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British Industrial History

John Penn, Senior

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John Penn (1770-1843) Founder of the business which became John Penn and Sons

Father of John Penn

1824 John Penn, Greenwich, Civil Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]



1844 Obituary [2]

Mr. John Penn, M.Inst.C.E., was born near Taunton, in Somersetshire, in the year 1770, and was apprenticed to a millwright at Bridgewater, whence he travelled to Bristol, and worked there as an operative; he soon became the foreman of an important work, when only twenty-two years of age, and was celebrated for his theoretical and practical knowledge of the forms of the teeth of wheels, which branch of construction was, at that period, only imperfectly understood by mechanics.

He removed to London about the year 1793, and after working at and being a foreman in several works, he commenced business on his own account in 1801.

His attention was at first chiefly directed to the construction of flour-mills, in which he made many improvements, particularly in the substitution of metal, for wood framing.

In consequence of the injudicious proceedings of the Millwrights’ Union, he was induced to oppose a determined resistance to their demands, and by the introduction of self-acting tools, and the instructions given by him to another class of workmen, the millwrights lost many of the privileges they had previously enjoyed.

The tread-mills for prisons’ were first constructed at Mr. Penn’s works, and latterly he (in conjunction with his son) manufactured many marine engines, particularly those with oscillating cylinders.

Mr. Penn was well versed in general science; he was an amateur astronomer, and possessed some valuable instruments; much of his leisure time was devoted to horticultura1 pursuits, which led to several improvements in the methods of heating conservatories and forcing houses.

He died suddenly on the 6th June, 1843, in the 73rd year of his age, having enjoyed for many years the confidence and esteem of a large circle of friends.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1824 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. 1844 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries