Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 412 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR EDWARD WILLIAM WATKIN, 1st Bart. (1819-1901), English railway manager, was born in Manchester on the 26th of. September 1819. He was the son of Absalom Watkin, a merchant in Manchester, and was employed in his father's counting-house, ultimately becoming a partner; but in 1845 he was appointed secretary of the Trent Valley railway, which was soon afterwards absorbed by the London & North-Western Company. He next joined the Manchester & Sheffield Company, of which he became general manager and then chairman,subsequently combining with the duties thus entailed the chairmanship of the South-Eastern (1867) and of the Metropolitan (1872). His connexion with these three railways was maintained to within a short time of his death, and they formed the material of one of his most ambitious schemes—the establishment of a through route under one management from Dover to Manchester and the north. This was the end he had in view in his successful fight for the extension of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire railway (now the Great Central) to London; and his persistent advocacy of the Channel tunnel (q.v.) between Dover and Calais was really a further development of the same idea, for its construction would have enabled through trains to be run from Paris to Lancashire and Scotland, via the East London (of which also he was for a time chairman) and the Metropolitan. The latter scheme, however, failed to obtain the necessary public and political support. Other projects had even less success. His plans for a tunnel between Scotland and Ireland under the North Channel, and for a ship canal across Ireland from Galway to Dublin, did not come to anything; while the great tower atWembley Park (near Harrow), intended to surpass the Eiffel Tower at Paris, stopped at an early stage. It was in the realms of railway politics that Watkin showed to best advantage; for the routine work of administration pure and simple he had no aptitude. He entered parliament as a Liberal, and after representing Stockport from 1864 to 1868, sat as member for Hythe for twenty-one years from 1874, becoming a Liberal-Unionist at the time of the Home Rule split, and subsequently acting as a " free lance." In 1868 he received a knighthood, and in 188o he was created a baronet. His death occurred at Northenden, Cheshire, on the 13th of April 1901.

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