Alfred Dobson, Surveyor, Civil Engineer (1824 – 1887) . . .

I have posted this here so that I can direct interested people to it, as it seems to be difficult to attach the text to things like Mastodon posts etc.

Alfred Dobson married Lucy Lough (1838 – 1916) who was the twin sister of my Great Grandmother, Alice Lough (1838 – 1874).

Transcription of extract from “Early New Zealand Engineers” by F.W.Furkert.

DOBSON, Alfred (1824-1887), was born in London, England, and educated at Old London University and also in France. He trained as a Civil Engineer on the Lynn and Ely Railway and on the Great Northern Railway works under Sir William Cubitt, past President of the I.C.E., by whom he was sent to Germany to report on the electric-telegraph. He went to New Zealand for health reasons in 1851 and commenced a surveying and engineering practice in Canterbury and later in Nelson. In June, 1853, he was living in Nelson at Washington Valley when his nephew, later Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson visited him. He was appointed Commissioner of Public Works on the 1st February 1854, to the Nelson Provincial Government. He recommended carrying out the Nelson wharf into eight feet of water and providing a sloping wharf at Motueka which would permit of boats unloading at all stages of the tide. He said conditions were unsuitable there for a ship wharf. In the same year he mentioned that F.Clark was exploring for a road live between Riwaka and Takaka and recommended then offering of a bonus for anyone finding a good route. In 1854 the Provincial Government decided to appoint a Provincial Engineer but this was not done as Dobson continued to be styled Commissioner of Public Works for two or three years longer. At the end of 1856 he was forming the streets of Nelson as well as the country roads, He reported Motueka wharf finished. In that year after a tour of the whole province a kind of early “five year plan” was drawn up for the roads as follows: (1) Nelson to Foxhill: (2) a branch from Appleby Ford to the foot of the Moutere Hills; (3) the beach road towards Wakapuaka; (4) at Motueka from the Port through the village to the ford on the Motueka River; (5) from the bridge at White’s Corner to the mill and thence to the Green tree at Riwaka River; (6) from Waitohi (now Picton) to the Wairau Plain crossing the Wairau River at the head of navigation and proceeding up the valley to Tophouse; (7) a branch off (6) near Mr. Gouland’s across the plains to Awatere and on to Flaxbourne; (8) a branch of (7) near Atkinson’s and going up the Awatere River to Tinlines Ford; (9) a main line to Massacre Bay as yet undefined. It was considered that all work under the schedule above, plus schools and public buildings, would cost £32,050. As this was beyond the revenue capacity he recommended that £25,000 be borrowed which assuming interest to be 10% could all be repaid in ten years [self reliance with a vengeance]. In 1858 the Dun Mountain Railway Act was passed. This was a private railway, and no doubt Dobson would be called to advise on the terms of the enabling Act. In the same year he laid out the town of Blenheim as a private speculation of Messrs. Seymour, Ferrar and Fell. One record says Brunner was appointed Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Public Works on 1st July, 1856, but this is apparently premature as Dobson continued in office and Brunner’s appointment was gazetted in 1858. In the Nelson electoral roll of 11th December, 1857, Dobson is given as Commissioner of Works and Brunner as Surveyor. In 1869 he was busy surveying Marlborough though there was not yet any province by that name. In 1861 he reported on a water supply for Nelson and also endeavoured to stop the Opawa overflow from the Wairau. In 1857 the Goldfieds of Golden Bay were being worked and the General Government offered to send 200 soldiers to keep order, the Province to find accommodation (which must be to the satisfaction of Colonel Mould) at Collingwood. In the same year a lighthouse on the Boulder Bank was decided on and quotations were obtained, presumably to Dobson’s plans, from Chance Bros. The work did not proceed promptly as the light was not exhibited until 1962. When Marlborough was constituted a separate province, Dobson followed its fortunes and became Provincial Surveyor and Engineer. In addition to ordinary Provincial Engineer’s work he prepared complete plans and estimates for a railway from Picton to Blenheim including rolling stock. He also had to contend with the Opawa overflow from the Wairau River. He was appointed Resident Engineer P.W.D. on the Picton-Blenheim Railway on 16th September, 1871, and was still there in June, 1875, leaving in 1876. Later he was in private Practice and carried out the land plan surveys in connection with the Picton-Blenheim Railway. In 1886 he was still in private practice. He died at Blenheim on the 6th September, 1887. The fact that he left England with a weak heart and settled in a district of limited opportunities must be considered the reason why he did not rise to such eminence as his brother Edward.

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About Ian

Retired Clergyman, and former RAF person. Lives in Kirkcudbright, SW Scotland. One wife. Two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren scattered across UK, Europe and the USA. Long time member of the European Movement, and latterly of the Scottish National Party. ""Here's to us; who is as good as us? Damn few, and they're all dead"
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