[Skip to content]

West Somerset Mineral Railway Project go to homepagelink to heritage lottery fund website

Who was who at the Mineral Line

An A-Z of brief biographical profiles of people connected with the Mineral Line. 


A   B   C   D     F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M  N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z  





James Abernethy (1814-96) was born at Aberdeen.  He was sent to a boarding school near Barnard Castle, one of the several alleged establishments said to have been used by Dickens as the model for Dotheboys Hall, from which James and his brother George were rescued by an uncle.  James served his apprenticeship in his father’s office.  In 1856 he was responsible for the design of the extension to the docks and the installation of hydraulic coal drops at Newport, completed in 1860.  At the same time he was working on designs for harbour works at Silloth, Falmouth and Watchet.  From 1887-92 was associated with the design of the Manchester Ship Canal.   




Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet (1787-1871) grew up at Holnicote (SS 909464) and devoted his energies to politics and philanthropy.  In 1808, he married Lydia Hoare, daughter of one of the partners in the banking family of Stourhead in Wiltshire.  The couple moved to Thomas’ other house at Killerton (SS 974001) which they refurbished.  In 1812 Thomas was elected as one of two Tory MP’s for Devon.  He was defeated in the 1818 election, but returned from 1820-32.  He was not re-elected until 1837, when North Devon had been divided into two constituencies, one of which he represented for twenty years.  In August 1851, Holnicote, a thatched roofed house, burned down for the second time.  His wife died in 1856, and Sir Thomas retired from public life. 




William Adams (1813-86) was born at Pen-y-Cae, Ebbw Vale, the son of a collier.  In May 1828 he was apprenticed to Charles Lloyd, Harford & Co as surveyor and mineral agent.  In 1833 he carried out the survey of a railway from Ebbw Vale and Nantyglo to Newport by way of Abergavenny.  When the Ebbw Vale and Sirhowy works were bought by the Coalbrookdale Company in 1844, Adams was appointed chief engineer, a post which included responsibility for the management of the Company’s iron mines and collieries.  Together with George Parry, Adams examined and analysed samples of iron ores used by the Company, and they recommended that the ore from the Brendon Hills, being largely free from sulphur and phosphorus, would be well suited for use in the works.  Adams was a founding vice-President of the South Wales Institute of Engineers in 1857 and President in 1861-62.   In 1855 he was promoted assistant manager of the Ebbw Vale works, but resigned in 1866, suffering from stress and overwork.  He moved to Cardiff and set up his own successful practice as consultant colliery agent and mining engineer, and died in August 1886.




Sir Theodore Vivian Samuel Angier  (1843-1935) was senior partner in the Angier Line, a shipping company founded by his father.  He was a member of the Committee of Lloyds register, and in 1902 had contested the constituency of Orkney and Shetland, and in 1906 that of Gateshead.





A R Angus, a solicitor from New South Wales, conducted research into all aspects of railway signalling safety, a forerunner of automatic train control.  He was a ‘prolific inventor who had taken out 33 patents connected with railway signalling and communication apparatus between 1909 and 1914, nine of which were taken out in 1911.’   Work continued until early in 1914 (SCG, 3 January 1914, 12), when  a party of railway company representatives from Russia arranged for trials to be carried out on in the following year on a stretch of line near Gatchina, about twenty miles south of St Petersburg.  He moved to Sweden, where he gave demonstrations in 1917 on a ten miles length of line between Osmo and Nynashamn about thirty miles south of Stockholm.  After the war Angus returned to England and carried out more trials on the three and a half miles long Dyke branch of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway.  Although there is no firm evidence that any interested rail company actually purchased the system, said, in the ‘twenties, to cost about £50 per track mile and £30 for the necessary equipment on each locomotive, a report in the Railway Magazine of September 1934 suggests that trials were still then continuing.







James Babbage (1800-c.84) succeeded his father John as manager of the Trevelyan estate at Nettlecombe, in about 1835.  James was not only knowledgeable about all aspects of agriculture and silviculture, but about engineering, surveying and building.  He was responsible for the entire management of the Nettlecombe estate for the whole of his working life.  He was also responsible for proposing and overseeing many of the developments on the Trevelyan estate at Seaton on the south coast.  In the 1870’s he was made a director of the Seaton & Beer Railway.




John Hutchings Beamer was born in 1837 at Middle Brown farm about two and a half miles south of the Raleghs Cross inn, of which his father had been landlord.  After the death of his father he took over both the inn and the farm.  Beamer was a go-ahead landlord who laid on ‘events’ to attract custom.  He joined with Trood of Taunton in 1868 to give an annual dinner at the inn to publicise Trood’s artificial fertilisers.  He gave up the Raleghs Cross inn in 1885 and moved to Crowcombe.  He was succeeded both at the Raleghs Cross inn and at Middle Brown farm by William Thorne a former miner.  Thorne was still the landlord and farmer in 1901.




In 1854, Sir Henry Bessemer FRS (1813-98) realised that the cast iron of which gun barrels were then manufactured was unlikely to withstand the stresses involved, and that they should be made from a fusion of cast iron and crucible steel.  Together with his brother-in-law, William D Allen, he carried out experiments at his London workshop on these lines in 1855.  It was while doing so that he accidentally made decarburised malleable iron.  By the end of the year he believed he had succeeded in perfecting the process of making malleable iron in this way, and designed and patented a tilting conical converter to make malleable iron in bulk.  In March 1856 he patented the method of making bulk steel by the addition of carbon to the malleable iron. 


