born 1884, Kashmir, India
died 20th June 1961, The Orchard, London Road, Southborough, Kent
buried Southborough Cemetery, Kent
Written by Jane Monson, edited by Eleanor Knowles and Jane Joyce
Guy Anson Maunsell was born into a military family during the British Raj in India. He was educated in England and began his civil engineering career in the early years of the 20th century. His inspired ideas ensured his place in engineering history, and he is recognised for his practical maritime engineering and pioneering development of prestressed concrete in the UK and Australasia.
However, nothing is more synonymous with his name than the World War II sea forts known as the Maunsell Forts
(see chapter 5
). In 1941-2 he designed the sea forts to defend Britain against attack from air or sea. Four of these remain in the Thames Estuary, a testament to the robustness of their extraordinarily futuristic design. Maunsell also played a pivotal role in the design of the concrete Mulberry Harbours
(1943-4), used for the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy.
In 1955, aged 71, Maunsell founded G. Maunsell & Partners and took his ingenuity all over the world — to Europe, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Australia — completing iconic bridge 'firsts' in the process. Examples include the StorstrÝm Bridge
(1934-7) in Denmark (then the longest bridge in Europe), Narrows Bridge
(1957-9) in Perth, Australia (then the world's largest prestressed concrete bridge), and the Gladesville Bridge
(1959-64) in Sydney (the world's longest single span concrete arch at the time). In Britain, the Hammersmith Flyover
(1959-62) is the most famous illustration of his use of prestressed concrete.
His distinguished career is crammed with forward-thinking proposals, some successful, others ignored. Many of his ideas, though brilliant, weren't taken seriously in his lifetime. Among them his 1919 proposal for a tunnel under the English Channel — the Channel Tunnel was eventually completed in 1994. His idea for a barrage across the River Severn has yet to materialise, though.
Maunsell concentrated on what he saw as the essentials — an unshakeable belief in integrating ambitious designs with pioneering construction and a commitment to fair relationships between contractors and consultants. His contribution to the history of concrete in 20th century civil engineering is exciting, ambitious and at times unique.
After his death, Maunsellís firm continued to expand in the UK and abroad, and in October 2001 it merged with fellow consultancy Oscar Faber to become Faber Maunsell. Both were at the time part of AECOM, a global company with headquarters in Los Angles, California. From 2009, the many firms within the parent company all became known simply as AECOM.
portrait of Guy Maunsell courtesy AECOM