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British Industrial History

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James Danford Baldry

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James Danford Baldry (1816-1900)

1817 Baptised in London, son of Leonard Baldry, innkeeper, and his wife Mary[1]

1901 Obituary [2]

JAMES DANFORD BALDRY was born in London in 1816.

At the age of 17 he went to sea as a midshipman on one of the clipper ships engaged in the China trade, and made several voyages between China and England during the years 1833-36.

Leaving the sea, he became an articled pupil and afterwards an assistant to Mr. Edward Lomax, engineer, of Waterworks Chambers, London.

In July, 1847, he passed from that gentleman’s office to that of Messrs. Evans and Brydone, and thence to the service of Mr. Joseph Cubitt.

He was next engaged from 1848 to 1852 as an Assistant Engineer the construction and maintenance of the East Lincolnshire line.

In 1852 he made the parliamentary surveys for the water supply of Spalding for Mr. Thomas Hawksley, Past-President, and in the following year he joined the staff of Sir John Fowler, Past-President (then Mr. Fowler), engaged on the construction of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway.

On the completion of that line, in 1855, he came to London as Confidential Assistant to Sir John Fowler, and filled that position for twenty-six years, during which time he had charge of many engineering works of magnitude, including the Severn Valley Railway, Much Wenlock and Craven Arms Railway, the Coalbrookdale line and the Isle of Wight Railway.

He was also intimately associated with Sir John Fowler in the promotion and execution of most of the large undertakings with which that engineer was connected, including the development of railways and public works in New South Wales; and in 1881 he was admitted to partnership with Sir John Fowler, jointly with Sir Benjamin Baker, Past-President.

The charge of a business so extensive as that carried on by Sir John Fowler involved constant supervision of a large amount of work, both technical and financial, the preparation of evidence to be given before committees, and in fact the task of relieving his chief in every possible way of the worry and loss of time which would have been caused by personal attention to the multitudinous details of a great engineering office. These duties Mr. Baldry discharged faithfully and well, gaining by his high-minded, upright character, and his kind and genial manner the respect and regard of all with whom he came in contact. He had no personal ambition, but was content to give his best and to work loyally for the success of his chief and of the firm of which he remained a partner for seven years.

In 1888 a severe illness rendered it necessary for him to live out of England during the winter, and some extracts from a letter written to him on his retirement by Sir John Fowler may well be reproduced here:-

November 8th, 1888.

MY DEAR BALDRY,- I wished to say a few words of good-bye and good wishes to you last night in your own office before our final business separation, but I saw it was too much for you to bear, and I must now ask you to let me write the words which your emotion did not permit you to hear.

It is, I am sure, permitted to a very limited number of men to have had the intimate and confidential business relations which have for thirty-six years subsisted between you and me, and for both of us to be able to say at the end of the time that not one cool look or one unpleasant word has ever been known during the long intercourse.

I can speak for all the staff in the office, and indeed for all Westminster, and the numerous persons who come to Queen Square Place, when I say that no man ever left the scene of a long and honourable career with more unanimous wishes for future happiness than you carry away with you.

I could write many pages, and then I should not tell you all I think and feel: but you will know our regard and affection for you, and how sincerely we wish you health, happiness, and every good wish in your future years.

Believe me, my dear Baldry,
Yours very truly,

Mr. Baldry died at Hyeres, where he had been in the habit of spending the winter since his retirement, on the 10th February, 1900, in his 84th year.

His connection with the Institution dated from the 5th December, 1865, when he was elected a Member. As Auditor, and in other honorary capacities, he rendered on several occasions useful service to the Institution; and on his tendering his resignation in 1890 the Council invited him to remain on the roll as a Life Member, an honour which he accepted with gratification.

1900 Obituary [3]

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