Following a lecture in August 1856 Bessemer in which he described the process, he issued licences for its use to one ironmaster in each district.  It was not long however before the licensees found that the ‘steel’ which resulted from their employment of Bessemer’s process was  ‘red short’ and of no use whatsoever.  Bessemer reimbursed all the firms who had paid for licences with interest.  It was only late in 1858 that Bessemer finally discovered that the iron he had used in his experiments was, quite by chance, free from phosphorus and sulphur, the presence of which was the cause of failure.  In 1858 Bessemer set up his own works in Sheffield, to produce bulk steel, and ultimately he prospered greatly,





Samuel Holden Blackwell (1816-68) was  born near Worcester; his father John (1784-1857) was a partner in the firm of Blackwell, Oakes and Jones, owners of  Russell’s Hall ironworks about a mile west of Dudley, and of others a few miles away.  Samuel joined his father’s firm as a clerk and gradually worked his way up to become the managing partner.   He was a keen geologist and close friend of John Percy the great Victorian metallurgist. 


With his brother-in-law, Ebenezer Rogers, Blackwell was involved in prospecting for iron ore on the Brendon Hills, but withdrew from the venture in 1850 when he was invited by John Percy to assemble a collection of samples of British iron ores for display in the Great Exhibition of 1851.   In 1866, Blackwell’s business failed and he died in ‘poverty and obscurity’ in March 1868.




Born in 1817 at Folkestone, Thomas Boxer was a mining engineer.  In 1851 he described himself as the ‘proprietor of a lead mine and smelting works’, perhaps in Cornwall, and was living at Bethnal Green in London.  In 1839 he persuaded the Earl of Egremont to mine for iron ore at Watchet rather than on the Brendon Hills.  He also persuaded the Earl to erect a smelting works at Watchet, and to employ a new process devised by Henry Mohun to smelt iron ore cheaply.  Both the ‘mines’ at Watchet and the smelting process failed and the Earl spent a great deal of money to no purpose.





Cuthbert Brereton (1850-1910) was a nephew and pupil of R P Brereton, Brunel’s chief assistant who had been largely responsible for the design of the West Somerset Railway.  From 1893 to 1909 Cuthbert was a partner of Sir John Wolfe-Barry (1836-1918), who had been responsible for several dock schemes, including Barry dock in South Wales, as well as for the design of Tower Bridge in London in 1894.




Thomas Brown (1803-84) was born at Merthyr Tydfil in 1803, and worked at Blaina under his father.   He quickly rose to managerial level, and in 1831 went into partnership with John Russell, a Worcestershire born coal owner, in collieries and in the Blaina ironworks, which in 1839 was merged with Cwm Celyn works, which had opened the year before.   In 1836 Russell and Russell’s son-in-law George Randle Hookey and Thomas Brown bought the Black Vein Colliery at Risca, an old established steam coal colliery.  In 1841 the partners began sinking a new pit at Risca, and in the following year won the contract to supply 72,000 tons of coal a year to the Royal West India Steam Packet Company from this colliery; in that year too Brown sank pits at Ebbw Vale.  In 1844 Brown and Russell sold Blaina and Cwm Celyn to a group of partners from Bath.   


In 1852, Brown sold his share of his partnership with Russell to fund his intended development of the Brendon Hills iron mines.  At Ebbw Vale Thomas Brown was something of a technical innovator, introducing Cox’s closed coke ovens to replace wasteful open-air coking clamps.  He established a works laboratory, and was responsible for abortive attempts to introduce the manufacture of wrought iron by the Martien process.  


By 1862, the Ebbw Vale Co was overstretched and unprofitable, and the other partners, decided that it was time for a reorganisation of the partnership and the removal of Thomas Brown.   In September 1862 he left without ceremony and moved to Hardwick House near Chepstow.  In 1876, Brown was appointed manager of the Nantyglo and Blaina ironworks, but he was dismissed in November 1877 as there had been no improvement of trade.  He retired to Cheltenham, where he lived  with his unmarried second daughter, Anne, and died there in December 1884. 







Captain George Henry Warrington Carew (1830-74) was born at Tetton Court, near Taunton and was a captain in the Kings Dragoon Guards and colonel of the 2nd Battalion of the Somerset Volunteers.  His youngest brother, John, was for more than thirty years rector of Clatworthy, in which parish the family owned most of the land, and of which George was Lord of the Manor.   George also owned parts of Brompton Ralph parish.




The fourth Earl of Carnarvon, Howard Molyneux Herbert, (1831-90) was seven years old when he addressed a public meeting of the SPCA, and in the following year attended the coronation in Turkey of Abdul Mejdid.  He made his maiden speech in the Lords in 1854.  After the Crimean war, Pixton Park comprising 2900 acres including most of the village of Dulverton and its surroundings was assigned to the Earl, but it seems that he only rarely visited the house.  In 1866 he was appointed Colonial Secretary, but resigned in 1868.  In 1874 he was again appointed Colonial Secretary, and was responsible for the abolition of slavery in the Gold Coast (Ghana).  He opposed the extension of the franchise in 1884, and sympathetic to Irish national aspirations, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland a year later.




