John Brown (industrialist)
- This article is about the British industrialist; for other people named John Brown, see John Brown (disambiguation)
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Brown, Sir John.|
Brown was the son of a Fargate slater and was educated in the Portobello area of Sheffield at Robert Thompson's School. While there he met Mary Schofield, a daughter of a local auctioneer who was a year older than he was and whom he would later marry. He finished his studies at Mr. Wilkinson's School in Broomhall. Upon leaving school at 14 years old his father wanted him to become a linen draper, Brown however wanted to enter the emerging Sheffield steel industry and accepted an apprenticeship at Earl, Horton & Co earning six shillings a week. In 1837 Brown was offered a share in the firm by the senior partner Mr. Earl but was unable to accept it because of lack of finances. Nonetheless he did take over the company's factoring business with the help of a loan for £500 thanks to the backing of his father and uncle and for several years travelled the country selling goods.
He started his own company John Brown & company in 1844 manufacturing Steel at a small foundry on a site at what is the now Orchard Square Shopping centre. The business prospered so well that he sold his factoring firm and moved to larger premises on Furnival Street. In 1848 Brown invented the conical steel spring buffer for railway carriages which he sold to the London and North Western Railway as well as other railways throughout the UK. On 1 January 1856 Brown opened his new Atlas Works in Brightside in an effort to centralise his workshops and workforce in one place, the works originally were on a 3-acre (12,000 m2) site but within three years had grown to 30 acres (120,000 m2). By 1859 Brown was producing rails for the quickly expanding railway industry using the Bessemer process.
In 1860 Brown turned his thoughts to the production of armour plate when he saw the French battleship La Gloire while on holiday in Toulon in the south of France. On discovering that the armour on the ship was made by hammering he returned to Sheffield and built a rolling mill and submitted examples of rolled armour plate to the Royal Navy. Tests on the armour at Portsmouth in 1862 were so successful that by 1867 75% of Royal Navy ships had Brown's armour plate on them. The success of his armour business made Brown a personal and professional fortune, in 1864 his Atlas Works were converted into a limited liability company with a capital of £1,000,000.
In 1861 and 1862 Brown was elected Mayor of Sheffield and was Master Cutler in 1865 and 1866. In 1867 Brown received a knighthood for his services to British Industry. In 1865 he had Endcliffe Hall built as his private residence, this was and still is the largest private house ever built in Sheffield.
In 1902 Sheffield steelmakers John Brown & Company exchanged shares and came to a working agreement with neighbouring company Thomas Firth & Sons, the companies continuing under their own management until they finally merged in 1930 Forming Firth Brown Ltd.
John Brown started several new business ventures, all of which failed, and he died, impoverished, in 1896, at the age of 80.
- "Aspects of Sheffield 1", Melvyn Jones (Editor), ISBN 1-871647-40-1, Chapter “Endcliffe Hall: A Gentleman Industrialist Residence” by Julie Goddard Gives biography of Brown.
- "The Making of Modern Yorkshire", J.S. Fletcher (Google Books) Gives biographical details.
- SIR JOHN BROWN from THE MAKING OF SHEFFIELD 1865 -1914 by J H STAINTON Gives details of architecture.[dead link]
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- John Brown & Company - In 1899, the company John Brown created purchased a shipyard on the River Clyde, and went on to become one of the most famous shipbuilders of the 20th century.