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British Industrial History

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Rowland Brotherhood

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Rowland Brotherhood (c1813-1883)

c1813 Born at Isleworth

1841 Living at Great Brink Farm, Brinkworth, Wiltshire (age 28), Excavator. With Priscilla (age 25) and Priscilla (age 1) [1]

c.1842 Established his business in Chippenham - See R. Brotherhood

1845 Pleads guilty to the charge of dumping five tons of clay and stone etc into the floating harbour. He is a contractor on the Great Western Railway. Fined £5. [2]

1849 Patent for covering wagons on railways [3]

1851 Contractor on the GWR at the time of a fatal accident when four died and many injured. Called as a witness only. [4]

1851 Living at New Road, Chippenham (age 37 born Wetten, Middx), Railway Contractor. With wife Priscilla (age 36 born Hertfordshire) and children Fred (age 6), Alfred (age 5), Ernest (age 4), John (age 9 months) and Josiah Penton, a brother-in-law (age 26 born Surrey) plus two servants [5]

1855 'Blake's Bridge. - The inhabitants of this town [Reading] will learn with some pleasure that the re-building of Blake's Bridge - which has been a topic of discussion at several of our quarter sessions - has become a matter of certainty. The pier on the north side is found to be in a sound state, but that on the south side being very defective, has this week been removed, and a new one is in the course of erection. We are informed that Mr. Brotherhood has contracted to lay down, when the piers are ready - an American lattice (iron) bridge, and it is expected that, in a few weeks, the whole work will be completed. The expense will be defrayed by subscription, and already a considerable sum has been raised, but not sufficient for the purpose. The re-opening of the bridge in that district will undoubtedly be a great public convenience, and those who may experience this will, in all probability, be disposed to contribute towards the fund, to free from liability the Mayor and others who have kindly undertaken the execution of this work.'[6]

1856 Constructed an iron bridge to span the River Dee at Crathie. It was commissioned by the Royal Family as part of the improvements to the Balmoral Estate, and designed by I. K. Brunel. The bridge beams are made from wrought iron plate, riveted together. The side plates are pierced by triangular and diamond-shaped openings, giving the appearance of a lattice girder. The top flanges have a cambered top with vertical skirts. The 3 ft wide bottom flanges have a slight camber. One end of the bridge is supported on roller bearings (4" diameter rollers) to accommodate exapnsion. The girders are 130 ft long, and the clear span is 124 ft.[7]. Much more information, including map, photographs and drawings are available on the Canmore website[8]

1857 Contractor for the building of the East Somerset Railway [9]

1857 Made four boilers, 75 ft long, for the Westbury Iron Works[10]

1858 Has the contract for the Bristol and South Wales Railway [11]

1859 Purchases the Agricultural Implement Manufactory of Albert Silcock of Chippenham[12]

At some point he built a workshop for his son Peter to build locomotives

1861 Patent fastening for railway tires [13]

1861 Living at New Road, Chippenham (age 49 born Hounslow), Railway Contractor. With wife Priscilla (age 47 born King's Langley) and children Peter (age 22 born Maidenhead), Engineer, Rowland (age 19 born Grittenham, Wilts), James (age 17 born Chippenham), George (age 11 born Chippenham), Harry (age 9 born Chippenham), Charles (age 6 born Chippenham), Maud (age 4 born Chippenham), plus three servants [14]

1862 'Messrs. Brotherhood, of Chippenham, are intrusted with the construction of new paddle-wheels for the Great Eastern steamship. The diameter of the wheels over all will be 52 feet, their width 13 feet, and the depth of the floats which will be formed of stout beech, Will be 2 feet 9 inches. The greatest despatch to be used in the preparation of the new wheels, and to insure this perhaps no better firm than that of Messrs. Brotherhood could be named. The new paddle-wheels will be in every way materially stronger than those with which the Great Eastern was originally furnished.'[15]

1862 Contractor for the railway line from Andover to Redbridge [16]

1862 Legal case regarding his shares in the Agricultural Cattle Insurance Co purchased in 1845. [17]

1862 Five of his carpenters drown at the New Passage, near Bristol while engaged on the bridge for the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway [18]

1864 Transfers his contracting business, including his works at Chippenham Railway Station to the General Contract Co whose Chairman is Daniel Gooch and remains as the General Manager [19]

