Discovering unsung engineer Newey

Dr Dennis Walters gave a talk at
the Bathurst Book Fair over the
weekend where he discussed
his discovery of the works of
Joseph Newey.

LOCAL HISTORY: Dr Dennis
Walters discusses the story of
Joseph Newey with his
audience at the Bathurst
Book Fair

Newey was an engineer who
was involved in the construction
of most of the wagon bridges
built between 1873 and 1900 in
the Eastern Cape.
Giving a brief background
on Newey’s upbringing, Walters
mentioned how at the tender
age of 14 years, Newey worked
at his father’s firm where he
learnt all aspects of working
with iron in the Crown Works of
Fleet & Newey in West
Bromwich, UK.
During his time there he was
involved in the design, working
drawings, manufacturing
supervision and erection on site
of lattice girder iron bridges in
England and abroad.
Newey quickly made a
name for himself by
successfully erecting
bridges which had given other
engineers trouble, such as for
the Dora Riparia and Comba
Scura rivers on the approach
railway line to the Mount Cenis
tunnel in Italy in 1872.
It is then that he was noticed
in Africa and in December 1873
he was approached and
employed on contract by the
public works department of the
Cape colonial government in SA
to erect a two-span road bridge
over the Buffalo River in King
Williams Town (now Qonce).
Upon arrival in SA, his first
work was the high three-span
wrought iron lattice girder
bridge over the Great Fish River
at Committees Drift, in the
Grahamstown (now Makhanda)
district.
Walters applauded how
Newey erected bridges
successfully which other
engineers had troubles with.
Newey was promoted as
district inspector for the Eastern
Region in 1882.
He was transferred to King
Wi l l i a m ’s Town in 1885, from
where he personally designed
and had several more stone arch
bridges erected at Cala, Barkly
East, Lady Grey, Ugie and
M a c l e a r.
During his time, more than
70 iron and timber road bridges
over dozens of rivers were
initiated and erected by PWD
personnel.
As a district inspector of the
PWD, Newey was entrusted
with the layout of many trunk
road routes in the eastern parts
of the Cape Colony and the
Transkeian territories.
“These projects were
regularly inspected by Newey in
his four-wheel, two-horse drawn
S p i d e r,” Dr Walters said.
“Newey had to initiate and
have many sandstone public
buildings constructed in most of
the towns of the region.”
Two years after retirement,
the world-renowned designer
died on January 9 1907 at his
Peninsula farm in King William’s
Tow n .

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