Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Giles, Francis

GILES, FRANCIS (1787–1847), civil engineer, born in 1787, was brought up as a surveyor, and executed in the early part of his career, under John Rennie, an important portion of numerous surveys which subsequently became models of later practice. Among these were surveys of the Thames, the Mersey, the Wear, and the Tyne, and of the harbours of Dover, Rye, Holyhead, Dundee, and Kingstown. He afterwards engaged in business as an engineer, and executed many important harbour and canal works and river improvements. He also had a hand in the construction of some of the largest works on the Newcastle and Carlisle railway, and in part of the South-Western railway. The Warwick bridge in Cumberland is considered, as regards elegance of design, his masterpiece, though a cutting of 102 feet deep which he made through the Cowran Hills is a most remarkable work. Giles was in great request as an arbitrator, adviser, and consulting engineer, and enjoyed a lucrative practice. He was most prominent for his long opposition to George Stephenson's railway enterprises. When the Liverpool and Manchester railway project was under consideration, Giles gave evidence, which had much weight from his long experience and engineering reputation. ‘No engineer in his senses,’ he maintained, ‘would go through Chat Moss if he wanted to make a railway from Liverpool to Manchester.’ ‘His estimate for the whole cutting and embankment over Chat Moss was 270,000l. nearly. … It would be necessary to take the Moss completely out at the bottom, in order to make a solid road.’ Giles afterwards became a railway locomotive engineer. He was an active member of the council of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and took a prominent part in the discussions of that body, besides contributing some valuable plans and charts to its collections. Giles died on 4 March 1847, in his sixtieth year.

[Minutes of Proceedings of Inst. of Civil Engineers, 1848; Smiles's Lives of the Engineers.]

J. B-y.