Wollaston, George Hyde 1761 - 1841

English; British

(1761-1845) Chairman of Thames Tunnel Co.

George Hyde Wollaston of Clapham Common, was born on the 10th July 1765. George succeeded M Aubert, a friend of the Luards, as a merchant and banker in Genoa. He imported and exported mainly between England and Italy though he bought and sold elsewhere as well. After marrying Mary Ann Luard (born in of Dorset Street, and died 1817) on the 23rd October 1796, he returned to England and did not go back to Genoa till 1802 during the peace of Amiens when his firm went into voluntary liquidation and was wound up. Prior to this he inherited the estate of his uncle, General West Hyde.

It seems likely that he joined the firm of Messrs. Aubert and Lombard in London. In 1819 he became the accountant to the Gas Company which occupied one day a week. Because of his business connections, he knew several languages and was well educated. He wrote two long and most interesting letters of his journey to Paris and Genoa in 1802, comparing the state of France before the French Revolution when he previously knew it with its state in 1802.

He also wrote a very carefully compiled little book called “Clapham and its environs” which was published in 1827 without the author’s name [HWW]. In the 1820s the docks of London were expanding, and the building of St Katherine’s Docks made new river crossings a necessity. Sir Marc Isambard Brunel put forward a scheme in 1823-24 for a tunnel under the Thames to meet that need. A Company – The Thames Tunnel Company, was formed to promote and finance this venture. George Hyde Wollaston was the chairman of the company. The work started in 1825, with Brunel’s nineteen year old son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as resident engineer. Financial and engineering problems caused the work to be abandoned for five years, no doubt causing the chairman of the company some distress. George's Brother Dr. William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828), chemist and physicist, had shares in the Thames Tunnel Company.

Government aid came to the rescue and the tunnel was completed in 1843. By this time George had died (1841) and Marc Brunel an invalid. The tunnel is still in use as part of the London Underground system.