Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Belfast borough surveyor, 1861-1884. John James Montgomery was born in Ballymore, Co. Westmeath, in 1832, the eldest son of John Montgomery, who was then employed in connection with the General Valuation of Ireland. After receiving his schooling in Ireland, he entered Queen's College, Belfast, where he was awarded the first scholarship in civil engineering. As the climate of Belfast did not suit his health at that time, he moved to Queen's College, Cork, where he also distinguished himself. On leaving the university he became a pupil in the office of C.B. Lane in Westminster. He then worked in England for some years, first at the Royal Observatory, then in Blackburn and finally in Bradford, where he was chief assistant to the borough engineer.

In April 1861 Montgomery was selected from thirty-eight candidates for the post of surveyor to the borough of Belfast in succession to WILLIAM HASTINGS. WILLIAM HASTINGS. (1) When he took up the appointment, the low-lying parts of the city were prone to flooding, a situation which he largely remedied. In 1866 he designed an extensive arterial and outfall drainage scheme, part of which was carried out under his supervision. His Report on the drainage of Belfast was published in 1867.(2) He was also responsible for the laying out and paving of a large number of new streets and roads and for many miles of sewers. Under the provisions of the local improvement act of 1878,(3) he designed and carried out the diversion of the river Blackstaff into a new covered course and opened up Royal Avenue by removing several hundred tenements in a congested area of the city.(4) Towards the end of his life he was also engaged in a scheme for deepening and embanking the tidal portion of the Lagan above Belfast harbour.

In 1878 Montgomery was given the opportunity of taking up an important post in Brazil at a salary of £2,000 per annum, which he decided to turn down after 'material inducements' to remain in Belfast had been offered by the Corporation. He died unexpectedly in August 1884, at Airolo, in Switzerland, having been taken ill suddenly while travelling near the St Gotthard Tunnel. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery at Lucerne. His wife survived him, and his chief assistant, JOSIAH CORBETT BRETLAND JOSIAH CORBETT BRETLAND , succeeded him as borough engineer. His pupils and assistants also included JAMES MUNCE JAMES MUNCE , JOHN SMITH[3]  JOHN SMITH[3] and JOHN WAKEFORD.  JOHN WAKEFORD.

Inst.CE: elected member, 7 February 1871.



All information in this entry is from the obituary of Montgomery in Min.Proc.Inst.CE 78 (1883-84), 436-439.

(1) B 19, 20 Apr,4 May 1861, 274,306.
(2) B 24, 20 Oct 1866, 777 (B of I; ref. not certain).
(3) See W.A. Maguire, Belfast (1993), 97-98.
(4) Attributed to J.C. Bretland by Larmour, 52 (no. 118) and Marcus Patton, Central Belfast: an historical gazetteer (UAHS, 1993), 282.

3 work entries listed in chronological order for MONTGOMERY, JOHN JAMES

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Date: 1866
Nature: Main arterial and outfall drainage scheme designed by JJM.
Refs: Min.Proc.Inst.CE 78 (1883-84), 437; IB 48, 20 Oct 1906, 843

Date: 1878p
Nature: New covered river course consisting of two 12 ft wide culverts.
Refs: Min.Proc.Inst.CE 78 (1883-84), 438

Date: 1881-1884
Nature: 'accomplished under Mr Montgomery's direction...although the street lines laid out are not quite in accordance with his own views'
Refs: Min.Proc.Inst.CE 78 (1883-84), 438