William Halcrow
Sir William Halcrow was one of the most notable English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 civil engineer
Civil engineer
A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering; the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.Originally, a...

s of the 20th century, particularly renowned for his expertise in the design of tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passageway, completely enclosed except for openings for egress, commonly at each end.A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers...

s and for projects during the Second World War.

Early years

Halcrow was born in Bishopwearmouth
Bishopwearmouth is an area in Sunderland, North East England.Bishopwearmouth was one of the original three settlements on the banks of the river Wear that merged to form modern Sunderland....

, Sunderland, (at 9 Shakespeare Terrace) at a time when Sunderland was the site of extensive railway and harbour developments.

He joined the London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

-based firm of PW and CS Meik as a pupil (coincidentally, engineering brothers Patrick Meik
Patrick Meik
Patrick Meik was an English engineer and part of a minor engineering dynasty. His father Thomas Meik was also an engineer, as was Patrick's brother Charles Meik.Both boys were born in Crowtree Road, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland....

 and Charles Meik
Charles Meik
Charles Meik was an English engineer and part of a minor engineering dynasty. His father Thomas Meik was also an engineer, as was Charles' brother Patrick Meik; collectively, they established a company which is now one of the UK's major engineering consultancies.Both boys were born in Crow Tree...

 were also born in Bishopwearmouth) in the early 1900s and one of his earliest projects was the Kinlochleven
Kinlochleven is a village in Lochaber, in the Scottish Highlands and lies at the eastern end of Loch Leven, a sea loch cutting into the western Scottish Highlands. To the north lie the Mamores ridge; to the south lie the mountains flanking Glen Coe...

 hydroelectric scheme in the Western Highlands of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, where he worked as assistant resident engineer.

In 1910 he left the firm to gain overseas experience (working on construction of the King George V Dock in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

). During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, back in Scotland, he was in charge of the construction of the Invergordon
Invergordon is a town and port in Easter Ross, in Ross and Cromarty, Highland, Scotland.-History:The town is well known for the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931. More recently it was also known for the repair of oil rigs which used to be lined up in the Cromarty Firth on which the town is situated...

 naval base and for defences at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

 in the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...



After a brief return to Singapore to work on the Johor-Singapore Causeway
Johor-Singapore Causeway
The Johor–Singapore Causeway is a 1,056-metre causeway that links the city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia across the Straits of Johor to the town of Woodlands in Singapore. It serves as a road, rail, and pedestrian link, as well as water piping into Singapore.The causeway is connected to the...

 (c.1919), he returned to rejoin Charles Meik and work on the design of the Lochaber
District of Lochaber 1975 to 1996Highland council area shown as one of the council areas of ScotlandLochaber is one of the 16 ward management areas of the Highland Council of Scotland and one of eight former local government districts of the two-tier Highland region...

 hydroelectric scheme. When Meik died in 1923, the delivery of this ambitious project (which involved boring a main tunnel 5m in diameter and 24 km long through the Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. It is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William....

 massif, and creating a series of dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

s and reservoirs) was left in Halcrow's hands; that same year, the firm was renamed CS Meik and Halcrow.

Wartime exploits

His responsibilities extended to tunnels under Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 and tunnels for the Post Office and telecommunications.

The knowledge he had gained at Lochaber was to prove invaluable as the Second World War approached and the transport authorities sought to protect the London Underground
London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...

 system from flooding. He also helped design deep air raid shelters, eight of which were attached to existing stations such as Goodge Street tube station
Goodge Street tube station
Goodge Street is a London Underground station on Tottenham Court Road. It is on the Northern Line between Tottenham Court Road and Warren Street, and is in Travelcard Zone 1.-History:...

 (which also housed a signals centre used by General Eisenhower to direct the D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 landings in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 in 1944).