David Chadwick (1821-95) was born at Macclesfield, the son of an accountant.  He began business as an accountant in 1843 and in 1844 was elected treasurer to Salford Corporation, to the City’s magistrates and to its gas and waterworks undertakings.  In 1860 he returned to private practice in Manchester and London in partnership with John Adamson.  Between 1862 and 1874 his firm was involved in the flotation of more than 47 limited liability companies, including many iron and steel manufacturers, and it was from his many business colleagues in Manchester and Salford that most of the equity funds invested in his company flotations was derived.   Many of the new limited companies had large nominal capital of which only a small proportion was paid up, but no reduction in the capital of a limited company, nor subdivision of their shares was permitted until the passage of an amending Act in 1867.


Chadwick was elected junior MP for Macclesfield in 1868, and was re-elected in 1874 and 1880.  In the House, Chadwick sought to introduce measures to amend and improve some of the provisions of the 1867 Act.  Unfortunately his intentions were thwarted by the decision of the Master of the Rolls, that under the 1867 Act a company could only reduce the unpaid portion of its nominal capital.  This caused problems for the over-capitalised iron and steel companies during the severe slump of the 1870’s.





William Tregarthen Douglass (1857-1913) was articled for three years to his father, Sir James Douglass (1826-98), who had rebuilt Eddystone lighthouse from 1878-1882.  William was resident engineer on that project and from 1883-84.  In 1887 Douglass resigned from Trinity House to practice as a consulting engineer, specialising in the design of lighthouses, harbours and sea defence works.  He designed 38 lighthouses all over the world and harbours at Buckie, Cullen, Eyemouth, Mevagissey, Newlyn, and other places.


William Doyne (1823-1877) was born in County Carlow, Ireland.  In 1840 he was articled to Edward Dixon who at that time was one of Joseph Locke’s assistant engineers on the LSWR, then building.   Until 1850 he worked on railway construction in Ireland and England.   For some time he had made a study of mineralogy, and in 1851 was introduced to Thomas Brown by Richard Fothergill III (1822-1903), for whom he had carried out work at Aberdare ironworks.
Doyne was naive, credulous, quarrelsome and clearly failed to build up any kind of rapport with his clients.  He was overawed by Brown’s domineering manner.  Brown lost patience and Doyne was dismissed.   He left England and worked on railway design in India, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand, where he surveyed a line from the the Dun Mountain copper mine to Nelson, the first railway to be opened there.  Then to Tasmania and Australia where he died in 1877.


In October 1856 “Doctor” Matthews, the well known Bridgwater quack and his pupil assistant Joseph Kingsbury of Watchet, having completed their round of visits to Washford and Roadwater, retired to the ‘White Horse’ at Hungerford for a drink.  This took longer than expected and when they came out it was dark.  As Matthews drove off the gig collided with the kerb and was overturned, precipitating Matthews into the Washford river beside the road.  Surprisingly navvies were still at work nearby and hearing their cries for help came to see what was afoot.  The navvies managed to set everything to rights, but the gig was a write-off and the pair had to walk home covered with mud.  Kingsbury asserted that in future he would not ride with Matthews, but would follow on horseback. 





George Francis Wyndham, the fourth Earl of Egremont (1785-1845) entered the navy in 1799.  In 1837 he inherited Orchard Wyndham (ST 072399) near Williton.  The Earl’s estate included the harbour and most of the town of Watchet and much of the parish of St Decumans and Old Cleeve, amounting to 8365 acres.  He also owned Silverton Park, an estate of more than 8300 acres four miles south west of Cullompton in Devon.  He married the daughter of the Vice Provost of Eton College in 1820, but died at Silverton without issue.  On his death the peerage became extinct and the management of the estates was vested in Trustees.  His widow continued to live at Orchard Wyndham until her death in 1876.


Nicholas Ennor (1794-1874) was born in Perranzabuloe, two miles from Perranporth in Cornwall, in 1794, and appointed captain at Treburgett near St Teath, where one of his sons, Adolphus, was born in 1834.  He later said that he had worked in many mines in Cornwall and Devon, before moving to West Somerset.


On the Brendon Hills he leased Treborough slate quarry (ST 015368) in 1845, but gave it up in 1849, and leased Okehampton slate quarry (ST 086301) near Wiveliscombe, managed by Adolphus, who lived at Ford nearby.  In 1849, Nicholas obtained a licence to mine for ore on the Earl of Carnarvon’s land at Brendon Hill, close to Raleighs Cross mine which was then being developed by Ebenezer Rogers.  After Thomas Brown bought out Rogers’ interest in the Brendon Hills mines, he paid a very high price to buy out Ennor’s rights also. 


It is thanks to the technical description that Ennor wrote, that the designer and manufacturer of the tunnel boring machine used for a time to drive Raleighs Cross drainage adit could be identified.  In 1857 Nicholas moved to the Mendips and leased the rights to Priddy Minery.  He sold the rights after losing an action over water pollution in 1863, and retired to St Teath in Cornwall. 






