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William Mills (1818-1891)

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William Mills (1818-1891)

1872 On the death of Mr. Cubitt he became Chief Engineer of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway

1892 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM MILLS was born at Harrow on the 16th of December, 1818, and was educated at Harrow School under Dr. Longley, his father, the Rev. Dr. Mills, being an assistant master there at the time.

It was intended that he should go to Canada to join some old friends of the family, but before doing so his father, then head master of Exeter School, sent him for a year into Kent to learn farming.

His stay in Canada was short but exciting. During the rebellion he became one of Sir Francis Head’s Volunteers, being trained for months by an old Indian officer, Colonel Johnson. With some half dozen others he effected the capture of Sount, the leader of the attack on Toronto. One morning they saw two men in a small boat, frozen in, on the waters of Lake Erie. After great labour and frequent immersions, Mills and his friends managed to push a boat over and through the broken ice, and rescued them from their perilous position. Suspicion being aroused by the conduct of the men, they were taken before a magistrate, when one of them was found to be the rebel leader Sount, for whose capture a reward had been offered by the Government.

Soon afterwards Mr. Mills returned to England, and in August 1838 became a pupil of Mr. Hemming, the contractor for the Bristol and Bridgwater section of the Bristol and Exeter Railway, then being constructed under Messrs. Brunel and Gravatt. On the expiration of his pupilage in 1842 he went to Lough Foyle where he was engaged on drainage works under Messrs. Gravatt and Hemming.

He then received an offer of employment on the Cambrian and South Shropshire Railway under Mr. Gravatt, which he accepted, as he desired to remain with that gentleman, at whose hands he had experienced great kindness and consideration. Subsequently he carried out some engineering work in Norfolk and also in Ireland, but in neither place did he remain long.

In the year 1849 Mr. Mills became connected with the surveys of the East Kent Railway, for which he prepared the plans and assisted in obtaining from Parliament in 1853 the Act of Incorporation. He was then appointed Resident Engineer on the section between Chatham and Dover, Joseph Cubitt being Consulting Engineer, and had responsible charge of the works on that line and its extensions, now known as the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. On the death of Mr. Cubitt in 1872 he became Chief Engineer, a post which he retained for the remainder of his life. He designed and carried out the works of the Holborn Viaduct Station, the Blackfriars Goods Warehouse and Widening, and many other important extensions; but of all the undertakings upon which he was engaged for the Company, Mr. Mills often spoke of the bridge over the Medway at Rochester as the most arduous, and it is supposed that his health suffered to some extent permanently from his having to spend part of each day for several months under high atmospheric pressure, in the cylinders on which the bridge was built. He became slightly deaf at that time, an infirmity which increased with advancing years.

For some time his friends had seen that he was failing; in October 1891, he took to his room, almost to his bed, and died on the 8tho f December following, in the seventy-third year of his age.

Mr. Mills was elected a Member of the Institution on the 1st of March, 1870.

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