02 March 2015

Edward Hitchcock (1883–1966)

  • Edward Hitchcock, circa 1940. Past Presidents Album. IPENZ.
  • New Zealand Institution of Engineers Annual Conference, 25 February 1941.

Although not a foundation member, Edward Hitchcock took a very prominent part in the activities of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers (NZSCE, now the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ)) during its early years and his interest and activities continued for the greater part of 50 years. He was a very witty speaker, enlivening many a dull debate with his quips and droll stories.

A New Zealander by birth, born 24 November 1883, Hitchcock, who had considerable and varied experience both here and overseas, was general manager of the Christchurch Municipal Electricity Department for 29 years.

In 1899 he was articled as an engineer’s apprentice with D Robertson and Company of Wellington and received his technical education at Wellington Technical College. In 1905, he left for England, where he continued his technical training at the Woolwich Polytechnic, London. While training he worked on erection and design of electrical apparatus in the switch gear department and drawing office of Siemens Brothers of Woolwich for two years. For 17 months he was in the drawing office of Siemens’ works in Stafford, working on the design of electrical equipment for the British Admiralty and of motors, switch gear and projectors. For the next six months he was switchboard operator at the Holborn station of the London County Council Tramways and then travelled to North America where he continued his studies for another 18 months.

On his return to New Zealand Hitchcock joined the Public Works Department in Wellington as a draughtsman for steel and timber bridges, and while in that position designed the Waihou dredge. A year later he transferred as a draughtsman to the Hydro-electric Branch and for six months worked on the design of the Lake Coleridge Power Station.

In August 1912, he became one of the early appointees as Assistant Electrical Engineer to the Hydro-electric Branch under Evan Parry and Lawrence Birks. In this position he took a prominent part in the final design, construction and administration of the Lake Coleridge undertaking. In December 1914 he was appointed Chief Assistant Electrical Engineer to the Department at Christchurch where he was stationed when the construction of Lake Coleridge was finished and supply began. With his appointment as Christchurch District Electrical Engineer in March 1919 he had charge of the administration of the Lake Coleridge supply business and extensions to the plant.

In 1920 Hitchcock was appointed General Manager of the Christchurch’s Municipal Electricity Department, succeeding EE Stark. Hitchcock was largely responsible for the phenomenal growth of that department during the next 29 years.

After his retirement Hitchcock served for several years as a member of the Local Government Loans Board.

He was elected President of our engineering Institute in 1940. He also became President of the Electric Supply Authority Engineers Institute.

Hitchcock died on 21 August 1966.

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William Newnham, Learning Service Achievement (Wellington: New Zealand Institution of Engineers, 1971), pp.348–49.