Charles Frederick Cheffins (1807-1860)

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C.F. Cheffins was one of the trustees of the assets of John Braithwaite, following his bankruptcy, and played a role in the completion and operation of the Weymouth Oil Works



was born in London on the 10th of September, 1807. His father had for many years acted as official manager to the New River Waterworks Company, in superintending the boring by machinery of the wooden pipes then in use for the supply of water to the metropolis. Having been so fortunate as to obtain a presentation to Christ's Hospital, young Cheffins was, in July, 1815, admitted as a scholar into that institution, where he remained till the year 1822, prosecuting his studies with a fair amount of diligence, and obtaining several gold medals for his proficiency in arithmetic and mathematics.

During the whole of his after-life, he entertained the most grateful remembrance of the advantages he derived from that valuable foundation. On the completion of his education, he was articled to Messrs. Newton and Son, Patent Agents and Mechanical Draughtsmen; and in their employ he obtained some excellent practice, in making drawings from specifications and from models of machinery, which proved very useful to him in his after-career, and aided in giving him that intimate knowledge of his profession which he was admitted to possess. With Messrs. Newton and Son he remained some time after the expiration of his pupilage. About the year 1830, he obtained an engagement, under Captain John Ericson, to assist in making the drawings for the ' Novelty ' locomotive engine, then about to be constructed by Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson, for competition with the ' Rocket ' and other engines on the Manchester and Liverpool Railway.

The result of the competition, as is well known, proved adverse to the Novelty,' on account of the failure of the blast apparatus. Mr. Cheffins was present at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and remained some time longer with Captain Ericson, making drawings for other inventions, amongst which was a steam fire engine and a calorigic engine; machines which excited considerable attention at the period, and the former of which has since come into general use. In these matters Mr. Cheffins' practical knowledge of machinery rendered him a very valuable assistant in the preparation of the designs.

In the year 1831 he was introduced to the late Mr. George Stephenson, by the late Mr. Padley, who was that gentleman's oldest associate and surveyor. After the successful opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, numerous other schemes were immediately started, in which the great Engineer occupied a prominent position. Mr. Cheffins' first occupation under Mr. Stephenson was in the preparation of the plans and sections of the projected Grand Junction Railway, which had for its object the connection of the towns of Birmingham and Liverpool; and it was whilst engaged upon this work, that his persevering industry was noticed by those with whom he was brought into contact; amongst whom may be mentioned the late Mr. Joseph Locke, MP., Mr. Swanwick, Mr. Gooch, and many others, who have since become eminent in the Engineering profession.

On the completion of the parliamentary deposits for the Grand Junction Railway, Mr. Cheffins terminated his engagement with Mr. Stephenson, and, foreseeing that railway schemes were only then in their infancy, and that much work might be anticipated, by devoting himself exclusively to the surveying department of the profession, he established himself in London, and commenced business on his own account. He had the good fortune to retain the support and patronage of all those with whom he had been previously associated, besides adding many other names to his list of friends.

The late Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P., was among the latter, and under his direction and superintendence, he prepared many of the designs for the construction of the bridges on the London and Birmingham Railway, and was also engaged by him on various other matters. This kind friendship and support only ceased with Mr. Robert Stephenson's death, and Mr. Cheffins ever entertained a most lively regard for the man to whom his success in life might be fairly attributed. It is unnecessary here to enter into the detail of the numerous projects with which Mr. Cheffins was associated during the many years he continued in the exercise of his professional career. The London and Blackwall, the Great Eastern then the Eastern Counties), the Trent Valley, and the North Staffordshire Railways, are a few of those which he lived to see brought to a successful completion, though in their course through both Houses of Parliament they had to sustain the heavy and determined opposition of other powerful companies and of large landed proprietors.

As a testimony of the esteem in which his services were held, during the many years he was engaged in these and other matters, a valuable service of plate was presented to him in the year 1846, the subscription being headed by the leading Engineers of the day. This token of regard has been handed down to his family to be kept by them as an heir-loom. The last great scheme in which he was employed was the projected Great Eastern Northern Junction Railway Bill of 1860, (known familiarly as the ' Coal line,') which his good friend Mr. George Parker Bidder had placed in his hands, and in which he took a deep interest; but death cut him short whilst in the active discharge of his duties.

He died from an internal injury on the 22nd of October, 1860, after only a few hours' illness, leaving his son (with whom he had been associated in partnership for some years) to complete that which he had with so much zeal only a month, or two, previously commenced. His death, at the early age of fifty-four years, caused profound regret to all those with whom he had been connected for so many years, as also to those of his assistants, who had served under him in the numerous parliamentary campaigns in which he had been engaged- and to many of whom he had shown much kindness in recommending them to posts of trust and responsibility on the Indian railways.

The career of Mr. Cheffins presents no feature of extraordinary interest save the example of the persevering industry of an honest man-one of those whose lot it has been to carry out the plans of others, without endeavouring to attribute to himself the merit appertaining to those who employed him. He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the year 1818, and he never ceased to take great interest in the proceedings.

Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol 21, 1862 pp. 578-580

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