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British Industrial History

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James Ransome

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James Ransome (1782–1849) was associated with Ransome and Son and Ransomes and May

1782 Born the son of Robert Ransome

1795 He entered his father's business

With his brother Robert he took out several patents for improvements in ploughs. Threshing machines, scarifiers, and other agricultural implements were also improved by his firm.

1804-9 James Ransome operated a foundry in Great Yarmouth during 1804-1809. He entered into partnership there with James Birdsparke in 1806[1]

1805 The partnership with his father in Ipswich, under the firm of Ransome and Son, was dissolved; the business was carried on by Robert Ransome. At the same time the partnership with Robert Ransome and James Rumbelow in Great Yarmouth, under the firm of Ransome and Co, ironfounders, was dissolved; the business was carried on by James Rumbelow and James Ransome as James Ransome and Co[2]

1806 Birth of son James Allen Ransome

c1809 Became a partner in his father's company in Ipswich which was renamed Ransome and Son.

1817 Birth of son Frederock

1841 Living at Road Cottage, Rushmere (age 55), Ironfounder. With Jane (age 20), presumably his daughter. Three other persons in the house. [3]

1842 James Ransome of Ipswich became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[4]

1849 James Ransome died at Rushmere, near Ipswich, on 22 November 1849, his wife Hannah, daughter of Samuel Hunton of Southwold, having predeceased him on 8 December 1826. They had a large family.


1851 Obituary [5]

Mr. James Ransome was born on the 14th of December, 1782; he was the eldest son of Robert Ransome, an iron-founder at Norwich, whose patent in the year 1785, for making plough-shares of cast iron, was the first step in a series of improvements in the plough, which have induced very important results.

In the year 1789, Mr. Robert Ransome transferred his business to Ipswich, and commenced the iron foundry and manufactory of agricultural implements, and machinery, which has now deservedly attained a world-wide reputation. Here Mr. James Ransome served his apprenticeship, became a very skillful workman, and was, for a few years, his father’s chief assistant.

In 1804, he became associated with James Bird Sparke, in an iron foundry, at Great Yarmouth, where circumstances induced a connexion between him and Mr. Cubitt, now the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, with whom he maintained a steady, undisturbed friendship, to his latest day.

In 1809, he relinquished his business at Yarmouth, in order to join his father, who had taken out a patent, for applying the process of case-hardening to cast-iron plough-shares, which promised such an extension of their use, as to demand greatly increased means of production.

The improvement referred to, consisted in casting the plough-shares upon iron moulds, so as to chill the under surface, to the depth of one-sixteenth, or one-eighth of an inch, acting in the same manner as a layer of harder metal, and producing the same effect, as the old process of welding steel on to the wrought-iron shares. When at work, the upper surface, not being hardened, suffered most from the abrasion of the earth it turned up, whilst the case-hardened lower surfaces, wearing away more slowly, retained a constant sharp cutting edge, which enabled a larger amount of work to be accomplished, whilst the expense and loss of time and labour, formerly attending the sharpening and laying of the wrought-iron shares, was entirely avoided.

The patents subsequently obtained by the father for improvements in the plough, and so ably conducted by the son, induced the system of making each part of that implement with such accuracy, as to insure its according itself to all the other portions, without any manual adjustment; so that any portions, bearing certain marks, could be sent to any part of the world, however distant, with the certainty of their being ready for immediate use. This accuracy could only be accomplished by great attention to the moulding, and casting; but being once attained, it pervaded everything constructed by the firm of Ransomes and May, and induced the spread of their implements over the civilized world; and on the general establishment of railways, the same system of accurate moulding was so successfully applied to the casting of railway chairs, that at present, their chairs are adopted on upwards of fifty railways, whilst the compressed wedges, keys and trenails, introduced and manufactured by the same firm, are almost as generally employed.

For upwards of a year previous to his decease, Mr. James Ransome had withdrawn from any active participation in the direction of the business, but his counsel was always sought by his partners, and his influence was most beneficially felt, over the whole establishment.

The prominent points of his character were, urbanity of manner, combined with great firmness of purpose, sound judgment, and undeviating integrity.

In the general conduct of business, and the skillful management of workmen, as well as in the fatherly care exhibited for their welfare; in his public position, as in the social circle, he was a bright example, and when after his decease, on the 22nd of November, 1849, in his sixty-seventh year, his remains were borne to the grave by eight workmen, whose average period of service under him, was thirty-seven years, and followed by eight hundred comrades, who all mourned for him, as for their best friend, it cannot be wondered at, that the town of Ipswich demonstrated publicly the greatest grief for his loss, and respect for his memory.

He was not an old Associate of the Institution, having only joined it in 1842, but he felt great interest in its welfare, as he did in that of every scientific and useful society to which he belonged, and in the general improvement and prosperity of the town in which he resided, and where his memory will long be regarded as the type of the career of a pre-eminently goad, and just man.



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