12th September 1844. Roofing the World.
One of the unsung heroes of 19thc, civil-engineering, Henry Robinson Palmer designer and constructor of Neath, Port Talbot, Ipswich and Penzance Docks, died Today in 1844, ‘at his residence in Great George Street, Westminster.’
‘He had been the favourite pupil, and for many years, the principal assistant of the late Mr. Telford, civil engineer. He was one of the founders of the Institute of Civil Engineers of which he was a vice-president,’ The Times Obituary continued.
Palmer had been apprenticed to Bryan Donkin & Company, and apart from inventing a monorail system, he is best known to the world for inventing the all- conquering material, corrugated-iron, without which most of the world would be roofless, and most farms in England would have had to find other material.
Palmer had invented corrugation and galvanising of sheet iron whilst he was an engineer at London Docks and his patent for ‘the improvement of roofs and the application of corrugated plates of steel’, was placed in 1829.
One use for the iron was the late 19thc prefabricated churches, the ‘Tin Tabernacles’, which gave a place of worship particularly in rural areas, lacking any other.
One of the great uses for corrugated iron sheets was in Nissen Huts in both world wars which housed the military both here and abroad.
Nissen Huts helped the post-war housing shortage and along with ‘pre-fabs’ were to be used well into the 1950.s.
Many are still extant in many countries.
East London Guardian/west Essex series local history.
Forgotten Tabernacles. Dave McKie. The Guardian. Thurs. 6 Oct. 2005.
Tin Tabernacles. Liz Indurie, building conservation.com/tin-tab.
Ipswich Journal. Sat. Sep. 14th 1844.