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British Industrial History

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Thomas Fletcher Chappe De Leonval

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Thomas Fletcher Chappe De Leonval (1824-1895)

1895 Obituary [1]

THOMAS FLETCHER CHAPPE DE LEONVAL was born on the 3rd of December, 1824, at Hulme, near Manchester. At four years of age he had the misfortune to fall into a caldron of boiling water, from the effects of which he did not entirely recover until he was ten.

He was educated at private schools in Southport, Tutbury, Worksop and Paris.

Mr. Chappb’s career as an engineer began in July, 1840, when he was articled for seven years to Sir William Fairbairn. During that time he assisted Mr. Eaton Hodgkinson in carrying out the well-known researches as to the crushing strains of metals and other materials, and in the experiments undertaken to ascertain the best shape of tube for the Britannia Bridge.

He also superintended the erection of a corn-mill for Messrs. Poynton at Oddshod in Cheshire.

In 1846 Mr. Chappe’s indentures were cancelled by Sir William Fairbairn in order that he might accept an appointment as an assistant engineer on the Midland Railway, in the service of which company he remained eleven years. During that time he acted as resident, under Mr. W. H. Barlow, on the construction of the branch to the docks at Gloucester, of the Birmingham extension, and of the Stonehouse and Gloucester line. The last was a work of some difficulty, as the traffic of the Great Western and Midland Railways had to be carried on while several bridges were rebuilt with elliptical cast-iron arches. One of these was an arch of 83 feet span at Standish, 6 miles from Gloucester, the erection of which was described by Mr. Chappe in a Paper entitled 'Account of Experiments upon Elliptical Cast-Iron Arches,' read before the Institution in 1859.

In the autumn of 1857 Mr. Chappe entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. Thomas Cross, in a cotton-spinning business carried on at the Waterloo Mills in Bolton. During the fourteen years of this partnership the number of spindles was increased from 24,000 to 40,000. Mr. Chappe then retired from business and settled in London, where he spent the remainder of his life.

He died on the 14th of January, 1895, from heart disease aggravated by bronchitis.

He was elected a Member on the 3rd of February, 1857.

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