Papers of Sir Harold Harding

Scope and Content

Professional papers, including reports, photographs, lantern slides and prints relating to exploratory works for a channel tunnel and Piccadilly Circus, together with one biographical article. Also additional files concerning the Channel Tunnel project deposited at a later date but not yet catalogued.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Harold John Boyer Harding (1900-1986), civil engineer, was born in Wandsworth, London, on 6 January 1900, the younger son and younger child of Arthur Boyer Harding, and his wife Helen Clinton Lowe. He was educated with the financial assistance of his uncle, Jack Robinson, at Christ's Hospital, and the City and Guilds College (part of Imperial College) which he entered in 1917. He served through 1918 as an Officers' Training Corps cadet, resuming his studies in 1919. He received a BSc (Eng.) from the University of London and a Postgraduate Diploma from Imperial College, both in 1922.

In 1922 he joined John Mowlem & Co., engineering contractors. His early work concentrated on underground railway development in and around London, notably the reconstruction of Piccadilly Circus Station (1926-1929), and the construction of the Central Line from Bow Road to Leytonstone (1936-1939). He worked on the model for Piccadilly Station with a student at the Slade School of Art, Sophie Helen Blair Leighton, daughter of Edmund Blair Leighton RI, artist. They were married on 24 September 1927, and had two sons and a daughter.

During the Second World War, he was responsible for defence works and emergency repairs to underground damage in London. During air raids in 1941 he held discussions with a colleague which resulted, in 1942, in the foundation of Soil Mechanics Ltd. In 1943-4 he organized the construction of petrol barges and floating monoliths used in the Normandy landings. He was a director of Soil Mechanics Ltd (1949-1955) and also a director of the parent company Mowlem (1950-1956). From the late 1950s until 1978, he worked as a consultant and arbitrator: he was joint consultant, with René Malcor, to the Channel Tunnel Study Group (1958-1970); and a member of the Aberfan disaster tribunal (1966-1967).

Harding was an active fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, serving as president in 1963-1964. He was the founder chairman of the British Tunnelling Society (1971-1973), who hold an annual event in his honour. The event alternates between the Harding Prize, a competition for papers from members under 33 years old, and the Harding Lecture.

He was a governor of Westminster Technical College (1948-1953), Northampton Engineering College (1950-1955), and Imperial College (1955-1975). In 1952 he was elected a fellow of the City and Guilds Institute. In 1968 he was knighted, and became a fellow of Imperial College. He received an honorary DSc from City University in 1970. In 1976 he was elected a founder fellow of the Fellowship of Engineering. In 1981 his autobiography 'Tunnelling History and my Own Involvement' was published by Golder Associates.

He died in Topsham, Devon, on 27 March 1986.


The papers were in no discernable original arrangement and have been arranged by the archivist into Professional papers and biographical papers.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the University of Exeter Engineering Department.

Other Finding Aids

Listed. Partial rough list available.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Christine Faunch, Archivist, with biographical information from the Online 'DNB' on 18 Dec 2007.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

It is thought that these papers were given to the University of Exeter Engineering Department by Sir Harold Harding in c.1980 and kept in the Harrison Library for teaching purposes until transfer to Special Collections.




It is not known whether these papers have formed the basis for publication.