On this day in 1883 H Percy Boulnois was elected Portsmouth’s borough engineer.
Born in 1847 of a Huguenot family, as a young man he was articled to the civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette. He was also of Huguenot descent and is most famous for planning central London’s sewer network which put an end to the cholera epidemics in the capital.
On taking up the post Boulnois soon learned that the War Office and Admiralty ‘had a good deal to say before any improvements could be carried out’.
Boulnois wrote in his memoirs: ‘I had an instance of this some little time after my appointment when the commanding Royal Engineer of that date said to me: ‘‘Mr Boulnois, you lay a good many eggs but they are not all hatched’’. In reply I said: ‘‘I’m afraid sir, that is because you sometimes addle them’’.’
In the seven years Boulnois served the borough, he hatched many eggs including the building of Southsea promenade, the laying of many miles of sewers, coastal protection, the laying out of North End recreation ground, improvements in paving and the building of Canoe Lake, Southsea – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.