Friends And Family

(originally published in Journal 28, Summer 2000, of the NLRHS)

[Henry Daniel Martin, William Adams, John Carter Park and Henry James Pryce]


William Adams
William Adams in his later years, when working for the London & South Western Railway.
Origin unknown / J E Connor Collection

When, in February 1838, the East India Dock Company merged with the West India Dock Company to become, not unnaturally the East and West India Dock Company, it caused some prob­lems for the engineers employed by the separate organisations. John Samuel Adams was Resident Engineer to the West India Dock, whilst Henry Daniel Martin held a similar post with the East India Dock Company. The new company allowed Adams, the older man by some years, to retain his job and title and appointed 27 years old Martin as its Surveyor. The two men seemed to have got on well and gradually their two departments merged, with Adams apparently look­ing after the buildings and Martin the docks and general engineering. It was certainly Martin, working under Robert Stephenson, who surveyed and laid out the railway line from the docks to the London and Birmingham Railway at Camden Town, and who presented the plans to the first meeting of the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Railway Company in 1845. When construction began, he assumed the role of Engineer to the railway. Presumably this suited both companies, as there was little construc­tion work at the docks at this time.

John Adams had a son, William, who was born in Limehouse on 15th October 1823. John arranged for him to be educated privately at Margate, and in due course, and presumably using his contacts in the shipping fraternity, apprenticed him in 1840 to Messrs. Miller and Ravenhill, marine engineers in nearby Blackwall. After his apprenticeship, William continued his career in marine engineering, moving to work for Messrs. Philip Taylor, first in Marseilles and later in Genoa. In 1848 he Joined the Sardinian Navy and served afloat for 4 years as an engi­neering officer. During this time he met one Isabella Park, and they mar­ried in Genoa on 13th September 1852. Isabella was 22 and had moved from Aberdeen ten years previously with her parents, Charles and Catherine, and brother John Carter, who was two years younger, having been born on 2nd January 1832. Her father had set up in business in Leghorn, but the Italian revolution of 1848 had forced him to close down and eventually he and his family settled in Genoa.

In 1853, William returned to England with his young bride and settled in Bow, finding work as assistant to his father’s colleague, Henry Martin. No doubt Martin needed some help. He was still employed as Engineer to the railway (now known as the North London Railway) which was having severe problems with the engines it was hiring from the London and North Western Railway, and had determined to buy some of its own. Martin was asked to gather information and pre­pare drawings and specifications, and in June 1853 was ordered to supervise the construction of 10 engines by Messrs Stothert Slaughter & Co of Bristol. At the same time, he was still engineer to the dock Company which was pressing ahead with the Junction Dock, linking Blackwall Basin to the South West Dock and providing better access to the West India Dock. Martin’s early relationship with the N.L.R. is not well documented. He was certainly responsible for keeping the track and structures in good order, for supervising the building of new sta­tions and depots and for preparing specifications and possibly drawings for new engines. In June 1854, the directors formalised this arrangement by agreeing that he would receive “a salary of £250 a year to superintend the maintenance and repair of the way and works of the railway, a commission of 2½% on all new works executed by the company under his superintendence, and 1¼% commission for overlooking the con­struction of new locomotives, carriages or machinery”.1 It is alleged, probably cor­rectly, that Adams, under Martin’s Supervision, helped to design and build the engine shed and repair shop then being constructed at Bow to house the new engines.2 The N.L.R. had ini­tially expected the L.N.W.R. to rent them the space at Camden vacated by the engines they had been hiring. The contract for the new shed and shops was let in April 1854, so the dates would fit.

In July 1854 a Mr. Miller was engaged as foreman in the workshops to supervise repairs to the engines and carriages. He came from the L.N.W.R., and reported to the General Manager not to Martin. Miller resigned in the following March following the debacle described in Journal No. 9, and it would seem Adams was appointed in his place. Certainly in January 1856 he was referred to as “principal locomotive foreman with the immediate supervision of the whole department, under the Manager.”3

From the mid 1850s, Martin must have played only a small personal role in the Company’s affairs, although he continued to oversee the design and building of their new locomotives, and much of the civil engineering was left to Thomas Matthews, who looked after the way and works. The Dock Company’s records reveal that they employed Martin as Engineer from 1854 until 1861, with his son Charles as assistant, whilst in his obituary, which he apparently wrote before his death, he claims to have been Consulting Engineer to the East India Company from 1855, through the mutiny, until the company was abolished in 1858. It must have been a busy but lucrative time for him. However his association with the area came to an abrupt end in 1861 when the Dock Company discov­ered he had been colluding with Messrs Hack & Co., the contractors, to the tune of £12,200, and dismissed him. They also told the N.L.R. directors, who must have been horrified. Hacks had built the original engine shed and workshops and the 1860 extension, the carriage sheds at Bow, and Caledonian Road and Newington Green stations, whilst they had just asked Martin to engineer the city extension! Although it would seem they could not prove anything, they ended his commission for the City Extension, and in July 1861 he resigned. He seems to have laid low for a while before moving to the Isle of Wight, where he became involved with improvements to the river Medina and the construction of railways on the Island. He did have one small contact with Bow again in April 1880 when he bought engine No. 35A on behalf of the Ryde Newport and Cowes Railway. Martin died on the 25th September, 1898, at his residence, Halberry, Newport, in the Isle of Wight, at the age of 87.

