John Coode, British civil engineer, was apprenticed to the civil engineer James M. Rendel at Plymouth. On completion of his apprenticeship he worked briefly with Rendel and then on the Great Western Railway between Bristol and Exeter. On 5 October 1842 he married Jane Price; they had at least one son, who also became a harbour engineer. Coode practised as a consulting engineer in London from 1844 to 1847, when he was appointed resident engineer in charge of the Portland harbour works, which had been designed by Rendel. Upon Rendel's death in 1856 Coode succeeded him as engineer-in-chief of the harbour works until their completion in 1872. This work was of major importance. He also did important work in connection with the harbours of Dover and the Isle of Man, and contributed to the development of the Thames embankment. He published, among others, a description of Chesil Bank, a sandbank on the coast of Dorset, England.
While still employed at Portland Coode advised on the development of Table Bay harbour from 1857. He proposed building the breakwater from Chavonnes Battery, creating an inner dock and an outer basin. Detailed plans were drawn up for further expansion and in 1859 he became advisory engineer-in-chief to the Cape government. He later submitted a scheme for the development of the Buffalo River harbour at East London, which was accepted by the Cape government and executed under his direction during 1868-1877. In November 1876 he visited Cape Town and submitted further plans for the extensions of breakwaters and increased dockside accommodation in Table Bay. His recommendations were accepted by the government, as were his proposals in 1880 and 1883 for a costly outer harbour of some 25 hectares. He also reported on the harbours in Mossel Bay, Knysna, Port Alfred and Plettenberg Bay, and planned the development of the harbour at Port Elizabeth. His recommendations were written up in various reports: Cape Colony harbours. Port Alfred (Kowie River) (London, 1877, 11p); Cape Colony harbours. Report by Sir John Coode, CE, on the harbours of Table Bay, Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port Alfred, and East London (London, 1877); and reports to parliament on the harbour works of Port Elizabeth (1875), East London (1881), and Mossel Bay (1883). Meanwhile he had submitted his first scheme for the development of Durban harbour in December 1870 in his Report on the harbour works of Natal (Pietermaritzburg, 1871), proposing the deepening of the entrance channel and dredging of the lagoon, but the plans were considered too expensive by the Natal parliament. In 1877 he proposed a larger development scheme for Durban harbour (Port Natal. Sir John Coode's report, London, 1877, 10p), but this was rejected for the same reason. However, his ideas were eventually vindicated through the work of C.W. Methven*. His firm remained active in harbour planning in South Africa into the 1890's, for example, he (with others) compiled the Report of a conference of engineers held in London in July and August 1890, appointed to inquire into harbour improvements for Algoa Bay (London, 1890), dealing with reports and plans submitted by E.E. Sawyer and the Chief Inspector of Public Works of the Cape Colony. He continued issuing plans of Table Bay harbour up to 1893.
During the 1870's and 1880's Coode was consulted by various other colonial governments on harbour improvements and in the course of this work travelled to, among others, Australia and India. In 1873 he proposed a scheme for the harbour of Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was successfully executed during the next two years, and in February 1879 he reported on improvements to Melbourne harbour. Advice was also offered to New Zealand, Bombay (now Mumbai, 1885), Singapore (1885), and other places. He was a pioneer in the use of diving apparatus to assist in harbour planning and was probably the most distinguished British harbour engineer of the nineteenth century.
Coode was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE) in 1849, serving on its council for many years and as president during 1889-1891. He was honoured as a Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1886, and was a member of the international commission of the Suez Canal from 1884 to his death in 1892.