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Richard Hornsby

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Richard Hornsby (1790-1864).

1790 June 4th. Born in Elsham, Lincolnshire the son of William Hornsby and his wife Sarah.

He started his apprenticeship for Havercroft Wheelwright in Barnetby (North Lincolnshire).

1810 He moved to Grantham looking for work and approached Richard Seaman, the village blacksmith of Barrowby. When working in Barrowby, he had the idea to put a set of wheels on an adjustable harrow. Seeing this inventiveness, Seaman offered him a partnership in his company and this became Seaman and Hornsby

1828 The firm became Richard Hornsby and Sons when Seaman retired. The company made ploughs and seed drills.

1841 Living at High Street, Grantham (age 50), Machine Maker. With wife Mary (age 35) and sons Richard (age 13), James (age 5) and William (age 2) plus two servants. [1]

1851 He is listed as a visitor St Martin Pomary, Essex (age 61 born Elsham, Lincs), an Ironfounder. With Richard Hornsby (age 27 born Spittlegate, Lincs), an Ironfounder. His wife Mary Ann (age 50 born London) is living at London Road, Spittlegate with their son William (age 12) plus two servants [2]

1861 Living at London Road, Spittlegate, Lincs in the house next to his son Richard, (age 70 born Elsham), Agricultural Engineer (Retired). With wife Mary Ann (age 60 born Grosvenor Square, London) and his nephew Edwin Hornsby (age 23 born Spittlegate), Ironmonger plus three servants [3]

He died on January 6, 1864.

His wife, Mary, died on October 15, 1866, aged 66.

At the time of his death he had eight grand children. Two of his great-grand children would go to Eton. Although there is no monument to Richard Hornsby, one of his great-grandsons, Richard William Hornsby, is listed on the war memorial in Barrowby, after being killed in the First World War in Greece. His family were quite wealthy owning 421 acres of land, as the Hornsby company was a world leader in engine manufacture, until 1918.

His Children were:


1864 Obituary [4]

The Late Richard Hornsby, Esq.

We have to record to day the death of one whoso name is a "household word," not only to the readers of our columns, but to all who take interest in the pursuits to which his life has been devoted. Richard Hornsby, the senior of the firm which bears his name, who has for half a century linked town of Grantham with the progress of Agricultural Engineering, and made its productions famous in every quarter of the globe, departed this life, by the quiet and unexpected extinction its powers, at Eleven o'clock on the night of Wednesday, the Sixth instant, after illness long duration, but which only threatened end sudden within a comparatively short time before his death.

It is only when we chronicle the fact, and familiarize our minds with the character and work of him who has thus been taken from us, that we come to realize the greatness of our loss. Long the enforced retirement of Mr. Hornsby from all active duties has prepared us to anticipate the event, we now mourn over, it is impossible to contemplate the end of life of such practical importance and great issues without deep emotion, or to restrain the conviction that even in the removal one whose work had long been ended, we have sustained a loss not easily repaired. We are ever unwilling to part with those who have earned right to our esteem and gratitude. Their very presence amongst us, though the once active brain has planned its last project, and the once vigorous hands have carried into execution their last achievement, seems to inspire us with the spirit which prompted their doings and ensured their successes; and when in the fulness of a ripe age and honourable reputation, they pass away from us, we feel that the world is losing one and another of the men who are its most substantial benefactors, and has need to treasure up their memory with rigid faithfulness, that its great lessons may learnt by those who follow in their train.

The life and character of the man who has just departed, are too full of interest to us to passed over without some attempt to pay them their fitting tribute. Proud as we may justly that the best years of his laborious life were passed amongst us, he has far greater claims than rest upon merely local reputation. Grantham, which esteemed him living and will revere his memory now that he is gone from the midst of it, is but the centre wider circle in which his influence was manifested, and the news of his death will occasion the deepest sorrow to the minds of all who were privileged know his worth, go back to the summer of the year 1790, and the village of Elsham, near Brigg, in Lincolnshire, for the birth of the subject of our notice, the 4th of June, the birthday of good King George, Richard Hornsby was born, and was therefore 73 years of age at his death. His friends then farmed at Elsham, and in that spot spent the first fifteen years of his life, without, however, gaining that hardihood and strength which are commonly the results of boyhood in the country.

At fifteen was still a delicate boy, and much against the inclination of his friends, whose preference would have been for a less laborious occupation, he found himself apprentice, in 1805, to Mr. Harrocroft, a wheelwright at Barnetby-le-Wold. His new master shared in the fears of his own relations as to his fitness for such labour, observing that "he looked far more like filling a coffin than making one;" but the choice proved a good one - the pursuit agreed with him, and in 5 years left Barnetby a hale and hearty man.

