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British Industrial History

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John Taylor (1779-1863)

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John Taylor (1779-1863) and his sons became an industrial rival to the Lemons, the Williams and the Foxes of Cornwall

1779 August 22nd. Born at Norwich, the son of John Taylor and brother of Philip Taylor.

1796 Taylor improvised a mechanised copper ore crusher at Wheal Friendship, a mine just outside Tavistock. This machine was improved over time and became widely adopted; it was known as the "Cornish rolls".

1798 When he was only 19 years old, he became the manager of Wheal Friendship

1801-05 Philip Taylor was with his brother John, who was employed by a copper mine in western Devon, for the Martineau family of Norwich

1805 John married Ann Pring, sister to Daniel Pring. They began a family at Holwell House, Whitchurch, Devon.

From 1803 to 1817 Taylor oversaw the construction of the Tavistock Canal, which linked the town of Tavistock to Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar, where cargo was loaded into ships.

1807 Taylor was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society, and acted as treasurer from 1816 to 1844.

1812 Taylor, with his brother Philip, set up as a chemical manufacturer at Stratford, Essex. This enterprise, backed by the Martineau family, set out to produce vitriol, but as Taylor and Martineau became widely diversified. One of Taylor's interests was sugar refining, for which he took out a patent in 1815 for a pressure method for separation of sugar from molasses. The use of heated animal oils in sugar processes disclosed the production of naphtha.

1815 Taylor took out another patent for decomposing animal oils into gas. This discovery led Taylor & Martineau into 1823 to what Philip Taylor's son later wrote of as "the battle of the gases": the commercial contest between gas lighting derived from coal and from oils. John Taylor's direction in the 1820s, however, was back into mining.

1818 John and Philip Taylor supplied gas lighting equipment to the Norwich textile mill of Joseph Oxley and Sons.[1]

The principal mines he leased in Gwennap included Consolidated Mines

1819 Taylor raised the £65,000 needed to re-open the Consolidated Mines in Gwennap, Cornwall. This mine employed over 3,000 people and became the most productive in Cornwall, yielding almost 450,000 tons of copper ore. He was also mineral agent to the Duke of Devonshire and to the commissioners of Greenwich Hospital.

Taylor became involved in all the major metal-mining areas of the British Isles, either by himself or through the firm of John Taylor and Sons, which also owned the Charlestown tin-smelting works in Cornwall, owned shares in numerous mining companies, and leased and managed mines throughout Britain and Ireland. Under Taylor's influence and through his extensive business operations, efficient mining equipment was introduced in all the major metal-mining areas. Similarly his distinctive management and employment practices were widely adopted, including the extensive use of the tribute system of paying miners in proportion to the quantity and quality of ore mined[2]

1822 Taylor retired from Taylor and Martineau

1824 Built the Redruth and Chasewater Railway to link his principal mines to his new port at Devoran. This was built on one of the creeks on the River Fal, above Falmouth harbour on the south coast.

1825 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society

1832 was one of the founders of the British Association on 26 June 1832, holding the office of treasurer till September 1861.

He was one of the founders of University College, London, to which he acted as treasurer for many years.

1840 the Taylors' lease of Consolidated Mines expired; "not being able to agree with the owners for a renewal they picked the eyes out of the mine", which then passed back to the Williams.

1851 Living at 80 Kings Road, Brighton: John Taylor (71 born Norwich), Proprietor and Manager of Tin and Lead Mines. With his wife Ann Rowe Taylor (age 71 born Awliscombe, Devon), and their son John Taylor, Junior, Proprietor and Manager of Tin and Lead Mines, and daughter with her son. Two servants.[3].

1863 April 5th. Died in London

Taylor was the author of Statements concerning the Profits of Mining in England (London, 1825), edited Records of Mining in 1829, and contributed articles to scientific journals. A list of his publications may be found in the appendix of R. Burt, John Taylor, mining entrepreneur and engineer, 1779-1863, Moorland Publishing Company, 1977. He contributed articles on mining to Rees's Cyclopaedia.

Taylor Square in Tavistock, Devon, is named to commemorate John Taylor and his role in the construction of the Tavistock Canal.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 17 October 1818
  2. Biography of John Taylor, ODNB
  3. 1851 census