John Frederick Bateman

Infobox Engineer

image_width = 150px
caption = John Bateman in 1859
name = John Frederick Bateman
nationality = English
birth_date = 30 May 1810
birth_place = Lower Wyke, Halifax, England
death_date = Death date and age|1889|6|10|1810|5|30
death_place = Farnham, Surrey, England
education =
spouse = Anne Fairbairn
parents = John Bateman and Mary Agnes La Trobe
children =
discipline = Civil
institutions = Institution of Civil Engineers (president),
Royal Society (fellow),
Royal Society of Edinburgh (fellow),
Royal Geographical Society (fellow),
Geological Society (fellow),
Society of Arts (fellow),
Royal Institution (fellow)
practice_name =
significant_projects =
significant_design =
significant_advance =
significant_awards =

John Frederick Bateman (30 May 1810 – 10 June 1889) was an English civil engineer whose work formed the basis of the modern United Kingdom water supply industry.cite web |first=Peter |last=Russell |title=Bateman, John Frederic La Trobe (1810–1889) |work=Oxford Dictionary of National Biography |url= |publisher=Oxford University Press |date=2004 |accessdate=2008-04-22] For over 50 years from 1835 he designed and constructed reservoirs and waterworks. His largest project was the system that supplied Manchester with much of its water during the 19th century. The construction of what was in its day the largest chain of reservoirs in the world began in 1848 and was completed in 1877. Bateman became "the greatest dam-builder of his generation". [Quayle (2006), p. 15.]

Bateman also worked on water supply systems for Glasgow, Belfast, Bolton, Chester, Dublin, Newcastle upon Tyne, Oldham, Perth, Stockport and Wolverhampton, amongst many others. He carried out projects abroad as well, including designing and constructing a drainage and water supply system for Buenos Aires, and water supply schemes for Naples, Constantinople and Colombo.

In 1883, Bateman assumed his mother's family surname of La Trobe, by royal licence, becoming John Frederic La Trobe Bateman.

Early life

Bateman was born at Lower Wyke, near Halifax, on 30 May 1810, and was the eldest son of John Bateman and his wife Mary Agnes, daughter of Benjamin La Trobe, a Moravian missionary at Fairfield, near Ashton-under-Lyne. At the age of seven he was sent to the Moravian school at Fairfield, and two years later to the Moravian school at Ockbrook, returning after four years more to the Fairfield school.


At the age of fifteen Bateman was apprenticed to a surveyor and mining engineer in Oldham named Dunn. In 1833, he commenced business on his own account as a civil engineer. In 1834 he investigated the causes of the floods in the River Medlock, which led him to study hydraulic questions more closely. In 1835 he was associated with Sir William Fairbairn, who early appreciated his ability, in laying out the reservoirs on the River Bann in Ireland. From that time he was almost continually employed in the construction of reservoirs and waterworks. In all his undertakings he advocated soft water in preference to hard, and favoured gravitation schemes where they were practicable to avoid the necessity of pumping. He devoted much attention to methods of measuring rainfall, accumulated a quantity of statistics on the subject, and wrote several papers describing his observations.

Manchester water supply

The greatest system of waterworks which Bateman undertook was that connected with Manchester. In 1844 he was first consulted in regard to the Manchester and Salford water supply. About 1846 the project was formed of obtaining water from the Pennine hills; the works in Longdendale were commenced in 1848 and were finished in the spring of 1877. In 1884 Bateman published a "History and Description of the Manchester Waterworks", which dealt with many points of interest to the student of hydraulic engineering. The Longdendale scheme, however, had been designed to supply a population less than half that of Manchester in 1882, and it was clear that additional sources of supply had to be found. At Bateman's suggestion the corporation resolved to construct new works at Thirlmere. A bill was introduced into parliament in 1878, and, after initial rejection, was passed in 1879. Bateman superintended the new works, assisted by George Hill.

