Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 162,869 pages of information and 245,382 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Henry Robinson Palmer

From Graces Guide
1822. Palmer's Suspension Railway.

Henry Robinson Palmer (1793-1844) was a British engineer who designed the first monorail system and invented corrugated iron

1793 Born at Hackney the son of the Revd Samuel Palmer, a nonconformist minister, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Walker[1]

He was educated at the academy run by his father.

1811-16 Apprenticed to Bryan Donkin and Co

On finishing his apprenticeship Palmer was engaged by Thomas Telford and worked for him for ten years on a large number of road and canal surveys and associated designs.

1818 Palmer was one of three young engineers key to the founding of the Institution of Civil Engineers

1820 May 23rd. Formally became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[2]

1823 Palmer wrote a short book 'Description of a Railway on a new Principle' on his monorail ideas

1825 June. Description of the one mile railway and its demonstration. [3] Palmer's monorail is regarded as the precursor of the Schwebebahn Wuppertal and of the Lartigue Monorail system.

1825 He gave parliamentary evidence in favour of navigation interests and against the Liverpool and Manchester Railway

1826 Appointed resident engineer to the London docks where, over the next nine years, he designed and executed the Eastern Dock, with the associated warehousing, entrance locks, bridges, and other works.

1827 March 30th. Married Mary Ann Emma Osmond at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London [4]

1828 Invented the "Corrugation and Galvanisation" of sheet iron while engineer of the London Dock

Regarding Palmer’s invention of corrugated iron, Dr. Pedro Guedes wrote that 'Palmer exploited the unique properties of metal, creating a lightweight, rigid cladding material, capable of spanning considerable distances without any other supports, helping to make lightweight iron buildings and roofs possible. Palmer’s invention completely broke with precedent and tapped into another level of thinking. The sinusoidal corrugations that Palmer imagined as the means to impart strength to his sheets of wrought iron have continued virtually unchanged for close on two centuries.'[5]

1831 He was elected FRS, and published two papers on tides and the movement of shingle in the Philosophical Transactions , 1831 and 1834.

1833 Patent for improvements in the construction of arches, roofs etc. HPR of Fludyer Street, Westminster, Civil Engineer. [6]

c1835 Moved to Westminster as a consulting engineer and was involved in numerous surveys for projected railways, and the design and construction of several docks and harbours, including those at Port Talbot, Ipswich, Penzance, and Neath. He carried out the original surveys for the South Eastern Railway, assisted by P. W. Barlow, and would have executed the scheme but ill health intervened. His original surveys for a Kentish railway dated from the time he was associated with Telford

1837 Patent for improvements on giving motion to barges and other vessels on canals. HRP of Great George Street, Westminster, Civil Engineer. [7]

1838-39 Undertook the construction of the dock at Ipswich.

1839 H. R. Palmer was the engineer to the London Dock Co. Patent on the 22nd of November, 1821.

1841 Listed at 2 Great George Street as a Civil Engineer. [8]

1842 Patent for improvements in the construction of roofs and the application of corrugated plates or sheets. HRP of Great George Street, Westminster, Civil Engineer. [9]

1842 Published 'Description of the Harbour of Port Talbot' in the Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

1844 September 12th. Death at his residence in Great George Street, Westminster, Civil Engineer. 'He was the favourite pupil, and for many years principal assistant, of the late Mr. Telford, Civil Engineer, and was one of the founders of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which he was one of the vice-presidents.' [10] He died of dropsy


Rev. Samuel Palmer was born at Bedford, was educated at Bedford grammar school, and then studied for the ministry (1758–62) at Daventry Academy under Caleb Ashworth.

Rev Samuel Palmer (John ) was born on 26 Mar 1741 and baptized on 5 Apr 1741 in Bedford. He was employed as Non-Conformist Minister.

In 1762 he became afternoon preacher to the independent (originally Presbyterian) congregation at Mare Street, Hackney, and was ordained on 21 November 1763. From 10 June 1763 he occasionally assisted William Langford, D.D. (1704–1755), at the Weigh-house Chapel, Little Eastcheap, and was the regular morning preacher there from 20 June 1765 to 28 December 1766. He then succeeded William Hunt as morning preacher at Mare Street, and remained in charge of the congregation, which moved in 1771 to St. Thomas's Square, till his death.

Samuel married Elizabeth Walker in 1768 in Hackney. She was born in 1749 and died on 20 Oct 1821 in Hackney

He died 2 on 28 Nov 1813 and was buried on 6 Dec 1813 in Hackney, London

For some years, from about 1780, he had a boarding-school. He was a quiet preacher, his views being close to those of his friend, Job Orton. He early adopted Sunday school for his church. Henry Forster Burder was his assistant from October 1811; but Palmer remained active in his charge to the last, preaching on the Sunday before his death. He died on 28 November 1813, and was interred on 6 Dec. in the burial-ground at St. Thomas's Square. His funeral sermon was preached by Thomas N. Toller of Kettering, Northamptonshire.

He left a large family. His son Samuel entered Daventry Academy in 1786, and became a schoolmaster at Chigwell, Essex.

Samuel and Elizabeth had the following children:

  1. Samuel Palmer was born in 1768 in Hackney, and employed as Clerk, Head School Master.
  2. George Palmer was born in 1771 in Hackney, and was employed as Gentleman. George married (1) Mary in 1805 in London, Middx, England. Mary was born in 1782. She died on 20 May 1824. George also married (2) Elizabeth Leatherley on 4 Jun 1825 in St Johns, Hackney
  3. John Palmer was born in 1775. John was baptized on 2 Nov 1775 in Hackney
  4. Ebenezer Palmer was born in 1778 and died on 22 Mar 1866.
  5. Elizabeth Palmer was born on 29 Feb 1780 and baptized on 23 Mar 1780 in Hackney. Elizabeth married Stephen Charles Hope on 29 May 1805 in St John's, Hackney
  6. William Palmer was born in 1782 in Hackney, and died in Dec 1787 in Hackney, London, Middx, England and was buried on 5 Dec 1787 in Hackney. William was baptized on 17 Jun 1782 in Hackney
  7. Anna Palmer was born in 1784 and baptized on 10 Sep 1784 in Hackney. Anna married John Surgey.
  8. Sarah Palmer was born in 1787 in Hackney. She died on 4 Mar 1801 and was buried on 10 Mar 1801. Sarah was baptized on 18 Mar 1787 in Hackney
  9. William Palmer was born in 1789 and baptized on 24 Jan 1789 in Hackney
  10. Henry Robinson Palmer was born in 1793 in Hackney and baptized in Tooting[11]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Records
  2. 1820 Institution of Civil Engineers
  3. The Times, Monday, Jun 27, 1825
  4. IGI
  5. [1] 'Iron in Building, 1750-1855: Innovation and Cultural Resistance' by Pedro Paulo d'Alpoim Guedes, thesis submitted for Ph.D. degree at the University of Queensland, December 2010. NB Large pdf
  6. The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, Saturday, February 15, 1834
  7. Preston Chronicle, Saturday, November 11, 1837
  8. 1841 Post Office London Directory
  9. Preston Chronicle, Saturday, May 7, 1842
  10. The Ipswich Journal, Saturday, September 14, 1844
  11. Parish records
  • Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive by Robert Young. Published 1923.
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • [3] DNB