John Robinson McClean (1813–73)

JRM was born in Northern Ireland in 1813, and educated at the Royal Academical Institute, Belfast. He attended Glasgow University between 1834 and 1837 and joined Walter & Burges, Civil Engineers, Westminster, London, as an apprentice in 1838. After seven years he set up his own Civil Engineering Practice in Great George Street, London. He became Engineer in Chief for the Furness Railways in Northern England, working on Barrow Harbour and Graving Docks.

In 1849 he went into partnership with fellow engineer F C Stileman and advised on the South Staffordshire Railway (which he later purchased), Birmingham Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway, and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal Reservoirs. He developed the Cannock Chase Coalfield and was Chief Engineer of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company (SSWC) from 1853 to 1868. Grade ll* listed Sandfields Pumping Station, Lichfield, which includes an 1872 locally built steam engine, was the earliest site of the SSWC.

He sat on many Royal Commissions including projects for the River Thames sewage system, the Thames Embankment and the Suez Canal. He was called in to advise Napoleon lll on public baths and wash houses in Paris and was Consulting Engineer for the system of railways in Galicia and Moldavia. He was Government Engineer to the harbours of Dover, Alderney, St Catherine’s Jersey and Breakwater and Shovel Rock Fort, Plymouth.

He was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 1839, becoming President in 1863. His inaugural address was on the creation of wealth by engineering projects, particularly the railways.  He was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society.

He retired from active engineering work in 1868 and became a Member of Parliament for East Staffordshire, dying in Margate in 1873.