Later works

In 1852 he was requested to advise the town council of Glasgow in regard to the water supply of the city. In the parliamentary session of 1854–5, on Bateman's advice, a bill was obtained for the supply of water from Loch Katrine. The works were commenced in the spring of 1856 and were completed by March 1860. They extend over thirty-four miles, and were described by James M. Gale as worthy to "bear comparison with the most extensive aqueducts in the world, not excluding those of ancient Rome". [Transactions of the Institution of Engineers in Scotland, 1863–4, vii. 27]

In 1874 he prepared water schemes for Naples and Constantinople, and he was also engineer for some reclamation schemes in Spain and Majorca. The crown agents to the colonies employed him in Ceylon to design and carry out works for supplying Colombo with water. For forty-eight years, from 1833 to 1881, Bateman directed his business alone. From 1881 to 1885 he was in partnership with George Hill, and in 1888 he took as partners his son-in-law, Richard Clere Parsons, and his son, Lee La Trobe Bateman.

Among other important waterworks by Bateman may be mentioned the systems for Warrington, Accrington, Oldham, Ashton, Blackburn, Stockdale, Halifax, Dewsbury, St. Helens, Kendal, Belfast, Dublin, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Chorley, Bolton, Darwen, Macclesfield, Chester, Birkenhead, Gloucester, Aberdare, Perth, Forfar, Wolverhampton, Colne Valley, Marsden, and Cheltenham.

Academic works

In 1855 he prepared an important paper for the British Association "On the present state of our Knowledge on the Supply of Water to Towns", enunciating the general nature of the problem, giving an historical outline of previous measures, enumerating the various sources from which towns could be supplied, and discussing their comparative merits. In 1865 he published a pamphlet "On the Supply of Water to London from the Sources of the River Severn", which generated considerable discussion. He designed and surveyed the scheme at his own expense. A royal commission was held, and in 1868 it reported in favour of the project. It was purely a gravitation scheme to convey to London 230 million gallons of water a day. Bateman was connected with various harbour and dock trusts throughout the British Isles, including the Clyde Navigation Trust, for which he was consulting engineer, and the Shannon Inundation Inquiry in 1863, on which he was employed by government.

In addition to his many undertakings at home Bateman carried out several works abroad. In 1869 he proposed, in a pamphlet entitled "Channel Railway", written in conjunction with Julian John Révy, to construct a submarine railway between France and England in a cast-iron tube. In the same year he went out as representative of the Royal Society, on the invitation of the khedive, to attend the opening of the Suez Canal, and wrote a long report of his visit, which was read to the Society on 6 January 1870, and published in the "Proceedings". In the winter of 1870 he visited Buenos Aires, at the request of the Argentine government, for the purpose of laying out harbour works for that city. His plans were not adopted, but he was afterwards employed to design and carry out the drainage and water supply of the city.

Bateman was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 23 June 1840, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London on 7 June 1860. He was president of the Institution in 1878 and 1879. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Geographical Society, the Geological Society, the Society of Arts, and the Royal Institution.

Later life

On 1 September 1841 he married Anne, only daughter of Sir William Fairbairn. By her he had three sons and four daughters. In 1883 he assumed by royal license the prefix, surname, and arms of La Trobe, in compliment to his grandfather. Bateman died on 10 June 1889 at his residence, Moor Park, Farnham, an estate which he had purchased in 1859.


On 15 September 2000, the leader of the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside unveiled a blue plaque on the outside wall of the deepest air shaft of the Mottram Tunnel, a convert|3100|yd|adj=on long water pipeline connecting the valleys of the Etherow and the Tame. [Quayle (2006), p. 24.] The plaque is inscribed:




*cite book |last=Quayle |first=Tom |title=Manchester's Water: The Reservoirs in the Hills |publisher=Tempus Publishing |date=2006 |isbn=0752431986

s-start s-npo|pro s-bef|before=George Robert Stephenson s-ttl|title=President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
years=December 1877 – December 1879
s-aft|after=William Henry Barlow end

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