Daniel Gooch (1816 - 1899)

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Birthplace: Bedlington, Northumberland, England
Death: Died
Managed by: Timothy Michael Gell
Last Updated:

About Daniel Gooch

Sir Daniel Gooch CME, MP. 1st Baronet of Clewer Park. Born in Bedlington, Northumberland, on 24th August 1816. Died 15th October 1889.

Both his father and grandfather married Longridge’s, the famous railway engineering family.


First chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1837 to 1864 and its Chairman from 1865 to 1889.

Member of Parliament for Cricklade 1865 – 1885

New creation Baronet of Clewer Park 1866 – 1889. Succeeded by his son Henry Daniel Gooch.

Born in Bedlington, Northumberland, the son of an ironfounder, he trained in engineering with a variety of companies, including a period with Robert Stephenson and Company, but was aged barely 21 when recruited by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Railway. His earliest days with the company were a struggle to keep the miscellaneous collection of 7 ft ¼ in (2,140 mm) broad gauge steam locomotives ordered by Brunel working. Taking the best of these, the GWR Star Class (on which he and Brunel had improved the blastpipe arrangement) as a model, he designed the GWR Firefly Class of 2-2-2 express passenger locomotives introduced in 1840. In comparative trials by the Gauge Commissioners, Ixion of this class proved capable of speeds greater than its standard gauge challenger. In 1843 Gooch introduced a new form of locomotive valve gear.

In 1840, Gooch was responsible for identifying the site of Swindon Works and in 1846 for designing the first complete locomotive to be constructed there, Great Western, prototype of the GWR Iron Duke Class of 4-2-2s which were able to achieve 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) and which, much renewed, saw out the broad gauge.

Recalled to the Great Western Railway Company as Chairman in 1865, he led it out of near-bankruptcy and took a particular interest in construction of the Severn Tunnel; however, final abandonment of the broad gauge did not take place until after his death.

He was also instrumental in laying the first successful Transatlantic telegraph cable, using the SS Great Eastern (1865/66), as chief engineer of the Telegraph Construction Company, of which he became Chairman after John Pender the first Chairman resigned in 1868.

He married Margaret Tanner in 1838. Following her death in 1868 he married Emily Burder in 1870; she died in 1901. He was Conservative MP for Cricklade from 1865 to 1885 and in 1866 was created a Baronet in recognition of his cable work. From 1859 he lived at Clewer Park in Windsor. His brothers John Viret Gooch, Thomas Longridge Gooch and William Frederick Gooch were also railway engineers.

Daniel wrote his memoirs and some commentators have been rather carping about Gooch's Memoirs and Diary, but it does provide an unusual glimpse into the life of a highly eminent engineer and business tycoon. The version put together by Roger Burdett Wilson was obviously a highly skilled operation and is greatly enhanced by its copious notes. Even the most superficial inspection shows that Gooch had a great breadth of vision which is surprising for someone associated as being a great engineer and railway manager. He also lived in a highly adventurous manner, and both of these aspects are present during the great cable laying venture in the 1860s. During his later life he used up what now be termed as his "airmiles" travelling mainly for pleasure when his observational powers remain, even if his views can sometimes seem somewhat prejudiced. Nevertheless, great buildings have the power to extract powerful responses from the great man. He was the GWR's first locomotive engineer and its Chairman for many years. He was responsible for using the Great Eastern to lay the trans-Atlantic cable and other long distance submarine telegraph cables. He was a Freemason and he suffered from the early loss of his wife. He was very proud of his ancestry.

“In February 1831 my father left Bedlington to go to Tredegar iron works in Monmouthshire, and took his family with him. I remember well what a pleasant journey it was. We had a kind of omnnibus built, with curtains round it, in which we all travelled, posting. I do not know bow many days it took us to make the journey, but I well remember it, and the beautiful view as we crossed the Malvern hills; it was a bright moon light evening.

When we were settled at Tredegar I began my professional career by working in the works. Mr Samuel Homfray was the managing partner. I went first into the moulding dept. commencing work at 6 oclock in the morning. The first few months I was chiefly employed in making cores, but after that was entrusted to mould tram wheels. This was a very heavy job for me; the wheel pattern weighed 50 or 60 lbs, and I had nine boxes to mould twice a day, the first lot before 9 oclock in the morning, when the furnace was run off and they were cast. During this time I went to my breakfast for a couple of hours, when I returned and opened the boxes, tamped my sand and moulded the 2nd set. This was generally finished between 4 & 5 o’clock. I had an hour for dinner. As this work was done in the atmosphere of the furnace house and the work was very hard I began to feel the effects of it in my health, and was sent a voyage to sea for a few weeks“.

The last observation shows how fortunate Daniel was to be within the care of the emergent middle class rather than being a typical employee at the works. Whilst working at Tredegar he had many adventures, several of which could have been fatal: probably the two most serious were when he was caught inside the blowing engine when lime had been applied to keep the leather bellows air-tight and the engine was started, but he managed to get out. A more needless adventure was when he challenged himself to be lowered into a 30 yards deep pit holding onto the end of the chain when he barely managed to hold on for the return. He has graphic details of being forced to participate in the riots at Rhymney and was fortunate in not being shot: earlier 21 had been killed when the troops opened fire.

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Daniel Gooch's Timeline

1816
August 24, 1816
Northumberland, England
1899
October 29, 1899
Age 83