Walter Taylor (engineer)

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Walter Taylor (1734–1803)[1] of Southampton, supplied wooden rigging blocks to the Royal Navy,[1] greatly improving their quality[1][2] via technological innovations which were a significant step forward in the Industrial Revolution.[1]

From the age of 19,[1] Taylor served as an apprentice to a block maker in Southampton.[1] His father (also named Walter) had previously served at sea and had observed the problems caused by these blocks, which were traditionally handmade.[1]

On acquiring the blockmaking business, Taylor and his father developed machinery to mass-produce the rigging blocks,[1] repeatedly and to an exact specification.[1] Subsequent developments led to the date stamping of blocks, and a commitment to replace any that failed.[1]

Taylor subsequently established a sawmill on a stream that runs through what is now Mayfield Park in Southampton.[1] In 1781,[1] he moved to Woodmill, Swaythling, Southampton where there was a better supply of water and room to power some of the equipment by steam engines.[1]

Taylor was sole supplier of blocks to the Royal Navy from 1759,[1] supplying 100,000 blocks a year,[1] until his death and succession by Marc Isambard Brunel's more advanced machinery[1] in 1803.

Taylor died in 1803, and was interred at South Stoneham church on 8 May.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Southampton. An Illustrated History. Adrian Rance. 1986. ISBN 0-903852-95-0. pp95-97
  2. ^ Pannell, John Percival Masterman (1967). "Nelson's Boffins - the Taylors of Woodmill". Old Southampton Shores, Newton Abbott. David and Charles. pp. 51–71. ASIN B0000CNGOE. 
  3. ^ Daniel Lancaster. "A discourse occasioned by the death of the late Walter Taylor, Esq., of Portswood: Preached at South Stoneham Church on the 8th of May, 1803". Amazon. Retrieved 10 November 2009.