Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Brown and May

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1868. Feed-Water Heater for Portable Engines.
1870. Four-Horse Semi-Fixed Engine.
1872. Portable Engine at the 1872 Royal Agricultural Show.
June 1872.
February 1899.
August 1899.
February 1901.
September 1902.
January 1906.
No 7519.
No 7519 (detail).

Brown and May of North Wiltshire Foundry, Devizes were engineers and iron-founders and built traction engines, road locomotives and portable and stationary steam engines.


1854 The company was formed by Charles Neale May and William Brown, both aged 24 and both had served apprenticeships together at Barrett, Exall and Andrewes. Both were firstly married to women from Reading called Philbrick and therefore probably related. Note: Some sources say that it was Charles May of Ransomes and May but research shows that these are two different persons.

1859 - Advert for Sluice Cocks, Wholesale Agents - S. and E. Ransome and Co. These were patented by W. Brown and C. N. May on 9 February 1858[1]

1860 Exhibited at the Society of Arts Exhibition: a temperature indicator for kitchen ranges, which used a semi-circular bimetallic strip whose movement was transmitted to a pointer by rack and pinion [2]

1861 At the Royal Agricultural Society's Trial of Steam Ploughs they entered a steam digger of M. Romaine of Canada West but manufactured by them, and a portable engine. [3] [4]

1872 A fire at their premises, where 200 mechanics are employed [5]

1876 Exhibitor at the Royal Agricultural Show at Birmingham showed a steam blower for cleaning tubes without a brush. [6]

1877 Exhibitor at the 1877 Royal Agricultural Show at Liverpool.[7].

1880 Offering an inverted gas engine under Turner patents

Two locomotives were supplied to R. Brotherhood.

1894 Catalogue of portable and semi-portable steam engines and much other machinery. [8]

1895 The company was registered on 30 November, to acquire the engineering business of a firm of the same name. [9] [10] Both Brown and May were 65 and wanted to retire, so the company, up to now a partnership, was floated as a limited company, B&M Ltd.

1904 Launched the 'NEW' oil engine

Company nearly failed in 1911 and new shares were issued

1911 Smithfield Club Show. Exhibited steam tractor and an oil engine. [11]

1912 Built one showman's road locomotive that survives. May have made others.

1912 The works closed.

List of Models

Built Reg No. Works No. Name
1872. No 868 868
No 4318 4318
1910. No 5460 5460
1910 No 8262 8262
1912 AU 4705 8742 General Buller

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Traction Engine Album by Malcolm Ranieri. Pub 2005
  • Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain by George Watkins. Vol 10
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  1. [1] The Engineer, 17 Sept 1858, p.213
  2. The Practical Mechanic's Journal, May 1860, p.33
  3. The Times, Thursday, Jul 11, 1861
  4. The Times, Thursday, Jul 18, 1861
  5. The Times, Saturday, Jun 01, 1872
  6. The Engineer of 21st July 1876 p40
  7. The Engineer 1877/07/13
  8. The Engineer of 14th September 1894 p238
  9. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  10. The Times (london, england), Saturday, Dec 14, 1895
  11. The Engineer of 8th December 1911 p594