George Double (1840-1916)

George Double (1840-1916) was a local lad, born in Hadleigh where his family lived in Benton Street. Not much is known yet about his early career but by September 1878, he was the foreman for John Dixon (1835-1891), the eminent engineer in charge of erecting Cleopatra’s Needle on the Victoria Embankment in London alongside Benjamin Baker, the engineer who designed the cylindrical vessel in which the monolith was brought from Egypt to England. He is described in several articles in the press from August to October 1878:  “Mr Double’s practical sagacity and intelligent command of the working party greatly contributed…” , “Into the enclosed space around the skeleton structure only those responsible for the safe raising of the obelisk were admitted. Mr Dixon, the engineer, with Mr Baker as chief of the staff, and Mr George Double, as the executive foreman, remained there throughout directing the labours of the 20 or 30 men who worked the winches that served to prevent a too sudden movement of the ponderous stone.”  

George Double, site manager for John Dixon and Benjamin Baker during the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle September 12th 1878

Curbridge, Hampshire built by George Double 1890

Curbridge Hampshire built by G Double in 1890, strengthened in 1994 © Peter Facey

The Hampshire Chronicle reported on Saturday 30th August 1890 that Mr G Double’s tender had been accepted to build a wrought iron trellis girder bridge at Curbridge and the reconstruction of four bridges in Longparish in Hampshire.    

Wormingford Bridge, over the River Stour, Essex 

From the 1891 Census we know that he was living in London that year. An article in the Bury and Norwich Post of 10 February 1891 describes Mr Double, whose contract had been accepted for rebuilding Wormingford bridge, as “ a very experienced man, having built Westminster Bridge, and was also active in the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle”.  

Wormingford bridge taken 2020

George Double built the new pier head and landing stage for steamer ships at Clevedon Pier, Somerset, 1893

In 1893 George Double was the contractor for the new pier head and landing stage for steamer ships on Clevedon Pier, Somerset, now a grade 1 listed building. The Wells Journal 9th June 1892 reported, “The work undertaken by the contractor (Mr Double) from designs of Mr Abernethy, the eminent engineer, is being carried out in a very satisfactory and expeditious manner.” The new pier head was 100 feet in length and 50 feet wide with 24 massive iron columns, from the deck to the mud was 65 feet. The new landing stage was built at an angle to the pier head in order to align with the prevailing Bristol Channel current.  On the plaque he is listed as George Double, Ipswich, Contractor.

Boxted Bridge over the River Stour, Essex, built by George Double, 1897

Boxted bridge taken 1903

Boxted bridge, is a steel girder bridge built over the River Stour in North Essex.  From Essex Records Office archives we know that it replaced an earlier wooden bridge, built after 1835, which had fallen into disrepair.  On 14th November 1896 The Bury Free Press announced that ‘the tender of Mr George Double of Ipswich was accepted for the sum of £927 to build Boxted bridge by Essex and West Suffolk County Councils’ and on the 28th April 1897 The Evening Star reported that ‘The Boxted Bridge, which has been built by Mr George Double of Ipswich is now completed and opened for traffic, so that the road to Nayland is once more available.’ 

Boxted bridge taken 2016

Steel marks on Boxted bridge

A steel girder on one of the exterior side plates on the north side of the bridge has revealed the name ‘Glengarnock Steel’.  Glengarnock Ironworks in North Ayrshire, founded in 1843, pioneered the rolling of steel joists, which acquired a high reputation among structural engineers. One of the directors of the company was E Windsor Richards, one of the leading iron and steel masters of the day.  Glengarnock Iron and Steel co was one of the first in Scotland to move into making H-beams for structures and bridges. 

Glengarnock steel mark on side panel of north side of Boxted bridge 

A member of the South Yorkshire Industrial History Society has identified a second steel foundry mark on the bridge, that of Consett Iron Works in County Durham. “ Consett was one of the largest ironworks in the world in the late 19th century and production included brackets and sections which would have been used on your bridge. 

The implication of at least 2 different manufacturers products being involved is that the builder was using off the peg components to achieve the design specification. I doubt there would have been direct contact with Consett; more likely a local iron/steel stockholder.” (Anthony Ball, President, SYIHS)

Steel mark of Consett Iron Works, County Durham found on roadside panel of Boxted bridge

Retirement in Ipswich

The 1911Census records that George and Emma, his wife of 48 years, were living at Kirby Lodge, Kirby Street, St John’s, Ipswich where he describes himself as “retired contractor (bridges) (pier bridges).  George Double died in 1916.