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Bernhard Samuelson

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Sir Bernhard Samuelson, 1st Baronet FRS (1820-1905) was an industrialist, educationalist and a Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1859 and from 1865 to 1895.

See Samuelson and Co and Samuelson, Son and Co

1820 November 22nd. Samuelson was born in Hamburg, the son of Samuel Hermann Samuelson and his wife Sarah Hertz. His father, a merchant in Hull, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, and his grandfather Hyman Samuels, was born in London in 1764.

Samuelson was educated at the Rev. J Blezard's school at Skirlaugh, Yorkshire near Hull.

He started work in his father's office at the age of 14 and was then apprenticed to a Swiss firm in Liverpool. He was exporting engineering machinery and became manager for a Manchester firm of Sharp, Stewart and Co.

1844 Samuelson married Caroline Blundell, daughter of Henry Blundell at Hull. Their son Henry who succeeded to the baronetcy was also an MP.

1845 Started a railway works at Tour but closed it in 1848 when the French Revolution occurred.

1848 Samuelson bought the small factory in Banbury of James Gardner that was manufacturing agricultural equipment which became Samuelson and Co of Britannia Works, Banbury. Developed a reputation for reaping and threshing machines.

1851 Living at Oxford Road, Neithrop, Banbury (age 30 born Germany, British Subject), an Engineer Iron Founder employing 120 men. With his wife Caroline (age 30 born Hull) and their children Henry B. (age 5 born Hull) and Caroline (age 2 born Hull). Also a visitor and three servants. [1]

1853 Attended the Cleveland Agricultural Show where he met John Vaughan who convinced him of the potential of the Cleveland ironstone deposits which he had discovered a few years before. Quickly obtained land at Eston where he erected the Southbank ironworks; carried on this business together with the agricultural machinery business.

1855 Patented a form of wheels made by chilled iron castings; 35,000 wheels were made in this way under his supervision[2]

In February 1859, after a by-election caused by the resignation of Henry William Tancred, Samuelson was elected as Member of Parliament for Banbury until displaced at the 1859 general election.

1863 Sold Southbank ironworks to Major Elwon; immediately acquired 60 acres of land at Newport (west of Middlesbrough) and erected 4 furnaces, the start of the Newport Ironworks[3]

1865 Bernhard Samuelson, Agricultural Implement Works, Banbury.[4]

1865 He was elected for Banbury again, but his defeated opponent Charles Bell petitioned against his return on the grounds that he was an alien. Samuelson was able to demonstrate that as his grandfather was born in England he was eligible under the British Nationality Act of 1772. He held the seat until 1895.

His interests in parliament were industrial and technical issues. He chaired committees on scientific instruction, railways and patents and was a member of the Royal Commission for the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Meanwhile his industrial activities had grown significantly.

1869 he leased the north Yorkshire ironworks at South Stockton to experiment with making steel from Cleveland ore.

In 1870 he began the erection of the Britannia Ironworks at Middlesbrough, covering 20 acres, for the manufacture of all kinds of finished iron on a large scale, for which purpose the works were equipped with what was then the largest plant ever put into operation at one time. The property was subsequently transferred to a limited company.

1871 Engineer, Bernhard Samuelson MP 50, living in Kensington, with Caroline Samuelson 50, Henry B Samuelson MP 25, Caroline Samuelson 22, Camilla Samuelson 19, Florence A Samuelson 13, Francis A E Samuelson 10, Alice G Samuelson 9, Godfrey B Samuelson 7, Herbert W Samuelson 6[5]

1871 Bernhard Samuelson built the Britannia Iron Works, Middlesbrough, to manufacture iron rails but would consider making steel rails in the future[6], his third manufacturing enterprise. The Britannia works housed the largest plant then in operation with a vast output of iron, tar, and by-products. He was anxious to make steel from Cleveland ore; on learning of the Siemens-Martin process, he experimented with it but the attempt proved unsuccessful.

1871 He presented a description of the Newport ironworks to the Institution of Civil Engineers, for which he was awarded a Telford medal.

By 1872 the Newport works had been extended so much they were capable of producing 2,500 tons to 3,000 tons of pig-iron per week.

By 1872 his Banbury works were producing over 8,000 reaping machines and the production of iron, tar and other products from his ironworks had also grown.

