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 149,686 pages of information and 235,430 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.

William Brunton (1817-1881)

From Graces Guide

William Brunton (1817-1881)

1817 Born in Birmingham the son of William Brunton[1]

Brunton invented a new form of bridge, and employed James Tangye to make a model of it for him.

He also developed machinery which improved the manufacture of safety-fuse, employing James Tangye, and established a business to make safety-fuses: W. Brunton and Co; Joseph Tangye was also employed by Brunton. They contributed to the development of the machinery for the manufacture of blasting fuse. Both remained with Brunton for some time, and made the whole of the machinery used in the process, ultimately having a small interest in the business.

1851 Civil engineer, living in Camborne with Jane Brunton 32, William E Brunton 8, Maria Brunton 6, Charles R Brunton 3, John F Brunton 1, visited by his father William Brunton 74, civil engineer, and sister Gwenllian S Brunton 16[2]

1882 Obituary [3]

MR. WILLIAM BRUNTON, one of a family which has given six members to the Institution, was the third son of Mr. William Brunton, M. Inst. C.E., and was born in Birmingham on the 3rd of April, 1817.

Very early in life he showed a strong bias towards mechanics, and was articled to, and worked through the shops of Messrs. J. and S. Seaward, of Limehouse.

In 1835, at the age of seventeen, he went to the United States, where, after various vicissitudes, he became Locomotive Superintendent of the New Orleans and Pontchartrain Railway.

From 1839 Mr. Brunton led a roving life, being successively engaged as engineer on an extensive sugar plantation near New Orleans, on the Manchester and Leeds Railway in England, and on the construction of the Red River Canal in the United States.

In 1847 he returned home for an unusually long term, and became Resident Engineer on the West Cornwall Railway, under the late Mr. Brunel, Vice-President Inst. C.E. Being much amongst the mines in that district, he was led to study the modes of working.

He invented the apparatus for washing and separating the ores from their matrix, still favourably known as "Brunton’s endless cloth.” Stimulated by the success attending the production of the safety fuse, and recognising the want of regularity in its manufacture, he invented a fuse-making machine of most ingenious construction. This machine he did not patent, but kept it secret, and so effectually, that the process has never been divulged. This invention has been of great service to the mining world, for, while producing an improved article, its introduction at once reduced the selling price of fuse by 75 per cent. The works producing this article, both in Cornwall and in North Wales, are still in active operation.

In September 1856 he was recommended by Mr. Brunel and Mr. Robert Stephenson (then President Inst. C.E.) for the appointment of Chief Engineer in India of the Punjab Railway, between Mooltan and Lahore, the works of which he carried on all through the Indian mutiny. He was then employed in the Public Works Department of the Government of India, until an attack of rheumatism forced him to leave the country.

He elected to try his fortunes in New Zealand, where he became the leaseholder of a sheep-run of 30,000 acres.

In 1871 he resumed the practice of the profession, and became District Engineer, under Government, of the Railways in Southland, New Zealand. His professional abilities were recognised by successive Ministers of Public Works, and in his private capacity as a settler he was much esteemed, not only for his many good qualities, but for his enterprise and assistance in various objects calculated to advance the interests of the colony.

In 1876 he was appointed Consulting Engineer to the Bluff Harbour Board, which post he held until the end of 1880, when ill-health compelled him to resign.

On the 13th of June, 1881, he died unexpectedly at Wellington, on his way to the Hot Sulphur Springs, near Auckland, leaving a widow and seven children to lament their loss.

Mr. Brunton was elected a Member of the Institution on the 7th of March, 1854.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Non conformist registers
  2. 1851 census
  3. 1882 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries