Three generations of the Doswell family worked as surveyors in Southampton.

The patriarch, John Doswell, was a land, timber and building surveyor of Romsey and had twice (1781 and 1787) been mayor of Winchester. He was responsible for two maps of Southampton produced in 1800 and 1802.

John Doswell Doswell, born in Michelmersh c.1782, was his eldest son, and co-operated with the Southampton maps of 1800 and 1802. In 1805 he was appointed by the Southampton Harbour Commissioners to assist John Rennie in the preparation of plans for the new quay. A year later, aged 23 years, he was appointed surveyor to the Harbour Board (see J P M Pannell, Old Southampton shores, 1967, chapter 6). In 1813 he became surveyor to Southampton Corporation. He added a string of other public surveyorships over the following decades, in particular to the Waterworks Commissioners, the Pavement Commissioners and the Improvement Commissioners. It was a virtual monopoly that many saw as political jobbing, although he did bring a degree of common purpose to what otherwise were competing boards. He was surveyor to the South Stoneham enclosure commissioners in 1814 and the Shirley Common enclosure commissioners in 1829. He lived in some style at 5 Albion Place in Southampton. He died, at 11 Beckford Place, on 24 February 1856, aged 74 years. Thirteen children were born to John and his wife Ann (nee Matthews) in Southampton between 1809 and 1827. Three of his sons - Charles Matthews, George and Richard - form a third generation of surveyors.

Charles Matthews [sometimes given as Mathews] Doswell, the eldest son, was baptized at All Saints Church on 18 December 1809. He appears in Southampton in the 1830s and 1840s as an architect and surveyor, living in Hamilton Terrace, Commercial Road. He is said to have been involved with the building of the nearby St Peter's Church. He married Sarah Morris (her father Richard was described as a servant) on 23 March 1843 at All Saints Church. Charles emigrated to North Adelaide in Australia in 1850, tempted no doubt by the gold fever that was sweeping through the colony. He was employed as a laboratory assistant in the South Australia Government Assay Office from February 1852. He later became a bullion clerk (at £150 per annum) and superintendent of the Bullion Department before resuming his earlier profession as architect and civil engineer in April 1853. Joining the Surveyor-General's Department, Charles became an examining officer of roads. In the early 1870s he left government employ to set up on his own as a surveyor and road agent. He died in Adelaide on 29 March 1875, aged 65 years.

George Doswell was baptized at All Saints Church on 15 February 1811. He assisted his father during his early professional life. He published, from designs by his father, a Plan of the town of Southampton reduced from an official survey in 1842. He was also responsible for a Southampton map of 1835 produced for the Board of Waterworks, of which his father was surveyor. He was later to succeed his father in two key surveyorships: to the Waterworks Board in the mid 1840s and to the Pier and Harbour Commissioners in March 1856, after Doswell Doswell's death. In August 1844, his father had recommended George - "who was well acquainted with roads, canals, and railway practice" - for the post of Surveyor of Highways under the newly-created Improvement Board. Fearing an overarching family monopoly, the Board appointed William McAdam. George acted independently as a steel engraver, civil engineer, surveyor (notably in 1842 to George Laishley in the layout of his Oxford Street property leased from Queen's College, Oxford) and, in the 1850s, as a stone merchant and paving contractor with a stoneyard in Albert Terrace Road. George married twice: to Ann Eliza Harding at All Saints Church, 18 September 1838 and, after her death in February 1851, to Mary Ann White at St Mary's Church, 25 January 1855. His respective addresses were 35 Bernard Street and 3 Osborne Terrace, Itchen Bridge Road. George died on 29 September 1861 at Southampton, aged 50 years.

Richard Doswell was baptized at All Saints Church on 23 May 1819. He appears in the 1845 Southampton directory as a partner with his father (John D & R Doswell, engineers and land surveyors of 5 Albion Place). At the time Richard was living at 12 Blechynden Street. The 1851 census captures him living, with his wife (Sarah Sophia) and family, in Bethnal Green. He is described as Clerk of Works, Metropolitan sewers: a cog in the great scheme for the draining of London in which Captain William Yolland played so prominent a part. Captain Yolland and Richard's father had often found themselves on opposite sides of the drainage debate in Southampton in the 1840s. Richard died in Dartmouth on 7 January 1861.


Newspaper clippings (available online or accessible through the Local Studies Library):

  • "Doswell Surveyed All He Could See" (Southern Evening Echo 22/07/1983). Detailed article about the career John Doswell Doswell. Includes a picture of the Royal Pier in 1869.
  • "Name Lingers On" (Southern Evening Echo 09/12/1983). Describes Doswell family history.
  • Drawing of John Doswell Doswell - (Southern Daily Echo 27/12/1952)

see also


Further reading:

Old Southampton Shores, by J. P. M. Pannell, p87-100. (HS/h)


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