Henry Gale (1807-77) was the son of a doctor.  After taking a degree at Cambridge, he trained as a solicitor, but the death of a child in 1850 made him decide to be ordained.   After a curacy in Ashford, Kent, he moved to Birmingham where he became known for a more zealous than discreet advocacy of teetotalism.  Because of his earnestness in the cause of temperance, Sir Walter Trevelyan gave him the living at Treborough in 1857.  He regularly spoke to miners at Brendon Hill on the subject of teetotalism, and organised Temperance Tea Meetings. One of the Watchet Lodges of the Order of Good Templars and Band of Hope was named after him in 1871.  In 1869 he retired to Garsdon, Wiltshire, and his son Alfred succeeded to the living of Treborough.



Born in Bilston, Staffordshire, Edwin Grove (1833-1906) was employed as an accountant at Pontypool ironworks, probably when it was still owned by Dimmack & Thompson.  The Ebbw Vale Company bought the works in 1864, and Grove was appointed Secretary of Ebbw Vale Company Ltd and lived in London.  He remained Secretary of this company and of its successor, the Ebbw Vale Steel Iron & Coal Company Limited at least until the late 1870’s.  Grove was an auditor of the WSMR from the passing of the Act until his death in 1906.



William Gundry (1823-c. 1903) was born in Cornwall.  In 1861 he was working as a copper miner at St Neot.  Shortly afterwards he moved to the Brendon Hills as a foreman, and lived at Brendon Hill.  By 1871 he was pump manager, certainly for Raleighs Cross mine, and later was responsible for all the pumps in all the Brendon Hills mines.  He took an active role in the Miners’ Institute and other social activities; in 1871 his younger son William was a monitor at Brendon Hill school.  When the mines were stopped for six months in 1879, he was among the staff retained. 

After the mines closed in 1883, Gundry and his wife moved to Waunlwyd, near Ebbw Vale, where he was in charge of pumps in one or more collieries.  In the 1890’s after his wife’s death, Gundry moved to Washford, where he lodged with his son-in-law William Perkins, a stone mason.



John Gunn (1826-1903) was born in Aberdeenshire, but by 1851 was living at Risca in South Wales.  He may have worked for Morgans at Risca and it was perhaps at Morgans’ suggestion that Gunn moved to the Brendon Hills.  He was responsible for finding labour for the mines but at the same time he leased Whitefield quarry near Wiveliscombe, which he worked until about 1869. 


In 1862 Gunn was appointed as labour-only sub-contractor for phase 2 of the construction of the WSMR from Brendon Hill to Gupworthy, which was completed late in 1864.  In 1871 he was living at Wiveliscombe where he employed 20 men, perhaps on the Devon & Somerset Railway, then under construction.  In 1881, he moved Dulverton  opened a new manganese mine at SS 934243 near Exebridge, which produced 150 tons of manganese in 1881-2 (P Claughton, List of mines in North Devon and West Somerset, 1993).  Finally he moved to Tiverton where he set up as a public works contractor, with offices in Chapel Street.  He died in Tiverton in March 1903.





The son of a naval officer, Edwin Hellard (1849-1926) was born in Portsmouth.  He qualified as a solicitor, and after the death of C E Rowcliffe in 1877, Hellard bought the Stogumber practice and took over Rowcliffe’s posts, as Secretary of the WSMR and Clerk to the Watchet Harbour Commissioners in 1877.  He leased the Knoll, Rowcliffe’s former home, and the office premises nearby.  Because of ill-health he relinquished the post of WSMR Secretary in July 1925 and died a year or so later.




Rice Hopkins (1807-57) was born in Swansea, the eldest son of Roger Hopkins a civil engineer.   In 1822 he was articled to his father and he assisted with the design and supervision of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway.   Two years later Rice designed a 1670 feet long, 33 arched timber bridge between Shaldon and Teignmouth, opened in 1827.  Rice and his father owned in collieries in South Wales and were responsible for in the design and construction of the Monmouthshire Iron and Coal Company’s works at Victoria in 1836-37 of which both were directors.  The works failed shortly afterwards, and Rice moved to London.


His father was appointed engineer to the Bath and Weymouth Railway in 1837, and Rice was employed by Thomas Brown in South Wales on various tramroad and railway schemes.  He designed the Llanidloes & Newtown Railway in mid-Wales in 1853, and succeeded William Doyne as engineer for the 13.2 miles long WSMR.  He died before construction of the WSMR had reached Comberow.




Albert Vaughan Horne (1837-c.1912) was born in Luccombe, the son of an architect and bailiff of the Egremont estates in West Somerset.  He went into partnership with his elder brother as a builder, and in 1865, married the daughter of William Collins, land agent of the Egremont estates.  Horne succeeded Collins as agent of the Egremont estate, and from 1874-1899 was also engineer to the WSMR.  His son, Albert William, married Phyllis, eldest daughter of Herbert Blomfield Smith in 1910.







James Harvey Insole (1821-98) was born at Worcester. In 1843 he opened Cymmer colliery in the Rhondda valley and a coal export business in Cardiff.  The business expanded rapidly after he inherited his father’s collieries in the Rhondda, and he built Ely Court in Cardiff as his family home, and became a substantial coalowner.  In 1875 he bought Chargot Lodge and its estate of 7200 acres in Luxborough parish for £137,500, probably for use as a sporting estate.  When the Brendon Hills mines closed in 1883, Insole commenced an action against the Company for breaches of the terms of the original lease; after a long arbitration, Insole was awarded £1500 in damages. 







