Fox, Sir Francis 1844-1927, civil engineer, born in Paddington 29 June 1844, was the second son of Sir Charles Fox [qv.], by his wife, Mary, second daughter of Joseph Brookhouse. In 1855 he was sent to school at Cavendish House, Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, under the Rev. Thomas Gascoigne, where he remained until 1861. In that year he began his career as a partner with his father and elder brother (Sir) Charles Douglas Fox (1840-1921) in the firm of Sir Charles Fox & Sons, civil and consulting engineers. He was brought early into a responsible position in consequence of a serious accident which befell his father and incapacitated him from the more active duties of an engineer. From 1864 to 1867 Francis Fox was employed as assistant to the resident engineer, Edmund Wragge, in widening the Pimlico railway bridge over the Thames to Victoria station. In 1872 he was appointed manager of an iron-mine in Cleveland, Yorkshire, and in 1880 he and his brother Douglas, together with (Sir) James Brunlees [qv.], were the engineers placed in charge of the construction of the Mersey tunnel, which was completed in 1886; Fox described the tunnel in a paper contributed to the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers [vol. lxxxvi, 40]. During its construction the British fleet inadvertently anchored over the tunnel and was alarmed, but not damaged, by the blasting operations, which caused the crews to be called to quarters.
In 1882 Fox accepted an invitation to become engineer to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway. One of the first works which he had to execute was the erection of a swing bridge over the river Dee below Chester. From 1887 to 1893 he was one of the engineers in charge of the works for the Liverpool Overhead Railway, and from 1894 to 1896 he and his brother Douglas were employed in the construction of the Snowdon Rack Railway. In 1894 his firm was entrusted with the Rugby to Marylebone section of the Great Central Railway's extension to London. The first sod was cut 13 November 1894 and the railway was opened for traffic 9 March 1899. Francis and Douglas Fox were also associated, as joint engineers with James H. Greathead, in the construction of two tube railways in London, the Great Northern and City line, begun in 1898, and the Charing Cross, Golders Green, and Highgate line, opened for traffic 22 June 1907.
In his later years Fox was largely employed in superintending the treatment and preservation of ancient buildings. For this purpose he made great use of the grouting machine invented by James H. Greathead for the purpose of filling in the concentric cavity between the cast-iron segments of the London tube railways and the tunnel walls. By this machine a liquid mixture of cement, sand, and water can be forced into the cracks and crevices of decayed masonry, which is thereby formed into a solid monolithic structure. The most important buildings thus treated by Fox were the cathedrals of Winchester and Lincoln. At Winchester not only was the stonework disintegrated, but the foundations were unsound, resting on clay, peat, and quicksand. After the walls had been grouted, the building was underpinned and the foundations carried down to a solid bed of gravel and flints. As the condition of the fabric did not permit pile-driving, and as pumping would have drawn away the silt from beneath the whole cathedral, Fox adopted the ingenious plan of employing a diver to replace the existing substratum with concrete. The diver, William A. Walker, did the whole of the work single-handed in five and a half years. The work of preservation was begun in 1905 and completed in 1912 at a cost of £114,000.
At Lincoln Cathedral the foundations were perfectly sound, but the walls were greatly decayed. About the end of 1921 Fox was requested to collaborate with the consulting architect, Sir Charles Nicholson, and to advise what steps should be taken to preserve the stone-work. He afterwards superintended the work on the walls of the north-west, south-west, and central towers as well as in the south transept. He was also consulted about the repair of Peterborough Cathedral in 1897, St. Paul's Cathedral in 1912, and Exeter Cathedral about 1923. At St. Paul's he personally explored the foundations (in diver's dress) and certified the existence of an adjacent quicksand. Fox was concerned with the preservation of many other buildings, including the Saxon church at Corhampton, Hampshire, in 1906, the church at Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, in 1907, the sea-wall at Lyme Regis, and Ashbourne church, Derbyshire (described by George Eliot) between 1912 and 1919.
Fox was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1870 and member in 1874. In 1894 he was nominated by the British government as one of an international commission of three experts to report on the plans for the Simplon tunnel (completed in 1906); and he and his brother Douglas were associated for many years with Sir Charles Metcalfe [qv.] in the development of South African railways, including the construction of the railway bridge over the Zambesi at the Victoria Falls in 1903. He was knighted in 1912. Fox was a man of strong evangelical piety, and with his brother Douglas devoted much of his spare time to mission work in London from 1867 onwards. His eldest daughter, Selina Fox, M.D., founded the Bermondsey hospital and medical mission in 1904.
From 1887 to 1893, while engaged on the Liverpool Overhead Railway, Fox lived at Mount Alyn, Rossett, Denbighshire. In 1894 he removed to Alyn Bank, Wimbledon, where he died 7 January 1927. He was buried at Putney Vale cemetery. He married twice: first, in 1869 Selina (died 1900), third daughter of Francis Wright, of Osmaston Manor, Derbyshire, by whom he had two sons and three daughters; secondly, in 1901 Agnes, younger daughter of Henry King Horne, of Guerres, Normandy.
In addition to two or three short articles and pamphlets, Fox was the author of River, Road, and Rail (1904) and Sixty-Three Years of Engineering (1924). Both these works are mainly autobiographical and show considerable literary ability.
The Times, 8 and 11 January 1927
Contributor: E. I. Carlyle.