Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Page, Thomas (1803-1877)

PAGE, THOMAS (1803–1877), civil engineer, born in London on 26 Oct. 1803, was eldest son of Robert Page of Nag's Head Court. His father, a solicitor, first in Gracechurch Street, London, and then at 34 Mark Lane, went to Peru on business, and met with his death through an accident at Arequipa. Thomas was educated for the sea service, but, at the suggestion of Thomas Telford, he turned his attention to civil engineering. His first employment was as a draughtsman in some engine works at Leeds, where he remained for two years. He subsequently entered the office of Edward Blore, the architect, for whom he made a measurement of Westminster Abbey. He was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 2 April 1833, and became a member on 18 April 1837. In 1835 he was appointed one of the assistant-engineers, under Sir I. K. Brunel, on the Thames Tunnel works. On the retirement of Richard Beamish in 1836, he became acting-engineer until the completion of the tunnel, 25 March 1843.

In 1842 he made designs for the embankment of the Thames from Westminster to Blackfriars; the metropolitan improvement commissioners accepted his designs, and the government established for their consideration the Thames Embankment office in Middle Scotland Yard in connection with the department of woods and forests. The new office was placed under Page's control, and he thenceforth acted as consulting engineer to the department of woods and forests. But difficulties arose, and the embankment scheme was for the time abandoned. In January 1844 he made a survey of the Thames from Battersea to Woolwich, showing the tidal action of the river. In 1845 he prepared plans for bringing the principal lines of railway to a central terminus, to be built upon land proposed to be reclaimed from the Thames between Hungerford Market and Waterloo Bridge. In the same year, in connection with Joseph D'Aguilar Samuda, he designed a railway to connect the Brighton system with that of the Eastern Counties Company, by a line to pass through the Thames Tunnel and under the London Docks.

In 1846 he reported on the relative merits of Holyhead and Port Dinllaen as packet stations for the Irish mail service, and prepared plans for harbours at these places, and also for docks at Swansea. At the instance of the government he made designs for the embankment of the southern side of the Thames between Vauxhall and Battersea bridges, and for the Chelsea suspension bridge. Those works were subsequently carried out under his directions. The bridge was opened in March 1858, and the Albert Embankment on 24 Nov. 1869. In May 1854 he commenced Westminster new bridge, which was built in two sections, to obviate the necessity of a temporary structure; the old structure remaining while the first half of the new one was built, and the second half being completed after the first was open to traffic (cf. Parliamentary Papers, 1853 No. 622 pp. 1–18, 70, 1856 No. 389 pp. 1–9, 54–7, 62–9). The result was the most commodious of the London bridges. It was completed and finally opened on 24 May 1862. Constructed without cofferdams or centres, it caused no interruption to the traffic by land or by water. His plan for Blackfriars Bridge was accepted, but not carried out. He was engineer for the town of Wisbech; and one of his most important reports, written in 1860, dealt with that town and his project of improving the river Nen from Peterborough to the sea. As engineering and surveying officer he held courts and reported on proposed improvements for Cheltenham, Taunton, Liverpool, Falmouth, Folkestone, and Penzance. He interested himself in gunnery, and invented a system for firing guns under water. He died suddenly in Paris on 8 Jan. 1877. He published a ‘Report on the Eligibility of Milford Haven for Ocean Steam Ships and for a Naval Arsenal,’ 1859.

[Min. of Proc. of Instit. Civil Engineers, 1877, xlix. 262–5; Times, 20 Jan. 1877, p. 10; Men of the Time, 1875, p. 779.]

G. C. B.