1879 Leased the Britannia Works to Dorman, Long and Co

1881 He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society

1881 Appointed chairman of the Royal Commission on Technical Education.

1884 He received a Baronetcy in the same year for services to education.

1886 His first wife died

1887 Formed the iron-working firm of Sir B. Samuelson and Co. Ltd.

He developed ironstone mines in the North-East of England

1888 Launched the mining company Sir B. Samuelson and Co (Durham) with capital of £275,000[7]

1889 he married Lelia Mathilda, daughter of Chevalier Leon Serena and widow of William Denny, shipbuilder of Dumbarton.

1895 Samuelson retired from chairmanship of Sir B. Samuelson and Co.

Samuelson was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

He was adjudged a considerate employer and developed the institutions of Middlesbrough and Cleveland. He was a firm believer in technical education and presented a technical institute to Banbury in 1884.

1905 May 10th. Samuelson died in London at the age of 84 and was buried in Torquay. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Henry Bernhard, formerly MP for Frome.

1905 Obituary [8]

The Right Hon. Sir BERNHARD SAMUELSON, Bart., was born in Hamburg on 22nd November 1820.

He was the son of a Hull merchant, and, after being privately educated, was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a mercantile house in Liverpool.

At the age of seventeen he was sent by his employers to obtain a number of locomotive engines at Warrington for exportation to Prussia. The whole of his scanty leisure was devoted to the acquisition of mechanical knowledge, and he was rewarded by being entrusted by the firm of Messrs. Sharp, Stewart and Co., to take charge of their locomotive works on the Continent.

After three years of this experience he set up locomotive works on his own account at Tours, in France, and carried them on most successfully until the French Revolution of 1848 caused him to leave the country.

It so happened that at that time there was for sale, through the death of the proprietor, a small factory of agricultural implements at Banbury. This business he bought with a view of development, and thus founded the "Britannia Works," which transformed Banbury from an agricultural town to an industrial centre. At first he was his own manager, secretary, and traveller; the extension of the works, however, was rapid, the processes adopted being largely the invention of the firm.

In 1853, when visiting Cleveland in connection with an exhibition of agricultural implements, he met the late Mr. John Vaughan, one of the pioneers of the Cleveland iron trade. The enormous iron industry was then unknown, but Sir Bernhard and Mr. Vaughan realized the possibilities of the district, and lost no time in getting capital together, with which they built, in the following year, three blast-furnaces near Middlesbrough, from each of which some 200 tons of iron were produced per week with a consumption of 800 tons of fuel. This was the beginning of his career as an ironmaster. By the year 1870 he had eight blast-furnaces at work, producing 2,500 to 3,000 tons of pig-iron per week.

His ambitions towards Parliament were awakened while a witness before a Committee of the House of Commons, and he determined to add political honours to his many existing interests. A vacancy for Banbury occurred in 1859, and, seeking election as a Liberal, he was elected by the narrow majority of one vote. In 1865 he was re-elected, and he sat for Banbury until 1885, when that constituency was merged into the North Oxfordshire Division, which he represented until his retirement in 1895, upon which he was created a Privy Councillor. With the advocacy of education, both elementary and technical, he was inseparably connected, and by his persistent efforts he forced the Government to action

Accordingly in 1867 he was charged with drawing up a report on the education of the industrial population both in Great Britain and on the Continent. This was published as a Parliamentary paper, and was a valuable addition to the knowledge of educational matters. He was a member of several commissions of education and kindred subjects, and from 1881 to 1884 was chairman of the Royal Commission on Technical Education.

For his services in this connection he received a baronetcy in 1884.

He made a report to the Foreign Office in 1867 on the renewal of the commercial treaty between this country and France, and was appointed chairman of the Railway Commission in 1873, and later was elected chairman of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. He was chairman of a Parliamentary Committee enquiring into the reform of the Patent Laws, and a member of the Royal Commission on Elementary Education, which reported in 1888. He acted as reporter to the Select Committee on the Drainage of the Thames Valley, and was associated with a great deal of parliamentary work in connection with other technical questions.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1865, and was a Member of Council during the years 1883 and 1884. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, President of the Iron and Steel Institute during 1883 and 1884, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He also occupied the presidential chair of the Cleveland Ironmastor's Association, and was President of the Agricultural Engineers' Association. He took a great interest in the local affairs of Banbury, and presented to the town the buildings used for the Mechanics' Institute and the Municipal Schools.

