LINDLEY, WILLIAM (1808-1900) & LINDLEY, SIR WILLIAM HEERLEIN (1853-1917)
Plaque erected in 2015 by English Heritage at 74 Shooters Hill, Blackheath, London, SE19 2UG, London Borough of Greenwich
Engineering and Transport
WILLIAM LINDLEY, 1808-1900, Sir WILLIAM HEERLEIN, LINDLEY, 1853-1917, Civil Engineers, lived here
The civil engineers William Lindley and Sir William Heerlein Lindley – who were father and son – were distinguished and prolific designers of the water supplies and drainage systems that make modern urban living possible.
Clean water and Hamburg’s rebuilding
Between the 1840s and the First World War, the Lindleys were responsible for the construction of supply, drainage and sewage systems in more than 60 cities – mostly in central and eastern Europe. These included Frankfurt, Warsaw, Budapest, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Basle, Prague, Vienna and Sydney.
Lindley senior was a leading pioneer of sand filtration, a water purification system that eventually became the standard. This did a great deal to eliminate cholera from the western world, a water-borne disease that once killed millions – and is still a major health hazard in parts of the world not fortunate enough to have reliable supplies of clean drinking water.
William Lindley also played a key role in rebuilding the German city of Hamburg after a disastrous fire in 1842. He gave Hamburg one of the world’s first constant supplies of fresh water, and – by draining large areas to make them habitable – substantially shaped the city’s modern form and extent.
Honoured in Europe
Lindley is well remembered in Hamburg, where he met and married a local woman, Julie Heerlein. There is a statue to him in the city.
Their son, William Heerlein Lindley is similarly honoured in Warsaw – though probably his most impressive achievement was the water supply for Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This involved building a 110-mile pipeline over the Caucasus mountain range. His death in 1917 – the year that this gargantuan project was completed – was apparently hastened by the physical strain of supervising work in such an inhospitable environment.
William Heerlein Lindley’s brothers Robert and Joseph were also civil engineers, and part of the family firm.
The Lindleys and London
The Lindleys were part of the great British engineering diaspora, with most of their work done abroad. However, Lindley senior worked on a couple of London landmarks early in his career. One was the Thames Tunnel of Marc and Isambard Brunel, now incorporated into the Overground network between Wapping and Rotherhithe. The other was the Victorian gothic pumping station at Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, known as ‘the castle’, on which he was a consulting engineer.
The Lindleys’ blue plaque adorns a mid 19th-century house on what is now the busy A2 road in Blackheath – 74 Shooters Hill Road, formerly numbered 10 Kidbrooke Terrace. It was their family home from 1862, and William Lindley senior died here. His daughter Julia held on to the place until the 1930s, making for a family connection of close to 80 years.