The principal home of Sir Thomas Buckler Lethbridge (1778-1849) was Sandhill Park at Bishops Lydeard near Taunton.  Educated at Oxford, in May 1806 Sir Thomas was appointed one of the two MP’s for Somerset.  Although he was one of the founders of the West Somerset Savings Bank in Taunton, ‘he was not as careful himself, and invested his own money in more speculative concerns.’  Fortunately for Thomas, his father, just before he died in 1815, destroyed the will by which he had disinherited him.


From 1822 onwards he was involved as a director in several proposed canals between the Severn estuary near Bridgwater and the English Channel near Axmouth, none of which was built.  He was also a provisional director of several more or less impracticable long distance tramroad schemes.  From 1825 onwards, Sir Thomas invested a great deal of money in Monmouthshire ironworks, all of which were relatively unsuccessful.  By 1840, Sir Thomas was effectively bankrupt, and tried to redeem his fortune by opening iron mines on his Luxborough estate, but, because of difficulties of transport, met with no success.  When he died Sir Thomas was £88,700 in debt, or about £5.1 million at today’s prices.




Born in London Frederick Levick (1804-67) learned his trade in the Midlands before being invited in 1844 to replace Thomas Brown as manager of the combined Blaina, Cwm Celyn and Coalbrookvale ironworks.  Later he became a partner in the works.  In 1855 he became a partner in the Brendon Hills Iron Ore Company, and was entered as a subscriber to the WSMR up to the amount of £1500, and was one of its first directors.  By 1858 Levick had bought out the other partners at Blaina and was sole owner of the combined works which then had six furnaces in blast.  He retired in June 1859, and in 1862 resigned his directorship of the WSMR.







It is sometimes thought that Joseph Gilbert Martien (?1792-1878), of Newark, New Jersey, USA was carrying out research into bulk steelmaking.  He was granted patent no. 2082 of 1855 for ‘Improvements in the manufacture of iron and steel’, but from the description of the process in his patent it is clear that Martien’s purpose was simply to shorten the process of puddling in the production of malleable iron.  His process consisted of passing a flow of molten iron along a gently sloping cast iron half round channel in the hollow bottom of which were numerous small holes through which steam and/or air were blown.  It was not particularly successful.




Born in 1850, Alfred Edward Morgans trained at the Bristol School of Mines.  He went to Mexico in the late 1870’s to supervise its gold and silver mines and stayed there for many years.  He moved to Western Australia in 1896.  His reputation in the industry grew and he was known as ‘the doyen of mining magnates’.  He developed many property and mining investments throughout the State and was elected as Member of Legislative Assembly for Coolgardie in 1897; he took over from George Leake as Prime Minister in November 1901.  A month later he was defeated, when three of his new ministers failed to be re-elected, and he was refused dissolution by the Governor.  Later he was involved in a variety of consular-diplomatic appointments and died in 1933.




Jeffrey Morgans (1853-91) was born at Risca in 1853.  In 1871 he was living at Mells and practising as a civil engineer .  He went to San Salvador to work as a mining engineer, but died at Divisadero San Miguel on 15 August 1891.  He never married, but is thought to have had a daughter by a Mexican woman; probate was granted at Bristol to his brother William (Brian Morgans, pers. comm.). 




Morgan Morgans (1816-88) was born at Llanddeusant in Carmarthenshire.  He was an observant geologist and a competent mining and civil engineer.  By 1841, at the age of twenty five, Morgans was living at Abercarne and working as an ‘engineer’, perhaps at Black Vein colliery at Risca three kilometres to the south, which was owned by the partnership of John Russell, and his son-in-law George Randle Hookey.  By 1855 Morgans was manager of Black Vein colliery, and it was probably while there that he met Thomas Brown, Russell’s partner in other collieries.


It was almost certainly at Brown’s invitation that in 1858 Morgans was persuaded to leave for Somerset to take charge of the development of the Brendon Hills mines, and, in September 1859, to act as engineer to the West Somerset Mineral Railway.  He was responsible for the installation of the winding machinery at the top of the incline and for supervising the construction of phase 2 of the WSMR.  During his time as general manager, production improved markedly.  Nevertheless, he seems to have been frustrated by the lack of demand for spathic ore from the mines, more than 80,000 tons of which was stockpiled on the hills, and in 1867 he resigned his position and established a civil and mining engineering consultancy in Bristol.


There, assisted by his son William, he was involved in 1868 in a short-lived attempt to reopen a lead mine at Beer (SS 890275) near East Anstey in Devon.  In the same year he designed and supervised the innovative pumping installation at Bryngwyn colliery at Bedwas in South Wales.   Morgan Morgans probably retired in 1876 and died in Bristol in 1888.




Thomas Morgans (b.1841) eldest son of Morgan Morgans, was born in January 1841 at Risca, and in 1871 was living at Great Elm about two miles north west of Frome, and lectured at the Bristol School of Mines.  In 1872 he wrote ‘A Manual of Mining Tools’, and by 1875 he was living at Lydney in the Forest of Dean.  In 1884 Thomas wrote ‘A Survey of the Bristol Coalfield’, published in Bristol, and a paper, ‘The solution of colliery explosions’ in 1887.


