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James Allen Ransome

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James Allen Ransome (1806-1875)

1806 Born in July 1806, the son of James Ransome

He was educated at Colchester and then apprenticed to the family business

1829 He became a partner in J. R. and A. Ransome

1829 He married Catherine (d. 17 April 1868), daughter of James Neave of Fordingbridge, Hampshire, on 4 September 1829; and they had two sons, Robert James Ransome and Allen Ransome and three daughters, the youngest of whom, Mary, married J. R. Jefferies, who became an active member of the firm.

In 1839 he moved permanently to Ipswich and, under his direction, the business assumed huge proportions.

In 1843 he published 'The Implements of Agriculture'; this was the most important book on its subject published in the mid-nineteenth century.

1851 Living at Carr Street, Ipswich (age 44 born Yarmouth), Iron Founder (Master). With wife Katherine (age 52 born Fordingbridge) and children Robert James (age 20), Apprentice to Ironfounder, Katherine (age 19), Allen (age 18), Apprentice Ironfounder and Mary Ann (age 12). Also two servants, a governess and a niece resident. [1]

1868 Death of his wife Catherine.[2]

1871 Attended the Nine Hours' Movement 'Soiree' at the Orwell Works of Ransomes, Sims and Head.[3]

1875 James Allen Ransome died at his house; Old House, in Carr Street, Ipswich, on 29 April 1875, aged 69. [4]

1875 Details of the funeral and a list of the chief mourners [5]


1875 Obituary [6]

It is with much regret we announce the death of Mr. James Allan Ransome, of Ipswich. Mr. Ransome was born in 1806; he Was the grandson of the founder of the well-known firm of Ransomes, Sims and Head, Orwell Works, Ipswich, in which concern, on the death of Mr. Robert Ransome, in 1864, he became senior partner. Mr. Ransome took a leading part in the affairs of Ipswich; he was very generally respected and his loss has been seriously felt in the town. The immediate cause of his death was, we believe, gout in the stomach.


1875 Obituary [7]

MR. JAMES ALLEN RANSOME - one of the leaders in a movement which, by bringing the science of the engineer to bear on the manufacture of implements for tilling the ground, has wrought, during the present century, an almost complete revolution in the practice of agriculture - was born in July1 806, at Great Yarmouth, where his father, the late Mr. James Ransome, was managing partner of a small foundry in connection with the now well-known Orwell Works at Ipswich.

Born of a family in whom mechanical talent seems inherent, Allen Ransome was not long in showing the bent of his early genius. Accordingly, at the age of fourteen, he left school at Colchester to be bound apprentice to his grandfather, father, and uncle, who then carried on business at Ipswich, under the style of Ransome and Sons.

After six years’ practical training among a large body of working men, and the acquirement of a thorough knowledge of his business, Allen Ransome was transferred to Yoxford to manage a branch of the extensive business of the Ipswich firm. Whilst residing there he was the means of establishing the Yoxford Farmers’ Club, the second of its kind in England, and for some time acted as its secretary, in which capacity he did much to promote the success and spread the reputation of the Club.

He was one of the first in this district to introduce the 'allotment system' for labourers, which, however coolly received at the outset, has come to be generally adopted. About ten years later, he, with a few others, started the London Farmers’ Club, the main features of which resemble those of the little Yoxford Club.

I n 1829 Mr. Ransome became a partner in the house of which he had for some time been one of the managers. This took him once more into the neighbourhood of Ipswich, which town, however, he again forsook for Yoxford in 1833, ultimately returning to Ipswich in 1839, where he afterwards continued to reside as one of the leading partners of the firm of Ransomes and Sims. On leaving Yoxford he was presented with a handsome silver salver by the members of the Farmers’ Club. It was during this period that those sterling qualities, energy, intelligence, and tact, for which Mr. Ransome was noted, fairly began to develop themselves.

Early bred to business, under the example of an industrious parent, educated, in the best sense of the word, among hundreds of artisans, he was on arriving at maturity led to calculate the various and extensive means of usefulness which an active commercial life offered. It was fortunate for Ipswich and for thousands of working men that he was content to devote his talents to promote the agricultural and industrial arts, and to exhibit to all around that he was not unmindful either of the pleasure to be derived from the business, or from the duties devolving upon a large employer.

The Royal Agricultural Society of England was established in 1838, and Mr. Allen Ransome’s name is to be found in the first short list of members. For at least twenty consecutive years, it is said, he never missed a show, excepting that held at Newcastle, nor was he often absent from the more important agricultural shows in the country ; hence at all such gatherings he became a well-known figure.

The record of Mr. Ransome’s life during the long period that he was one of the most prominent men in Ipswich would be the record of the town itself, for he was foremost in all movements that had its welfare for their object. For nearly thirty years he was a member of the corporate body, and for a considerable portion of that period he occupied an aldermanic chair. In this representative capacity he brought to bear shrewd common sense and an extended acquaintance with the requirements of the borough, tempered with an evident desire to study the pockets of the ratepayers.

When a candidate for the town council, he boldly declared the opinion that municipal offices ought to be held independently of party politics, and that personal canvass during elections should be avoided. These were startling doctrines, but the good sense of the townsmen appreciated the spirit in which they were proposed, the result being that Mr. Ransome was elected by a majority of more than fifty over his opponent.

On the 9th of November, 1865, he was elected an alderman, and continued so until his death; but it was remarked as curious that he never could be induced to become mayor.

