Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Chief engineer to the Board of Public Works from 1874 to 1891. Robert Manning was born in Normandy on 22 October 1816, the third son of William Manning of Knocknamohill, Co. Wicklow, who was an adjutant with the 40th Regiment at the Battle of Waterloo. On the death of his father in 1826, his mother returned to Ireland to live with her mother and elder brother, John Stephens, in Co. Waterford. Between 1834 and 1845 Robert Manning worked on his uncle's estate. He was already thirty years old when, in 1846, he entered the service of the Commissioners of Public Works, to work on arterial drainage under SAMUEL USSHER ROBERTS SAMUEL USSHER ROBERTS , who was district engineer for the rivers Glyde and Dee in Co. Louth. On the transfer of Roberts to Galway in 1848, Manning succeeded him as district engineer. In 1855 he left the employment of the Board of Works and entered private practice. Over a period of three years he surveyed the Irish estates of the fourth Marquess of Downshire (1812-1868), who subsequently appointed him his engineer. In October 1869 Manning re-entered the service of the Board of Works as an assistant to the chief engineer, WILLIAM FORSYTH WILLIAM FORSYTH , and in 1874 was appointed Forsyth's successor. For eighteen years until his retirement in 1891, he had sole charge of all the engineering works of the department. His works included harbours and piers,(1) and improvements to the River Shannon. His papers on the flow of water in open channels and pipes, delivered to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland in 1889 and 1895 introduced what became known as the Manning formula which became widely used in hydraulic engineering. He died at his house, 4 Upper Ely Place, Dublin, on 9 December 1897 and was buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery. He had married his second cousin Susanna Gibson in 1848, by whom he had seven surviving children, one of whom, William Manning, was also an engineer. His second daughter was the painter Mary Ruth Manning (1853-1930).


ICEI: elected associate, 1848;(2) raised to member by 1870;(3) council member, 1871, 1874-75, 1885 until death; vice-president, 1870,1876; president 1877-78.
Inst.CE: elected member 7 Dec 1858; awarded Telford Medal and Manby Premium for his paper, 'On… the flow of water off the ground in the Woodburn District near Carrickfergus', read 1866.

Addresses: Work: Castlebellingham, 1849;(6) Office of Public Works, Dublin, 1869-1891.
Home: 4 Upper Ely Place, <=1874 until death.



All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the obituaries of Manning in IB 39, 15 Dec 1897, 235, and Min.Proc.Inst.CE 131, Pt. 1 (1897-98), 370-71, and from the account of Manning's life by James C.I. Dooge, 'Manning and Mulvany: river improvement in 19th century Ireland', in G. Garbrecht, ed., Hydraulics and Hydraulic Resarch (Rotterdam/Boston, 1987), 173-183. Professor Dooge has a collection of Manning's private papers. A portrait photograph of Manning forms the frontispiece to TICEI 68 (1941-42).

(1) For some of these, see IB 21, 1 Aug 1879, 227; 31, 1 May 1889, 115; see also IB 17, ?1 Aug 1875, ?, and subsequent correspondence on Manning's use of the word 'pun' (Jones ref. is incomplete).
(2) TICEI 3 (1847-49), list of members.
(3) B 12, 15 Aug 1870, 107.
(6) See note 2, above.

3 work entries listed in chronological order for MANNING, ROBERT

Sort by date | Sort alphabetically

Date: 1858
Nature: Plan of improvements at Dundrum showing sections of mill-race, weir and reservoir in PRONI.
Refs: Drawing, s. & d. 1858, in PRONI, Downshire MSS, D671/P5/4

Date: 1867ca
Nature: RM engineer for works at same, for Marquess of Downshire.
Refs: Sections and soundings at Dundrum Quay by RM, 1867, in PRONI, Downshire MSS, D671/P5/5a-e; obituary of Manning in Min.Proc.Inst.CE 131, Part 1 (1897-98), 370; see also DB 3, 15 Jul 1861, 578

Date: 1880-81
Nature: Latticce girder with masonry piers. Design by RM with R.G. Worrall, Co. Surveyor. Contractor: Wm. J. Doherty.
Refs: IB 22, 1 Jan 1880, 4

Author Title Date Details
Manning, Robert 'Observations on subjects connected with arterial drainage' 1854 TICEI 4 (1849-1854), 90-104. (Paper read to ICEI, 13 May 1851.)
Manning, Robert 'On the flow of water off the ground in the Woodburn district near Carrickfergus [re improvement of Belfast water supply]' 1866 Min.Proc.Inst.CE 25 (1865-66), 458-461 (abstract in Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 29,1 Jun 1866, 172).
Manning, Robert Sanitary works abroad…Extracted from the 'Annales des Ponts et Chaussées' and translated from the French by R. Manning 1876 London: E. & F.N. Spon. 1876.
Manning, Robert [President's address to ICEI] 1879 TICEI 12 (1876-79) , 68-85.
Manning, Robert 'On the flow of water in open channels and pipes' 1895 published in TICEI 24 (1894-95), 179-207. (Paper read to ICEI, 4 Dec 1889; extracts published in IB 31, 15 Dec 1889 and IB 32, 1 Jan 1890, ?.)