In the mid 1870’s, Thomas went into partnership with his younger brother William at premises in Small Street , Bristol, where they practised as civil and mechanical engineers.  They were also proprietors of the Bristol Steel-Heart Tool Company Ltd, with offices at the Guildhall and a factory with six employees in Twinnell Road, Bristol.   In the 1890’s T & W Morgans acted as consulting mechanical engineers to Dolcoath mine in Cornwall, for which they designed a traversing winding engine, said at the time to be unique, for Williams shaft. 


In 1900, Thomas published a paper in the Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers entitled ‘Notes on the Lead Industry of the Mendip Hills’.





William Morgans (b.1845) worked for for some years in his father’s office, and then moved to Mells, in the Somerset coalfield, where he is said to have married Sarah Fussell, but she died shortly afterwards,   In the mid 1870’s, William joined his elder brother Thomas in partnership.  Later William may have married a widow, Elizabeth Walters, who died in 1908.




Alexander Mossman (1827-96), a blacksmith from Berwickshire, brought the tunnel boring machine to the Brendon Hills mines in March 1857 from Armstrong’s works at Newcastle-on-Tyne.   From April 1857 was employed as driver of one of the Neilson locomotives during construction of phase 1 of the WSMR.  In June married Charlotte Gooding, widow of the landlord of the Greyhound inn in Swain Street, Watchet, which was then owned by the Brendon Hills Iron Ore Company. 


His locomotive was involved in the collision near Kentsford in August 1857, after which he left the WSMR and joined his wife as innkeeper of the Greyhound.  Sometime between 1863 and 1867 they moved to the West Somerset Hotel of which Mossman became the proprietor.  He remained there until his death on 17 September 1896.  For a time he rented the brewery at Stogumber, and also acted as the income tax inspector for St Decumans parish to whom his former employer sent their return.




Robert Forester Mushet (1811-91) was the son of David Mushet who had been a partner in the Calder ironworks in Scotland.  In 1810 they moved to the Forest of Dean, and set up a metallurgical  research laboratory in the garden of their home, Forest House near Coleford.   In 1841 Robert Mushet was asked to report on and to manage the Victoria works, near Ebbw Vale, but after labouring for some time to keep the works going with inadequate ore supplies, they were closed.


Thereafter he assisted his father in his research into steelmaking.  When Thomas Brown was trying to find the solution to the apparent failure of Bessemer’s steelmaking process, Mushet was able to demonstrate that it was the presence of phosphorus in the iron that was largely responsible.  He showed that by the addition of manganese during the blow, the problem would be overcome.  Mushet gained nothing from his observation save for a pension from Bessemer of £300 a year from 1867 until his death in 1891.








It was on Adams’ recommendation that George Parry (1814-c.1875) was engaged as works chemist at Ebbw Vale, and Parry’s later invention of the cup and cone closure of the blast furnace top is reputed to have earned him a bonus of £10,000, which perhaps enabled him to retire to Carmarthenshire when only in his ‘fifties.  In 1855, Thomas Brown was making use at Ebbw Vale of Martien’s method of reducing puddling time, and he believed that a modification of the process may be employed for the production of bulk steel.  Parry, then furnace manager at Ebbw Vale, was instructed to make trials with this object in view. 


Unfortunately the little furnace in which the trial was made overflowed and molten iron escaped and began to run down the road.  Thomas Brown refused to permit any further experiments of that kind, and the furnace was dismantled.  When Bessemer finally discovered the reason for the initial failure of his steel-making process he agreed to acquire the rights of both Parry and the Ebbw Vale Company to the Martien patent, paying Parry £5000 in cash and deducting £25,000 from the Ebbw Vale Company’s royalties due to him once the company began to use Bessemer’s process for steelmaking.




Spencer Perceval (1838-1922) was born at Langford Budville near Wellington in July 1838.  His mother was the only daughter of Sir John Trevelyan of Nettlecombe Court, and his father Ernest was the son of Spencer Perceval, the prime minister assassinated in 1812.  In 1847 the family moved to Chapel Cleeve, and it was from there, at the age of 14, that Spencer recorded in his diary on 13 April 1852, that he ‘rode to the iron mines’.  In the 1860’s he was a frequent visitor to the Brendon Hills mines, and benefited from the guidance and friendship of his uncle Sir Walter Trevelyan and Morgan Morgans, then manager of the mines.  Perceval was never in full time employment, and never married.  He lived for many years at Henbury and Clifton near Bristol where he died in 1922.




William Pritchard (1828-1882) was born in Caernarvonshire, and came to Treborough in 1849-50, when he rented Treborough slate quarry from Sir Walter Trevelyan.  He played an active part in the social life of both Roadwater and Brendon Hill villages.  For many years he lived at Vale House in Roadwater, but by 1881 rented Treborough Lodge.  His son John Worsnam carried on the business into the 20th century.