In 1860 he built and equipped at his own expense the Cherwell British Schools for the purpose of providing education mainly for the children of his workmen; and subsequently he handed over the buildings to the new Borough Education Authority.

On the formation of the Oxfordshire County Council he was elected a County Alderman, in which position he remained until his death; he was also a Justice of the Peace for Oxfordshire.

His death took place at his residence at Prince's Gate, London, from pneumonia, on 10th May 1905, in his eighty-fifth year.

1905 Obituary [9]

1905 Obituary [10]

The Right Honourable Sir Bernhard Samuelson, Bart., P.C., F.R.S., died at his residence, 56 Princes Gate, S.W., on the 10th May, 1905, in his eighty-fifth year.

The son of Mr. Samuel Henry Samuelson, merchant, of Liverpool, the subject of this notice was born on the 22nd November, 1820, and received a private education.

After spending 6 years in a merchant's office at Liverpool, he was entrusted with the continental contracts of Messrs. Sharp, Stewart and Company, of Manchester, his duties bringing him into contact with many prominent engineers.

Subsequently he embarked in private speculation, and with the capital thus amassed he acquired in 1848 an agricultural implement works at Banbury, which, from small beginnings, attained under his fostering care considerable dimensions and transformed that quiet market town into a busy industrial centre.

In 1853 he made the acquaintance of the late John Vaughan, one of the pioneers of the Cleveland iron-trade, the prospects of which so impressed Mr. Samuelson that he determined to participate in its development, and accordingly erected blast furnaces at South Bank near Eston. He carried on these works until 1863, when he disposed of them and built more extensive works at Newport, including the largest furnaces in the Cleveland district. To these works he added in succeeding years until in 1872 they were capable of producing 2,500 tons to 3,000 tons of pig-iron per week. For a description of the works read before this institution in 1871, Mr. Samuelson was awarded a Telford Medal and Premium.

In 1870 he began the erection of the Britannia Ironworks at Middlesbrough, covering 20 acres, for the manufacture of all kinds of finished iron on a large scale, for which the works were equipped with what was then the largest plant ever put into operation at one time. The property was subsequently transferred to a limited company.

About this time, Mr. Samuelson undertook an extensive and costly series of experiments in the unsuccessful endeavour to manufacture steel from Cleveland ore by the Siemens-Martin process. In this he fared no better than others who had tried to obtain steel from the Cleveland ore, but bis attempt, notwithstanding its failure, proved instructive to a degree, and of at least negative value to the iron-masters of the country.

During his long and busy career, Sir Bernhard Samuelson took an active and prominent part in public affairs. His parliamentary career began in 1859, when he was elected for Banbury in the Liberal interest.

In 1865 he was again returned for the same borough, which he continued to represent in Parliament until 1885, when, by the Redistribution Act of that year, it was merged in North Oxfordshire, for which division he was returned by a large majority and twice re-elected.

On his retirement from Parliament in 1895, he was made a member of the Privy Council. Sir Bernhard was a great advocate of technical education, and devoted his highest abilities to the advancement of the movement in this country.

In 1867, at the request of the Government, he visited the principal industrial centres of the United Kingdom and the Continent, and his report, published as a parliamentary paper, became a standard work of reference on the subject. He served on the Royal Commissions appointed to deal with Elementary Education and Scientific Instruction respectively; and was Chairman of the Royal Commission on Technical Instruction,

For his many public services, especially in connection with education, he received a baronetcy in 1884.

He served on the magisterial bench for Oxfordshire, and was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and of the Iron and Steel Institute, of which latter body he was one of the founders, serving subsequently on the Council, and as President in 1883-1885. To the local institutions of Middlesbrough and Banbury he extended constant and generous support, and as an employer he was considerately attentive to the needs and interests of his work people.

Sir Bernhard married in 1844, Caroline, daughter of Mr. Henry Blundell, of Hull. This lady died in 1886 and in 1889 he married Lelia, daughter of Chevalier Leon Serena and widow of Mr. W. Denny, of Dumbarton. His son, Mr. Henry Bernhard Samuelson, succeeds him in the baronetcy.

He was elected a Member of this Institution on the 4th May, 1869.

