Thomas Brassey

Stacey International
Year: 2005 Pages: 36 Hardback ISBN: 1905299095 ISBN-13: 9781905299096

Thomas Brassey is the most unsung of Victorian heroes, “a rare and truly monumental original”, in the view of Tom Stacey, his great-great-grandson, in this elegant monograph composed — as if for the enlightenment of Brassey’s descendants — in celebration of the bi-centenary of his birth on 7 November, 2005.

Brassey was and remains by any measure the greatest railway-builder in the world, employing on average 80,000 men throughout three decades, on a dozen or so projects in up to four continents. His navvies adored him. In his lifetime, the world’s vastest bridges, longest tunnels, loftiest viaducts, and most distant lines were all his.

A yeoman farmer’s son from Cheshire, Thomas Brassey was the supreme “exemplar of the work ethic and daring and undaunted enterprise of high Victorian England, stamping the consciousness of the world with the English marque of quality; of the will to surmount every obstacle to the righteous intent; and of the Englishman’s word as binding.”

After many a vicissitude, he left one of the largest Victorian fortunes. Of his three sons, one resided at Kent’s finest mid-century mansion, Preston Hall, whose “ornamentation and mediaeval fancy the snooty Pevsner, blind to the romance of neo-Gothic… described as ‘repellent in the extreme’.” Another son restored the interior of Heythrop Park to the apogee of mid-Victorian splendour, while a third, his heir Tom, built his dream house, Normanhurst, on the site of the Battle of Hastings.

Written with penetration, scholarship and verve, this illustrated monograph sets Brassey’s achievements in the context of Britain’s expanding worldwide role in the 19th century, and rediscovers this unsung colossus of the Victorian era who surely deserves to be as famous and honoured as his friend and occasional colleague, I. K. Brunel.

One thought on “Thomas Brassey

  1. Ron Broomfield

    Thomas is my Hero.
    I was born Nr Cholmondely, Malpas 3 miles distant from Bulkeley. I spent my working life as a C.Eng , Overhead Line Equipment engineer on BR.and of course that involved electrifying some of the lines that Thomas Brassey had built 150years earlier. The crossing of the fen to south of Peterboro on ECML proving particularly difficult .
    So as a Malpas parish man I feel quite privileged to have been involved..
    I recall talking to a Miss Brassey at Larkton many years ago. She was friendly with my grandmother who lived nearby. I recall her saying the Brasseys were still friendly with the Peto’s. I do not know how she was related to Thomas but she moved to Peckforton late in her long life. It is quite astounding that there has never been a documentary of Thomas’s life on TV and that 2005 passed without a mention of his bicentenary
    .What would he have thought of the Hs2 program and progress.?

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