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 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 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.

Stephen Ballard (1804-1890)

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Stephen Ballard (1804-1890)

Engineer of Colwall, Great Malvern.

1837 Stephen Ballard of Ledbury, Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

For more information on Ballard's life and work, see 'The Hereford and Gloucester Canal' by David Bick.[1]

1891 Obituary [2]

STEPHEN BALLARD was born on the 5th of April, 1804, at Malvern Link. His father, Mr. Phillip Ballard, was a solicitor.

After the usual term of schooling, which in that day was not of a wide range, his tastes led him to the congenial occupation of a nurseryman, and for some years he was with Messrs. Lee and Kennedy, of Hammersmith.

Leaving this calling, he determined to learn building, and apprenticed himself for three years to Mr. Lucy, of Cheltenham, who afterwards worked for Mr. Ballard when the latter had become a large employer of labour.

He then became, through the influence of Mr. Biddulph, the grandfather of Mr. M. Biddulph, M.P., manager, and afterwards engineer, of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal, and carried out the extensions of the same between Ledbury and Hereford.

On the completion of that work Mr. Ballard was appointed Resident Engineer by Messrs. Walker & Burges of the Middle Level Main Drain. This work was carried out under his supervision from the Ouse to the junction with the sixteen-foot river at Upwell.

It was when this was on the point of completion that he was introduced to Mr. Brassey, whom he met accidentally at the Cambridge railway station. Mr. Brassey, who had contracted for the making of the Great Northern Railway between London and Peterborough, was returning to London from a visit of inspection to the country through which the line was to pass - a portion of the land being a 'quaking bog.' On consulting one of his trusted agents as to this difficulty, the agent said, 'Ask Mr. Ballard; he has had considerable experience in the Fens.' Mr. Ballard became Mr. Brassey’s principal agent for carrying out the works of the Huntingdon district, extending from Biggleswade to Peterborough, upon which section occurred by far the most difficult part of the line, the railway traversing the Fen country.

The method adopted by him was to build up gradually a kind of solid raft, formed of alternate layers of faggots and peat sods, the effect being to displace the water, but to leave the solid parts behind. Great stress was laid by Mr. Ballard on the necessity, in all such cases, of proceeding slowly, adding the weight little by little, so as to allow the water time to escape.

In 1851 he went to India to inspect the country for a line of railway ; but his stay was confined to a few months, the climate not agreeing with him.

In 1852, in conjunction with Mr. Brassey, Mr. Ballard undertook the construction of two sections of the Dutch Rhenish Railway between Utrecht and Rotterdam and between Arnheim and the Prussian frontier. A great portion of the line - between Utrecht and Rotterdam - was over peat similar to that of the Fen district of the Great Northern Railway, and was successfully executed by Mr. Ballard in the manner there adopted.

His next work was the Worcester and Hereford Railway. His efforts to promote this undertaking exhibited him in an unusual light. In the early days of railways, the companies had to contend with the greed of landowners, and fabulous sums were often demanded for land of little value. When Mr. Ballard was applied to for a part of his land, which was required for the line, his answer was, 'Take it at your own price'; and to those who feared that his generosity might be to their pecuniary disadvantage, he declared that so sure was he of the benefit that would ultimately accrue to all by its construction, that he would not hesitate to make a present of his land rather than that the project should not be carried out.

The Ashchurch and Evesham Railway next engaged Mr. Ballard's labour, in 1862, and in 1864 the Evesham and Redditch line, both of which made heavy demands on his strength and patience without corresponding profit. But it was a principle with Mr. Ballard first to discharge his obligations, not allowing the risk of loss to interfere with his sense of honour.

His last undertaking was the extension of the Midland Railway from Bedford to London, which was commenced in 1865.

Perhaps no employer was ever regarded with m re real respect and affection by his workmen. They felt that their master was a friend in whom they could place implicit trust. Numbers of the old employees mould from time to time call at Mr. Ballard's house, The Winnings, some in less prosperous circumstances than aforetime, but many who had attained positions of ease and comfort by their industry and sobriety. They never called without receiving a hearty greeting, and thoughtful help when help was needed.

A pleasing incident illustrative of this reciprocity of kindly feeling transpired only recently. Mr. Ballard took with him to Holland, in 1852, a number of workmen. One of them was offered a permanent situation on the completion of the railway, which he accepted. After the lapse of thirty-eight years the man made a journey from Holland to Colwall to see his old master. This is but a solitary instance of the cementing influence which a generous and true-hearted employer exercised on material not the most easily wrought upon.

He purchased and settled on the appropriately-named Winnings estate about forty years ago, erecting his own and several other handsome residences upon it. His model farm buildings have been copied in many places. The village and neighbourhood of Colwall has undergone a variety of improvements through Mr. Ballard's instrumentality. Ten years ago he built a Workmen's Hall and Temperance Hotel, and he has carried on a successful vinegar manufactory. The 'Jubilee Drive,' which is a fine road along the upper side of the Malvern Hill, a welcome alternative to the old highway at the base of it, will long be associated with his memory. He was not only the prime mover in this enterprise and the largest subscriber, but gave a considerable portion of the land, and superintended the whole of the work.

One incident, characteristic of his nature, may be mentioned here. It became necessary to banish a number of starlings, which had fixed their nests about the mansion, at The Winnings. Mr. Ballard built a bird-house for them in the grounds, and so suitably did it meet their tastes that they removed to it of their own accord.

Four Papers from his pen have appeared in the Minutes of Proceedings, and not many weeks before his death he brought out a second edition of his pamphlet on 'Cheap Railways,' in which he advocated the construction of light lines in many places where the ordinary heavy system would not be profitable. This idea is bearing good fruit in Ireland.

He was a geologist, and was very fond of botany, and a horticultural show has been regularly held on one of his meadows. At the model farm-buildings he presided every autumn over one of the most enjoyable 'harvest homes' that could be conceived. In consequence of his serious illness, last autumn passed by without the usual festivities.

He died on the 14th of November, 1890, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. According to his expressed desire, he was interred in a steined grave made on the top of a high mound formed with the soil from the boring of the Malvern railway tunnel. This tump is about 300 yards from The Winnings residence, and approached by a road known as 'Ballard‘s Drive,' leading to the Malvern Hills. A few yards from the grave is the third ventilating shaft of the railway tunnel. It is almost exactly in the centre of the estate, near to the field in which the flower shows have taken place, and in view of handsome plantations of trees, in the culture of which Mr. Ballard took such delight.

Mr. Ballard was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 14th of March, 1837, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 17th of February, 1846.

1890 Obituary [3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'The Hereford and Gloucester Canal' by David Bick, The Oakwood Press, 2003. Chapter 10 is devoted to Ballard's life and work
  2. 1891 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. The Engineer 1890/12/12