1864 Contractor on the Oxford and Thame Railway [20]

1866 Elected an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers [21]

1868 Awarded the contract for iron galleries at Devizes prison[22]

1868 Awarded the large contract for the Pernambuco drainage system, Brazil[23]

1871 Living at Dock Hotel, St. Woollos, (Newport), Mon (age 58 born Isleworth Mddx), Civil Engineer. Married. [24]

1872 Sale of machinery at Chippenham. Conducted by Fuller and Horsey. [25]. Details below.

1872 'Chippenham Railway Works.— The engineering tools and machinery formed by Mr Rowland Brotherhood, the eminent engineer and contractor, were offered for sale by auction by Messrs Fuller. Horsey, Son, and Co. yesterday. There was a large attendance of buyers from nearly all the manufacturing districts. The following are the prices realised for some of the principal lots:—Seller's patent screwing machine, by Sharp, Stewart and Co., £75 ; slot drilling and recessing machine, by the same makers, £105; a vertical drilling machine, same makers, £100; a ten-inch self-acting screwlathe, by Whitworth, £l65 ; a self-acting slotting machine, by Sharp, Stewart, and Co.. £165 ; a locomotive cylinder boring machine, same makers, £90; bench-shaping machine, by Fairbairn and Co., £80; a new six-wheel inside cylinder locomotive, 4 feet 8½ inch gauge, £710: a nearly - new double - wheel turning lathe. £100; self-acting planing machine, by Butterworth, Manchester, £61; powerful treble-geared surfacing lathe, £100; ditto, £90; shaping machine, £48; vertical boring and drilling machine, £120; ditto, £135; powerful self-acting slotting machine, by Collier, £80; hydraulic railway wheel press, with pump, £62; self-acting axle grooving machine, by Buckton, £50 ; self-acting double-axle turning-lathe, by Brotherhood, £90; a nearly new 10-inch screw cutting lathe, £90; 30-inch centre double-geared slide lathe, £140; longitudinal travelling crane, by Smith and Willey, Liverpool, ditto, by Brotherhood, £70; 14-inch centre self acting slide and screw cutting lathe, 102 guineas; ditto, £115- The proceeds of yesterday's sale amounted to above £5,000, and the prices obtained were highly satisfactory—a cause, no doubt, arising from the advanced price of iron, and the general activity of the engineering trade throughout the country. It is now more than three years since these works have been closed. The premises, which stand on nearly five acres of land, were offered for sale a few months since, but no offer was made. The small tools, iron, and numerous other articles were sold by the same auctioneers some twelve months ago, and now that the whole of the valuable machinery is to be sold all hopes of the works being opened again may be considered to have vanished.'[26]

1877 Sale of the contents of his house as is leaving Cardiff [27]

1881 Living at 12 Chertsey Road, Westbury, Bristol (age 68 and born at Isleworth), Retired Railway Contractor. With wife Priscilla (age 65 born Kings Langley, Herts) and son Charles (age 36 born Chippenham), an Engineer. [28]

1883 March 4th. Rowland's death at Everton Villa, Chertsey Road, Redland, Bristol [29]

1888 Q4. Priscilla's death registered at Barton Regis, Gloucestershire

From above and other census material their children were:

  • William 1837
  • Peter (1838-1902)
  • Priscilla born 1840. Married 1865 to William Renney [30]
  • Rowland born 1842. Daughter born 1866 [31]
  • James 1844
  • Fred 1845
  • Alfred 1846
  • Ernest 1847
  • John born 1850. Died 1938, the last surviving brother. [32]
  • George born 1850. Dies in the US 1880. 9th son. [33]
  • Harry 1852
  • Charles 1855
  • Maud 1857
  • Kate. Married Edward James Lowther 1885. [34] She died 1908 [35]

Obituary [36]

THE LATE MR. ROWLAND BROTHERHOOD (FORMERLY OF CHIPPENHAM).

Mr. Brotherhood died at Clifton, on Sunday last, aged 70 years. But a man whose career was so extraordinary, and up to a certain period, so successful, and who was for many years a power in the town of Chippenham, deserves more than a brief obituary notice.

Mr. Brotherhood was, we believe, of very humble birth. First a workman on the railway, he rose to be a ganger: then the eye of the younger Brunel (he of the Box Tunnel fame) picked him out as a man who did his work well, and appointed him to construct short lengths of the Great Western Railway. Then he became contractor for longer lengths of line: then, his work being always admirably done, it naturally followed that he became contractor for still longer lengths of railway.

Mr. Brotherhood settled at Chippenham about thirty-five years ago, and established extensive works, which increased until they covered a space of five acres of land, and employed between five hundred and six hundred men. The older inhabitants will well remember the mass of stalwart artisans who entered in a body the great gates of the works, and over this body of men Mr. Brotherhood had established such a firm, yet kind sway, that no one, woman even, gentle or simple, ever had rude word from any of them.

At one time Mr. Brotherhood had the maintenance of the permanent way of upwards of five hundred miles of railway. Then he further contracted for entire lengths of railways, as he did of the East Somerset. The greatest line of which he was contractor was the Bristol and South Wales line, including the great work across the Severn at the New Passage. Besides railways, Mr. Brotherhood became contractor for bridges and all kinds of iron work. He made the new and more powerful paddle-wheels for the Great Eastern steam ship, though these, we believe, were invented by his son Peter ; iron bridges went from his factory to India and Ceylon, railway plant and fittings to France, Spain, India, and other parts; the Uxbridge branch to West Drayton, the Oxford and Thame, part of the Andover and Redbridge, the Clifton and Maybank Railways were his work; while as an instance of the extent to which Mr. Brotherhood's enterprise extended, it may be mentioned that in one year he built £30,000 worth of wagons for the Great Western Railway.

