Joseph Newey, an English civil engineer from West Bromwich, was the son of George Newey and his wife Sarah, born Garland. He was a member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers and Fellow of the Imperial Institute. In November or December 1872 he was appointed in the civil service of the Cape Colony as an engineer on the staff of the chief inspector of public works. His first task was to erect two iron lattice girder bridges at King William’s Town and Committees Drift, followed by the design and building of dozens of other bridges throughout the Eastern Cape and Transkei, notably seven stone arch bridges at Cala, Barkly East (2), Ugie, Maclear, Aliwal North and Lady Grey. After the devastating floods of December 1874 he was entrusted with the reconstruction of all bridges damaged or destroyed by the floods in the Eastern Cape.
In 1878 Newey was appointed justice of the peace at Komga. During the war against the AmaGcaleka (a Xhosa tribe) that same year, and during other periods of unrest, he performed special service in military engineering works. From November 1877 he was in charge of the construction of the Aliwal North and Kraai River bridges and other works and surveys, until his appointment as engineering assistant in Cape Town on 1 September 1881. He was promoted to district inspector at King William's Town in July 1882. During the next few years he compiled plans of the roads in the Stutterheim area (1883) and a map of Gaika location showing portions of the divisions of Cathcart, Stutterheim and Komga (1889). On 1 June 1893 he was promoted to chief inspector of public works (in charge of the Public Works Department), a post he held until he retired on pension in 1905.
In 1902 Newey became a foundation member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1869 he married Elizabeth Townsend Ball, with whom he had seven children.