Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Railway engineer. James Barton was born in Dublin in 1826, the eldest surviving son of John Barton, of Mary Street,(1) and his wife Jane (née Culley). His father, a linen and hosiery merchant with a warehouse in Jervis Street, was later to become a governor of the Bank of Ireland and a director of the Dublin and Belfast Junction Railway Co. James was christened at Eustace Street Presbyterian church in Dublin on 8 July 1826.(2) He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1840 at the age of sixteen, and was one of the first two students to receive the new Diploma in Civil Engineering in 1843;(3) he obtained the BA degree in 1845.(4) During his time at Trinity, the professor of engineering was JOHN MACNEILL. A JOHN MACNEILL. A fter Macneill had left Trinity in 1846 to devote himself to railway construction, Barton worked under him first in Co. Wicklow, and then, from 1849 until 1861, as resident and then district engineer of the Great Northern Junction Railway Co, of which Macneill was engineer-in-chief. One of the company's most important undertakings was the Boyne Viaduct; responsibility for the design of this notable structure was later to become the subject of a heated public dispute between Macneill and Barton.(5) In 1861 Barton succeeded Macneill as engineer-in-chief to the company,(6) and in 1863 set up a private consultancy in Dundalk. His clients included the Dundalk & Enniskillen (later Irish North Western), Derry Central, Clogher Valley, Dundalk & Greenore, Banbridge Extension, Strabane & Letterkenny(7) railways, as well as some of the Donegal light railways. In the early 1860s he was one of several engineers who prepared schemes for a Dublin railway junction.(8) He also projected and carried out works in Carlingford Lough, including the creation of a harbour of refuge, the building of the pier and station at Greenore, and the deepening of the channel between Warrenpoint and the Newry Canal. He is said to have been the originator of the Ireland-Scotland channel tunnel scheme and made a number of experimental borings near Larne. When over eighty years old he was still actively engaged in promoting the scheme.

Barton, described as 'still in active harness' in 1909,(9) retired in the same year. He died at his home, Farndreg House, Dundalk in January 1913 at the age of eighty-seven, and was buried in St Nicholas' churchyard in Dundalk. His obituarist in the Irish Builder wrote of his career: 'A man of truly marvellous energy and vigour of mind, he in the course of an exceptionally long life accomplished far more than the average achievement of the professional man in Ireland. Certainly no other engineer of his day had such a large and widely scattered practice or such manifold interests. He may be said to have been one of the pioneers of Irish railway construction and development, and many lines throughout Ireland are monuments to his energy and skill.' His pupils and assistants included GEORGE ARCHIBALD ERSKINE HICKSON GEORGE ARCHIBALD ERSKINE HICKSON , JOSEPH RICHARD PIKE MCALERY  JOSEPH RICHARD PIKE MCALERY and JAMES PRICE JAMES PRICE . He was also prominent in church affairs.

James Barton was married twice; first, on 27 December 1849 to Catherine Frances, daughter of George Richard Golding, in St Peter's parish, Dublin, on 27 December 1849,(10) by whom he had two daughters and five sons, and second, in 1870, to Mary Honoria Elizabeth Hewson, daughter of the Rev. Francis Hewson of Dunganstown, Co. Wicklow, by whom he had a further six surviving children.(11) Sir JOHN GEORGE BARTON  JOHN GEORGE BARTON was his eldest son. Another son, Edward Barton, who was also an engineer, died in India within a few days of his father's death.

ICEI: elected member, 1861.(12)
Inst.CE: elected member, 1 March 1853; member of council, 1898-1903.

Addresses: Work: 3 Trevor Hill, Newry, 1850ca; Corn Exchange Buildings, Dundalk, 1863.
Home: Farndreg House, Dundalk, >=1862 until death.



All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the obituaries of Barton in IB 55, 1 Feb 1913, 91, and Min.Proc.Inst.CE 195 (1913-14), 368, and from and Canice O'Mahony, 'Iron rails and harbour walls: James Barton of Farndreg', County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal 22, no. 2 (1990), 134-149, which contains a photograph of Barton in old age on his tricycle. Another photograph of Barton is in IB 55, 15 Feb 1913, 97. See also the entry by Helen Andrews in Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. by James McGuire and James Quinn, 9 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 2009), I, 359-60.

