Civil Engineers

The North Yorkshire family produced several notable civil engineers.

William became Surveyor for the restoration of York Minster in XXXX.  These days he would probably be called Project Manager. He was responsible for the work of the masons working on the restoration, as well as sourcing materials and paying bills.  He stayed in this post  until his death in XXXX Further details will be found on the York Minster page.

William’s son Robert (I) (1702 – 1771) had twelve children, but for the purposes of this page we are only considering his sons James (1750 – ), John (1738 – 1781), Robert (II)(1734 – 1797), and grandson Mathew (1774 – 1817) the son of Robert(II)

Robert Shout (I) and his sons built houses, bridges and worked on repairs at York Minster. North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton has a book of bridge designs by Robert Shout drawn in his capacity as County Surveyor of Bridges.

In 1774 Robert, together with his sons Robert(II) and John who were masons, and James who was a carpenter won a contract with the Bishop of Durham for the construction of the southern end of a new bridge over the river Tyne (to replace one washed away a few years earlier).

In 1779, work on the bridge was sufficiently advanced that James was able to become the temporary harbour engineer at Sunderland, until 1780. He produced a plan which was reviewed by John Smeaton (the “father of civil engineering” and builder of the Eddystone Lighthouse among many other illustrious projects) who recommended it with only minor amendments. Smeaton stayed with James in his home at Gateshead during the period of his review.

John (1738 – 1781)   In 1780, James was replaced by his brother John who was also responsible for the design and erection of the Doric column (below) in Stockton Market Square.

Unfortunately John died shortly after his appointment as harbour engineer. His obituary in the Newcastle Courant of 23rd June 1781 reads “Died last week at Stockton upon Tees Mr John Shout, Architect and Principal Engineer at Sunderland, under the Commissioners, for improving the harbour there; he was much respected for his integrity and great skill.” It appears that he had not even got round to taking up the accommodation in the Engineers house that went with the post.

Robert (1734 – 1797)   Robert (2) was appointed less than a fortnight after the death of his brother John. He continued with the construction of the South Pier that had been initiated by his brothers, but in 1782 the Commissioners stopped the work due to shortage of funds. In 1784 preparation started for another petition to Parliament. Robert gave evidence to parliament in 1795 he said he was confident that the work  being carried out would make the harbour easier to access but added that the expense of more than £60000 would be hard to recover from the harbour dues. (Depending on the conversion application used this equates to between £6Million  to £700Million!).

In the winter of 1785 the entrance of Sunderland Harbour was warped up by a large sand-bed, which extended  across the Haven mouth, leaving scarcely depth of water for the entrance of a light vessel. constructed the north pier which improved the water flow and scoured silt etc which otherwise formed a bar to entry for ships. Robert proposed that a temporary wooden Pier should be erected, in order to contract the channel, and enable the ebb tide to scour it self a deeper bed. The plan was immediately adopted, and in a few months there was a deep and spacious channel.

This beneficial result induced the Commissioners to commence the building of a permanent Pier of stone; but, owing to the nature of the ground, loose shifting sand and gravel, the work proved extremely tedious and expensive. A length, however, of near seven hundred feet of solid pier, built upon piles, was completed by Robert

Port & Harbour Engineering Volume 6 edited by Adrian Jarvis (ISBN 978-0-86078-755-6) and The Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers Vol1, edited by Skempton give quite a lot of detail about the work of the Shouts in Sunderland.  Tyne and Wear Archives in Newcastle have the minute books of the River Wear Commissioners which is very interesting to read.

In December 1794 Robert’s health gave cause for concern and by May 1795 adverts were placed for the appointment of his successor. He retired in August 1795 and died 25th March 1797.

While employed at Sunderland Robert also undertook several consultancies for projects at

East Pier at Scarborough 1784; Single span bridge over the River Wear 1788; Bridlington Pier 1790; Improvements to the navigation of the River Tees at Stockton 1791; removal of a sandbank in the River Tyne 1792

Robert was replaced in Sunderland by Jonathon Pickernell the younger who was the son of the Whitby harbour engineer. He was dismissed on 4th may 1804 for misconduct in the use of materials for his own purpose.

Mathew (1774 – 1814)   Mathew, the son of RobertII was appointed in June 1804. He had originally been employed at Blyth in Northumberland before moving to Scarborough in 1801. He was appointed 10 days after the advert for Pickernell’s replacement. In 1807 he sought improvements to extend the North Pier, a dock for 200 – 300 ships and the dredging and deepening of the harbour. The commissioners sought the opinion of Mr Jessop on the work carried out and planned. He was very complementary about what Mathew had achieved and recommended his plans with minor variation.

Mathew died on 14th March 1814 and it seems that much of the impetus for harbour development was lost.

Robert Howard Shout (1823 – 1882) the son of Charles Lutwyche Shout (1794 – 1855)  (see Benjamin Shout – Statuary) and Jane Gibson (1797 – 1864) followed  in the tradition becoming an architect in London, Dorset and Somerset. Plans of some of his designs for modifications to churches and the construction of vicarages are held by Somerset archives. He also designed the stable block at Minterne Magna in Dorset – the seat of Lord Digby.  He was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a sketch book from his childhood is held by the Victoria & Albert Museum. I understand this was purchased by the museum in Australia, so was probably taken there by one of his siblings who emigrated.

His architectural partnership was dissolved and he moved (back) to London living in the family home -Treherne House, Hampstead, and was in business as a merchant in East Indian goods in partnership with

He died at home when  his clothes caught fire from an upset oil lamp. His inquest was widely repoorted in newspapers such as this article from The Dundee Courier 20th March 1882