Page 1: Biography
This biography, written by Peter Lowe, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.
Samuel Jickell was born at Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, England, on 18 August 1856. His parents were John Jickell, a master joiner, and his wife, Jane Millen. Nothing is known about his early life or education. On 18 June 1876 he married Ellen Hind at Stockton; they were to have four daughters and three sons. Samuel served an apprenticeship with Blair and Company, marine engineers, at Stockton, and was employed as a draughtsman in two local companies. He moved to Liverpool about 1882, first as chief draughtsman and then as works manager for John H. Wilson and Company. Some accounts record training in Europe and service in the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry.
After emigrating to New Zealand about 1883, Jickell was employed in Auckland on the building of the Calliope graving dock and on water storage and reticulation schemes. From 1886 to 1888 he practised on his own account, assembling two passenger ferries for the Auckland and North Shore Steam Ferry Company. He moved to Melbourne in 1888 and was engaged on sewerage, bridge and railway work.
Jickell was elected a corporate (associate) member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, in 1889. By 1890 he had returned to New Zealand as city engineer in Nelson. His main duties were bridge and road construction (the Rocks Road in particular), sea wall protection, water supply and reticulation, and the building of the city gasworks and the abattoir. He may have left Nelson because his recommendations for extending the water supply, although upheld by a subsequent report, were called into question. From 1901 till 1904 Jickell was engineer to Petone Borough Council. He was engaged on a range of local body engineering including sewage collection and disposal.
In 1904 Jickell took up an appointment as engineer to the Palmerston North Borough Council. A steady increase in the urban population meant there was always work in hand for construction and improvement of services. Jickell had also to prepare reports for the council and oversee an orderly growth of the borough's infrastructure.
Large loans had to be raised to finance the necessary expansion of services, and borough engineers were frequently required to prepare or revise proposals and present the case publicly. The early years of Jickell's tenure saw vigorous public discussion about the level of expenditure to be incurred in expanding the town's water supply. Jickell soon brought forward a scheme to impound 20 million gallons of water behind a concrete dam on the Turitea (Tiritea) stream. The scheme was unacceptable to the ratepayers as too costly, and a much modified proposal saw a smaller dam completed in 1907. During the next few years this dam was gradually heightened, filters installed and improvements made to the pipe mains – roughly in accord with Jickell's original proposal. He was also engaged on the design and construction of a comprehensive sewerage scheme.
Jickell was the foundation president of the Institute of Local Government Engineers of New Zealand, formed on 20 March 1912. It merged with the newly formed New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers in June 1914. He played a major role in the affairs of the profession for many years.
While in Nelson, Jickell had belonged to the Nelson Rifle Volunteers. He was later commissioned as a major in the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles Regiment. During the First World War he prepared a comprehensive report on the drainage, sanitation and water supply of Trentham Military Camp, and when he laid out the Rangiotu camp near Palmerston North in 1915 he made sure that the poor conditions at Trentham were not repeated. Some of his innovations were adopted by the British Army. He was a member of the Palmerston North Operatic and Dramatic Society and stage manager for its early shows.
Jickell resigned from his post at the council in 1919, but continued to practise as a consulting engineer, based in Palmerston North. He formed a partnership with W. H. K. Gilmour and was engaged on roading projects, particularly the road through the Manawatu Gorge, and on works undertaken by the Makerua Drainage Board. He retired in 1931.
Ellen Jickell had died in 1911 and Samuel then lived with the family of one of their four daughters, Alice. The three sons were all killed in military action, two in the South African War and the third in the First World War. Samuel Jickell died in Palmerston North on 8 May 1939, survived by his four daughters. He is commemorated by Jickell Street.