SOPWITH, Thomas FRS (1803–1879), surveyor & civil engineer. ALS to E.W.Cooke 1873

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SOPWITH, Thomas FRS (1803–1879), surveyor and civil engineer. Autograph letter signed to E.W.Cooke Esq RA, February 27th 1873, 8vo, one side of a bifolium, 103 Victoria Street, Westminster SW, informing Cooke that “I shall have great pleasure in doing my best for the very worthy Candidate you mention in your kind note” and on domestic matters writes “The return of spring will I hope set you all up in much health & rejoicing at the Glen. Mrs S. is in Northumberland but if here would have heartily joined in all kindest regards to you & yours”.

Thomas Sopwith was educated privately on Tyneside before being apprenticed to his father as a cabinet-maker. He went on to become a land and mineral surveyor, joining Joseph Dickinson of Alston in his survey of the Greenwich Hospital's Alston Moor mines, where he developed a special interest in geology.  In 1832 Sopwith was elected to the Institution of Civil Engineers and embarked on a busy life as a consulting surveyor. His many commissions included mine and mineral surveys, street improvements, and railway surveys, through which he came to know, and sometimes to work with, engineers such as George and Robert Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, William Cubitt, and W. G. Armstrong. Sopwith retired from professional life in 1871. His wife who he mentions in the letter was his third wife Anne, daughter of Addison Longhorne Potter of Heaton Hall. (ODNB)

Sopwith’s correspondent in the letter was the marine artist and gardener Edward William Cooke FRS, RA (1811–1880). Cooke combined his artistic interests with scientific ones, including a special interest in geology, thus sharing much in common with Sopwith. In 1868 Cooke retired to Glen Andred, Groombridge, Sussex, a house built for him by Norman Shaw, sited in extensive gardens.