William Prosser was born in 1831 at Talgarth in Brecon and at the age of twenty three, already an employee of the Ebbw Vale Company, was sent to Watchet as the accountant in Somerset of the Brendon Hills iron Ore Company.   He was appointed accountant of the WSMR on 27 September 1856 and by 1861 was also traffic manager, and from 1862-68 general manager.  From 1857-76 he was one of the partners in the Watchet Trading Company.  In 1871, Prosser was living at Capton near Stogumber and described himself as coal merchant, ship owner and commission agent,






David Richard, (1804-58) was born at Tredegar in Aberdare parish, and by 1851 was a colliery manager there.  In 1853 he took charge of the development and management of those Brendon Hills mines to the east of Exton.  Five years later on 9 May 1858 he was killed together with a young miner, John Davey, by carbon dioxide poisoning in a disused level in Raleighs Cross mine.  He was buried in Withiel Florey churchyard at the expense of the Company.




Joseph Robinson (1819-83) was born at Coalbrookdale, and as a young man worked as a travelling representative for the company.  By the time of the Darbys’ acquisition of the Ebbw Vale Company in 1844, Robinson was a financial manager at Coalbrookdale and ten years later he was a partner and financial director of the Ebbw Vale Company.  After 1850 Robinson lived at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire and in London.  In 1853 he joined Thomas Brown as partner in the Brendon Hills Iron Ore Company.  For some years he was a Director of the WSMR.  Robinson’s eldest son, John Henry, born in 1850, later became a coal engineer and a director of the West Somerset Mineral Railway.




Frederick Pring Robjent (1860-1938) was born at Montpelier in Bristol in 1860, the son of the Chief Clerk of Bristol Probate Registry.  Trained as an accountant, by the 1890s Robjent was a stockbroker with offices in Newport.  In the late 1890’s he began to buy shares and debentures in the WSMR, with a view to profiting from them at a later date.  By 1916, he was managing director of the WSMR and when the line was formally abandoned in 1922 and the land and buildings sold in 1924, he made a great deal of money.  Robjent had a heart attack and died at the opening ceremony of the new RTB works at Ebbw Vale in July 1938, an event which is said to have prevented Aneurin Bevan from speaking.




Ebenezer Rogers (1817-63) was born in in South Wales, the son of a Baptist minister.  In 1839 he leased land at Cwmbran on which he built a firebrick works, and by 1841 he described himself as a merchant of Newport .  By 1851 he was a ‘colliery proprietor and civil engineer’ living at Abercarne.  At Abercarne he built for his workforce terraces of four roomed houses to higher standards than was customary, known as The Ranks, which were provided with sewerage and receptacles for refuse.   Nearby Rogers built a public bakehouse, baths and wash houses: he also founded the Abercarne Scientific Institution for his employees.




Charles Edward Rowcliffe (1794-1875) was born at Tiverton.  Nothing is known of his upbringing or education.  However his obituary suggests that his achievements resulted from exceptional intelligence, an incisive mind and a wholehearted dedication to his chosen profession.  In March 1811 at the age of seventeen Charles was ‘Clerk to Mr Leigh of Bardon’, near Washford.  Before 1822, when Charles Edward Jnr (1822-1877), his first child, was born, Rowcliffe joined Mr White’s long established practice in Stogumber.  In 1823 he leased land from Sir John Trevelyan on which he built a house, The Knoll at Stogumber, but it was not until 1828 that Charles was enrolled as an attorney, and in the next year he bought White’s practice.


He seems to have inherited as influential clients members of the Trevelyan family in Somerset, with whom he seems to have enjoyed a social as well as a solicitor-client relationship.  Later he acted for Ebenezer Rogers when he was negotiating for licences to search for iron ore, and this led to his appointment to act for Thomas Brown when he went into the short-lived partnership with Rogers.  Later Rowcliffe’s practice was appointed to oversee the Parliamentary application for the West Somerset Mineral Railway.  Once that project obtained its Act in 1855, Charles’ son, Charles Edward Jnr, who married Thomas Brown’s daughter Mary, was appointed Company Secretary, a position he held until his death in 1877. 


Rowcliffe had three more sons, all of whom became solicitors and/or barristers in London.  Edward Lee Rowcliffe married Caroline, daughter of Charles Bailey, Henry married Emma, another of Charles Bailey’s daughters, and William, his third son, married Matilda, another daughter of Thomas Brown.




John Russell (1796-1873) was born at Broseley in Worcestershire.  He was a self made man of relatively modest origins.  He went into partnership with Thomas Brown in 1831 and they took over the Blaina Iron Works.   In 1836 Russell, and Russell’s son-in-law George Randle Hookey paid £50,000 for the Black Vein Colliery at Risca.  Mechanical ventilation replaced the more dangerous furnace method in 1858, probably at the insistence of the colliery manager, Morgan Morgans


John Russell developed considerable industrial interests especially in South Wales and the Forest of Dean, and was active in the development of the port at Newport.  He was made Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1855 and at the time of his death in 1873 was one of the oldest magistrates in Monmouthshire.






Henry Skewis  (1819-89) was born near Camborne, and became a copper miner.   From 1862 on he was manager at Crane mine before moving to the Brendon Hills as general manager of the mines in 1867.  He had one son, Edwin, born in 1854, who assisted his father at Brendon Hill., and who prepared the underground surveys when the mines closed in 1883.


