Friday 22 May 2015

The man who launched the Great Railway Bazaar - James Joseph Berkley (1819-1862), Camberwell Old Cemetery

Berkley's monument in Camberwell Old Cemetery was paid for by public subscription
James John Berkley, born in Holloway in 1819 and dead in Sydenham at the age of 42 spent the best part of a decade in India building the first 20 miles of India’s celebrated railway network from Bombay to Tanna. He was most celebrated for the impressive feat of taking the railway into the Western Ghats but was dead before the first section of line was officially opened in 1863. Berkley trained and worked with eminent engineers such as George Bidder and George Stephenson both of whom recommended him for the job of Chief Resident engineer with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. Ill health drove him back to England and an early death.

Berkley's railway over the Bhore Ghat incline
He left behind a young widow and five children; his youngest daughter was born posthumously.  At the Annual meeting of the shareholders of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway held at the London Tavern in  October 1862 Sir William Tite MP addressed his colleagues on the loss of their Chief Engineer he “was anxious to make a recommendation, that an acknowledgment should be made of their appreciation of Mr. Berkley’s services, that gentleman's death being, as he believed, mainly attributable to the influence of the Indian climate while engaged in carrying out the works on their line The directors proposed to erect a stone tablet to Mr. Berkley’s memory on the Bhore Ghat incline, hut he thought t it would be only just that they should make some provision for Mr. Berkley’s five young children. Mr. Berkley had insured his life, but he had not lived long enough to make adequate provision for those dependent upon him, and he proposed that the meeting should authorise the board to pay over to Mr. Berkley’s executors 1000/. for the benefit of his family.”

Berkley’s son, James Eustace, also became a railway engineer. In 1896 newspapers reported scandalous details of his divorce. The jury granted the wronged husband £1500 damages from Captain Hawkes but the plaintiff gallantly agreed not to enforce if Hawkes married the divorced Mrs Berkley:
DIVORCE SUIT. £1,500 DAMAGES. Divorce Division Thursday
James Eustace Berkley, railway engineer, living in India, obtained a decree nisi, and costs, in an undefended divorce suit, in which Captain Hawkes who was formerly stationed at Secunderabad, where petitioner and his wife resided. In 1894 respondent came to England on a visit to her mother. Co-respondent also visited England at the same time, and Mrs. Berkley wrote to her husband stating that she had met Captain Hawkes, with whom they had become acquainted in Secunderabad, and that she had been out fishing with him in his yacht. Subsequently she wrote stating that she had misconducted herself with Hawkes. By consent the jury awarded the petitioner £1,500 damages, but Mr. Berkley agreed not to enforce payment, provided Captain Hawkes carried out his intention of marrying the respondent within six months.

Berkley's portrait on his funeral monument

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