On leaving Barnetby turned his steps to Grantham in search of employment, little foreseeing, may well suppose, the position was destined to attain there, and spent his first night at an inn upon the spot now covered by the forging shops of his extensive works, obtained engagement with Mr. Seaman, Spittlegate, and by his practical ability and strict attention to his business, soon won the confidence and esteem employer.

On the 1st of January, 1815, a business was commenced under the style of Seaman and Hornsby makers horse thrashing machines, &c., and from their works, at the instance of the new partner, first issued the thrashing machines and lrills which have since, in various forms, been among the staple manufactures of the firm.

Eleven years afterwards his marriage gave him a new tie to the place of his chosen residence, and in 1828, Mr. Seaman left the firm, and the works were henceforth conducted in the sole name of Richard Hornsby. Simple as are the incidents just detailed, it is impossible not to see in them the index to the subsequent prosperity of the house of Hornsby - the same principles which won for him the confidence of his employer, and raised him first to the position of a partner, and then of sole proprietor of the business into which he entered so unostentatiously bore him forward on the tide of prosperity, and made his name first amongst the enterprising introducers of improved farm machinery. With room for the development of his great mechanical abilities, it was not long ere the productions of his skill began to gain a name for efficiency, and business to set in towards the manufactory at Spittlegate.

Instead of contenting himself with the imperfectly designed and ill-constructed implements which had hitherto been manufactured, or merely following in the wake of other improvers, he devoted himself to a careful study of the requirements of the farmer, and sought to meet those requirements the production of machinery really suited to their wants. Such efforts are always appreciated - they were so in this case, and they quickly brought into use, in almost every county, the implements and machines which his skill had perfected. Step by step, by the gradual but certain laws which regulate commercial prosperity, the firm rose into position and importance, adding to its productions all that the growing spirit and necessities of the day demanded, and spreading its transactions from the United Kingdom to the Continent and the furthest Colonies, winning in every contest the most distinguished laurels, and drawing to itself the support of the most intelligent and influential agriculturists, until its goods are found wherever commerce has extended, and its marvellous array of shops, and the hundreds of men who crowd them, attest to the still growing reputation of its name. There is little incident to speak of in such a course as this, but it is not the less worthy of our close attention.

We have said that in the early history of Richard Hornsby, are exhibited the elements of his future success. We say, further, that upon all that he has accomplished is stamped the imprest of his own character. It is perilous to make some successful men our study; but none can err in the closest copy of the principles which led to his prosperity. From the lowest round of life's ladder, climbed upward by the fairest and most honourable effort, and the rewards which have awaited him were but the simple fruits of his industrious toil. Look for a moment at what were the known features of his character, and it will be seen how they have severally borne upon his progress. He was a man of sound mechanical ability, and all his productions are marked singular excellence, and entire adaptation to their end.

He was a man of plodding, persevering effort, and his was no brief and sudden elevation, gained by some fortunate speculation and adventure. His fame and fortune were a steady progress, a structure built upon the foundation of sterling worthiness and patient toil. He never sought for a "short cut" to fortune. He was content to wait for it as the legitimate result of well-directed labour. He was, in the most marked manner, free from the undue eagerness of much modern commerce. He was no speculator. The productions of his house came forth in answer to some unmistakeable demand; and no inducement tempted him to hasten their introduction, until had, by careful construction and repeated experiment proved their efficiency and power, he was man if thorough and uncorruptible integrity; and the goods made were honest as himself. There no feature of his character which claims stronger prominence than this. None which contributed more largely to his advancement; it was one which influenced him in all his dealings, whether with the men at his forges, or the buyers of his goods. Without it his genius would never made him lastingly successful - would certainly never have gained for him the attachment and regard which his virtues won, was of the number the men who rescue commerce from the imputation necessary dishonesty; who prove the possibility, we might almost say the certainty, of upright and successful dealing; who furnish with examples for the enforcement of mercantile honour and morality.

The prosperity which crowned his efforts was strikingly the direct of his mode business. There is no mystery about his rise; " good fortune," in the common acceptation of the term, was no element in his success. Men came to him because they knew him, and knowing, trusted him, because they felt that they were in the hands of one who bad the power and will to servo them faithfully; who was too conversant with his business to send them an inferior article in ignorance or carelessness, and too honourable to send them such a one designedly set out in his business career with the determination to command success by deserving it, and to this determination adhered. imperfection in the material he employed, no defect in the workmanship bestowed upon it, escaped him, and m any even of his earlier productions are still in service to testify to their original excellence; in all the relationships he sustained, his integrity gained for him the confidence of his clients, and established his prosperity upon the surest and most worthy basis. And his greatest honour let it remembered that was a simple and true-hearted man, and his goodness was never tainted his constantly increasing prosperity. Great abilities, untiring industry, and stern integrity, may claim our respectful admiration, but singleness of purpose, and kindness of heart, are the qualities which most endear men to us.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of his possession of these qualities may found in the unfailing interest manifested in those beneath him, and the justice and kindness which his workmen experienced. The bond of common interest is seldom stronger than it wa3 in this case, between the employer and the employed, and few workmen felt a truer regard for a master than did those of Richard Hornsby for himself. In his men took an unwanted pride; his ambition was to gather round him an efficient staff, and to treat them as men in whom had confidence. They knew the sincerity of his desire for their welfare, and they returned that interest by concern for his comfort and advantage.

