Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Rawlinson, Robert

1411302Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 3 — Rawlinson, Robert1901Thomas Hudson Beare

RAWLINSON, Sir ROBERT (1810–1898), civil engineer, born at Bristol on 28 Feb. 1810, was son of Thomas Rawlinson, a builder, of Chorley, Lancashire, and his wife, Grace Ellice of Exeter. He was educated at Lancaster, where his father had removed shortly after his birth, and for a time assisted his father in his business as a builder, contractor, and millwright.

In 1831 he entered the employ of Jesse Hartley [q. v.], and remained with him till 1836, being chiefly occupied in dock and harbour work. He then entered the employ of Robert Stephenson [q. v.], and was engaged on the London and Birmingham railway.

In 1840 he returned to Liverpool, becoming assistant-surveyor to the corporation, and from 1843 to 1847 he was employed as chief engineer under the Bridgewater trust. During this period a discussion as to the necessity of increasing the supply of water to Liverpool was going on, and he advocated a scheme for the utilisation of the Bala lake in Wales for this purpose; it is remarkable that the present water supply of the city is drawn from a district in Wales not very far removed from the source which Rawlinson then indicated.

In 1848, on the passing of the Public Health Act, he was one of the inspectors appointed by government under the act, and later became head of the department. It is, however, by his work as head of the sanitary commission which was sent out by the government to the seat of war in the Crimea in 1855 that Rawlinson will be best known. Full accounts of the valuable work which was done by this commission are given by Alexander William Kinglake [q. v.] in his Invasion of the Crimea.'

On his return from the Crimea Rawlinson took up his duties as chief engineering inspector under the local government board, and in connection with this office he prepared and published some valuable notes entitled 'Suggestions on Town Sewering and House Draining, for the Instruction of Engineers and Surveyors to Local Boards.' The correctness of the views he then advocated has been proved by their extensive adoption throughout the kingdom and elsewhere.

In 1863 he served as a member of the army sanitary committee; and in April 1863, during the terrible cotton famine in Lancashire, he was sent down to that county by Lord Palmerston to organise relief works for the thousands of operatives thrown idle by the stoppage of the cotton supply from America owing to the civil war. The works he then started occupied his attention until 1869, and nearly two millions sterling was spent in connection with them.

In 1865 and in 1868 he was chairman of the commissions appointed to inquire into the best means of preventing the pollution of rivers; and in 1876 he was on another commission dealing with town sewage. In 1884 he was president of the congress of the sanitary institute held at Dublin, and published the address he delivered in that capacity.

For his many valuable services in connection with public health and sanitation he was; knighted on 24 July 1883, and in January 1888 he was made K.C.B. In that year he retired from the office which he had held for forty years as chief engineering inspector to the local government board.

He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in March 1848; he served on the council for many years and became president in May 1894, being at that time eighty-four years of age. His presidential address was published in the same year.

He died at his residence, 11 The Boltons, South Kensington, on 31 May 1898, and buried in Brompton cemetery on 4 June. He married, in 1831, Ruth, daughter of Thomas Swallow of Lockwood, Yorkshire There is an oil painting in the possession of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He wrote several books dealing with technical matters, and also numerous professional reports, mainly on sanitation and allied subjects. He also published (London, 1893) a small volume of verse.

Rawlinson's more important books and tracts were: Drainage of Towns, London, 1854. Designs for Factory Shafts, &c., London, 1858. Lectures on Sanitary Questions, London, 1876. Maps and Plans for Drainage &c., London, 1878-80. Hygiene of Armies in the Field, London, 1883. Public Works in Lancashire, with Appendix on Drainage, London, 1898.

His chief published reports were on Sewerage, Water Supply, and Drainage, viz.: Wigan Water, Wigan, 1852; Birmingham Water, Birmingham, 1854 and 1871; Tynemouth Sewerage, N. Shields, 1857; Chorley District Drainage, Chorley, 1857; West Ham Sewerage, 1862; Windsor Castle Drainage, &c., London, 1863; Liverpool Waterworks, London, 1866; Swansea Water Supply, Swansea, 1868; Failure of Bradfield Reservoir in 1864; Aldershot Sewerage, London, 1870; Croydon Waterworks, Croydon, 1882; Calstock, Devonport, Falmouth, &c. He also wrote vol. xvii. of the Reports of the General Board of Health on Drainage and Water Supply.

[Obituary notices in Proc. Inst. Civil Eng. vol. cxxxiv.; Burke's Peerage &c. 1890; Times, 2 and 6 June 1898; Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea.]

T. H. B.