(1) O'Mahony states that he was living at Stonehouse, Stillorgan Road, at the time of James's birth, but according to the directories he did not move there until circa 1830.
(2) www.familysearch.org.
(3) R.C. Cox, compiler, Trinity College School of Engineering: 'Graduates' in Engineering 1843-1992 (1993), unpaginated.
(4) G.D. Burtchaell & T.U. Sadleir, eds., Alumni Dublinenses (1935), 46.
(5) In a paper delivered to the British Association's Belfast meeting in September 1852, Barton stated that Macneill entrusted him with the calculations and 'working out of the detail' relating to the strains imposed on the vertical web of a lattice beam by both passing and constant weights (Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 15 (Oct 1852), 328)..
(6) According to Thom's directories Barton was engineer-in-chief from 1861-1867 and consulting engineer from 1868-1870; O'Mahony writes that he ceased to be engineer-in-chief in 1864, but was retained as a consultant until 1870.
(7) IB 47, 20 May 1905, 341.
(8) DB 5, 1 Oct 1863, 159.
(9) IB 51, 4 Sep 1909, 559.
(10) www.familysearch.org.
(11) According to his 1911 census return only five of his children were then alive.
(12) ICEI admissions applications, I, 40; list of ICEI members in IB 12, 15 Aug 1870, 197.

3 work entries listed in chronological order for BARTON, JAMES

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Date: 1851-55
Nature: Lattice girders suggested by John McNeill but bridge actually designed by JB, a resident engineer. For Dublin & Drogheda Railway Co. Contractor: William Evans, Cambridge, who went bankrupt. Subsequently built by railway co. itself under direction of Bindon Blood Stoney.
Refs: Model in IAA, Acc. 2009/128 (another model in Musée des Arts et Métiers. Paris);  Armagh Guardian, 28 Jun 1851; Tourist's Illustrated Handbook for Ireland (1854), 203; summary of paper delivered to British Association, 1857, in Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 20 (Nov 1857), 357; 21 (Jun 1858), 185, (Jul 1858), 237-239;  G.B. Howden, 'Reconstruction of the Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda', TICEI 60 (1933-34), 71-111(illus.); R.C. Cox & M.H. Gould, Civil Engineering Heritage: Ireland (1998), 75-76; Canice O'Mahony, 'Iron rails and harbour walls: James Barton of Farndreg', County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal 22, no. 2 (1990), 135-142;  se also P.J. Geraghty, 'The Battle of the Boyne: A Victorial Engineering Controversy',  County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal 25, no. 4 (2004), 400-425.

Date: 1862p
Nature: Built for JB. Designed by Charles Lanyon?
Refs: Canice O'Mahony, 'Iron rails and harbour walls: James Barton of Farndreg', County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal 22, no. 2 (1990), 142-3,145(illus.)

Date: 1869-1873
Nature: Development of same for Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway Co., (subsidiary of London & North Western Railway Co.) With William Baker (company engineer), from 1871. Total cost £130,000
Refs: James Barton, 'Carlingford Lough and Greenore', Min. Proc. Inst.CE 44 (1875-76), 131-150 (illus.)

Author Title Date Details
Barton, James 'On the calculation of strains in lattice girders, with practical deductions therefrom'
Paper read to British Association meeting, Belfast, Sep 1852, published in Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 15 (Oct 1852), 327-328.
Barton, James 'On the permanent way of railways'
1852 Paper read to British Association meeting, Belfast, Sep 1852, published in Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 15 (Oct 1852), 333-335.
Barton, James 'Carlingford Lough and Greenore' 1876 Min.Proc.Inst.CE 44 (1875-76), 131-150. (Summary in IB 18, 15 Feb 1876, 54-5)
O'mahony, Canice 'Iron rails and harbour walls: James Barton of Farnderg' 1990 County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal 22 (1990), 134-149.