Henry John Marten

Henry Marten was born in Plaistow on 3 Feb 1827, the second eldest son of Robert Giles Marten. His father and grandfather both died in 1839 when he was only twelve. He was educated at a private school in Margate, Kent. He seems to have gained a rapid career start, being appointed chief Water Engineer for Wolverhampton at the tender age of 19.

His grandfather had been a Director of the East London Water Company and an early employer of both Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. We can only assume that these family connections coupled with some precocious ability catapulted him into this position. The devastating cholera outbreaks in Wolverhampton and Bilston in the early 1840’s moreover meant that knowledge of the latest water collection and filtration techniques would have been at a premium. The young Henry Marten seems to have been working as early as the age of 15 or 16 as an apprentice to Thomas Wicksteed, someone who had just such experience. Thomas Wicksteed appears to have been engaged at the time working in Hull, but because of his long association with the East London Water Company must also have known Henry’s grandfather well. Another strong influence on this early career break may have been the Scottish engineer and President of the Institute of Civil Engineers (est 1819) James Walker. James Walker had been employed by his grandfather to work on the London Commercial Docks in Rotherhithe and also to advise on the Thames Tunnel. All these were ideal connections for a career in engineering.

A good account of Henry Marten’s early career can be found at the Wolverhampton Local History web site. He built a strong reputation in Wolverhampton and Dudley and was called back later in his professional career to advise and report in the 1870’s. In the 1851 census he is recorded as living at Tettenhall Waterworks together with his engineer brother Edward Bindon Marten. Henry lived variously in Tettenhall, Penn and Codsall – all close to Wolverhampton – for the rest of his life

His career nonetheless moved away from Water Engineering with his marriage in 1854 to Frances Dimmack the only daughter of Edward Bagnall Dimmack, a wealthy Iron founder. Henry rapidly became a business partner of his father-in-law. He eventually took over the business on his father-in-law’s death in 1875, by which time the Parkfield Iron Works was in decline and was soon wound up.

It was about 1875 that he acquired  a large house in Codsall called “The Birches”. In the last fifteen years of his life he returned to working and being a consultant for water projects on the Severn Commission.  He apparently had an exhausting business schedule, also running an office in Storey’s Gate in Westminster. This led to serious ill-health and the last year of his life he spent three months abroad convalescing.

In 1880 he remarried to Martha Shaw, a widow from Derbyshire. Henry died aged 65 in Codsall on 3 Nov 1892. His wife survived him until 1900.


Family of Henry John MARTEN and Frances Anne DIMMACK

Husband:Henry John MARTEN (1827-1892)
Wife:Frances Anne DIMMACK (1834-1862)
Children:Edward Dimmack (Teddy) MARTEN (1855-1917)
Henry (Harry) MARTEN (1856-1930)
Henrietta Frances Anne (Nettie) MARTEN (1857-1927)
Florence Eliza (Floss) MARTEN (1858-1922)
Ellen Louisa (Nelly) MARTEN (1859-1907)
Robert Humphrey (Tib) MARTEN (1860-1933)
Francis Alfred (Frank) MARTEN (1862-1891)
Marriage10 Aug 1854Snowhill Chapel, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire