George Thomas Clark
born  29th May 1809, Chelsea, London, UK
baptised  11th July 1809, St Luke’s church, Chelsea, London, England, UK
died  31st January 1898, Talygarn House, Talygarn, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales, UK
buried  St Anne's, Talygarn, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales, UK
era  Georgian and Victorian
A biographical summary
Polymath George Thomas Clark was a medical man, civil engineer, ironmaster, philanthropist, and antiquary noted for his castle studies. Leaving behind his early training as a surgeon, he turned to engineering in the mid 1830s, working for Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) on the Great Western Railway and the Taff Vale Railway before travelling to India to work on rail and sewerage projects. He later took charge of Dowlais Ironworks in Wales, transforming its fortunes. Throughout his life he also researched military archaeology and genealogy.
Born and raised in London, the son of the Chaplain of the Royal Military Asylum in Chelsea, Clark began his career in the medical world. He was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1832 and then practiced in Bristol. However, by 1835 he was working as a sub-assistant to Brunel on two phases of the broad gauge Great Western line, which linked London to Bristol (opened 1838). He contributed to the construction of two Thames bridges — Basildon Rail Bridge and Moulsford Rail Bridge, and the first (temporary) Paddington Station.
Clark was recruited to work in India, where in 1843 he proposed the Bombay & Great Eastern Railway (opened 1853), the country's first railway line — he took up the post of Engineer, carrying out route surveys. On his return to Britain, he continued to work in public health, finding employment with the General Board of Heath, where he rose to superintending inspector, championing better water supply and sewerage systems. Over a three year period, he produced 63 reports on sanitation around the country.
Clark's life changed direction once again in 1850, when he married Ann Price Lewis (1821-85), a descendent of Thomas Lewis (1699-1764), founding partner of Dowlais Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. In 1852, Clark became a trustee of the now loss-making works and went on to turn it into a profitable world-class business.
Under Clark, Dowlais obtained the first licence (1856) to use the Bessemer process for making steel, giving the works a significant competitive advantage. Clark's far-sighted strategy benefited from the technical expertise of works managers, William Menelaus (1818-82) and Edward Pritchard Martin (1844-1910), and from his belief that he must "put the proper man in the proper place, and to leave him there as much as possible undisturbed".
The location of Dowlais Ironworks had many advantages, including a ready supply of labour. By 1851 Dowlais was the largest town in Wales (pop. 46,378). Clark had the welfare of his workers at heart and he improved sanitation, established schools and founded an accident hospital to serve them. He deserves recognition as a man resolved to try to improve the lives of ordinary people in his adopted homeland. He died in 1898 and is buried in Wales.
Outside engineering, Clark took up writing, starting soon after qualifying in medicine. He wrote extensively on the themes of castles, earthworks and defences, and he collated numerous genealogical pedigrees and Latin charters. His castle studies, with their meticulous details of features since destroyed, remain a valuable research resource. He was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant and then Sherriff of Glamorganshire, and Lieutenant-Colonel of the Taff Battalion of the Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers.
1809 Born 26th May in Chelsea, London, eldest child of Rev. George Clark (1777-1848, Chaplain of the Royal Military Asylum) and Clara Dicey (of Claybrook Hall in Leicestershire), with siblings Charles (bap.1810), Henry McGregor (bap.1813), Frederick Guy L'Estrange (1818-83, barrister) and Clara (born c.1827)
1776 Assists his father on Stourbridge Canal
1819-25 Attends Charterhouse school in Smithfield, London
1825-32 Articled to surgeon Sir Patrick Macgregor (c.1777-1828), then to George Gisborne Babington (1794-1856)
1832 Admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons (14th December), then practises in Bristol
1834-35 Meets (winter) Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) in the unfinished Staple Hill Tunnel
1835-41 Employed as sub-assistant to Brunel (at first in Bristol under G.E. Frere) on construction of the Great Western Railway and as an assistant on the Taff Vale Railway
1842-47 Working in India, reports on sewerage in Bombay (Mumbai), proposes Bombay & Great Eastern Railway, works as Engineer to the Bombay & Great Eastern Railway Company, makes route surveys
1845 Brunel writes (19th May) to Sir Josiah John Guest (1785-1852), "In reply to your enquiries respecting our friend GT Clark I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to his high character as a man of honour and integrity I believe also that he has considerable talents ..."
