James Lemon was born in London in 1833. After training as a civil engineer he worked for the Metropolitan Board of Works, before taking up the post of borough surveyor in Southampton in 1866.

His first task was to improve the woefully inadequate sewerage system in the town. The lessons of the 1849 cholera epidemic had not been learned and the disease broke out again in the summer of 1866. Despite indifference and opposition on the grounds of cost, Lemon was able to install miles of new sewage pipes, persuade the council to acquire land in St Denys for the purpose of sewage disposal, and build a new water main from the reservoir on the Common to replace local wells. He made numerous other improvements to the town, including widening East Street and asphalting the High Street. He resigned as borough surveyor in 1878 to concentrate on his own business, but continued to serve the corporation as a consulting engineer. He was closely involved with various railway projects and schemes to extend the docks, including the rebuilding of the Royal Pier in the 1890s. He became chairman of the Harbour Board in 1892.

He was politically active in the local Liberal cause. He was elected to both the Borough Council and the County Council, representing Shirley and Freemantle. He was mayor in 1891 and 1892. He was elected alderman in 1897 and resigned from the council in 1900. He was knighted in 1909. He died in 1923 and was buried in the Old Cemetery. Lemon Road, off Waterhouse Lane, was named after him.

Lemon, Sir James

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Portrait by Leonard Frank Skeats (1874-1943)

Further reading:

Reminiscences of Public Life in Southampton (2 volumes), by James Lemon. (HS/l)


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