In estimating the character of such a man as Mr. Ransome, there are many difficulties, mainly arising out of its wonderful richness. Without being literally all things to all men, it may safely be said that in few, very few, instances could there be found such a power of pleasing and impressing men of very opposite kinds and pursuits.

To hear Mr. Ransome amongst men of the world, one might believe that he was never absent from the worldly element in this life. To see him surrounded by more serious people, especially if they were bent on some philanthropical object, you would still find that he was a central figure. His large-hearted beneficence was tempered by shrewd discernment and a deep insight into human character.

Of the good that he really wrought but little will ever be known; not that, by a refinement of Pharisaism, he was 'ostentatious in concealing' his well-doings, but that his charity was incessant. It was his nature to do good, the quality being, in fact, but one of his common functions.

He had an almost passionate desire for the education of the lower classes, and supported it by every means in his power. When a system of classes was started in Ipswich, Mr. Ransome was the life and soul of the movement. Did difficulties arise, he waived them aside; when debts were contracted, he paid them; and this not for one year merely, nor two, but on and on, till the Working Men's College was founded, and only a few can tell how much even that institution is indebted to his almost boundless liberality. Once it was doubtful if the classes could be continued. There were some who appeared to assist, but secretly disliked the project, and began to croak ominously that, as they had always predicted, the thing was going to pieces.

A meeting of the supporters was called, which Mr. Ransome attended. The great difficulty, it was pretended, lay in the want of funds; but Mr. Ransome promptly produced his cheque-book and stoutly declared that want of money was not to be allowed to stifle a work which was doing good. He compelled the half-hearted ones to declare the deficiency, and wrote a cheque to meet it, on the sole condition that the work should be continued.

But it was not only as a patron of their education that Mr. Ransome assisted the working men: he had laboured side by side with hundreds of them for years, till he knew their weaknesses and wants most thoroughly. Nothing that gave promise of affording to the working men the means of assisting themselves ever went without his help and advice.

When the Orwell Lodge of Odd Fellows, one of the most influential and important in the district, was established more than thirty years ago, Mr. Ransome took a lively interest in the project, and acted as the treasurer till the funds reached £500, paying at the rate of five per cent. per annum for all moneys deposited with him. From that period he was a trustee of the lodge, and annually examined the balance sheets, giving to the brethren the benefit of his knowledge of business on all occasions.

To the Mechanics’ Institution Mr. Ransome was ever a liberal patron. He deprecated the passing of the institution into the hands of a higher class than those for whom it was intended; but, nevertheless, was ready to assist it to the best of his power, though he personally wished to see it, made somewhat different.

With some men the love of patronising their inferiors will constrain them to great depth of condescending charity, for the sake of the power it brings; but this was not the case with Mr. Ransome. For instance, though it was notorious that contests between employers and employed were and continue to be quite unknown at the Orwell Works, such immunity did not arise from any weakness in conceding every demand that might be made by either side, but was the healthy outgrowth of a judicious application of the good old maxim of bear and forbear, which was a tradition in the Ransome family.

The ordinary relations between master and men did not obtain; the establishment, numbering between one thousand and two thousand hands, might rather be considered as a great family or clan, of which Mr. Ransome was the head, than a commercial undertaking. In the councils of the firm, if any proposition was brought forward to which one of the partners had an insuperable objection, it was not carried by force of numbers, but its consideration was deferred until there was a chance of unanimity. That the centre of such a harmony should be among the most honoured, loved, and respected men in Ipswich was natural; and it was a common saying, that the best music the inhabitants could hear was the rattle of his carriage through the streets.

About 1859 Mr. Ransome sustained an attack of partial paralysis, and for many years before his death he had lost the use of his lower limbs, his principal means of progression being an invalid chair ; but so great were his animal spirits that he never allowed this deprivation to interfere with his active habits of business, and what to many men would have been a most severe affliction, was with him scarcely noticed, save as a means of cracking many a joke against himself.

He was a member of the Society of Friends, but he was far too genial to stickle for their conventional peculiarities ; and it would be well if his liberality, as regards the religious opinions of his fellow-men, were more generally diffused. Such a man was Allen Ransome - a man of large sympathies and a woman’s. tenderness of heart. The personification of 'gay wisdom,' he was the pleasantest of companions. Frank and open, lovable and affectionate, his presence was welcome as a ray of sunlight, and his death was indeed a day of mourning for Ipswich.

Mr. Ransome had for some time been suffering from gout in the stomach, from which he knew recovery was hopeless. Though his sufferings must have been intense, the path to the grave was relieved with cheerful flashes from an ever buoyant temperament. Everything that loving solicitude could suggest or professional skill devise to stay the progress of the disease was tried, but in vain; and, after a struggle, the patient succumbed on the 29th of April, 1875, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.

His funeral was an event in the history of the town of Ipswich. Most of the shops were shut in token of respect to the deceased; the whole of the employ& of the Orwell and the Waterside Works, as well as others, attended, and the procession took twenty-five minutes to pass through the gates of the cemetery.

Mr. Ransome’s connection with the Institution of Civil Engineers dates from the 3rd of March, 1846, when he was elected an Associate; he served on the Council in that capacity in the session 1858-9.

He was the author of a standard work on 'The Implements of Agriculture,' of which he presented a copy to the library.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Census
  2. The Engineer 1868/04/24
  3. The Engineer 1871/12/01 Page 374.
  4. The Engineer 1875/05/14
  5. The Ipswich Journal, Tuesday, May 4, 1875
  6. The Engineer 1875/05/14
  7. 1875 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries