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George Furness

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George Furness (1820-1900), contractor who built the Victoria Embankment and mush else

1900 Obituary [1]

GEORGE FURNESS was born on the 31st October, 1820, at Great Longstone, Derbyshire. At an early age he was apprenticed to a cutlery firm at Sheffield.

Completing the apprenticeship in 1840 he left, and made his first venture in railway construction on the Thirsk branch of the North Eastern Railway, the Engineer being the late Thomas Elliot Harrison, Past-President.

Subsequently Mr. Furness was engaged for four years on the construction of the line between Paris and Rouen under the late Thomas Brassey.

He then returned to England and was employed on the Oxford and Banbury line, for which Mr. I. K. Brunel was Engineer.

In 1849, on the completion of the Oxford and Banbury line, Mr. Furness undertook his first contract in London, the construction of the approaches to London Bridge Station, on which he was engaged for three years.

In 1853-54 followed the building of the reservoirs and other works at the Crystal Palace under the direction of the late Sir Joseph Paxton, and the construction of the Caterham Railway. This line Mr. Furness worked for two years after its completion, and finally sold it to tho South Eastern Railway Company.

In 1865 two large contracts were entered into, the first being for the Recife, Sao Francisco and Pernambuco Railway, 78 miles in length, which took five years to construct. The engineering difficulties of this work were augmented by the unhealthy climate of the country through which the line was carried.

The second contract, that for the Staines, Wokingham, Reading and Reigate line, the Engineer for which was the late Sir John Hawkshaw, Past-President, was completed in 1857.

In the previous year Mr. Furness had constructed the Abingdon line, and commenced the Redditch line for the Midland Railway Company.

In 1858 the West Somerset line, for which Mr. Brunel was Engineer, was undertaken.

The year 1862, in which Mr. Furness undertook three large and interesting contracts, marked the beginning of a period of great activity. The first was for the Northern Outfall Sewer and Reservoirs of the Metropolitan Main Drainage, for which the Engineer was the late Sir Joseph Bazalgette, Past-President. The second was the drainage and paving of the City of Odessa, which contract was entered into with a committee appointed by the Czar, and was to make good in many instances the damage caused during the bombardment in the Crimean War. The third contract was with the Italian Government for dredging the harbour of Spezia, on the completion of which Mr. Furness was decorated by King Victor Emanuel with the Order of the Crown of Italy (3rd class).

In 1864 he undertook the contract for the construction of the Victoria Embankment between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges, and in 1868 that for dredging the Harbour of Leghorn, blasting rock banks, and the removal of an old breakwater for the Italian Government. This work lasted for a period of fourteen years. He also carried out for the Italian Government the work of dredging and removing rock banks in the Harbour of Ancona.

Mr. Furness undertook his last railway contract in 1879, the Hundred of Hoo line, a branch of the South Eastern Railway to Port Victoria.

In 1882 the Palermo dredging and rock removal contract was entered into with the Italian Government ; the work occupied thirteen years, and was the last contract Mr. Furness undertook. It was on this work that he designed special plant for the drilling machinery and for the floats.

On retiring from the business of a contractor, Mr. Furness devoted his latter years to looking after and developing his property in and around Willesden, where he was well known and highly respected. He was the first Chairman of the Willesden Local Board, served as a member of the first Middlesex County Council, and was for many years a member of the Hendon Board of Guardians. Although in failing health for some months he attended to business until the end, and was in his office at Willesden as recently as the Tuesday before his. death, which took place on the 9th January, 1900.

Mr. Furness was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 2nd February, 1864.

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