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British Industrial History

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Joseph Hornblower

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Joseph Hornblower (1696? – 1762) was an English engineer, a pioneer of steam power.

of Bromsgrove

1712 Engine builder in Wolverhampton[1]

1716 Joseph Hornblower married Rebecca Heywood (or Haywood). Some family records show Joseph married to Rebecca Potter. Like her husband, Rebecca was also of Staffordshire, and she and Joseph were married in Netherton.

1717 Rebecca gave birth to her first child, a son the couple named Jonathan.

In the twelve years following the birth of son Jonathan in 1717, three more children were born: Joanna, Joseph, (birth dates approximate) and Josiah, the youngest, born in 1729. Joseph’s three older sons, Jonathan, Joseph and Josiah became mine engineers.

Joseph Hornblower travelled to Cornwall as early as 1718 to assist Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the atmospheric steam engine

In 1725 he was engaged to install a Newcomen engine at Wheal Rose, near Truro.

Joseph erected two more Newcomen engines: Wheal Busy, Chacewater, Cornwall, 1725-27, and Polgooth, near Helston, 1725-27.

Joseph remarried after the death of his first wife, probably around 1736, but even less is known of his second wife than of Rebecca. She and Joseph had at least four children — Joshua, James, Jabez, and Isaac — probably all of them born in Staffordshire, where Joseph apparently kept his home base until he finished his work in Cornwall.

Records of the Coalbrookdale Co show that J. Hornblower was supplied with steam engine cylinders in September 1731, December 1734, November 1735, and December 1736. J. S. Allen stated that “the well known Joseph Hornblower” of Birmingham had erected a 36-inch diameter cylinder engine at Maeslygan between 1733 and 1736. In addition to this there are records of two more cylinders sold to Joseph Hornblower in the mid 1730s.

In 1735 he was in Birmingham and bought more engine supplies from Coalbrookdale.

He settled in Salem, Cornwall in 1748.

1749 'We are certainly assured from Bristol, that the curious Fire Engine lately erected (by Mr Joseph Hornblower, Engineer, of Bearwood's Hill, near Birmingham) for Mr William Champion and Company, at their Brass Works near the said City, is so accurately performed, that it gives the utmost Satisfaction to the Proprietors, as also to the Curious. It is look'd upon to be the noblest Engine of the Kind in the World. It discharges upwards of 3000 Hogsheads of Water in one Hour. The Water rises at the Top of the several Tubes in an hemisperical Form, and from thence descends into a Pool in Form of a fine Cascade. In Short, the whole presents the Spectators with a grand and beautiful Scene.' [2]

Joseph seems to have lived in or near Birmingham from 1755 to 1760.

1760 Writes a letter from Birmingham regarding electricity to cure paralytic disorders. [3]

1762 He died in Bristol.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer [1]
  2. Newcastle Courant - Saturday 14 October 1749
  3. The Scots Magazine - Monday 03 November 1760