James Walker and South Foreland Lighthouse

A celebrated Victorian engineer

A celebrated Victorian engineer

Born in Falkirk, Scotland, James Walker (14 September 1781- 8 October 1862) became one of the most important engineers of the Victorian era.

In 1880, on a visit to London, James met his uncle, Ralph Walker, a successful engineer with a London practice in Blackwall.  This meeting resulted in James Walker becoming his uncle's apprentice.  From these beginnings, Walker went on to build a highly successful career working on the construction of docks and railways. On the death of the renowned engineer Thomas Telford, he was elected the second President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and held office between 1835 and 1845.  His practice continued to expand and he and his staff undertook important work on canals, river improvements, harbours, bridges and lighthouses.

Lighthouse builder


James Walker’s long association with Trinity House and lighthouses began in 1824 and lasted until his death 38 years later.  As well as South Foreland, he was responsible for the design and construction of Belle Toute, Start Point, St Catherine’s, the Needles, the Smalls and Menai Strait lighthouses. His most famous project was probably Bishop Rock which lies off the Scilly Isles.
This great Victorian died in London in 1862 and is buried in the family vault in Edinburgh. In 1990, the Institution of Civil Engineers erected a memorial to Walker which stands at Greenland Dock in London and is testament to his works.