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George Ambrose Wallis

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George Ambrose Wallis (1840-1895)

1896 Obituary [1]

GEORGE AMBROSE WALLIS, born on the 25th November, 1840, was the eldest son of Mr. A. G. Wallis, of Walham Green, London.

At sixteen years of age he entered the service of Messrs. John Aird and Sons, the contractors, by whom his father was employed. After being engaged on alterations and additions to the Ipswich Waterworks and on the construction of the South Staffordshire Waterworks, by which an extensive district is supplied from Lichfield, he was personally recommended by Mr. John Aird to the late J. R. McClean for the post of Resident Engineer on the Eastbourne Waterworks.

Eastbourne in 1860, when Mr. Wallis first became connected with it, was a quiet, unpretentious little town of some 5,000 inhabitants. As agent to the Compton Place Estate of the Cavendish family, he took a prominent part in planning and directing the extensive improvements - carried out, at a great cost, on the initiative of the late Duke of Devonshire - which have done so much to render the town a watering-place of first-class reputation. The land now forming the Devonshire Park was at one time an allotment garden below high-water mark; Mr. Wallis, quick to perceive that it might be turned to good account, had it levelled, laid out and planted, transforming it into a pleasant and sheltered resort.

He designed the Devonshire Baths, which are below the sea-level and can be filled or emptied by the same pipe, according as the tide is high or low. The extension of the parade from the Wish Tower to Holywell, involving the construction of a sea-wall, and the Duke’s Drive, a fine carriage way with an even gradient to Beachy Head, were also carried out by Mr. Wallis; and a few years ago he extended the sea-wall and promenade from the Royal Parade to the east of the Redoubt. Many of the principal streets in the town were laid out and the houses built by the firm he established.

Three years after he had settled in Eastbourne, Mr. Wallis was appointed - in 1863 - surveyor to the Local Board, which post he held till 1866. During that period the system of drainage, designed by Messrs. McClean and Stileman, was commenced, the cost of the works being borne by the late Duke of Devonshire.

In 1870 Mr. Wallis became Engineer to the Eastbourne Waterworks Company, for which he designed and constructed reservoirs, wells, an engine-house and mains, at a cost of 5540,000. Alive to the importance of securing for the villages around Eastbourne a clean bill of health, he extended the Company’s mains to Willingdon and Polegate in one direction and to Norway Bridge in the other. He also carried out during recent years other large extensions rendered necessary by the growing requirements of the town, and he continued to hold the appointment of Engineer and General Manager until his death.

On the incorporation of the borough in 1883, Mr. Wallis was elected first mayor, an office which he served for two years with great credit. As a mark of public appreciation his portrait was presented to the borough and was hung in the Town Hall. In 1885 he unsuccessfully contested Eastbourne in the Liberal interest against Admiral Field. About this time he was called upon by the Servian Government to report on the drainage of Belgrade, for which he was decorated with the order of Takovo.

He was a promoter of the Newhaven Portland Cement Company, and was connected with many other enterprises. He was on the Commission of the Peace for the County of Sussex, but rarely sat on the Borough Bench.

For some years Mr. Wallis had not enjoyed robust health, but his active temperament prevented him from seeking relief from the cares which is many responsibilities entailed and he remained at work until the last. A chill, caught early in December, 1895, told severely on his undermined constitution; and he expired on the 20th of that month at the comparatively early age oft fifty-five. Of Mr. Wallis' work as an engineer and the part he took in the improvement of Eastbourne, with which his career was identified, much has been said. He was well known, however, beyond Eastbourne, and his services as a consulting engineer were frequently in request.

It remains only to record that in character he was kind, generous and considerate, and that, while he was possessed of a determined will, he knew how to secure the carrying out of his wishes without wounding the susceptibilities of others. In Eastbourne he was much esteemed and respected, and his death is a great loss to the town with which he was so long and so intimately connected.

Mr. Wallis was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 5th December, 1865, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 8th May, 1877.

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