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British Industrial History

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Benjamin Biram

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General

Benjamin Biram (1804-1857) is credited with inventing the mechanical anemometer in 1842, used initially for determining the volume of air entering or leaving mine workings. Biram was house steward to the Earl Fitzwilliam, owner of numerous collieries in South Yorkshire. [1]

1784 Born at Kirkheaton, the son of William Biram [No - born 1804, son of Joshua Biram, also in the employ of Earl Fitzwilliam. Further information: 'It is said that Joshua Biram was trained, possibly in Huddersfield, by a Mr Crossley, circa 1783. In 1805 he succeeded his uncle, Benjamin Hall, a native of Golcar, as steward at Wentworth Woodhouse. Joshua, who was described as 'of Wentworth, gentleman' in 1804, was the son of Benjamin Biram who had been the fulling miller at Bradley Mill in the 18th century.' [2]]

1851 A visitor in the home of James Fitzgerald, Southwark: Benjamin Biram (age 68 born Huddersfield), Widower.[3]

1857 Died

Testimonial, 1856

'PRESENTATION OF TWO SILVER CUPS BY ELSECAR COLLIERS.
On Monday evening, the 27th inst, the colliers at Elsecar got up a tea meeting, for the purpose of inviting B. Biram, Esq., engineer and general manager of Earl Fitwilliam's extensive collieries; and James Utley, sen., the general viewer of Elsecar collieries, to present to each of them an address and a silver cup.
The meeting was held in a large carpenter's shop, at Elsecar Works, belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam. The company began to assemble between three and four o'clock, and the place was densely filled in every part of it before all the parties who had tickets had arrived, consequently, the latter had to wait some time, until the former had taken tea and removed from the tables. About five hundred partook of tea, and many were afterwards admitted. The fair sex were well represented, as there were many wives and daughters of the colliers present. There was an elevated table in the middle of the room, around which sat the principal guests, amongst whom were B. Biram, Esq., his two sons, Mrs. and Miss Briars, Mrs. B. Biram, Misses Wigfield, the Rev. G. and Mrs. Scaife, G. Dawes, Esq., Rev. J. Cummins, and Mr. James Utley, sen. ......

'Tea being over, and the tables removed, SAMUEL THORNSBY, a collier, who has been employed under Earl Fitzwilliam for 55 years, was unanimously elected chairman. ..... The Chairman contrasted the past with the present times, and pointed out the many and great improvements which had been made at Elsecar during the last few years ; and I he very much eulogised the managers of the collieries for the very efficient means employed to ventilate the mines, and the excellent arrangement throughout the works for the convenience, health, and safety of the men. He also admonished his fellow-workmen to do their duty, and pure accidents would seldom occur. (Cheers.)
The Chairman called on JAMES GREEN, collier, to address the meeting. He spoke highly of the conduct of the managers, and likened them to Boaz of old, who, when be went into the harvest field amongst the reapers where Ruth was gleaning, spoke to all kindly, in a truly Christian spirit; so it was with their managers : and no one could fully appreciate the many comforts and advantages at Elsecar, but those who had worked under tyrannical masters as he had done before he came to work amongst them. He very much deprecated strikes, they always ended in poverty and disappointment; and referred to the benefit, he had no doubt, that the inhabitants of Elsecar had derived from the prompt, firm, and efficient manner in which Earl Fitzwilliam acted, when a strike was made there some years ago. (Cheers.) .....

'The address to B. Biram, Esq., was then read by the Chairman : —

" The address of the colliers and other workmen employed in Earl Fitzwilliam's collieries, at Elsecar, to their general manager, Benjamin Biram, Esq.

" Sir, — Considering the great comfort and advantages we enjoy in having placed over us a gentleman of so much kindness, ability, and intelligence as yourself, we have thought well to show our gratitude for such a blessing bestowed upon us by Divine Providence. We therefore respectfully ask you to accept, as a mark of our regard and esteem for yourself, this silver cup, which has been purchased by the voluntary subscriptions of workmen under your control. Our hope and prayer is that you may long be spared to your family, and continue to fill your present situation so ably, with so much satisfaction to our Noble employer and pleasure to those who are placed under you. "
S. Thornsbv, Chairman.
T. Evans, Treasurer.
John Jubb, Secretary."

'(Cheers.) The cup, which is elegant in its appearance, handsomely chased, gilt inside, value £20, made by Messrs. Dixon and Sons, Sheffield, was then presented to B. Biram, Esq., and has the following inscription engraved upon it, viz. : —

"Presented to Benjamin Biram, Esq., by the Workmen of the Elsecar Collieries, as a token of the high estimation in which he is held, for his kindness and good feeling to- wards them. — October 27, 1856."

'B. BIRAM, Esq., said — I am sure you will excuse me for not saying much, as I feel overpowered with my feelings. I had no reason to expect such a favour from you, but I am not the less grateful for it. I have endeavoured to do my duty to you, and at the same time to Earl Fitzwilliam, by holding evenly the balance and doing justice to both. It is no credit to me that I have filled my situation to your satisfaction, because I am employed by a man who is kindness itself — (cheers) — a man who has your interests both for time and eternity at heart. (Hear, hear.) Such are the kind feelings of my noble employer, which are amply testified by the building of schools, a church, &c, in this place, that were I to be harsh with you, I could not long hold my present situation under him. I feel I cannot address you, and am ashamed of myself, in the presence of uneducated men who have so well addressed you, but you must take the will for the deed. I wish to be guided by the golden rule, that is, " To do to others as I would they should do unto me ;" and always to bear in mind " That God always seeth us." I have been reminded by one speaker of the former infancy and rapid growth of this place, but I think there will be no lack of colliers when I see here assembled such a number of colliers' wives and sweet- hearts. I appreciate your kind attention, and beg to return you my heartfelt thanks. (Much cheering.) ....

