(B.16) Sir Charles Fox - memoir

Memoirs - Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume XXXIX, 1874/1875 Part I (page 264-266).

SIR CHARLES FOX was born at Derby on the 11th of March, 1810, and was the youngest of the four sons of Dr. Fox, who held a prominent position as a physician in that town. He was articled to his brother, Mr. Douglas Fox, then practising as a surgeon, and remained with him for some time. During this period he prepared a great deal of apparatus with his own hands for his brother's lectures at the Mechanics' Institution, and also aided in working out the process of casting in elastic moulds, for which the silver medal of the Society of Arts was awarded to Mr. D. Fox. He manifested from the first much mechanical skill, and took the deepest interest, when quite a lad, in manufactures of all kinds. The projection of the Liverpool and Manchester railway gave increased force to his natural bent, and, being released from his medical articles, he was taken as a pupil by Captain Ericsson, then of Liverpool. Whilst with that gentleman, he was engaged in experiments upon rotary engines, and in designing and constructing the "Novelty " engine, one of the three which competed at Rainhill in October 1829. Shortly afterwards, through the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P., Past-President Inst. C.E., he obtained an appointment as an Assistant Engineer on the London and Birmingham railway, then in course of construction, being placed first under the late Mr. Luck, M. Inst. C.E., on the Watford section, and afterwards in charge of the Extension Works from Camden Town to Euston Square. Whilst upon this railway he read a Paper before the Royal Institution upon the principle of Skew Arches. Upon the conclusion of his engagement of five years under Mr. Stephenson, he entered into partnership with the late Mr. Bramah, under the firm of Bramah, Fox and Co., and shortly afterwards, upon the retirement of Mr. Bramah, formed the manufacturing and contracting firm of Fox, Henderson and Co., of London, Smethwick, and Renfrew, who introduced improvements in the design and manufacture of railway plant, and especially of wheels, which they supplied in large quantities. During his connection with this firm, he was engaged upon some interesting experiments upon links and pins for suspension and girder bridges, the results of which were embodied in a Paper read before the Royal Society on the 30th of March, 1865. He also introduced the switch into railway practice. The most important work carried out by him and his partner, Mr. John Henderson, was the erection of the building for the Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. The work was commenced towards the end of September 1850, and the Exhibition was opened by her Majesty the Queen on the 1st of May, 1851. For his connection with this work Sir Charles Fox, together with Sir William Cubitt and Sir Joseph Paxton, received the honour of knighthood. Subsequently, he was employed to remove the building from Hyde Park, and to re-erect it, with many alterations and additions, at Sydenham, for the Crystal Palace Company. He also carried out during this period the East Kent, the Cork and Bandon, the Thames and Medway, the Portadown and Dungannon, the Lyons and Geneva (eastern section), the Macon and Geneva (eastern section), the Wiesbaden, the Zealand (Denmark), and other railways. Amongst many large bridges, he executed those over the Medway at Rochester, over the Thames at Barnes, Richmond, and Staines, over the Shannon, over the Saone, and over the Newark Dyke. The roofs of the Paddington, Waterloo, and Birmingham (New Street) stations, and also slip-roofs for several of the Royal dockyards were carried out by him. He also had a considerable share in the construction of the Berlin Waterworks.

From the year 1857, Sir Charles practised in London as a Civil and Consulting Engineer, in partnership with his two elder sons, Mr. Charles Douglas Fox and Mr. Francis Fox, MM. Inst. C.E. During this time he was Engineer to the comprehensive scheme of high-level lines at Battersea for the London and Brighton, the London, Chatham and Dover, and the London and South-Western railways, with the approach to the Victoria station, and the widening of the Victoria railway bridge over the Thames; to the Queensland, Cape of Good Hope, and Canadian (narrow gauge) railways; and, in conjunction with Mr. George Berkley, M. Inst. C.E., to the Indian tramway, the first narrow-gauge railway in India.

In the course of his professional duties Sir Charles met with a severe accident, which seriously impaired his health, and to this may, in a great measure, be traced his decease, which occurred at Blackheath on the 14th of June, 1874, at the age of sixty-four.

Sir Charles was elected a Member of the Institution on the 13th of January, 1838, having been proposed by Mr. George Lowe, and seconded by Mr. Robert Stephenson and Mr. Joshua Field. He was also a Member of various scientific societies. Until within the last few years, he was a frequent attendant at the meetings of the Institution, where his acknowledged professional standing, combined with a genial presence and the almost courtly deference with which he enunciated his opinions, always secured him an attentive hearing. Of his private life it will suffice to say that it was such as to claim the love and respect of all who knew him, whilst he performed all his duties as a man and a citizen with the most praiseworthy exactitude. It may indeed be said of him that rarely has there been a more generous man or a more tender and affectionate parent.

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