Bretland, Josiah Corbett (1846–a.1921), engineer, architect, and city surveyor, was born 4 January 1846 in Nottingham, England, and articled (1863–7) to M. O. Tarbottom; nothing is known of his parents or early education. He was successively assistant surveyor (1868–84) and city surveyor (1884–1903) to Belfast corporation during a period of rapid urban expansion.
He prepared plans for the Belfast improvement acts (1878, 1884) and was responsible for widening Queen's Bridge (1885–6) and adding ornamental lamp-posts to the parapet; rebuilding Albert Bridge (1889–90), which had collapsed in 1886, and incorporating gas and water mains, telephone and telegraph connections under new footpaths; and introducing a modern city-wide drainage system (1887–94). In his evidence before a royal commission on the housing of the working classes (1885), he described the satisfactory state of housing in Belfast, where his duties involved the approval of all plans, the demolition of old buildings, and the construction of new housing of high standard and low cost for a rapidly expanding population. He provided parks and recreation grounds, paved roads, and replaced insanitary congested districts with handsome streets such as Royal Avenue, which connected the northern and southern areas of the city and became the main shopping and commercial street of late Victorian Belfast; strict controls were placed on certain aspects of its development, which resulted in a disciplined but varied streetscape. He designed handsome, practical, red-brick buildings for St George's market, May St. (1890–96), and the fish market, Oxford St. (1896; dismantled and stored, 1991) – both of which boasted Roman triumphal arches and massive iron gateways – and the fire brigade headquarters in Oxford St. (1892–4), whose square tower became a prominent landmark. A small developer and landlord, he built pleasant houses with ornamental brickwork.
In 1896 with Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905), president of RIBA, he was joint assessor of the Belfast city hall competition. Associate (1878) and member (1885) of the Institution of Civil Engineers, he was a member (1891) of the Incorporated Association of Municipal and County Engineers. He retired (1903) through ill-health. He lived at Bramcote, Craigavad, Co. Down. Details of his family life are unknown. He was dead by June 1921.