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Born: 1847 01 10
Died: 1907 10 10


HENRY THWAITES, who died suddenly at his residence, 3 Prince of Wales Mansions, Battersea Park, on the 10th October, 1907, in his sixty-first year, was the son of the late Mr. Otho Thwaites, of South Hampstead. Born on the 10th January, 1847, the subject of this notice was educated at University College, London. He was articled to Messrs. Ormerod, Grierson and Company, of Manchester, in 1864, and in the following year he became a pupil and subsequently an assistant to Mr. C. H. Gough, Resident Engineer on the South London, Peckham and Button branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. In 1870 he went out to South America as Engineer in charge of the survey for the Paturia Railway, U.S. Colombia, and proposed harbour-works at Santa Marta; and on his return home in 1871 he was appointed Assistant, and afterwards Resident Engineer, on the East and West Junction Railway. He afterwards acted as assistant to Mr. Robert Johnson on the Wood-side extension of the London and North Western and Great Western Joint Railways.

In 1875 the Cape Copper Mining Company appointed Mr. Thwaites their Chief Engineer. On his arrival in Namaqualand his chief work was the construction of the harbour at Port Nolloth and the survey and construction of the railway from the port to the mines. At the expiration of this engagement he went to Cape Town, and, after about a year's private practice, he joined the engineering staff of the Table Bay Harbour Board in 1879. He was appointed Chief Resident Engineer in 1883, and held the appointment until ill-health obliged him to resign in October, 1899. During his tenure of the office he was responsible for the carrying out of large extensions of the harbour and docks, designed by the late Sir John COODE, Past-President, and by Messrs. Coode, Son and Matthews, the Consulting Engineers. These works included an extension to the breakwater of 1,800 feet (548.64m), a large iron jetty, and a new basin named the Victoria Basin, with extensive quayage and an area of 64 acres (25.9 hectare). The South Pier in the Victoria basin proved of very great value to the military authorities during the late South African War. Amongst other works he was entrusted with the design and construction of the new convict-station at Cape Town. To his instrumentality was due the installation of electric light at the docks as early as 1880; and the original installations, as well as the lighting of the Cape Town railway-station and the Houses of Parliament, were carried out under his supervision. The dock fire-brigade, of which he was captain during his whole term of office, was brought up to a high level of efficiency under his care.

Mr. Thwaites took a very keen interest in the welfare of all those under him. The Dock Recreation Society, which he inaugurated, and of which he was President until he left Cape Town, proved a great success, and the employees much appreciated his many efforts on their behalf. On his retirement on pension he returned to England, and lived quietly near London until his death. Mr. Thwaites was well known throughout the Cape Colony and South Africa generally for his kindness, generosity, and hospitality, and his death was a great loss to an unusually wide circle of friends, professional and personal.

He was elected a Member of The Institution on the 5th April, 1898.

This obituary was sent to us by Toby Benn of Oxford, England, great grandson of Henry Thwaites.

Thwaites was in a partnership with AW ACKERMANN from 1878 to 1880.

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Books citing THWAITES

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 59