1848-51 Sub-commissioner (later superintending inspector) for General Board of Health (UK)
1849-51 Produces 63 reports on sanitary conditions in 46 towns/villages in Wales and S.W. England, including Bristol, Swansea, Swindon and Newport
1850 Marries (3rd April) Ann Price Lewis (1821-85, Clark and Price families followed puritan and evangelical traditions) at Tongwynlais, Glamorgan in Wales, two children — Blanche Lancaster (c.1851-1933) and Godfrey Lewis Bosvile (1855-1918)
1852-92 Trustee of Dowlais Ironworks and resident trustee in charge 1855-64, remained in charge thereafter
1856 Obtains first licence to use Henry Bessemer's (1813-98) patented process for making steel, forge at Dowlais in production from 1865, six Bessemer converters by 1869
1856 Appoints William Menelaus (1818-82) as works manager at Dowlais
1865 Purchases Talygarn, south of Pontyclun in Glamorgan, extends the house and estate, amassing 374 hectares by 1873, sold in 1922 by his grandson, now Grade II* listed
1866 Elected (7th June) Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, on the council in 1880/1881 and 1884/1885, also for many years Fellow of the Geological Society, and vice-president of the Royal Archaeological Institute
1866-71 Member of the Royal Commission on the Coal Trade, reports on the eastern part of the South Wales coalfield
1868-69 High Sheriff of Glamorganshire
1876 Inaugural president of British Iron Trade Association, first conference — Westminster Palace Hotel on 24-25th February 1876
1885 Wife Ann dies (6th April) at their London house, 44 Berkeley Square
1889 Builds a small church west of Talygarn, dedicated to St Anne
1898 Dies (31st January) at Talygarn, and was buried at St Anne's, probate records show his wealth as £333,305
Selected writings
Guidebook to the Great Western Railway, 1839 (author name omitted)
The History and Description of the Great Western Railway, 1846 (author name omitted)
On the Neighbourhood of Bombay, and certain beds containing Fossil Frogs, Proceedings of the Geological Society, 6th January 1847
On the Engineering Features of the Concan and Great Western Ghauts, July 1847
Report to the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary condition of the Inhabitants of the Borough of Newport, London, 1850
A description and history of Caerphilly Castle. Also, a description of Castell Coch, W. Pickering, London, 1850
A description and history of the Castles of Kidwelly and Caerphilly, and of Castell Coch, W. Pickering, London, 1852
Remarks upon the Basalt Dykes of the Mainland of India, opposite to the Islands of Bombay and Salsette, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, Vol.25, 1869
Thirteen views of the Castle of St. Donat's, Glamorganshire, with a notice of the Stradling family, Adnitt & Naunton, Shrewsbury, 1871
Mediaeval Military Architecture in England, 1884
Cartae et Alia Munimenta quae ad Dominium de Glamorgancia pertinent, 1885-93 (a collection of Glamorganshire charters, mostly dated before 1600, second edition 1910 collated by his son Godfrey)
Limbus patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 1886 (a collection of Glamorganshire family pedigrees)
Selected works
Basildon (Gatehampton) Rail Bridge (sub-assistant), GWR, Berkshire, UK .... 1835-38
Moulsford Rail Bridge (sub-assistant), GWR, Oxfordshire, UK .... 1835-38
Paddington Station (first temporary one, assistant), London, UK .... c.1838
Taff Vale Railway (assistant), Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff, Wales, UK .... 1838-41
Bombay & Great Eastern Railway (surveys, opened as Great Indian Peninsula Railway), India .... 1843-47
Dowlais Ironworks, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, UK .... 1852-92
St Anne's church, Talygarn, Glamorgan, Wales, UK .... 1889
All items by George Thomas Clark
Everything built ... 1809 - 1898
Peter Cross-Rudkin and Mike Chrimes eds., Clark, George Thomas (1809-1898), A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, 2008, Volume 2: 1830-1890, Thomas Telford Publishing Limited, Institution of Civil Engineers, London, pp.173–175
Brian Ll. James, Clark, George Thomas (1809–1898), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Death of Mr G.T. Clark, Talygarn, Cardiff Times, 5th February 1898
Further reading
Alan Birch, Economic History of the British Iron and Steel Industry, first published 1967, reprinted by Routledge, Abingdon, 2006
Peter Cross-Rudkin and Mike Chrimes eds., Menelaus, William (1818-1882), A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, 2008, Volume 2: 1830-1890, Thomas Telford Publishing Limited, Institution of Civil Engineers, London, pp.533–534
M.J. Daunton, The Dowlais Iron Company in the Iron Industry, 1800-1850, Welsh History Review, Vol.6, pp.16-48, June 1972
J. England, The Dowlais Iron Works, 1759-93, Morgannwg transactions of the Glamorgan Local History Society, Vol.3, pp.41-60, 1959
Brian Ll. James ed., G.T. Clark: Scholar Ironmaster in the Victorian Age, University of Wales Press, 1998
Edgar Jones, A History of GKN, Volume 1: Innovation and enterprise, 1759-1918, Macmillan Press, 1987
John A. Owen, Chronological Date Sequence for Events for the Dowlais Ironworks, The Merthyr Historian, Vol.1, Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society, 1976
H.J. Randall, Clark, George Thomas (1809–1898), Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales, 2007
Keith Thomas, Civil Engineering Heritage, Wales, Phillimore, Andover, 2010
Charles Wilkins FGS, The History of the Iron, Steel, Tinplate and Other Trades of Wales, Joseph Williams, Merthyr Tydfil, 1903
Charles Wilkins FGS, The History of Merthyr Tydfil, Joseph Williams & Sons, Merthyr Tydfil, 1908
John Williams, Menelaus, William (1818–1882), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
British Iron Trade Association, The Engineer, London, p.134, 25th February 1876
An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 1981
Obituary: George Thomas Clark, The Engineer, London, p.116, 4th February 1898
portrait  courtesy Institution of Civil Engineers

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George Thomas Clark
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Dowlais House
Dowlais House, with Dowlais Ironworks in the background. Clark married a descendent of Thomas Lewis, an original partner in the ironworks. In 1856, the couple moved into Dowlais House and Clark started to turn around the fortunes of the business.
