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British Industrial History

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William Poulter Roberts

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William Poulter Roberts (c1873-1937)

1937 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM POULTER ROBERTS, C.I.E., had a wide experience of irrigation work in India, where he spent the greater part of his life. He was born in Dehri, Bengal, and came to England in 1885 for his education. In 1891 he commenced a four years' apprenticeship in the Hammersmith works of Messrs. J. and H. Gwynne, and subsequently remained with the firm, to gain additional experience in outdoor constructional work and in taking charge of contracts. He was made assistant manager of the works in 1900.

A year later he joined Messrs. Samuel Cutler and Sons, Ltd., of Millwall, as outdoor representative and supervised the erection of steel-framed buildings and gas works plant. In 1904 he was appointed engineer and works manager for Messrs. Venesta, Ltd., manufacturers of special packing cases for the tea industry. He went to India later in the same year to start the firm's new factory at Kamarhali, where he designed the buildings and plant, including special machinery for manufacturing lead and other metal linings for tea chests.

In 1907 he entered the Indian Service of Engineers, being at first engaged in a temporary capacity by the Government of Madras in the Public Works Department. From that date until 1912 he was superintendent of the Divi pumping project, a scheme for irrigating 50,000 acres - mostly waste land - at the mouth of the Kistna river. He was then made executive engineer, Kistna Central Division, and placed in charge of the Delta Irrigation Headworks, the workshops of the Public Works Department, and all Government buildings, in addition to the Divi pumping system.

During 1913 he was one of four delegates representing the Presidency of Madras at the Government of India Engineering Conference at Simla. Two years later he was transferred to Madras, and made general superintendent of the Public Works Workshops. In 1927 Mr. Roberts was appointed superintending engineer (machinery) for the great Cauvery-Mettur Irrigation Project, and was sent home twice by the Government of India to select suitable plant for the scheme from British firms.

On his return to India in 1930 he was awarded the C.I.E. in the New Year's Honours List. Unfortunately he had a stroke six months later, which necessitated his retirement. He went to live in the Nilgiri Hills, and died at Coonoor on 4th September 1937, in his sixty-third year.

Mr. Roberts was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1904 and was transferred to Membership in 1919. Since 1921 he had been Honorary Corresponding Member to the Institution, for South India.

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