All went on prosperously for some years. Mr. Brotherhood was what we said —"a power in Chippenham." His dark, firm face was known by all. His family was large; he had ten sons and three daughters—fine young fellows were these sons, energetic men, fond of sport, and great cricketers. Chippenham still remembers when the father and his ten sons played a match with the town club and beat the club. Scarcely anyone in the neighborhood but saw the dark, calm man with a portfolio of plans under his arm passing from his house to the railway works. All went well; a large drawing-room was added to his house, and a large party inaugurated its use. He formed the long and picturesque garden on the south slope of the line behind his residence. Had fortune still favoured him, Mr. Brotherhood might have become a large local landowner and M.P. for the borough, for such things were talked of. It is said, we cannot state whether quite truly, that he desired to realize £100,000 and then retire; that he got nearly to that sum, when—down all went. His great failure took place in 1866 ; it was owing, in fact, to general depression in his business. Then he had taken share contracts in the Great Eastern which proved profitless. Then from early defects of education his weak point was finance ; he was a bad calculator, and a money mistake in such great undertakings as his was terrible. All regretted his fall; he had won golden opinions of his fellow men, and had the esteem of such great ones of his profession as Brunel, Sir Daniel Gooch and Michael Lane, and other eminent engineers. The failure was for nearly £100,000, and the great works were closed and silent; the wild rabbits again took possession of the land on which they stood—so transitory is art, so permanent is nature.

After Mr. Brotherhood left Chippenham, he became engineer to the Bute ironworks at Cardiff. Health however began to fail, and for some years he lived retired, and died on the 4th, of dropsy and heart disease.

Mr. Brotherhood married a Miss Penton, an admirable woman, still alive, a thorough helpmeet to him in life, and who had considerable share of her husband's force of character. All the family we believe survive their father, and most of the sons are in his profession.

Little remains in Chippenham now of Mr. Brotherhood; his house is another's; his great works have passed to other uses. One long row of cottages, indeed, have " R. B., 1854" upon them, and though named "Landsend Place," are called and will be called by the poor " Brotherhood's Buildings." How little things cause a name to be remembered ! One great statesman of forty years back lives chiefly in the nick-name of a policeman, " a Bobby." Another, still more brilliant, lives only in the name of a carriage, a " Brougham." And in all probability the present Prime Minister will be chiefly recollected by means of " Bag." So in a smaller way a man of power in Chippenham will perchance be remembered, forty years hence, chiefly by a row of cottages.

The funeral took place at Arno's Vale Cemetery yesterday afternoon, and was attended by several who had long known Mr. Brotherhood, among them, besides members of the family, being Mr. Lowther, Melksham; Mr. J. Almond, Major Macliver, and Rev. H. B. Bardwell, of Chippenham.'


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, March 1, 1845
  3. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, December 8, 1849
  4. Daily News, Monday, February 28, 1853
  5. 1851 Census
  6. Reading Mercury - Saturday 2 June 1855
  7. 'Monuments of Industry' by G D Hay and G P Snell, RCAHMS, 1986
  8. [1] Canmore websit, 'Crathie, Girder Bridge'
  9. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, January 17, 1857
  10. Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - Thursday 26 November 1857
  11. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, September 4, 1858
  12. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, September 10, 1859
  13. The Times, Thursday, Jan 31, 1861
  14. 1861 Census
  15. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 16 January 1862
  16. The Hampshire Advertiser, Saturday, March 29, 1862
  17. The Morning Post, Tuesday, June 17, 1862
  18. The Leeds Mercury, Thursday, October 16, 1862
  19. Daily News , Tuesday, May 24, 1864
  20. Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday, October 29, 1864
  21. The Morning Post, Thursday, May 03, 1866
  22. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 16 January 1868
  23. Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - Thursday 5 November 1868
  24. 1871 Census
  25. The Engineer 1872/07/26 page 55.
  26. Western Daily Press, 10th July 1872
  27. Western Mail, Saturday, January 9, 1875
  28. 1881 Census
  29. The Standard, Friday, March 09, 1883
  30. The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, May 20, 1865
  31. The Bristol Mercury), Saturday, July 28, 1866
  32. The Times, Wednesday, Nov 02, 1938
  33. The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Thursday, November 25, 1880
  34. The Times, Saturday, Aug 29, 1885
  35. The Times, Tuesday, Oct 13, 1908;
  36. Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - Thursday 8 March 1883
  • The Times, Friday, Oct 17, 1902