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Obituary | ICE past president Stuart Mustow

Mustow

ICE past president and former County Surveyor for the West Midlands Stuart Mustow has died at the age of 90 after a short illness. 

A British civil engineer who had a long association with municipal engineering, Mustow is perhaps best known for his 12-year stint as County Surveyor of the newly-created West Midlands County Council (WMCC) and the instrumental role he played in 1978 of the discovery of defective concrete in structures on the Birmingham Inner Ring Road and the consequential decision to strip maintenance responsibility of the road from Birmingham City Council.

He stumbled upon engineering as a career after a neighbour and friend, Phillip Newby, who worked in local government, told him it was possible to get engineering apprenticeships with some authorities including time at college. That advice led to him becoming an Engineering Learner at Oldbury Borough. This ultimately resulted in a BSc from Aston University and Associate Membership of the ICE by age 27. The rest of his career was spent working in local government, including stretches as deputy borough engineer at Wolverhampton, city engineer at Stoke on Trent before becoming County Surveyor at the newly-created West Midlands County Council in 1974, a role he kept until the combined authority was abolished by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1986.

The authority had sweeping powers running regional services such as transport and emergency services from Coventry to Wolverhampton as well as acting as government agent for the M5 and M6 motorways and owning and operating the rapidly expanding Birmingham Airport.

This included designing and project managing construction of a new main terminal on a new site that provided links to the West Coast Main Line railway and the NEC exhibition centre. The terminal opened by The Queen in May 1984 and in his memoirs Mustow recalled that the project cost was £60M and such was the relationship with the contractors that the final account was agreed just six months after completion.

But it was his actions following discovery of defective concrete in bridge beams at St Chad’s Circus and eight other locations on the Birmingham Inner Ring Road for which he is most known. In July 1978 Mustow recommended that the responsibility for maintenance of the road be taken from Birmingham City Council and given to WMCC, a measure approved by the Department of the Environment and seen as a loss of face for Birmingham Council.

Upon abolition of WMCC he retired from local authority work at this point to become a consulting engineer with Atkins. He also appeared on radio and television programmes and in satirical magazine Private Eye.

In 1990 he was invited to become a succeeding vice president of the ICE, an invitation he described as entirely unexpected, but one that proved to be the start of a very worthwhile conclusion to much of his career. He was given the role of foreign affairs VP at a time when the Institution was involved in a great deal of work on natural disasters and their implications and in his time a valuable report on mitigation was published and well received.

He became President in November 1993 where he made steps to secure greater recognition of the role of the civil engineer in society and made changes to the ICE’s annual report such that it made reference to an annual survey of the attitudes of its members.

Outside of engineering he was a keenly religious man, as referenced by his New Civil Engineer cover photograph which pictured him and his wife Sigrid outside a church.

Together they ran the “S and S Mustow Trust” between 1970 and 2017 which grants to educational, religious and poverty relief charities and individuals.

Stuart mustow

He loved the outdoors and in his youth spent many holidays hiking, climbing and skiing and continued walking in his beloved Derbyshire into his late Eighties. This, along with a keen interest in engineering and current affairs kept him active and open-minded. His greatest passion though was his family and he invested enormous energy and enthusiasm in supporting his children, their partners and each and every grandchild in equal measure. His humour, positive attitude and great warmth are missed by all.

Stuart Mustow was born on 26 November 1928 in Smethwick, United Kingdom. He is survived by his wife Sigrid, three children Steve, Ruth and Paul, their partners and his seven grandchildren.

  • A thanksgiving service is being held on Monday 17 June at 11.30am, at Ashbourne Methodist Church, Church Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1AE.

Readers' comments (1)

  • So sorry to hear that Stuart Mustow has passed away; he was a very firm but fair boss; you always knew where you were with Stuart. I owe him plenty in my career; from appointing me in the first place to encouraging me to take an active part in Institution affairs. Kathleen and I send our condolences to his family.
    Roger R Ball (at one time Assistant County Surveyor at West Midland County Council).

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