Sir John Coode; 1816-1892; civil engineer; Bodmin, Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon, Durban, South Africa, Melbourne, Australia, India, Dunedin, New Zealand, Egypt, Brighton and Hove, Sussex, Westminster, London

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Sir John Coode; 1816-1892; civil engineer; Bodmin, Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon, Durban, South Africa, Melbourne, Australia, India, Dunedin, New Zealand, Egypt, Brighton and Hove, Sussex, Westminster, London

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Born at Bodmin on 11 November 1816. Son of Charles Coode, solicitor and Ann, daughter of Joseph Bennett, rector of Great Wigborough, Essex. Educated at Bodmin grammar school and after leaving school entered his father's office. His natural tastes, however, were not for law but for engineering, and he was therefore articled to the civil engineer James Meadows Rendel of Plymouth. On completion of his pupillage he worked briefly with Rendel and subsequently on the new Great Western Railway line between Bristol and Exeter. Coode married, on 5 October 1842, Jane Dod, daughter of William Price of Weston-super-Mare; they had at least one son. In 1847 he was appointed resident engineer in charge of the construction of the works at Portland harbour, which had been designed by Rendel. On the death of the latter in 1856 Coode was appointed engineer-in-chief, a post he retained until the completion of the work in 1872. This harbour provided the largest area of deep water of any artificial harbour in Great Britain, and was a work of major national importance at the time, constructed partly by the use of convict labour. The first stone of the great breakwater was laid by the prince consort on 25 July 1849, and the work was completed in 1872. Coode was knighted in 1872 for his services in connection with this undertaking. In 1856, Coode had established his firm of consulting engineers which survived, with amalgamations, through three generations of his direct descendants. From 1858 he served as a member of the royal commission on harbours of refuge around Britain and Ireland. He also began to develop his overseas work.
Coode was consulted by several of the most important British colonial governments, notably by those of the South African and Australian colonies, in reference to proposed harbour works, and he made several journeys to South Africa, Australia, and India in connection with the schemes upon which his advice was sought. Following his appointment as engineer-in-chief for Table Bay harbour, work proceeded from 1859 to 1870, with the subsequent addition of a graving dock in 1882. For many years, Coode served as consulting engineer for harbours to the crown agents, leading to many appointments in the British colonies. In 1873, he reported on the harbour for Colombo; construction of this major harbour started in 1874, and the works, extended with increasing trade, were completed in 1885. In 1877 he designed the works for Port Natal, Durban; the previous year he had advised on harbour works for Mossel Bay, Knysna, and Plattenberg Bay in Cape Colony. In 1878 he recommended harbour improvements for Port Phillip, Melbourne, where ‘Coode island’ results from realignment of the River Yarra. He also advised the state of Victoria on several other harbour proposals and river improvements. He inspected major and minor harbours in New Zealand, leading to recommendations for works undertaken at Dunedin.
In 1885 Coode inspected sites for port works at Trincomali, Bombay, and Singapore, selecting the latter for a new graving dock. In the same year he gave comprehensive advice for port developments for New South Wales. He also advised on harbour proposals for St Lucia, Trinidad, Accra, Lagos, Kyrenia, Penang, Sierra Leone, Heligoland (a British colony), Newfoundland, Pondoland, Fremantle and Port Adelaide. Among the great number of other harbour works for which Coode was responsible may be mentioned Waterford harbour, and plans for the Dover commercial harbour, work for which was proceeding at the time of his death. He was a member of the royal commission on metropolitan sewage discharge (1882–4), and of the international commission of the Suez Canal; on the latter he served from 1884 until his death in 1892. He was made KCMG in 1886.
Coode was probably the most distinguished harbour engineer of the nineteenth century. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849, served for many years on the council, and was president from May 1889 to May 1891. He was also an active member of the Royal Colonial Institute, and sat on its council from 1881 until his death. Coode contributed a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1852 on the Chesil Bank (Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., 12.520), providing a cogent explanation for the physical characteristics of this long shingle feature. He also wrote many professional reports about the harbour projects he was engaged upon, and these were often published. Between 1844-47 had his own practice in Westminster as a consulting engineer, knighted in 1872, died at Brighton on 2 March 1892.


Bodmin, Cornwall; Plymouth, Devon; Durban, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; India; Dunedin, New Zealand; Egypt; Brighton and Hove, Sussex; Westminster, London

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Created on: 26/11/2008 by Drolw




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