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British Industrial History

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John Reynolds (1796-1847)

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John Reynolds (1796-1847)

Son of Joseph Reynolds

1848 Obituary [1]

Mr. John Reynolds was born in the year 1796, at the Ketley Iron Works, Shropshire, of which establishment his father, Mr. Joseph Reynolds, was the managing partner. He thus became, at an early age, familiar with the working of minerals, and the various processes of iron-making; he at the same time evinced considerable aptitude for mechanical combination, which was fostered by the spirit of investigation and enterprise that always distinguished the management of the Ketley Works, from their first establishment under the late Mr. Richard Reynolds.

At the age of sixteen, Mr. Reynolds was placed in the counting house of Messrs. Rathbone, of Liverpool, whence, in a few years, he was transferred to participate in the management of the Ketley Works, until they were given up in 1818.

He then became a partner in, and the manager of, the Carmarthen Tin Works, until after their removal to Aberayron, when he separated from the concern, and engaged in the erection of extensive iron works at Cwm Avon. In the prosecution of this undertaking, the peculiar characteristics of his mind were strikingly displayed, by the persevering courage with which he combated difficulties of no ordinary kind, and the skill with which he adapted his contrivances to the peculiarities of the situation. The failure of his plans developed other not less valuable traits of character; for as he bore all the trials and disappointments, incidental to a new undertaking, with hope and cheerfulness, so at last the unsuccessful result induced no despondency, and the strength and elasticity of his mind, enabled him to turn to the not less congenial pursuits of mechanical invention, and the improvement of manufacturing processes, several of which he had only been prevented from prosecuting by his ordinary occupations.

Among these may be mentioned, an ingeniously contrived rotary steam engine, and improvements in paddle-wheels. He also devised some modifications of the process of manufacturing salt; but the subject to which he devoted the greatest amount of attention, was the introduction of continuous longitudinal bearings for railways, and the rejection of stone blocks.

This subject he brought before the Institution on his election as an Associate in 1837; and the paper was subsequently published in the Transactions.

In the year 1834-5, the system of the angular base to the trough rail, suggested itself to him; but owing in some measure to the expense of the plan, as first designed, it was not carried to any great extent, although upon a portion of five miles in extent, on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, where it was tried, it answered his expectations, and was reported upon favourably by Mr. Sturge. The angular form has now been successfully adopted for cross sleepers, the continuous longitudinal bearing has been extensively employed, and the stone blocks are universally discarded.

Mr. Reynolds continued to interest himself actively in every new and great undertaking, in the mechanical world, up to the period of his decease, which occurred January 13, 1847, after an illness of only twenty-four hours.

He was a constant attendant at the Institution, and a contributor in every way to its benefit. His worth was as fully admitted by those who only met him in public, and judged of him from his evident talent, as by those who knew him in private, where he was justly esteemed and admired.

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