Skewis employed Cornish methods at all new shafts opened by him.  He was a competent manager who increased production from the mines in the 1870’s when ore was in great demand for the manufacture of Spiegeleisen.  After the mines closed in 1883 Skewis bought all the building materials of the engine houses and cottages which were unsold at the auction, together with the mine manager’s house, which he let.  He retired to Watchet and died there in 1889.




Herbert Blomfield Smith  (1856-1922) was articled in 1875 to William Shelford a civil engineer in London.  In July 1879 he was appointed District Engineer of the Public Works Department, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and worked on railway projects there.  He worked as resident engineer on several railway projects at home and abroad including the Bridgwater Railway and wharf and 12½ miles of the West Highland Railway.  In 1894 he was appointed Government Inspector of Railways for Jamaica.  From 1904-06 he was in charge of the reconstruction of Watchet harbour, and in 1907 he founded and was managing director of the Somerset Mineral Syndicate, and later of Watchet Briquetting Syndicate until both were wound up in March 1910.







Smith Tibbits (b. 1810) was born at Flecknoe in Warwickshire, and was a grazier and mining prospector.  He drove the adit at Gupworthy in which the Brendon Hills lodes were first encountered at depth.  In August 1845, Tibbits leased mining rights on land at Hennock, between Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead in Devon for 21 years from George Perriman.  He hoped to find micaceous haematite.  He was also involved in developing an iron mine at Frampton Cotterell in 1852.


His older brother, William Bullock Tibbits, also born at Flecknoe in 1806, was a civil engineer and helped his brother with the driving of Gupworthy adit.  He too was a grazier, and while Gupworthy adit was being driven, the brothers lived at Dunster.  They also had a licence to the open cast workings at Wootton Courtenay, but sold their rights to Thomas Brown.  Later William retired to Clifton.




William Tothill (b. 1784), had been the Bristol Secretary of the GWR in 1835.  He was a surgeon, but did not practise, owned a chemical factory in Bristol and was a partner in the Ebbw Vale Company.  In December 1854, he agreed to subscribe £10,000 to the WSMR, and was one of the first directors, holding office until 1865.  He retired from the Ebbw Vale Company in 1866.


His eldest son William was born at Madeley in 1820 and owned an alum works in Bristol.  He was a partner in the Coalbrookdale works and the Ebbw Vale works. 




Francis Tothill (1824-1900), William senior’s younger son, was a barrister.  He inherited his father’s directorship in the Ebbw Vale Company.  He was appointed a director of the WSMR when his father retired, and from 1883 he was Chairman until his death in 1900.




Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan (1797-1879) was the eldest son of Sir John and Maria Trevelyan of Nettlecombe Court (ST 056377).  The Trevelyan family also owned Wallington, near Morpeth in Northumberland.  Walter’s Somerset estate included most of the parish of Nettlecombe, the whole of Treborough parish and part of Huish Champflower, of all of which parishes he was Lord of the Manor.  In addition he owned land in Elworthy, Clatworthy, Brompton Ralph and Brompton Regis parishes. 


He was admitted as Fellow of the Geological Society at the age of twenty in 1817 and took particular interest in the geology and mineralogy of the mines opened on his land on the Brendons.  In 1849 Sir Walter was elected the first President of the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society.  He espoused the cause of teetotalism, and was President of the United Kingdom Alliance.  When Sir Walter died the Somerset estate was vested in trustees and inherited by his nephew Sir Alfred Trevelyan in 1891. 







Sir Henry Whatley Tyler (1827-1908) had been appointed an Inspector of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade in 1853, and from 1870-77 he was Chief Inspector of Railways.  Knighted in 1877, he was President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada from 1877-95, an MP from 1885-92, and Chairman of the English Westinghouse Brake Co and of the Rhymney Railway Co.  In 1877 he was elected a director of the Great Eastern Railway (D Hodgkins, The Second railway King, Merton Priory Press, 2002, 410) and later became its Chairman (Who was Who, 1901-10).




Charles Williams was born in 1812 in Chepstow and by 1851 was manager of a colliery in Lancashire.  In 1853, he was appointed general manager in Somerset of the Brendon Hills Iron Ore Company.  From 1855-56 he was appointed Acting Secretary of the WSMR, and from 1856-62, general manager of the line.


In the summer of 1857, he formed a partnership with William Prosser and together they established the Watchet Trading Company, to open a distribution centre at both Watchet and Brendon Hill for the sale of coal, lime, bricks and agricultural necessities.  At Brendon Hill the partnership built the Bampton road stores.  In 1867 Williams moved to Maindee near Newport and in 1868, the partners sold the Watchet Trading Company as a going concern.  By 1881 Williams lived at Monmouth and worked as an accountant.






Col. William Yolland was born at Plympton in 1810 (census).  He was on the staff of the Railway Inspectorate of the Board of Trade for a long time and was still in post in 1881 (census).


Son of the Archdeacon of Huntingdon, Horatio Arthur Yorke was born in 1848, educated at Charterhouse, commissioned at Woolwich into the Royal Engineers and served in the Afghan War in 1879-80 and on the Nile expedition of 1884-85, before joining the Board of Trade as an Inspector of Railways in 1891.  Later, in 1900, he was appointed Chief Inspector of Railways, knighted on his retirement in 1913, when he was invited to join the Board of the GWR.  He died in 1930 (Who was Who, 1929 - 40).