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Robert James Ransome

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Robert James Ransome (1830-1891) of Ransomes and Rapier,

1830 Born the son of James Allen Ransome and his wife Katherine

1851 Living with parents at Carr Street, Ipswich (age 20 born Rushmere, Suffolk), Apprentice to Ironfounder. [1]

1862 Robert James Ransome, Orwell Works, Ipswich.[2]

1868/9 One of the founding partners of Ransomes and Rapier, railway engineers.

1881 Railway engineer [3]

1891 June 3rd. Died


1891 Obituary [4]

ROBERT JAMES RANSOME was born at Yoxford on 27th June 1830.

He was educated at Ipswich, and on leaving school in 1845 was apprenticed to his father's firm, Messrs. J., R., and A. Ransome, agricultural engineers, Orwell Works, Ipswich; after which he became manager of the foundry department.

In 1869 he joined his father and Mr. R. C. Rapier in establishing the Waterside Works on the opposite bank of the Orwell, for the manufacture of railway plant. One of their early works was building engines and laying down plant for the first railway in China.

Besides the general business of supplying railway plant adapted to all countries, they constructed a great many cranes of large size for building breakwaters. The works now cover an area of eight acres, and employ five hundred. men.

He took an active interest in local affairs, and had been on the Town Council for twenty-one years.

His death took place on 3rd June 1891, in the sixty-first year of his age.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1862.


1891 Obituary [5]

ROBERT JAMES RANSOME was born on 27th June 1830, and had consequently nearly completed his sixty-first year when he died in June 1891. He was the eldest son of a well-known Suffolk man, the late Mr. James Allen Ransome. The deceased's mother was the second daughter of the late Mr. James Neave, of Fordingbridge, Hants, and of St. Helen's Lodge, Ipswich, and Mrs. Henry Footman. The late Mr. Ransoms was educated at Ipswich, where, and at Yoxford, he passed his early years, and it was on September 30, 1845, that, choosing to follow in the footsteps of his father as an agricultural engineer, he became apprenticed for a term of seven years to the rising firm of J. R. & A. Ransome. At this time the nucleus of the now world-known Orwell Works had its location in the Old Foundry Road, Ipswich, and it was during the apprenticeship of the subject of this memoir that the Orwell Works, which have so largely contributed to the development and prosperity of the town, were opened in 1849.

Subsequent to the completion of his servitude with his father and uncle, Robert James Ransoms became manager of the foundry department, and held this post for a considerable period, until, in 1869, animated by the solid business advice of his father, the establishment of the Waterside Works was determined upon. The contingent erection of the noble pile of business premises and workshops on the opposite banks of the Orwell was watched with interest by the inhabitants of the town generally, and the wisdom of the step has been fully verified by the large measure of success which has followed during the twenty-two years of their existence. Mr. James Allen Ransome himself, without in any sense dissociating himself from the Orwell Works, was a partner with his son in the new undertaking, and they were also joined by Mr. R. C. Rapier. The raison d'être for the existence of the Waterside Works was to manufacture railway plant of all descriptions, thus avoiding all probability of clashing with the productions of the original firm from which the new venture sprang.

Their first great work, having international bearings which for all time will link Ipswich with the civilising innovations introduced into China, was the building by Messrs. Ransome & Rapier of the engines, and the laying down of a large part of the plant, for the first railway in the Celestial Empire. This task was executed with skill and enterprise, which gained recognition on all hands; and although subsequently the "powers that be" of China became adverse to the further development of their immense country through the medium of railway communication, it stands on record that the capital of Suffolk led the way in this important direction. Besides the general business of supplying railway plant adapted to all climes and countries, the Waterside Works have built a great many Titan cranes, i.e., cranes of very large size for constructing breakwaters.

The late Mr. Ransome took a prominent part in developing the productive capacity of the Waterside Works, which now cover an area of eight acres, and employ some five hundred hands.

The late Mr. Ransome succeeded Mr. Grimwade as a Councillor for St. Clement's Ward, Ipswich, in 1870, without opposition; and in 1871, when his term of office had expired, he was re-elected without opposition, in conjunction with his colleague, the late Mr. Ebenezer Goddard. Three years later, however, there was a contest, following, upon the Conservative spurt, which led to the return of two Conservative members to Parliament. The St. Clement's Conservatives ran Messrs. A. Cobbold and F. A. Christie against the outgoing Liberal Councillors; and, sharing in the changed political conditions as regarded Imperial representation, the Liberals were defeated. For fifteen years afterwards he was continuously returned unopposed.

Mr. Ransoms was a man of few pleasures; he followed the "gentle craft," and was for many years a useful as well as a successful member of the Gripping Angling Society. In his younger days he was an enthusiastic entomologist, and his collection of butterflies, moths, &c., is said to be perhaps the best in Suffolk. He took great delight in his work, and especially in making a "good job." In all things he was a man of good heart, fine disposition, and equable temper.

The late Mr. Ransoms married, some thirty-seven years ago, Miss Taylor, daughter of the late Mr. William Taylor, shipbuilder, of Woodbridge. Four sons and five daughters were the issue of the marriage.


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