1905 Obituary [11]

The Right Hon. Sir BERNHARD SAMUELSON, Bart., died at his London residence on May 10, 1905, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. Born in November 1820, he was the son of Mr. S. H. Samuelson, a merchant, of Liverpool and Hull. He was educated at a private school kept by the Vicar of Skirlaugh, in Yorkshire, and served his apprenticeship in a general merchant's office in Liverpool from 1835 to 1841, and was then placed in charge of the Continental transactions of Sharp, Stewart, & Co., engineers, of Manchester. He established railway works in Tours in 1846, and subsequently became a manufacturer of agricultural implements at Banbury, having purchased a small factory which had been established in that town. He thus founded the Britannia Works, and transformed Banbury from an agricultural town to an industrial centre. At first he was his own manager, correspondent, and traveller. His wages bill for the first week was £32 for twenty-seven workmen, and in 1872 the works turned out the enormous number of 8000 reaping machines. At Middlesbrough he erected blast-furnaces in 1854, to which he added collieries and ironstone mines some eighteen years afterwards. He had for some time had thoughts of becoming more directly connected with the iron trade, and circumstances occurred in 1853 which brought that idea into operation. They occurred quite casually at the Cleveland Agricultural Show, where he met for the first time Mr. John Vaughan, one of the pioneers of the Cleveland iron trade, to whom he was introduced by Mr. Dockray, then the resident engineer of the London and North-Eastern Railway, and from Mr. Vaughan he heard an account of the position of the trade, and that gentleman's ideas of the prospects of the district. The results of his inquiries and observations was to determine him that the confidence expressed by Mr. Vaughan as to the future of the place was well founded, and before he left he had determined to participate in it, and arranged for the purchase of a site at South Bank for the erection of blast-furnaces. The site was within a mile of the works of Messrs. Bolckow and Vaughan at Eston, and it was arranged that that firm should supply the South Bank furnaces with ironstone from their Eston mines. At this time at South Bank, the scene of Sir Bernhard's initial efforts as an ironmaster, there were only a few tumble-down farm buildings. Here he erected two furnaces, each 50 feet in height by 14 in diameter at their widest part, and with a cubical capacity of 5050 feet. He carried on these works until the year 1863, when he disposed of them, and erected three furnaces within a short distance of Middlesbrough. These were larger, being 69 feet in height by 20 feet at their widest part. Two years previously Messrs. Bolckow & Vaughan had erected at Middlesbrough two furnaces 75 feet in height and 16 feet 6 inches in diameter. But Sir Bernhard had already formed ideas of his own regarding blast-furnaces, and these led him to doubt the advantage of great height and to look rather at increasing the cubical capacity. Accordingly he gave each of his furnaces a capacity of 15,500 feet, or nearly 3000 feet more than the next largest furnaces at that time built in Cleveland. A year later he erected a fourth and two years later a fifth. Four years later he added (1868) another furnace to his Newport works, and in 1870 and 1872 he built three more. Unitedly these furnaces were equal to the production of 2500 to 3000 tons of pig iron per week. In May 1871 Sir Bernhard brought them under the notice of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and, in the course of his paper, pointed out that whereas in three furnaces erected by him in 1854 for smelting the same ore, the quantity of fuel required to produce a single ton of pig iron varied from 30 to 40 cwt., and in the five furnaces erected in 1863-68 from 23 to 24 cwt., the coke consumed in the two new furnaces was only 20.35 cwt. He showed that this economy was due, first to greater capacity, augmented from 5000 cubic feet in the earlier furnaces to 16,000 in those next erected, and to 30,000 in the two built in 1870. In the next place a saving was due to the increased temperature at the tuyeres, the blast having been increased from 680° in the earlier to 1100° in the later furnaces ; and, lastly, he attributed the economy gained to increased regularity in working, the result of improvements in construction, all aiming at the greatest attainable solidity and simplicity. The entire cost of erecting these two later furnaces with accessory appliances was stated by him to be £53,331, 4s. 4d., exclusive of the price of the land.

In July 1870 Sir Bernhard embarked on his last and most important adventure in the construction of the Britannia Ironworks at Middlesbrough. The site selected was up to that time a waste marsh, and it had to be made available by covering it with slag. When completed the works covered twenty acres, and were fitted with what was then the largest plant ever put down at the time. The part known as the forge consisted of 120 puddling-furnaces, capable of producing 1200 to 1400 tons per week of puddled bars. About three years later the works were transferred to a limited liability company.