Halcrow's expertise was also used in preparatory works at the Manod slate quarry in north Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, used to keep treasures from the National Gallery, London
National Gallery, London
The National Gallery is an art museum on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The gallery is an exempt charity, and a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media...

 safe from enemy air raids. His firm was also involved in designing the reinforced concrete caisson
Caisson (engineering)
In geotechnical engineering, a caisson is a retaining, watertight structure used, for example, to work on the foundations of a bridge pier, for the construction of a concrete dam, or for the repair of ships. These are constructed such that the water can be pumped out, keeping the working...

s used for the Mulberry Harbour
Mulberry harbour
A Mulberry harbour was a British type of temporary harbour developed in World War II to offload cargo on the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy....

s employed after D-Day in northern France, while his knowledge of dam construction was used by Barnes Wallis
Barnes Wallis
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE FRS, RDI, FRAeS , was an English scientist, engineer and inventor. He is best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the RAF in Operation Chastise to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II...

 to help perfect the 'bouncing bomb
Bouncing bomb
A bouncing bomb is a bomb designed specifically to bounce to a target across water in a calculated manner, in order to avoid obstacles such as torpedo nets, and to allow both the bomb's speed on arrival at the target and the timing of its detonation to be pre-determined...

' used in the famous Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 or Dam Busters raids of July 1943.

Peace-time expansion

After the war, Halcrow's attention once again turned to Scotland. Instead of generating power for aluminium production, the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board
North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board
The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was founded to design, construct and manage hydroelectricity projects in the Highlands of Scotland...

 proposed a new generation of hydroelectric schemes to generate power for public consumption. The 'Glen Affric' scheme, started in 1947, was the biggest, but there were equally impressive projects in neighbouring catchments such as Glen Garry and Glen Moriston – the latter including one of the first underground power station
Underground power station
An underground power station is a type of hydroelectric power station constructed by excavating the major components from rock, rather than the more common surface-based construction methods....

s in the UK – and Strathfarrar and Kilmorack.

In Wales, the Halcrow firm's attention also turned to water supply projects. The Claerwen Dam opened in 1952 and, later, the Clywedog Dam, helped create reservoirs to supply the towns and cities of the English West Midlands
West Midlands (region)
The West Midlands is an official region of England, covering the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. It contains the second most populous British city, Birmingham, and the larger West Midlands conurbation, which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley,...

. Halcrow was also instrumental in persuading the UK government to set up a hydraulics
Hydraulics is a topic in applied science and engineering dealing with the mechanical properties of liquids. Fluid mechanics provides the theoretical foundation for hydraulics, which focuses on the engineering uses of fluid properties. In fluid power, hydraulics is used for the generation, control,...

 research laboratory at Wallingford in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, while his colleagues were designing railway tunnels at Potters Bar
Potters Bar
Potters Bar is a town in the Hertsmere borough of Hertfordshire, England, located north of Central London. In 2001 it had a population of 21,618....

 (1955) and the earlier Woodhead Tunnel
Woodhead Tunnel
The Woodhead Tunnels are three parallel trans-Pennine 3-mile long railway tunnels on the Woodhead Line, a former major rail link from Manchester to Sheffield in northern England...

 (1954) and starting work on the new Victoria Line
Victoria Line
The Victoria line is a deep-level London Underground line running from the south to the north-east of London. It is coloured light blue on the Tube map...

 underground line beneath central London.

Overseas, Halcrow led the company to work on a wide range of engineering projects, from roads, bridges and harbours in Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 and Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

 to dams in Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...


The Halcrow legacy

Halcrow was knighted in 1944, and elected as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Institution of Civil Engineers
Founded on 2 January 1818, the Institution of Civil Engineers is an independent professional association, based in central London, representing civil engineering. Like its early membership, the majority of its current members are British engineers, but it also has members in more than 150...

 in 1946. He retired in the late 1950s and died in Folkestone
Folkestone is the principal town in the Shepway District of Kent, England. Its original site was in a valley in the sea cliffs and it developed through fishing and its closeness to the Continent as a landing place and trading port. The coming of the railways, the building of a ferry port, and its...

, Kent in 1958.

The firm, renamed WT Halcrow and Partners in 1941 and Sir William Halcrow and Partners in 1944, was known more recently as Halcrow Group Limited
Halcrow Group Limited
Halcrow Group Limited is an engineering consultancy company, based in the United Kingdom.Halcrow is one of the UK's leading consultancies, with a pedigree stretching back to 1868. The UK-based consultancy specialises in the provision of planning, design and management services for infrastructure...

. However, in September 2011 after a prolonged and difficult struggle through the global financial crisis, the firm became the most recent acquisition of the American consultant, CH2M Hill
CH2M Hill
CH2M Hill is an American-based global provider of engineering, construction, and operations services for corporations, nonprofits, and federal, state, and local governments. The firm is headquartered in Meridian, an unincorporated area of Douglas County, Colorado in the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan...

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