In the management of his large and growing establishment, he combined the strictest business habits, with the most considerate kindness. Punctual and incessantly active himself, never tolerated irregularity or indolence in others. Himself efficient in all that professed, he had no regard for incompetency; but real ability and the desire for improvement, were the sure passports to his favour. He was capable of strong attachment to those who served him faithfully, and to the very close of life was moved by the sight or the remembrance of those who had laboured with him. He disliked change in his officials, and the long services of many who were with him, bore witness to the mutual satisfaction of himself and them. It is pleasant picture to think upon this true identity of feeling, this manly recognition, his part, of the claims of the men upon him, and their hearty reciprocation his interest; and many a rough heart will be stirred to the very depths, at remembrance of such traits in his character, the sad news is learned that is more might dwell at inconsiderable length upon a topic fruitful in reflections so honourable the memory of the dead, if it were needful. was once the master and the friend to all who deserved his interest; and the long train of mourners which will follow him to his burial, will no formal tribute to his goodness and excellence in this important relationship of his life. It was only the natural development of such character to manifest itself in the utmost liberality towards the poor who came within the circle of his notice.

Unostentatious, but not the less extensive and unflagging was his bounty to those who needed help. We state the fact, and it is one which admits of little comment, but it is impossible for us to realize how much of suffering was mitigated by his benevolent endeavours; and how much gladness was diffused by his generous gifts. His charity was little known save by its recipients, and his simple benevolence would have shrunk from the parade which often mars such bounty; but in proportion to his own advancement, was his readiness to make others the sharers of his success. "When the ear heard him, then it blessed him; and when the eye saw him, it gave witness to him. Because he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon him, and caused the widow's heart to sing for joy."

To the cause of religion Mr. Hornsby was a true and ready friend. Firmly attached to the principles of Wesleyan Methodism, he stood the tried supporter of the cause in Grantham in many time of necessity, and in the introduction of the various improvements which have been adopted from time to time, his purse was freely opened, and the extent of his contributions to these objects is beyond all ordinary usage. Amongst those with whom he worshipped, and with whom it was his delight to advance the interests of the cause of Christ, there must deep and heartfelt sorrow at his loss.

We might continue in this strain to give expression to our high estimate of his character, but we must bring our notice to a close. It only remains for us to remind our readers how great have been the results of all this wisely and honestly directed labour. A new era has dawned upon the science of agriculture. Since the day when a youth Richard Hornsby came to Grantham, the most important changes have transpired. The culture of the soil, and the thousand subjects which pertain to it, are receiving a measure of scientific attention which was not then dreamed of. The Royal Agricultural Society of England, and hundred kindred associations, have combined to stimulate the latent genius of the farming interest. Competition is rife in every one of its departments. A new and mighty trade has sprung into existence, giving employment to thousands of workmen, and covering the globe with the most perfected machinery, for almost every task that farming operations can demand.

In all these changes Mr. Hornsby took a leading position, and the results of his efforts are shared by all. The rise and progress of his fortunes is in close correspondence with the great changes we have mentioned. He had a work to do for agricultural engineering - he has done that work honestly and nobly, and no future progress, the far distancing his achievements, will deprive him of the honours which have gathered round his name found his trade insignificant and imperfect; has left it renowned and almost beyond advance, except in new directions. The improvement of then existing implements - the production of new and worthier ones - the application of the power of steam to farming purposes - the perfecting of the machinery, which later necessities has demanded, are no scanty works for the life of one who began in no more pretentious station than that of workman, and who owes all under God's blessing to the labour of his own strong head and hands. To-day there stands as the best monument of his fame the vast manufactory, which in its still advancing reputation is the pride of our town, the field for the labour of our artisans, and the place from which are constantly coming forth new marvels of engineering science, and to his sons, descends the grand heritage of such father's memory, and the name has won for the firm whose helm they guide.

Ere another of our issues is before our readers, all that death has left of the good and useful man of whom we write, will have been carried to its quiet resting-place. Amidst deserved honours, in the affection of his family, with the love and regard of all who knew him, Richard Hornsby has passed away. We mourn his loss, and venerate his memory; but we rejoice in him as one whose work on earth has been well accomplished. His deeds "men will not willingly let die." His memory shall live fragrant while the virtues exhibited are the glory of our race.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. 1851 Census
  3. 1861 Census
  4. Grantham Journal - Saturday 09 January 1864