Tributes paid to 'genius' Maidenhead engineer and civic society stalwart

Tributes have been paid to a ‘genius’ engineer and Maidenhead Civic Society stalwart who masterminded the restoration of Maidenhead Guards Club bridge in the 1970s.

Harold James served as the president of the Maidenhead Civic Society from 1993 to 1995, but was a part of the society for decades.

He was also a long-time member of Burnham Rotary Club, and ran an engineering firm, the Harold James Partnership, in Burnham High Street.

Known as a ‘man of many parts’, Harold also played the organ and was a keen photographer; his work often printed in the Advertiser’s pages.

He will be best remembered by most in the town for the work he did with the CivicSociety, most notably the project to restore the Guards Club bridge which began in 1976, and still stands proud more than 40 years later.

Richard Poad, who served alongside Harold at the society and was his predecessor as chairman, described him as his ‘partner in arms.’

He said: “He was extremely modest, completely unflappable, a genius at finding solutions to technical problems.”

The Guard Club Bridge, renovated by Harold James and the Maidenhead Civic Society.

The pair first met in the early 1970s and worked together on the project to restore the footbridge, which began in 1976.

The timber and iron bridge had been built some time before 1880, and had historically been used for the Brigade of Guards boat club in the 19th century, just upstream from Brunel’s Railway Bridge.

Nearly 100 years later, the bridge was in dire need ofrepair and Harold, who had qualified as a structural engineer from Queens College Cambridge, was the man to lead the team of Civic Society volunteers.

“He was very influential in getting the Civic Society committee to go ahead with the project because of his engineering knowledge and skills,” said Richard.

“If it was anyone’s project it was his.

“He was a man of many parts but also so modest and absolutely charming, he will be missed.

“I have many wonderful memories.”

More recently, Harold moved to Cookham with his wife Jacqui, where they would often be seen enjoying a coffee at Costa.

Their son, Christopher, also paid tribute to his father.

He said: “He was a good father to me and set a goodexample through his example.

“He was very passionate about his commitments to the rotary club and the civic society and that’s where his passions went.

“I got to know him more in the last two or three years, he said some very beautiful things towards the end, things that he had never said before.

“He was a very good dad, and is very much missed.”

Harold James died aged 94 in early March.

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