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Richard Christopher Rapier

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Richard Christopher Rapier (1836-1897) of Ransomes and Rapier.

1836 July 8th. Born the son of Christopher Rapier and his wife Elizabeth at Morpeth

1841 Living at Morpeth (age 5) with his mother Elizabeth (age 40) and brothers Christopher (age 3) and James (age 2). No father listed at this address. [1]

1851 Listed as a scholar at Christchurch, Mddx (age 14 born Morpeth). [2]

1861 A lodger at East Parade, Elswick (age 24 born Morpeth), Mechanical Engineer, Draughtsman. [3]

1861 March. Married Hannah Brewis

1869 Founder partner in Ransomes and Rapier. For some years has conducted the railway part of their business in London. [4]

1870 September. Patent granted to Richard C. Rapier and John Brunton for improvements in machinery for working or interlocking railway switches etc. [5]

1871 Living at 4 Balham Park Road, Streatham (age 34 born Morpeth), Civil Engineer. Associate Inst. of C.E. With wife Hannah (age 31) and daughter Mary F. (age 9). Two servants. [6]

1872 Director of General Mortgage and Securites Insurance Co [7]

1874 Award from the Institution of Civil Engineers for his paper 'On the Fixed Signals of Railways' [8]

1881 Living at 4 Balham Park Road, Streatham (age 44 born Morpeth), Civil Engineer. With wife Hannah (age 40) and daughter Mary F. (age 19 born Gateshead). Two servants. [9]

1897 Q2. Death registered at Elham, Kent. Aged 60.

1898 Opening of a memorial shelter at Ransomes and Rapier financed by the late Richard Christopher Rapier. [10]

1897 Obituary [11]

RICHARD CHRISTOPHER RAPIER was born at Morpeth on 7th Juno 1836.

After serving an apprenticeship with Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, he became associated with Messrs. Ransomes, Ipswich, who at an earlier period of their history combined the businesses of agricultural and railway engineers.

In 1868 the two classes of business were divided. New works were designed by him for the railway business, which were started in 1869 as the Waterside Iron Works, under the name of Ransoms and Rapier.

The firm was converted into a company in 1896, of which he was managing director.

In 1878 he published a book entitled "remunerative railways," advocating the use of light railways of narrow gauge for opening out new countries; this has become a standard work of reference. Shortly afterwards he published another book on "fixed signals of railways, and the working of the fast and slow traffic," at the time when the idea of separate lines for goods and passenger traffic had been suggested, which has now become generally adopted by the main lines of railway.

In 1872 he interested himself in introducing railways into China, and in conjunction with Messrs. Matheson and Co. had a share in the construction of the Shanghai and Woosung Railway.

He was one of the chief promoters of the narrow-gauge railway of 3 feet gauge from Halesworth to Southwold, of which he eventually became the chairman.

The improvement of river navigation was another subject to which he devoted much time and energy, in conjunction with the late Mr. F. G. M. Stoney.

His firm equipped the Manchester Ship Canal with all its large sluices, and also constructed the large sluices at the entrance to the river Weaver, and the movable weir on the Thames at Richmond, and the much larger movable weir now in course of construction on the Clyde at Glasgow. He was one of the principal movers in the search for coal in Suffolk and Essex, and was chairman of the association for that purpose.

After he had been for some months in ill health, his death took place at Folkestone on 28th May 1897, in the sixty-first year of his age.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1873; and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Iron and Steel Institute.

1897 Obituary [12]

RICHARD CHRISTOPHER RAPIER, son of the Rev. Christopher Rapier, of Morpeth, Northumberland, was born there on the 7th June, 1836, and was educated at Christ’s Hospital, London.

On leaving school he was apprenticed to Messrs. Robert Stephenson & Co., in whose works at Newcastle-on-Tyne he spent seven years, being responsible during the latter part of that time for the construction of a number of caloric engines for the production of compressed air.

In 1862 Mr. Rapier entered the service of Messrs. Ransomes, of Ipswich, and for six years was in charge of the railway department at the Orwell Works. Meanwhile, the number of partners in the firm had increased, and with a view to accommodate them, an amicable arrangement was made in 1868, by which the two classes of business - agricultural implement and railway-plant making - were divided. Mr. Rapier became the engineering partner in the railway business, which was carried on under the style of Ransomes and Rapier at the Waterside Ironworks, and from that time he was the moving spirit of the firm. In the spring of 1896 the undertaking was formed into a limited company, Mr. Rapier being the managing director and holding the greater part of the ordinary share capital.

Mr. Rapier was not only an engineer, but also a keen man of business, possessed of great power of application, foresight and judgment. He took a leading part in 1875 in the negotiation and construction of the first railway in China, a narrow-gauge line from Shanghai to Woosung, which, after being worked successfully for fifteen months, was acquired by the natives and dismantled. He was also one of the chief promoters of the Southwold Railway, a 3-feet gauge line from Halesworth to Southwold, and ultimately became its chairman.

In 1878 he published a book entitled 'Remunerative Railways for New Countries,' in which he advocated the use of light railways of narrow gauge for opening up new countries and for developing the resources of thinly populated districts in old countries. He took considerable interest in the management of railways, and in 1874 presented to the Institution a Paper on 'The Fixed Signals of Railways,' in which he advocated the division of traffic into fast and slow, rather than the provision of separate lines for passengers and goods. For that Paper he was awarded a Telford medal and premium.

In conjunction with Mr. F. G. M. Stoney, Mr. Rapier devoted much attention to the improvement of river navigation. The large sluices on the Manchester Ship Canal, including those at the entrance to the River Weaver, and the movable weir on the Thames at St. Margaret’s, near Richmond, were constructed by the firm from Mr. Stoney’s designs, and a much larger movable weir on the Clyde is now in course of erection at Glasgow.

