Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 31.djvu/372

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Labelye published in 1739 ‘A Short Account of the Method made use of in Laying the Foundations of Westminster Bridge,’ and in 1743 ‘The Present State of Westminster Bridge in a Letter to a Friend’ (anon.) But it was Labelye's intention to publish a full description of the bridge, and in 1744 he issued a detailed prospectus of the proposed work. It appeared in 1751 under the title ‘A Description of Westminster Bridge,’ which is practically a second edition of the ‘Short Account,’ bringing the history of the bridge down to the date of its completion, and containing the prospectus of 1744 by way of appendix. Both works are said to contain engravings, which, however, were never published. The original drawings are to be found in the library of the Institution of Civil Engineers, bound up in a copy of Labelye's ‘Short Account,’ together with a number of other drawings relating to the bridge. This volume was presented to the institution by Mr. Page, the architect of the present bridge. The drawings are signed ‘T. Gayfere,’ a clerk or draughtsman employed by the contractors, who subsequently became ‘college mason’ at Westminster Abbey. Labelye states in the ‘Description’ that as his health was failing he had arranged that all his papers were to pass into the hands of a competent person who would carry on the work in case of his death before its completion.

Labelye also published ‘The Result of a View of the Great Level of the Fens’ (1745), an abstract of his ‘Report relating to the Improvement of the River Wear and Port of Sunderland’ (1748), and a plan of a new harbour at Sandwich, engraved by Harris, but none of the suggested works were executed. He supplied Desaguliers with a description and drawings of Newsham's fire-engine, printed in the ‘Course of Experimental Philosophy,’ ii. 505. In 1746 he became a naturalised British subject by act of parliament (19 Geo. II, cap. 26), in which he is described as ‘Charles Labelye, son of Francis Labelye, by Elizabeth his wife,’ and his birthplace, Vevey, is wrongly placed ‘in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.’

Upon the completion of the bridge in 1751 Labelye suddenly vanished. It is asserted by certain French writers that he retired to Paris, disgusted with the treatment which he had received in England. Not a trace of this dissatisfaction is to be found in his published works, and the greatest harmony seems to have prevailed between the commissioners and their engineer. On 26 Feb. 1751 the commissioners presented him with an honorarium of 2,000l. ‘for his great fidelity and extraordinary labour and attendances, skill and diligence.’ According to Le Sage (Recueil de divers mémoires extrait de la Bibliothèque des Ponts et Chaussées, 2me partie, p. 275, Paris, 1810), Labelye made the acquaintance in Paris of Perronet (the head of the department of Ponts et Chaussées), to whom he bequeathed his papers and a model of Westminster Bridge. The collection at the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées contains a model of the bridge and some drawings, but nothing which can with certainty be attributed to Labelye. He appears, however, to have been in communication with the French engineers of that time, since Belidor (Architecture Hydraulique, ii. 198, Paris, 1753) gives a description and drawing of the mode of laying the foundations of the bridge, which are not to be found elsewhere. Le Sage also has a drawing of the machine invented by Labelye for cutting off piles under water, the particulars of which can hardly have been obtained from any one but the inventor.

The date of his death is uncertain, though all the accounts agree that it took place in Paris. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ states that it occurred 18 March 1762. According to Le Sage (op. cit.) he died about 1770, and this is to some extent borne out by a letter in the ‘Journal Helvétique,’ September 1770, p. 51, from Ritter, an architect of Berne, who writes as a friend of Labelye to correct an error in Grosley's book ‘Londres.’ Ritter writes throughout as if Labelye was no longer living. But the real date of his death is probably 17 Dec. 1781, which is that given in ‘Le Conservateur Suisse,’ 1817, viii. 298, and also by Albert de Montet in his ‘Dictionnaire Biographique des Genevois et des Vaudois,’ Lausanne, 1877.

[The chief authorities are cited above. A very full description of Westminster Bridge was presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1838 by Mr. Francis Whishaw, who was rewarded with the Telford medal. A short abstract only appeared in the Proceedings, 1838 i. 44, but the manuscript is still preserved. This paper is particularly valuable, as the author had access to all the minute books and documents of the bridge commissioners, which are not now to be found, and have probably been destroyed. The British Museum possesses the journal and letter-book of Andrews Jelfe and Samuel Tufnell, the contractors for the bridge (Add. MS. No. 27587), which contain many curious particulars. The name of Thomas Gayfere, already referred to frequently occurs in this book.]

R. B. P.

LABLACHE, FREDERICK (1815–1887), vocalist, eldest son of Luigi Lablache [q. v.], vocalist, was born on 29 Aug.