Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Robert Alexander Briggs |
|Designation: ||Engineer |
|Born: ||24 April 1868 |
|Died: ||15 December 1963 |
|Bio Notes: ||Robert Alexander Briggs was born on 24 April 1868 in Southwark, Surrey and was educated in London. At the age of 15 he was shocked by the loss of life in a disaster at the Victoria Hall, Sunderland and wanted to devise something which would prevent such things from happening. He was articled from 1883 to 1885 to Borough Engineer and Surveyor G B Jerram of Walthamstow Local Board which had responsibility for the sewage system. He was retained as Assistant Engineer and Surveyor to the Council until c. 1888 when he joined as his Engineer |
the practice of the theatre specialist Frank Matcham.
Briggs' first jobs for Matcham were in Lancashire, and he probably worked on the majority of the buildings designed and constructed by Matcham (q.v.)
Briggs moved to Edinburgh to work on the Empire Palace Theatre, Nicholson Street with Matcham, and his address at that time is recorded as 31 Nicolson Street, presumably the site office adjacent to the theatre. Whilst in Edinburgh he completed the task he had set himself of inventing a door bolt which would allow easy egress in event of an emergency but which would be secure from the outside. A patent for this was accepted 13 August 1892. The theatre was opened on 7 November 1892 and was the first in which the bolt was fitted. In 1911 there was a fire at the theatre, and although there were some fatalities backstage, between 2,000 and 3,000 members of the audience escaped unscathed.
Briggs was proposed for Associate Membership of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1902 by Henry Horwood Jennins. The Proposal form states that he 'designed and supervised the whole of the mechanical work, Hydraulic engineering etc of the Hippodrome, London' and and was ''Patentee and Inventor of the Briggs Patent panic bolt.'
He continued to work with Matcham, reputedly jointly taking out a patent for cantilever balconies used in the Coliseum, London, which opened in 1904.
He was a prolific inventor and model maker, including building a 10.25” gauge locomotive in 1908 which is still in steam at Chichester, Sussex (2008) near to his home. He ran this engine round his garden in Bognor to amuse children, last driving it at the age of 88. The Briggs Boiler is used in miniature locomotives today.
Briggs died on 15 December 1963.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this engineer:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|75, Great Dover Street, Southwark, London, England||Business||1868 *|| || |
|28, East Street, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England||Business||1871|| || |
|The Acacias, Barham Road, Croydon, Surrey, England||Private(?)||1881|| || |
|39, King Street, North Meols, Southport, England||Private||1881 *|| ||As lodger|
|31, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||1892 *|| || |
|41, Marchmont Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland||Private||1892 *|| || |
|50, Mattison Road, Hornsea, England||Private(?)||1901|| || |
|91-93, Warwick Court, Holborn, London, England||Business||1902 *|| || |
|Ivy Dene, St Albans, Kent, England||Private||1902(?) *|| || |
|Wayside, Shripney, Bognor, Sussex, England||Private||c. 1902||1963|| |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
|The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this engineer (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date from||Date to||Position||Notes|
|Frank Matcham|| || ||Engineer|| |
Buildings and Designs
|This engineer was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Date started||Building name||Town, district or village||Island||City or county||Country||Notes|
|1892||Empire Palace Theatre|| || ||Edinburgh||Scotland||With Frank Matcham|
|The following periodicals contain references to this engineer:|
| ||Periodical Name||Date||Edition||Publisher||Notes|
|Bognor Post||2 December 1950|| || ||pp9, 13|
|Scale Model Trains||June 1988||v.6, no 10|| ||p260|
|Sussex Life||July 1988|| || ||p38|
|The following archives hold material relating to this engineer:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|http://www.ipo.gov.uk/||UK Intellectual Property Office||GB18871/1891|| |
|Information courtesy of Patricia Lovell||Information via website|| ||Information and biographical note courtesy of Patricia Lovell.|