William Cochrane was born in Blackbrook, Dudley in 1837. He was the son of Alexander Brodie Cochrane (1813-1863), an engineer who worked with iron at a time when iron was being incorporated into civic, infrastructure and creative architectural projects. The coal fields of England and Wales were playgrounds for engineers with technical genius and creativity. William Cochrane had wished to practice law, but before he could enter the profession his father’s health declined and he was asked to join the family business, Cochrane & Co along with his brothers Charles (1835-1898) and Joseph (1840-1908). Despite his efforts to the contrary, like his father and grandfather before him, William became an engineer.

William was a proficient engineer. Not only did he oversee the work of his family business but he took a leading role in projects in Staffordshire and Newcastle including the sinking of Elswick Colliery in 1858. He was consulted on mining issues from other engineering companies including the Blackwell and Nunnery Colliery companies. In 1859 he was elected a member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, a prestigious organisation to which he was president in 1890-1. He is still remembered at the institute as the person responsible for introducing mechanical ventilation and investigating coal dust explosions.

In 1886 a Newcastle Solicitor called John Fleming made a substantial donation of £25,000 to construct the Fleming Memorial Hospital, which is widely recognised as the most significant step towards medical care for children. It was William Cochrane, however, who was the first to identify the need for a children’s hospital, and it was Cochrane who first built a hospital specifically for children in 1863.

Mortality for under 5s in Newcastle 1861 was 260:1000 and rising. To put this into context; UNICEF recorded in 2016 the average for under 5 mortality rate in Somalia, a failed state, as 132:1000. The hospital Cochrane established was a small but important affair near Hanover Square close to Hanover Square School. Its location in the centre of Newcastle and in close proximity to Central station and the bridge crossing the river Tyne was no accident.  It was designed for accessibility for families across Newcastle and further afield.

In 1901 Durham University presented an honorary degree of Master of Science (MSc) to William for his contributions to engineering in the region and for his contributions as a council member for the Durham College of Science. The College of Science was one of two autonomous colleges, along with the College of Medicine, based in Newcastle, which merged eventually to become Newcastle University in 1962. He died in 1903 in Gosforth, Newcastle.


Grace’s Guide. (2017). William Cochrane. Available here (Accessed: 12/07/2018).

Grace’s Guide. (2017). Alexander Cochrane. Available here (Accessed: 12/07/2018).

Morrison, J. (2018). Hanover Square Children’s Hospital. Available here (Accessed: 12/07/2018).

William Cochrane. Available here (Accessed: 12/07/2018).