William Cubitt (1785 - 1861)

William Cubitt was born at Dilham in Norfolk, the son of a miller. Apprenticed at fifteen to a cabinetmaker, in 1807 Cubitt invented a self-regulating windmill sail, and in 1812 began work designing iron bridges for the firm of Ransome & Sons. In 1817 he invented a treadmill used in prisons and workhouses, and then succeeded Thomas Telford as engineer for what became the Shropshire Union Canal.

In 1836 Cubitt was appointed consulting engineer for the South Eastern Railway, and from 1844 performed the same role for the Great Northern Railway until his retirement in 1855. He was knighted in 1851 for his role in superintending the construction of the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition. Cubitt’s only son, Joseph, was also a railway engineer, as were his brother, Benjamin, and nephew, Lewis, the architect of King’s Cross station.