engineering timelines

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A biography of the early water engineer George Sorocold, written by myself and my colleague Alan Gifford has been published on the Engineering Timelines website today.

If any members have any comments regarding Sorocold, or have further information regarding his life and works we would be grateful if you would join us in discussion here on the Engineering Timelines Social Network.

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The first definite facts we know about George Sorocold are from his university details. We know he joined Emmanuel College in Cambridge in May 1684 and left in December 1684 without a degree. His entry says he was "from Lancashire" and he also presented a tankard during 1684. We know that he married Mary Franceys in December of that year which clearly fits in with his leaving that month as students were not allowed to marry.

So if we accept that the George who married Mary Franceys was the renowned water engineer then this has to be the same one who went to university for 6 months in 1684.

As far as his date of birth goes there is a record (Find my past) of a George Sorocold being baptised on 2/3/1666 in the Warrington area with a father James which would allow a reasonable age for joining university.

Hello Brian,

Firstly let me thank you for showing interest in our article on Sorocold, it’s good to know there are others out there interested in the life, times and work of this Great Engineer.

You are correct in commenting on the dates and records linked to the name of George Sorocold, however in our article we are really questioning if these dates actually relate to ‘our’ George Sorocold so to speak. Many of them are taken directly from the paper *produced by F. Williamson in 1936, without too much question.  Williamson in fact represents the major single reference to our man in the literature that we have found to date.

With respect to his date of birth there are many records relating to the Sorocold family from the Warrington area and a date of birth of circa 1668 is normally attributed to our George in most documents. If we take your suggested date of 1666 for his birth this would have made him in his early twenties when he first gains a commission for works in All Saints Derby. As stated in the article a reference has been found in the Manchester Records office for the birth of ‘a famous Engineer’ named George Sorocold in 1658. We feel perhaps the profile of an older, more experienced (late twenties) man, would fit in better with the commission of this works. We think it worthy of further consideration when reviewing his achievements.

Likewise when considering if the records for the entry to Cambridge University refers to our George, it may be the case that it is but we would not say it is proved. Indeed if his date of birth is 1658 this would be unlikely as the entry of ‘mature’ students was very uncommon during this period as far as we are aware.  This is an interesting point as it opens up the questions of where our George gained his knowledge and skill. We assume an Engineer receives a University based education today but that was more often not the case for early Engineers and can be considered a fairly recent development.

Finally when considering George’s marriage to Mary Francis we would consider that this ties in with the first point of the life on our George that is fully proved. We think you can speculate if this was a marriage of a young 19 year old or maybe the second marriage of an older man.

In summing up while acknowledging your comments we don’t really feel that any contradict what we have outlined in our article. We are of course always open to further discussion to progress our search to find more out about this great man, the greatest mystery still being where and when he died.

Kind Regards

Alan & Paul

*Derbyshire Archeological and Natural History Society Vol LV!!

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