Photo: courtesy
Dowlais Cottage Hospital
Dowlais Cottage Hospital (dem. c.1970s) in High Street, Dowlais in the late 1800s. It was set up by Clark in the 1860s, and Pearson Robert Cresswell (1834-1905) was its medical officer. Clark's wife Ann, who "was also a constant and a kindly visitor to the patients", supported it financially.
Photo: courtesy
In 1865, Clark purchased Talygarn, a house and estate near Pontyclun, Glamorgan. The family sold it in 1922, after which it became a convalescent home, then a rehabilitation centre, for minerworkers, some of whom can be seen here in the library.
Photo: reproduced from The Miner, August 1946
St Annes, Talygarn
Clark established St Anne's church (1889) at Talygarn, Glamorgan, not far from his Welsh estate. It is dedicated to St Anne in his wife's memory.
Photo: © Jaggery and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Grave, St Annes, Talygarn
Clark and his wife Ann share this grave in the churchyard of St Anne's.
Photo: © Stephen K. Jones
Plaque, St Annes, Talygarn
Memorial plaque in St Anne's, Talygarn.
Photo: © Stephen K. Jones
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Basildon Rail Bridge, GWR
Basildon Rail Bridge over the River Thames in Berkshire, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of the Great Western Railway. By 1835, Clark was working as a sub-assistant to Brunel in Bristol. Also that year, he helped Brunel with Parliamentary surveys, and over several years got to know him quite well. Clark later remarked that Brunel "... possessed a very fine temper, and was always ready ... to put a pleasant construction upon any apparent neglect or offence".
Photo: © Ron Allday and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Poster, Great Indian Peninsular Railway
Poster for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (opened 1853). Clark undertook surveys for the route between 1844 and 1847, after which he returned to London, possibly to promote the line, which he had proposed under the name Bombay & Great Eastern Railway.
Image: source unknown
Dowlais Ironworks in 1865
Dowlais Ironworks (est. 1759) in 1865, ten years after Clark took over as resident trustee in charge. Study of the ironworks' gross profit and loss figures show a sustained profit from the late 1850s under Clark's stewardship and rapid growth in iron output.
Photo: courtesy
Lady Screiber addressing Dowlais School, September 1855
Lady Charlotte Schreiber (1812-1895) addressing schoolchildren at Dowlais School in September 1855. Clark is sitting in the front row, looking directly at us. The school was designed by Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) and established by Sir Josiah John Guest (1785-1852), Lady Charlotte's first husband and sole owner after 1815 of Dowlais Ironworks. On his death, Lady Charlotte became one of three trustees for the works and had mangerial control as long as she was a widow. She initiated policy reforms, advised by Nicholas Wood and William Menelaus (later works manager). Sitting next to Clark is Henry Austin Bruce (1815–95) who become the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil on the death of Guest, and later a fellow trustee of Clark's at Dowlais.
Photo: courtesy Glamorgan Archives
Dowlais Ironworks furnace
A blast furnace at Dowlais Ironworks in 1865.
Photo: courtesy
Bessemer process
An illustration of the Bessemer process of steelmaking in action. Clark obtained a licence to use the process at Dowlais Ironworks in 1856, and after much collaboration with Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) himself, the steel forge went into production in 1865. By 1869 there six Bessemer converters at Dowlais.
Illustration: The Romance of Industry & Invention by Robert Cochrane, J.B. Lippincott Co, Philadelphia 1897