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British Industrial History

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Richard Prosser

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Richard Prosser (1804-1854) of Birmingham, invented and patented a wide variety of apparatus and production processes.

1804 April 3rd. Born at Deritend the son of Walter Prosser and his wife Eleanor

1836 April 26th. Marriage of Richard Prosser, Civil Engineer, to Sarah Potter, Birmingham.[1]

1838 August 25th. Birth of son Richard Bissell Prosser

1840 New Patents: 'Richard Prosser, of Cherry-street, Birmingham, civil engineer, for improvements in machinery for manufacturing pipes'[2]

1840 Patents sealed: 'Richard Prosser, of Birmingham, civil engineer, and John James Rippon, of Wells-street, Middlesex, ironmonger, for certain improvements in apparatus for heating apartments and in apparatus for cooking.—Sealed June 17th—six month for inrolment,
'Richard Prosser, of Birmingham, civil engineer, for certain improvements in manufacturing buttons from certain materials, which improvements in manufacturing are applicable, in the whole or in part, to the production of knobs, rings, and other articles from the same materials.—Sealed 17th June—six months for inrolment.'[3]

Prosser Buttons: See article by Roderick Sprague[4]

1840 May 19th. Birth of son George Rippon Prosser

1841 Living at Camp Hill, Aston, Birmingham: Richard Prosser (age c35), Engineer. With Sarah Prosser (age c25), Eleanor Prosser (age c4), Richard Prosser (age c3), and George Prosser (age c1).[5]

1843 October 28th. Birth of son William Henry Prosser

Prosser was closely involved with the introduction of the Patent Law Amendment Act 1852, and his 700-volume library, combined with that of Bennet Woodcroft,(1803-1879) formed the basis of the Patent Office Library, which opened on 5 March 1854.

1852 Patent 708. '...of Richard Prosser, Civil Engineer, No. 18, Broad-street, Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, praying for letters patent for the invention of improvements in rolling of metals...'[6]

1852 Patent. '316. And Richard Prosser, Civil Engineer, 18, Broad-street, Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, has given the like notice in respect of the invention of "improvements in the construction of printing rollers used in machines for printing calicoes and other substances."'[7]

1854 Death. 'May 21, at Birmingham, Richard Prosser, Esq., C. E., aged 50'[8]

1854 Obituary. 'Mr. Richard Prosser, of Birmingham, an engineer of high original faculties and great attainments, has died suddenly, of inflammation, while sedulously pursuing a work of importance to the Ordnance Board. He was the inventor of many mechanical improvements, and amongst others, of the process of forming pottery from dry clay dust, made to adhere together by pressure—a process which gave rise to tho manufacture of the mosaic tiles in colours known far and wide as Minton's'[9]


The 'work of importance to the Ordnance Board' was an appendix to Bennet Woodcroft's work containing all the patented inventions on gunnery. Prosser was addressing the practices that had not been patented, together with his own views on what was still required in the matter of projectiles. [10]

Pottery:'After introducing the dust pressing technique for wall tiles at the Villeroy & Boch factory in Septfontaines in 1846, the Boch family started to experiment from 1852 onwards in Mettlach in order to produce next to these dust pressed wall tiles - an English invention patented in 1840 by the engineer Richard Prosser and developed further by the ceramist Herbert Minton.' [11]

Prosser The Engineer: "A Forgotten Birmingham Genius"

Richard Prosser's life and work is being studied in depth by Susan Darby, and a wealth of information has been made available online.[12].

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Worcester Journal - Thursday 05 May 1836
  2. Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties - Friday 17 April 1840
  3. Carlisle Journal - Saturday 25 July 1840
  4. 'China or Prosser Button Identification and Dating' by Roderick Sprague, Historical Archaeology, 2002, 36(2):111—127.
  5. 1841 Census
  6. The London Gazette Publication date:19 November 1852 Issue:21382 Page:3130
  7. [1] The London Gazette Publication date:29 March 1853 Issue:21425Page:930
  8. Oxford Journal - Saturday 27 May 1854
  9. Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 31 May 1854
  10. [2] The Spectator Archive: Richard Prosser obituary, 27 May 1854
  11. [3] 'The Flourishing of Belgian Ornamental Tiles and Tile Panels in the Art Nouveau Period' by Mario Baeck, 2013
  12. Prosser the Engineer