Sarah Guppy

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Sarah Guppy
Born Sarah Maria Beach
1770
Birmingham, England
Died 24 August 1852 (aged 81/82)
Clifton, Bristol, England
Nationality English
Spouse(s)
  • Samuel Guppy, m.1795, d.1830
  • Richard Eyre Coote, m. 1837
Children Six children, including Thomas Richard, Grace and Sarah
Engineering career
Discipline Inventor
Projects Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge
Significant design A tea or coffee urn that also cooked eggs, the fire hood, a candlestick that made candles burn longer
Significant advance Improvements in ship caulking and barnacle prevention

Sarah Guppy, née Beach (1770 – 24 August 1852) was an English inventor who contributed to the design of Britain's infrastructure including the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, and developed several domestic products.[1][2]

Early history and inventions[edit]

Sarah Maria Beach was born in Birmingham, England, and baptised in November 1770. She married Samuel Guppy in 1795. In 1811 she patented the first of her inventions, a method of making safe piling for bridges. Thomas Telford asked her for permission to use her patented design for suspension bridge foundations, and she granted it to him free of charge.[3] As a friend of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his family she became involved in the Great Western Railway, writing to the directors with ideas and giving her support. In 1841 she wrote a letter recommending planting willows and poplars to stabilise embankments. She continued to offer technical advice despite the fact that, as she wrote, "it is unpleasant to speak of oneself—it may seem boastful particularly in a woman."[4]

Patents and publications[edit]

Cover of Dialogues for Children, 1800

The family took out 10 patents in the first half of the nineteenth century, including a method of keeping ships free of barnacles that led to a government contract worth £40,000. Other inventions included a bed with built-in exercise equipment, a device for a tea or coffee urn which would cook eggs in the steam as well as having a small dish to keep toast warm and a device for "improvements in caulking ships, boats and other vessels." In later life she wrote The Cottagers and Labourers Friend and Dialogues for Children, invented the fire hood or Cook’s Comforter, and patented a new type of candlestick that enabled candles to burn longer.[5][6]

Marriage and family[edit]

After marrying Bristol merchant Samuel Guppy they lived in Queen Square and Prince Street,[7] a leading light of the Bristol and Clifton social scene. The couple had six children, including Thomas Richard, Grace and Sarah. Although Thomas Richard went into the family’s sugar refining business, he later became an engineer and was an associate of Brunel, contributing significantly to the design of SS Great Western and SS Great Britain. Brunel painted a portrait of the younger Sarah Guppy c. 1836.[8]

Later life[edit]

In 1837 the widowed Sarah, now 67, married Richard Eyre Coote, 28 years her junior. For a while they lived at Arnos Court, Brislington, but Richard ran through his rich wife's money at a rapid rate, spending on horses and neglecting her. Sarah moved into 7 Richmond Hill, Clifton in 1842. She bought the land opposite the house for the benefit of Clifton residents and it still remains green space.[9]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Dresser, Madge (April 2016). "Guppy , Sarah (bap. 1770, d. 1852". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/109112. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  2. ^ Cork, Tristan (May 27, 2016). "Recognition at last for the mum-of-six who designed Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge - not Brunel". Bristol Post. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Rendell, Mike. "Sarah Guppy, Eclectic English Inventor". Amazing women in History. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  4. ^ PRO RAIL 1014/8/7
  5. ^ One Hundred Key Facts on the Bristol City – region and Science
  6. ^ Plaque #932 – Open Plaques
  7. ^ Bristol Record Office BCC/F/E/3285, BCC/F/E/3140
  8. ^ Brunel: 'In Love with the Impossible' ISBN 978-0955074202
  9. ^ BBC – Bristol – Entertainment – Shows of strength