George Watson Buck

Place of Birth
Welshpool, Manchester
  • Birth date            1 April 1789 Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich
  • Married                Emma Maria Williams at Oswestry 31 August 1831
  • Death date          9 March 1854 at Ramsey Isle of Man
  • Burial                  Maughold churchyard, Isle of Man

George Watson Buck was born at Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk, on 9 April 1789. His parents being Quakers, he was sent with his two brothers to the Friends’ school at Ackworth, in Yorkshire. On leaving Ackworth he went, at his own request, to a school kept by a clergyman, where he studied Latin and French for a year.  His father, intending him for trade, then placed him in a wholesale house on Tower Hill. However, this work was not to his liking and he obtained a job at the Old Ford Station, of the East London Water Works, then in course of construction under John Rennie. He was subsequently engaged in various capacities until 1818, when he was appointed the Engineer of the Montgomeryshire Canal, and settled at Welshpool. He held this position for nearly fourteen years, during which time he rebuilt, almost the entire length of the canal and materially improved the construction of the locks.  In 1821 he became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

About 1834, his friend, Robert Stephenson, engaged him as a resident engineer on the London and Birmingham Railway, and entrusted him with the construction of the southern end of the line, from Camden Town to Tring. Here he built his first oblique bridge, and “he executed many other works demanding considerable skill, in all which he was very successful.”  In 1838 he was appointed Engineer in Chief of the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, in conjunction with Robert Stevenson and settled in Manchester. He went to Germany in 1840 for the construction of the Railway from Altona to Kiel, but after staying there for some time, he was forced by severe illness, to retire from the undertaking, before its completion. On his return to England, he, after a short time at Leamington for the recovery of his health, resumed his duties on the Manchester and Birmingham Railway.

1839 he published his most important work, ‘A Practical and Theoretical Essay on Oblique Bridges, giving an historical sketch of the best-known constructions of the kind and then valuable theoretical reasonings, formulae, and practical rules for laying out and building such bridges.

On the completion of the railway in 1842. Buck successfully established himself as a consulting engineer with offices in Cross Street and was immediately involved in the designs for the new Albert Bridge in Manchester. However, in 1846 he suffered a total and permanent loss of hearing following a sudden attack of vertigo. No longer able to continue in practice, he retired to Ramsey, in the Isle of Man.

In 1854 George Watson Buck caught scarlet fever. After a very brief illness, he died on the 9 March 1854, in his sixty-fifth year and was interred in a spot selected by himself in Maughold churchyard. Within two weeks both his wife and daughter had fallen victim to the disease and were buried beside him.

1819        Welshpool
1837        Watford Hertfordshire (ICE corresponding member)
1840        G W Buck, Manchester and Birmingham Railway, Store Street Manchester
1844        27 Cross Street, Manchester. (To be Let – Three rooms at 27 Cross Street, Manchester, now occupied by G W Buck, civil engineer, Manchester Guardian 22 October 1844 page 2

1809        London
1819        Welshpool
1839        Hyde Place, Ardwick – baptism of Georgina Laura Buck
1844        Greenheys, Manchester
1846-1854    Ramsey Isle of Man

Testimonial    Manchester Guardian 11 November 1846 page 4
Obituary       ICE: Minutes of the Proceedings, Volume 14, Issue 1855, 1 January 1855, pages 128