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Bateman, John Frederic La Trobe- (DNB01)

BATEMAN, JOHN FREDERIC LA TROBE-, formerly styled John Frederic Bateman (1810–1889), civil engineer, born at Lower Wyke, near Halifax, on 30 May 1810, was the eldest son of John Bateman (1772–1851), by his wife Mary Agnes, daughter of Benjamin La Trobe, a Moravian missionary at Fairfield, near Ashton-under-Lyne. At the age of seven he was sent to the Moravian school at Fairfield, and two years later to the Moravian school at Ockbrook, returning after four years more to the Fairfield school. When fifteen he was apprenticed to a surveyor and mining engineer of Oldham named Dunn, and in 1833 he commenced business on his own account as a civil engineer. In 1834 he investigated the causes of the floods in the river Medlock, which led him to study hydraulic questions more closely. In 1835 he was associated with (Sir) William Fairbairn [q. v.], who early appreciated his ability, in laying out the reservoirs on the river Bann in Ireland. From that time he was almost continually employed in the construction of reservoirs and waterworks. In all his undertakings he advocated soft water in preference to hard, and favoured gravitation schemes where they were practicable to avoid the necessity of pumping. He devoted much attention to methods of measuring rainfall, accumulated a quantity of statistics on the subject, and wrote several papers describing his observations.

The greatest system of waterworks which Bateman undertook was that connected with Manchester. In 1844 he was first consulted in regard to the Manchester and Salford water supply. About 1846 the project was formed of obtaining water from the Pennine hills; the works in Longdendale were commenced in 1848 and were finished in the spring of 1877. In 1884 Bateman published a ‘History and Description of the Manchester Waterworks’ (London and Manchester, 4to), which deals with many points of interest to the student of hydraulic engineering. The Longdendale scheme, however, had been designed to supply a population less than half that of Manchester in 1882, and it was clear that additional sources of supply must be looked for. At Bateman's suggestion the corporation resolved to construct new works at Lake Thirlmere. A bill was introduced into parliament in 1878, and, after rejection, was passed in 1879, and Bateman superintended the commencement of the new works. In this undertaking he was associated with Mr. George Hill of Manchester.

In 1852 he was requested to advise the town council of Glasgow in regard to the water supply of the city. In the parliamentary session of 1854–5, on Bateman's advice, a bill was obtained for the supply of water from Loch Katrine. The works were commenced in the spring of 1856 and were completed by March 1860. They extend over thirty-four miles, and were described by James M. Gale as worthy to ‘bear comparison with the most extensive aqueducts in the world, not excluding those of ancient Rome’ (Transactions of the Institution of Engineers in Scotland, 1863–4, vii. 27).

Among other important waterworks by Bateman may be mentioned the systems for Warrington, Accrington, Oldham, Ashton, Blackburn, Stockdale, Halifax, Dewsbury, St. Helens, Kendal, Belfast, Dublin, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Chorley, Bolton, Darwen, Macclesfield, Chester, Birkenhead, Gloucester, Aberdare, Perth, Forfar, Wolverhampton, Colne Valley, Colne and Marsden, and Cheltenham. In 1855 he prepared an important paper for the British Association ‘On the present state of our Knowledge on the Supply of Water to Towns,’ enunciating the general nature of the problem, giving an historical outline of previous measures, enumerating the various sources from which towns could be supplied, and discussing their comparative merits. In 1865 he published a pamphlet ‘On the Supply of Water to London from the Sources of the River Severn’ (Westminster, 8vo), which created considerable discussion. He designed and surveyed the scheme at his own expense, at the cost of 4,000l. or 5,000l. A royal commission was held, and in 1868 it reported very much in favour of the project. It was purely a gravitation scheme, designed at an estimated outlay of 11,400,023l. to convey to London 230,000,000 gallons of water a day. Bateman was connected with various harbour and dock trusts throughout the British Isles, including the Clyde Navigation Trust, for which he was consulting engineer, and the Shannon Inundation Inquiry in 1863, on which he was employed by government.

In addition to his many undertakings at home Bateman carried out several works abroad. In 1869 he proposed, in a pamphlet entitled ‘Channel Railway,’ written in conjunction with Julian John Révy, to construct a submarine railway between France and England in a cast-iron tube. In the same year he went out as representative of the Royal Society, on the invitation of the khedive, to attend the opening of the Suez Canal, and wrote a long report of his visit, which was read to the Society on 6 Jan. 1870, and published in the ‘Proceedings.’ In the winter of 1870–1 he visited Buenos Ayres, at the request of the Argentine government, for the purpose of laying out harbour works for that city. His plans were not adopted, but he was afterwards employed to design and carry out the drainage and water supply of the city. In 1874 he prepared water schemes for Naples and Constantinople, and he was also engineer for some reclamation schemes in Spain and Majorca. The crown agents to the colonies employed him in Ceylon to design and carry out works for supplying Colombo with water.

For forty-eight years, from 1833 to 1881, Bateman directed his business alone. From 1881 to 1885 he was in partnership with George Hill, and in 1888 he took as partners his son-in-law, Richard Clere Parsons, and his son, Lee La Trobe Bateman. Bateman was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 23 June 1840, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London on 7 June 1860. He was president of the Institution in 1878 and 1879. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Geographical Society, the Geological Society, the Society of Arts, and the Royal Institution. In 1883 he assumed by royal license the prefix, surname, and arms of La Trobe, in compliment to his grandfather.

Bateman died on 10 June 1889 at his residence, Moor Park, Farnham, an estate which he had purchased in 1859. On 1 Sept. 1841 he married Anne, only daughter of Sir William Fairbairn. By her he had three sons and four daughters.

[Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1888–9, xcvii. 392–8; Biograph, 1881, vi. 103; Proceedings of the Royal Soc. of London, 1889, vol. xlvi. pp. xlii–xlviii; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

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