One of the most interesting incidents in Sir Bernhard's history as an ironmaster was his effort to solve a problem that was then agitating considerably the minds of the Cleveland masters—the manufacture of steel from the iron of that district. In his travels on the Continent Sir Bernhard had witnessed the operation of the Siemens-Martin process, and was taken with its effectiveness and simplicity, and could not see why it could not be applied to the Cleveland iron. In order to put this to the test he caused a quantity of iron, made at his Newport works from Cleveland ore, to be sent over to France, and his engineer went over to superintend the experiments. The results of these experiments appeared so successful that in 1869 he leased the North Yorkshire Ironworks at South Stockton, and, at a great expenditure of labour and capital, adapted them for the manufacture of steel on the Siemens-Martin system. In theory nothing could be simpler than this process, but in practice it was soon found to be full of difficulties, and Sir Bernhard found that when he came to apply it on a large scale the promise of the early experiments was not fulfilled. The Cleveland ore had beaten him, as it had beaten all others who had attacked it to the same end ; but Sir Bernhard was the first who had grappled with it on a large scale, and his failure was therefore of the greatest possible use to the iron world. It involved him a loss of between £25,000 and £30,000.

Sir Bernhard took an active part in the public affairs of Cleveland. He became identified with several of the local institutions of Cleveland, was a member of the Cleveland Institution of Engineers, of the Cleveland Ironmasters' Association, and of the Middlesbrough Chamber of Commerce. He was at one time President of the Cleveland Literary and Philosophical Society, and was a liberal contributor to local charities. In February 1859 he entered Parliament as Liberal member for Banbury, and represented that borough for many years. When Banbury was included by the Redistribution Act in the Northern Division of Oxfordshire, Sir Bernhard Samuelson was returned for the division ; and at the general election of 1892 he succeeded in retaining his seat by the comparatively small majority of 187 over the Conservative candidate, Mr. L. M. Wynne, who had been his opponent at the two previous elections. In 1895 he retired, and was succeeded in the representation of North Oxford by Mr. A. Brassey, a supporter of Lord Salisbury.

During his Parliamentary career, which extended over thirty years, Sir Bernhard was a firm supporter of Mr. Gladstone. He was chairman of the Royal Commission on Technical Education, and he made several journeys to the Continent to inquire into the system by which technical and practical training was given to the artisan classes in foreign countries. The subject was one in which he took a deep interest, and his knowledge of manufacturing industries in general was unsurpassed by that of any of his contemporaries. As might have been expected, therefore, the various reports which he submitted to the House of Commons are a mine of valuable information on many questions of the greatest importance to a manufacturing nation. For his services as chairman of the Technical Education Commission the Queen conferred upon him the honour of a baronetcy in 1884. At the dissolution in 1895, when Sir Bernhard retired from Parliament, he was created a Privy Councillor. His scientific attainments received the coveted recognition in his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1871 he was awarded the Telford Gold Medal for his paper on the improvements in iron manufacture to the Institute of Civil Engineers, of which he was a member. In 1878 France conferred upon him the Cross of the Order of the Legion of Honour. In 1878 he was a member of the Royal Commission on the Paris Exhibition, and in 1885 chairman of Jury B (Mining, Metallurgy, and Fuel) of the Inventions Exhibition. In 1886 he was chairman of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. He was the first President of the Association of Agricultural Engineers. He was a Justice of the Peace for Oxfordshire, and an Alderman of the County Council from the time of its first meeting in 1888. He was also the first Chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee, which office he held from 1889 to 1903, when the Education Act came into force.

In the Iron and Steel Institute he took special interest. One of the founders in 1869, he was a Member of Council from 1875 to 1876, Vice-President from 1877 to 1882, and President in 1883 to 1885. As Past-President he continued, by work on the Council and on committees, to devote his time and energies to the advancement of the objects for which the Institute was formed. He frequently took part in discussions at the Institute meetings, and, in addition to his Presidential Address, contributed to the Proceedings papers on the construction and cost of blast-furnaces in the Cleveland district in 1887, and on the Terni steelworks. From his Presidential Address one sentence which is typical of his life's work may be quoted: "It is to the mutual co-operation (in a scientific spirit) of every grade in our great craft that we may build up the hope, nay, that we may cherish the certain expectation, of placing it on even a higher eminence than that which it has already attained." Sir Bernhard was buried at Torquay, and a memorial service, which was largely attended by representatives of the iron industry, was also held at Middlesbrough. The resolution unanimously adopted by the Council of the Iron and Steel Institute, and endorsed by the members in general meeting, is printed on page 1 of this volume.

1905 Obituary [12]

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