Sir Edward William Watkin – Local Genius and Visionary

Sir Edward William Watkin (1819-1901) was born in Salford and subsequently lived at Rose Hill Northenden.  His life and work were remarkable, and both his work and his resilience are relevant to students today.

Watkin is a fantastic example of someone whose ingenuity and tenacity saw him live a life that marked him out – breaking from his peloton, to use a metaphor that students of the Academy are familiar with.

Born more than 200 years ago, and living just two miles up the road in Northenden, Watkins’ father was a supporter of working class rights, who was instrumental in the repeal of the dreadful Corn Laws that brought so much hardship to working class people.  Watkin himself would go on to effect positive change for the masses, such as green spaces and public parks in urban areas.

A man ahead of his time, Watkin engineered the first high-speed rail link into London.  He was commissioned to build a channel tunnel, which progressed several miles, until the government suddenly realised that a tunnel might open the way for a French invasion, and called the project off.

Undeterred, Watkin designed another great engineering feat, a tower that was to be significantly taller than the Eiffel to -be situated in Wembley Park.  Again, building started, but the project ran out of money and was eventually pulled down, making way for Wembley Stadium.


Watkin had a mansion built in Northenden, where he entertained the greats of his day, including Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and author Charles Dickens.

We are very fortunate that one of our Board members, Mr Geoff Scargill, is an expert on Sir Edward William Watkin, and has shared his knowledge with our students in a series of sessions linked to their Maths and Geography curriculum.

We hope that sharing Watkin’s story will help our students to appreciate that anyone can achieve great things with perseverance.  It is amazing to think that a man who achieved so much lived just minutes from the Academy.

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Geoff Scargill shares his knowledge in a Geography class, 2021


More information about Sir Edward William Watkin can be found on these websites: