Fox, Sir (Charles) Douglas 1840-1921, civil engineer, was born near Smethwick 14 May 1840, the eldest in the family of three sons and one daughter of (Sir) Charles Fox [qv.], engineer, and his wife Mary, daughter of Joseph Brookhouse, clock-maker, of Derby. He attended Highgate School (1851-4), Kings College School (1854-5), and Kings College, London (1855-7), of which he became an honorary fellow in 1887.
     Fox was to have gone to Trinity College, Cambridge, but that plan foundered with the sudden financial collapse in early 1857 of his fathers erstwhile flourishing business. Instead, he was articled to his father who, later in 1857, had begun to practise as a consulting engineer in London. In 1863 Fox joined his father in partnership. The latter had already built an international reputation in railway and allied engineering. By 1865 the new practice was involved in major projects in Britain, the USA, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, and South America. Douglas Foxs potential was well exercised when, from 1863 to 1866, the firm, still just father and son, masterminded the complex system of viaducts and bridges in Battersea, separating the lines from the east and south to Victoria from those from the south-west to Waterloo, including the widening of the Grosvenor bridge over the Thames from two to seven tracks.
     Sir Charles Fox died in 1874. His second son Francis had joined the partnership, which the two brothers now carried on together. Work continued to pour in, especially from South Africa and South America, but also at home. In 1886 Douglas Fox and James Brunlees [qv.] were knighted on completion of the first tunnel under the Mersey which, along with the railway linking Birkenhead with Liverpool, they had jointly engineered.
     Among the many projects for which the firm was responsible during Foxs later years were the Liverpool Overhead Railway (the first electric elevated city railway in the world), the extension from Rugby to London of the Great Central Railway, including its Marylebone terminal, the Great Northern and City tube (with large tunnels to accommodate standard rolling stock), and the Hampstead tube linking Charing Cross with Golders Green and Highgate; and, abroad, much of the Cape Government Railways in South Africa, the whole Rhodesia Railways system, including the 500-feet span Victoria Falls arch bridge over the Zambesi river, the Benguela Railway in Angola, and several railways and other works in South America.
     Fox was president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1899-1900). He was a JP for many years. Like his father, he was of an urbane and generous disposition. Inheriting his mothers religious principles, he was strict in his observances. Not only at home, but also at his office, prayers began each day for all present.
     In 1863 he married Mary (died 1920), daughter of Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor, Derby. They had one son and four daughters. Fox died 13 November 1921 at the Kensington home of one of his daughters.

     Information from family and from Institution of Civil Engineers
     The Times, 15 November 1921
     Engineer, 18 November 1921
     archives of Acer Group Ltd.

Contributor: Ralph Freeman

Published: 1993