George Henry Phipps (1840-1884)
George Henry Phipps (1840-1884)
1840 Born the son of George Henry Phipps (1807-1888)
1884 Obituary 
GEORGE HENRY PHIPPS, jun., who was born at Brixton on the 23rd of May, 1840, was the only son of George Henry Phipps, M. Inst. C.E.
His early education was pursued at the Stockwell Grammar School, which was in connection with King's College, London. There he gained a scholarship, which led to his removal to the College, where he remained for two years, passing very creditably through the regular curriculum of a scientific education suited for the profession of a civil engineer.
After this, in accordance with the advice of his father's friend, Mr. Robert Stephenson, Past-President Inst. C.%., he served three years as an apprentice to the firm of Messrs. Robert Stephenson & Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It may be observed that the course to be gone through in such an apprenticeship involves some hardships. The latter portion of his time, however, was occupied in the drawing office. The advantages of the discipline of the workshop consist in the apprentice becoming acquainted with the nature of the materials used, and the construction of the machinery, only attainable by having the work pass through his own hands.
Having passed through the above course in all respects satisfactorily, at the end of his apprenticeship he became a pupil of the late Mr. J. F. Tone, M. Inst. C.E., for more than a year, after which, for nearly two and a half years, he was employed by Mr. T. E. Harrison, Past-President Inst. C.E., on the works of the North Eastern Railway.
Subsequently he was employed by the Consett Iron Company, for about a year and a half, in the construction of railways and buildings ; and then, for about a year, by Mr. George Berkley, M. Inst. C.E., in designing ironwork, &c.
From April 1870 to April 1871 he was employed by the Messrs. Waring Brothers on the East Hungarian Railway, under vicissitudes of climate (floods, and extremes of heat and cold), and physical difficulties of no ordinary character.
From May 1871 to August 1873, he acted as Maintenance-Engineer on the Recife and San Francisco Railway at Pernambuco, in Brazil, making also a survey for an extensive new line of railway.
In October 1874 he was one of a party of engineers appointed by the Government of the Cape of Good Hope, under the recommendation of Mr. (now Sir) Charles Hutton Gregory, Past-President Inst. C.E., the Engineer-in-Chief. The appointments were for the purpose of the construction of a comprehensive system of railways at the Cape, there being at that time only a line of about 70 miles in length at Cape Town. Arrived at the Cape, it was arranged that Mr. Phipps should be connected with the eastern portion of the lines, and thus he went to Port Elizabeth, and was then occupied with trial surveys on the Graaf Reinet line, and also on the Grahamstown line, a branch line laid out from Grahamstown to a junction with the Cradock railway, immediately after crossing the Bushman river at Bushman’s Poort. These trial-surveys, and the subsequent staking out of the lines, generally involved very arduous work, from the party having to pass through thick “bush,” in one case of 20 miles continuous length. On the Grahamstown branch the staking out was very troublesome, as, owing to the rocky nature of the soil, the stakes could not be driven, and holes had to be formed by means of steel jumpers. The surveys and staking out having been completed, the construction of the line was commenced, Mr. Phipps having charge of the lower portion of the Grahamstown branch.
Great difficulties were experienced in the construction of the bridge at Bushman’s Poort, owing to the floods in that country, which come down very suddenly, and in large volume. A temporary bridge had to be constructed strong enough for the locomotives and wagons to pass over for the conveyance of materials. The temperature also, sometimes 120’ in the shade, made the work very trying. It is admitted that the works of masonry, &C., on the branch line were well and solidly constructed, and this under difficulties from the drunkenness and insubordination of the workmen and labourers employed (some native, but many from England), such as are fortunately unknown in England, and, it may be added, not without danger to the lives of those who, like Mr. Phipps, always insisted on proper work being done.
His next employment was upon the upper portion of the Cradock line, where, after more trial-surveys, a portion of the line was started under his own charge, without a contractor, and a tunnel was commenced. The line was afterwards contracted for by Messrs. Faviell.
After this Mr. Phipps went to Port Elizabeth to take charge of the work of another engineer sent to make some surveys. There he remained up to July 1882, having to construct various buildings, with charge of the maintenance of the lines of railway, &c. At that date he was promoted to a superior position in connection with the extension of the main lines from Cape Town to Kimberley, then completed to Beaufort West.
The surveys up to August 1882, in the hands of Mr. E. W. Young, M. Inst. C.E., were then carried on across the arid district known as the Iiaroo for 150 miles in length, under the directions of Mr. Phipps. The surveys having been completed, various bridges and other works were commenced on this line, one of these being a bridge over the Modder River, situated some 50 miles from the Orange River, north-east of Hopetown. It consisted of eight spans of 80 feet each, with masonry piers of from 35 to 40 feet above the rocky bed of the river. The bridge was considerably advanced on the 16th of February, 1884, and was to be completed with an iron superstructure.
Mr. Phipps had just returned from a journey of inspection over the works on the 1st of March, when he was attacked with typhoid fever which terminated his busy career. He died at Rustenberg House, Rondebosch, near Cape Town, on the 10th of April, 1884.
Thus terminated, after twenty-four years’ work from the date of his apprenticeship to Messrs. Stephenson, the life of the subject of the present memoir, to the keen sorrow of his family, who were counting upon his early return from the Cape, where he had been employed for nearly ten years without a break.
Mr. Phipps was a hard worker, possessed great perseverance and administrative power, and gained the respect and esteem of all with whom he was connected, both professionally and privately. Mr. Phipps was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 4th of December, 1883.