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Henry Whatley Tyler

Sir Henry Whatley Tyler (7 March 1827 - 1908) was a British Inspector of Railways, Railway Company director and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 to 1892.

Early life

Tyler was born in Mayfair, London the son of John Chatfield Tyler and attended the Royal Military Academy Woolwich.[1] He joined the Royal Engineers and in 1851 was a lieutenant called upon by Henry Cole to assist with the organisation of the Great Exhibition. In 1860 he donated a set of prospectuses to the State Library of Victoria.[2]

Railway Inspectorate

Tyler was appointed an Inspecting Officer for Railways in 1853 a function which is normally carried out by Royal Engineers officers, holding the position for 24 years.[3] A typical investigation is reported in the press in 1858.[4] Other important investigations included the Wooton bridge collapse and the Clayton Tunnel rail crash, both of which occurred in 1861. The former involved failure of cast iron beams supporting the track in a wooden bridge, through which a coal train fell, killing the driver and stoker instantly. The Clayton tunnel crash involved a collision in the tunnel and was the worst rail disaster at the time, killing 24 passengers in the rear coaches. He also reported on the Bull bridge accident when yet another cast iron girder failed suddenly as a train was passing over.

His expertise was called upon not only in the UK but also in various locations in Europe. In 1866 he was sent to inspect the railway systems of France and Italy, in order to determine how best to transfer mail destined for India from northern France to the Italian port of Brindisi. On his recommendation the route was accepted.[3] In 1867 he investigated London's water supply following an outbreak of cholera, an investigation which involved emptying a reservoir of the East London Waterworks Company next to the river Lea, and tasting the contaminated water. His report helped confirm that cholera was water-borne rather than by the air.

In 1868 he spent two periods of leave building the first railway in Greece from Athens to Piraeus. In 1871 he received promotion to Chief Inspector of Railways, and in 1874 he went to America to inspect the Erie for British investors. He was a member of the abortive Channel Tunnel Commission in 1875 to 1876. On retirement from the government post he became President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in 1877 where he established a successful working relationship with Sir Joseph Hickson.[5] He was also chairman of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company and Deputy Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company.[6]

Political life

At the 1880 general election, Tyler was elected as Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Harwich in Essex.[7] In 1882 he objected to a Theosophist article against which he raised a charge of blasphemy and became embroiled in a conflict with Annie Besant.[8] In 1885 he was elected at Great Yarmouth, but lost the seat at the 1892 election.[9] In 1893 he gave up the presidency of the Grand Trunk Railway Company.

Personal life

Tyler married Margaret Pasley, daughter of General Sir Charles Pasley, K.C.B. in 1852. He was interested in homeopathy and contributed large sums of money for the expansion of the London Homeopathic Hospital. His daughter Margaret Lucy Tyler (1875–1943) was a student of James Tyler Kent and became one of the most influential homeopaths of all time[10]

See also



  • PR Lewis, Disaster on the Dee: Robert Stephenson's Nemesis of 1847, Tempus Publishing (2007) ISBN 978-0-7524-4266-2

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Jervis-White-Jervis
Member of Parliament for Harwich
Succeeded by
James Round
Preceded by
Constituency disfranchised
Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth
Succeeded by
James Marshall Moorsom

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