'THOMAS FLETCHER, collier, was next called, who also spoke most favourably of the good arrangements in the mines, and especially of the mode of ventilation, and he believed no pits were better ventilated ; but unless a proper value was placed on human life by all the men, and they fully co-operated with the managers, those admirable arrangements were comparatively of little use. He had much confidence in those placed over him, and always felt himself tolerably free from danger when working according to their directions. He dwelt much on the efficacy of prayer, especially amongst miners. (Cheers.) ....

'The CHAIRMAN next read the address to Mr. James Utley : — " The address of the colliers and other workmen employed in Earl Fitzwilliam's collieries, at Elsecar, to the general viewer, Mr. James Utley.

"Sir, — We, the workmen employed under you in the above named collieries, beg you to accept this silver cup, as a testimony of the regard and esteem in which you are held by us. We feel thankful that Providence has placed over us, as our viewer, a gentleman so kind, conscientious, and considerate as yourself. Our hope and prayer is, that you may long he spared to your family, and continue to fill your present situation so ably, with so much satisfaction to our noble employer, and pleasure to those who are placed under you.

S. Thornsbv, Chairman.
T. Evans, Treasurer.
John Jubb, Secretary.

(Cheers.) Both the addresses were neatly prepared by Mr. Berridge, of Elsecar. The cup, which was similar to the other, but rather smaller in size — its value being , £15 — was presented to Mr. James Utley, and has on it the following inscription, viz. : —

" Presented to Mr. James Utley, by the workmen at the Elsecar collieries, as a token of the high esteem in which he is held for his kindness and good feeling towards them." October 27th, 1856.

'Mr. JAMES UTLEY said — I return you my sincere and hearty thanks for this testimonial. I have said all I can. (Loud cheers.). .. .

The Chairman then called on JOHN FISH, collier, who alluded to the recent affliction of Mr. Biram and Mr. Utley, their stewards, agents, or overmen, or what else they pleased to call them ; and that there was much sympathy expressed amongst the workmen during their illness, which was a proof that they were respected by the men. He also contrasted their situations at Elsecar with those he had had before be came amongst them ; and said that he and others had been obliged, when they met the viewer, to make him a bow, and at the same time many cursed him in their hearts. He, too, spoke highly of Mr. Biram's plan of ventilation, by his fan or "whirl-about," it being quite equal to a furnace, and there was no danger of an explosion by it. (Cheers.)

'The Rev. G. Scaife, of Elsecar, and the Rev. J. Cummins, of Stubbin, addressed the audience. Some remarks were also made by Mr. Isaac Ironside ; and after singing the National Anthem, and passing a vote of thanks to those who had taken an active part in the proceedings, the meeting terminated a little before half- past nine o'clock. The whole proceedings reflected great credit on the Elsecar colliers, for the manner in which they had raised the subscription for the cups, and made arrangements for , their presentation, the presentation itself, the good common-sense speeches delivered by the four uneducated colliers, and the good feeling evinced towards their noble employer and his agents.'[4]

Obituary

'Death of Mr. Benjamin Biram. -
Died, at Wentworth, on Saturday, the 31st ult., Benjamin Biram, Esq., steward and colliery engineer to Earl Fitzwilliam, aged 53 years. His rather premature death is very much lamented, not only by his bereaved family, but also by all with whom he was associated - by those in his Lordship's establishment at Wentworth, and by the colliers over whom he had the control and supervision - for his gentlemanly conduct and many virtues. As a colliery engineer, he was probably not surpassed by any one in the neighbourhood. He was very assiduous in attending to the proper ventilation of the mines of which he had the management; and for measuring the velocity and quantity of air passing through mines, he invented an anemometer, which he secured by patent, and it is now in general use. He has also constructed a very efficient fan for ventilating coal mines where there is much inflammable gas, and where a furnace would be dangerous. A few years ago, he took out a patent for an improved miner's safety lamp ; and very recently, the 12th of last month, he provisionally protected a machine for improvements in washing the refuse of coal and other minerals, which is likely to be very useful. As a token of the high esteem in which be was held by the colliers at Elsecar, a beautiful silver cup, of the value of £20, was presented by them to him on the 27th of October last. For nearly the last two years, he had not been well, being afflicted with diabetes, of which he died. His remains were interred at Wentworth, on Thursday. Such was the great respect in which Mr. Biram was held, by the colliers of Elsecar and New Parkgate Collieries, that some hundreds of them voluntarily assembled at Wentworth to accompany his remains to their last resting place.' [5]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Anemometers webpage of 'Mining Artifacts' website
  2. [2] Huddersfield & District History - Land Agents and Surveyors of Huddersfield and District, by Edward J Law
  3. 1851 Census
  4. Sheffield Independent, 1st November 1856
  5. Sheffield Independent, Saturday 7th February 1857