Charles Vallancey was born Charles Vallancé in Westminster in 1731. Vallancey attended Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, before being commissioned in the 10th regiment of foot in 1747. He was attached to the Royal Engineers as a military surveyor in Ireland, becoming a lieutenant-general in 1798, and a general in 1803.
Vallancey’s second wife died in 1783 leaving him to rear ten children. To supplement his income he translated works from French to English. He also became known as a philologist, antiquarian and orientalist. He forged links with all the experts of the day and while some of his publications are of questionable authenticity, his work as a professional engineer has not received due recognition.
He was responsible for the construction of Queen’s Bridge (1768) (now Mellows Bridge) over the River Liffey in Dublin on the same site as the former Arran Bridge which had been washed away during a storm. He had also been involved in the construction of some temporary bridges in Kilkenny following similar storms there. In addition, he was in charge of some construction work on the original pier in Dun Laoghaire.
In 1796 Vallancey produced the “Military Itinerary of the South Ireland” and his skills in cartography and mapping were subsequently applied to other parts of the British Empire. In particular the survey of India adopted the standards of the ordnance survey of Ireland as the target to be achieved. In the 1760’s map making and surveying was in its infancy and Vallencey’s work was seen as being very advanced for its time.
A founding member of the Royal Irish Academy, his status meant he was very influential in advancing the study of language and culture in Ireland and he authored many publications.
Vallancey died in Dublin in 1812.