BRUNEL, Sir Marc Isambard (1769-1849). Civil engineer.
Autograph Letter Signed to an unnamed correspondent, 2 pages 4to, 30 Bridge Street, Blackfriars, 11 January 1826. Attempting to elicit information about the docks of an unspecified town.
'Sir / On enquiring, this morning, from Mr B[enjamin] Hawes how I would obtain some information respecting the Docks of your Town, he gave me leave to apply to you in his name: and as I am not quite stranger to you, I avail myself of his suggestion and I beg to introduce myself by saying that I am Mr. B. Hawes junr's father in law and that I had the pleasure of meeting you at his house on one occasion.
Brunel's eldest daughter married Benjamin Hawes (later Sir Benjamin, 1797-1862, politician) in 1820. Hawes was to become the younger Brunel's closest friend and supported him in many of his great engineering projects. [See Ged Martin in Oxford DNB, 'Sir Benjamin Hawes'].
The absence of the name of the recipient of this intriguing letter is frustrating. The letter is written from 30 Bridge Street, Blackfriars, the house Brunel leased on 10 June 1824 from which to run the Thames Tunnel operation. However, he was still, in the early years of the Tunnel, working on other projects. In 1824 he designed new coal docks called 'South London Docks' for the Grand Surrey Canal Company, and new cargo docks at Bermondsey for the St Saviour's Dock Company (probably a group of financiers). Although neither of these was actually built Brunel could still have been pursuing information for them. Isambard Kingdom Brunel had written in his diary on 25 March 1825, 'Projects are on foot for Fowey and Padstow Canal and the Bermondsey Docks. I am preparing plans for South London Docks - in case my father should be named engineeer'. It would appear from the present letter, however, that the elder Brunel was enquiring after docks which were already constructed, perhaps with a view to a contract for improvements.
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