again in the 1906 general election and lost again. He was finally victorious in the January 1910 general election, winning the seat again in the December 1910 general election and standing down at the 1918 general election.

In 1909 he built a railway from Arica in Chile to La Paz in Bolivia crossing the Andes en route.

One of his latter day major projects were: the dockyard at Simon's Town in South Africa in 1910; rebuilding Singapore Harbour; a major breakwater at Victoria, British Columbia; naval docks at Ferrol in Spain; a port at As-Salif; and the naval arsenal at Pula (Pola).

He died of a heart attack whilst visiting his mistress, Mrs Mabel Lydia Henderson at Hascombe Grange in Hambledon on 14 December 1919. He is buried in Norwood Cemetery.


Lady Jackson (John Lavery, 1919)

In 1876 Jackson married Ellen Julia Myers, daughter of George Myers of Lambeth. They had three sons and six daughters but only five daughters survived.[7]


  1. ^ "Historic People". Plymouth Athenaeum. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Sir John Jackson
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Historic People". Plymouth Athenaeum. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  6. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Sir John Jackson

Further reading[edit]

  • Spencer-Silver, Patricia (2006), Tower Bridge to Babylon, The Life and Work of Sir John Jackson, Sudbury, Suffolk, UK: Six Martlets, ISBN 0-9544856-1-0  [1]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Williams Benn
Hudson Kearley
Member of Parliament for Devonport
January 19101918
With: Clement Kinloch-Cooke
Succeeded by
Clement Kinloch-Cooke