His departure must have raised William Adams’ status and prompted him to apply for a rise, as in July 1861 it is recorded “Adams entered service in March 1855 at £200 a year, with the under­standing that his position would be improved if the directors were satisfied. In March 1857 his salary was raised by £59, and again in March 1859 by £50, making his present salary £300. The Committee rec­ommend he be paid £350 a year from the start of this year.”4In January 1863, his duties were clearly defined as “in charge of Locomotives & Rolling Stock, Workshops & Machinery and Gas & Water”,5 whilst in February 1863 he was ordered to con­struct “in the Company’s workshops, six additional goods engines similar in charac­ter to those last laid down, as the opportuni­ty may arise, without undue increase in staff.”6 His career was beginning to take off.

Meanwhile the career of his brother-in-law, John Park, was also progress­ing. He too had moved to join Philip Taylor, who was directing the erection of a large works at Sanpierdarena by the Italian Government. In 1853 he obtained the post of assistant locomo­tive superintendent of the Lucca, Pisa, and Pistoja Railway in Central Italy, which, however, he resigned in 1854 to enter the same Sardinian Navy as Adams had left two years before, in order to serve in the Crimean war. When peace came in 1856, he obtained his discharge and came to England with the intention of gaining experi­ence in the works of Messrs. Sharp, Stewart & Company at Manchester before returning to Italy. However, an offer from Mr. John Ramsbottom, then locomotive engineer of the London and North Western Railway, to take him into the Company’s shops at Longsight, induced him to remain in England.

Park was at Longsight until 1859, when he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway in Canada, a post he held until the line was taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway Company in 1864, when, his services being no longer required, he returned to England. In the following year he became Locomotive Works Manager of the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, at Inchicore. Here, one of the principal assistants was an Englishman named Pryce who, in March 1869, arranged for his son Henry to serve his time in the company’s shops and drawing office. Henry James Pryce was born in Shrewsbury on 29th April 1852, and had been educated at Hereford.

On 28th July 1873 William Adams tendered his resignation to the directors of the N.L.R., as he had been offered the post of locomotive superintendent to the Great Eastern Railway. It is not recorded whether he recommended his brother-in-law for the vacant post, but certainly by October, John Carter Park was Locomotive Superintendent to the N.L.R. He was joined in February 1874 by Henry Pryce, fresh from his appren­ticeship, whom he had appointed to a post in the drawing office. In 1878 Pryce was made Signal Superintendent, and later, in October 1884 he became Signal and Telegraph Superintendent.

Whilst Adams is chiefly remembered as the inventor of the modern form of bogie, he was in fact a good planner, redeveloping Bow, Stratford and Nine Elms works, and an acknowledged expert in the field of wheel and rail inter­action working with his namesake and near neighbour William Bridges Adams, who was surprisingly no relation! Park on the other hand was a practical design­er, who from his time in the frozen wastes of Canada, had an abhorrence of inside crank axles. No doubt his experi­ences on the North London reinforced that view. Adams went on after only five years to become Locomotive Engineer to the London and South Western Railway, a post which he held for seventeen high­ly successful years. He retired because of health problems in 1895, and moved to Putney, where he died on 7th August 1904, aged 81.

In late 1892 Park’s health began to fail and Pryce took over his duties. Park retired in January 1893 and went to live in Bournemouth. For a while he recovered but this was not to last, and he died on 28th October 1896 at the early age of 64. Henry Pryce was appointed Locomotive Superintendent in his stead on 19th January 1893, but retained his former positions in addition. Pryce like Adams seems to have been a genial family man (although not so prolific – he had only two children against Adams’ ten). He never designed an engine, preferring to perpetuate the designs of his predecessors, but he patented a number of improvements to block instruments. When the L.N.W.R. took over responsibility for the day to day running of the N.L.R. at the end of 1908, Pryce retired at the early age of 56. He apparently enjoyed his retirement, but died on 13th August 1918 aged 66, the last of the chain of family and friends who were the North London Railway Locomotive Engineers.


1. PRO RAIL 529/17 min 2165 30 July 1861

2. John Marshall A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers pub. David and Charles Newton Abbot 1978

3. PRO RAIL 529/13 min 708 8 January 1856

4. PRO RAIL 529/17 min 2147 2 July 1861

5. PRO RAIL 529/19 rnin 98 27 January 1863

6. PRO RAIL 529/19 rnin 122 10 February 1863

Other information came from:

Adams’, Martin’s and Park’s obituaries in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and Pryce’s in the Engineer August 23 1918. Reference was also made to Pryce’s papers at the Institution, and to the International Genealogical Index and to the registration records in Family Record Centre.

Details of Martin’s relations with the East and West India Dock Company are taken from The Survey of London Athlone Press for The Royal Commission for Historical Monuments of England 1994 Vol. 43 & 44.

The Dock Company’s papers are held by the Docklands Museum.

David Hanson


Leave a Reply