Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Yolland, William

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YOLLAND, WILLIAM (1810–1885), lieutenant-colonel royal engineers and chief inspector of railways at the board of trade, youngest surviving son of John Yolland, agent to the first Earl of Morley by his wife Priscilla, was born at Merryfield, Plympton St. Mary, Devonshire, on 17 March 1810. Educated at Trueman's mathematical school at Exeter, and by Mr. George Harvey of Plymouth, he passed through the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and received a commission as second lieutenant in the royal engineers on 12 April 1828. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant, 4 Sept. 1833; second captain, 19 Dec. 1843; first captain, 1 March 1847; brevet-major, 20 June 1854; lieutenant-colonel, 13 Jan. 1855; brevet-colonel, 13 Jan. 1858.

After the usual course of professional instruction at Chatham and a short service at Woolwich he embarked for Canada on 2 Aug. 1831, returning to England in October 1835. He then served at various home stations until his appointment to the ordnance survey in May 1838. For the next fifteen years he was employed at the Tower of London, Southampton, Dublin, and Enniskillen, superintending the publication of astronomical observations for the board of ordnance and on active survey work, including taking observations from the top of the cross of St. Paul's Cathedral. He was also responsible for most of the six-inch maps of Lancashire and Yorkshire then in course of publication. When the map-room of the ordnance survey office in the Tower of London was burned down in 1841, Yolland moved with the headquarters to Southampton, where he was executive officer and did much valuable work under General Thomas Frederick Colby [q. v.] In 1851 he was an associate juror of the Great Exhibition of 1851, class viii. On leaving Southampton for Ireland in November 1852 the mayor and corporation presented him with an address in acknowledgment of the interest he had taken in the welfare of the town.

In July 1854 Yolland was appointed an inspector of railways under the board of trade. In January 1856 he was, in addition, a member of the commission appointed to consider the training of candidates for the scientific corps of the army in view of the abolition of patronage and the substitution of open competition. With his colleagues, William Charles Lake (afterwards dean of Durham) and Lieutenant-colonel (afterwards General) William James Smythe [q. v.] of the royal artillery, he visited the principal continental countries to examine the various systems pursued. Yolland strongly advocated the continuance of the system of educating the candidates for the royal artillery and royal engineers together at Woolwich, while Smythe preferred that the education should be separate and distinct. Lake agreed with Yolland, and the combined system was recommended.

In 1862 Yolland was a juror of the International Exhibition in London. He retired from the military service on 2 Oct. 1863, retaining his appointment under the board of trade. In 1874 he held for a few months the position of superintending engineer under the board of trade of the Ramsgate harbour works. On the retirement in 1877 of Sir Henry Tyler, Yolland became chief inspector of railways, in which appointment he continued until his death. It was due to him that the Metropolitan Railway was obliged to carry its line between Bishop's Road and Westbourne Park stations under the Great Western main lines near Royal Oak station, instead of crossing them on the level, as they had done for some years. This was a great improvement as regards both safety and convenience, though it was strongly opposed by the Metropolitan Railway Company in consequence of the heavy cost involved in the alteration.

In 1880 Yolland was appointed a member of the commission which inquired into the Tay bridge disaster of 28 Dec. 1879, and settled the question of the amount of wind pressure which railway structures should be able to withstand. His colleagues were William Henry Barlow, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and Henry Cadogan Rothery [q. v.], wreck commissioner. In 1881 he was made a companion of the order of the Bath, civil division, in recognition of his services as a railway commissioner.

Yolland was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1840, of the Royal Society in 1859, and a member of the Society of Arts in 1860. He belonged to other learned bodies at home and abroad. He was for many years a director of the London and St. Katherine's Dock Company. His London residence was at 14 St. Stephen's Square. He died at Baddesley Vicarage, Atherstone, Warwickshire, where he was temporarily residing, on 5 Sept. 1885, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery on 8 Sept. Yolland married at Southampton, on 18 July 1843, Ellen Catherine (d. 6 Nov. 1864), youngest daughter of Captain Peter Rainier, C.B., royal navy, aide-de-camp to William IV, and grand-niece of Admiral Peter Rainier [q. v.], by whom he left five daughters and a son William, major in the royal engineers.

An engraving of Yolland was made for the Royal Society by Black from a photograph by Maule.

Apart from some technical publications, mostly trigonometrical, Yolland wrote in 1852 the work on ‘Geodesy and Practical Astronomy,’ forming part of the course of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers' Records; private sources; Obituary Notices in London Times of 7 Sept. 1885; in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. xlvi. 1886; in Bayswater Chronicle, September 1885; in Proceedings of Society of Arts, 1885; Annual Register, 1885; Porter's Hist. of the Corps of Royal Engineers; Men of the Time, 1879; Reports of Exhibitions, 1851 and 1862; Board of Trade Reports.]

R. H. V.