Mr. Rapier died on the 28th May, 1897, at Folkestone, whither he had gone for the benefit of his health, which had been failing for some months. He was of a most genial disposition, and was always ready to listen and respond to any appeal for assistance, large numbers of old workmen and their widows owing the comforts of their declining years to his liberality and consideration.

In 1893 he initiated a system of allotments for his workmen on land adjoining the Waterside Ironworks which he let at a nominal rent, at the same time offering annual prizes for cultivation.

Mr. Rapier was elected an Associate on the 14th April, 1863, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 17th April, 1877.

He was a frequent attendant at the meetings, and in addition to contributing the Paper above referred to, occasionally took part in discussions.

1897 Obituary [13]

RICHARD CHRISTOPHER RAPIER died at Folkestone on May 28, 1897, at the age of sixty-one years. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, London, and on leaving school was apprenticed to the firm of Robert Stephenson & Co., locomotive engineers, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he was afterwards appointed an assistant.

He subsequently entered the Orwell Works of Messrs. Ransomes at Ipswich, and afterwards became the London representative of that firm, in which he was so successful that new works had to be constructed at Ipswich for the special manufacture of railway plant and materials. Mr. Rapier was managing director of these works at the time of his death.

He took a leading part in the construction, in 1875, of the first Chinese railway, which, however, was dismantled soon after by natives, who purchased it for that purpose. He was the author of a paper read before the Institution of Civil Engineers on dividing the traffic on railways into fast and slow, for which paper he was awarded the Selford Medal by the Institution.

He was connected with various important enterprises, and was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Geological Society, and other scientific and technical societies.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1874.

1897 Obituary[14][15]

"WE regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Richard Christopher Rapier, the managing director of Ransomes and Rapier, Limited, Ipswich. For some months he had been suffering from an illness which gave little hope of recovery, and a week or two ago left his house at Upper Tooting for Folkestone, but the change was of little avail, and on the morning of the 28th ult. the end came, none the less to be regretted because anticipated.

Mr. Rapier was in his 6lst year, having been born in 1836, the eldest son of the late Rev. Christopher Rapier, of Morpeth, Northumberland. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, London, and served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co., of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and one can recognise from this the source of that perspicacity, especially in railway matters, which enabled him to anticipate reforms.

Soon after completing his "time" he became associated with the Ransomes of Ipswich, who then combined in the one establishment the work of agricultural and railway plant engineers. In course of time he became their London representative, which position he filled with such success as regards contracts for railway works, that in 1868 it was found desirable to construct new works for the railway works, and at the same time the co-partneries were instituted. The subject of this notice designed the new works at Waterside, and the new company of Ransomes and Rapier included also James Allen Ransoms, Robert James Ransome, and Edward Gibson Midgley. Mr. Rapier was the last survivor of the original partners, the others having died respectively in 1875, 1880, and 1891. At the beginning of last year the concern was passed over to a limited liability company, of which Mr. Rapier was managing director until the date of his death.

We have often had occasion to describe the productions of the firm, and with these Mr. Rapier was closely associated alike in design and construction. He was early in his appreciation of the possibilities of the light railway as a feeder for the main lines, and in 1878 published a work, which found extensive appreciation, on "Remunerative Railways," and later carried his ideas into practical application in the Southwold Railway to Halesworth. He was one of the principal promoters, and subsequently chairman. It is 9 miles long, of 3 ft. gauge, laid with 30 -lb. rails for 8-ton to 10-ton locomotives, and has been a success for many years.

Again, in China he was early in the field as a railway pioneer. He was an active worker in connection with the Shanghai and Woosung Railway, which, however, was before the period of Western enlightenment now affecting the East, so that it had a hapless fate, due to the petty jealousy and strife of local magnates. The line was opened on July 1, 1876, but was dismantled 15 months afterwards. Some years ago he took up the question of fixed signals of railways and the working of the fast and slow traffic, and read a paper before the Institution of Civil Engineers for which he was awarded the Telford medal. That was at the time when the idea of separate lines for goods and passenger traffic had been suggested, and the contention of the author of the paper was that it would be better to divide the traffic into fast and slow. Passing reference need only be made here to Mr. Rapier's encouragement to Mr. Stoney in working out his system of sluices, fitted in the Manchester Canal, at Richmond, being erected at Glasgow, and in contemplation for the Nile.

As an employer of labour Mr. Rapier was widely respected. He recognised his duties as privileges, and interested himself in the men's organisations - friendly societies and the like. Some suggestion of this is found in the fact that he started allotments on land adjoining the works for nominal rents, and offered prizes to successful growers. Again, he compiled a complete musical service for the three degrees in craft Masonry.

In the institutions of the profession he took a great interest, being a member of the Civil Engineers, the Mechanical Engineers, the Iron and Steel Institute, and the Geographical Society. His widow and his only daughter, wife of Mr. P. F. S. Stokes, barrister, have the sympathy of a wide circle of friends."

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. 1851 Census
  3. 1861 Census
  4. The Ipswich Journal, Saturday, August 28, 1869
  5. Birmingham Daily Post, Saturday, March 25, 1871
  6. 1871 census
  7. The Standard, Monday, February 19, 1872
  8. The York Herald, Thursday, July 09, 1874
  9. 1881 Census
  10. The Ipswich Journal, Friday, July 29, 1898
  11. 1897 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  12. 1897 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  13. 1897 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  14. Engineering 1897/06/04
  15. Engineering 1897 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index