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Reynolds, Richard (1735-1816) (DNB00)

REYNOLDS, RICHARD (1735–1816), quaker-philanthropist, only son of Richard Reynolds (d. 1769), an iron merchant of Bristol, by his wife, Jane Dunn or Doane, was born at Bristol on 1 (or 12) Nov. 1735. He was great-grandson of Michael Reynolds of Farringdon, Berkshire, one of the earliest converts to quakerism, an account of whose ‘Sufferings’ is published in ‘The Antient Testimony of the Primitive Christians,’ 4to, 1860.

After being educated by Thomas Bennett at Pickwick, Wiltshire, Reynolds was apprenticed to William Fry, a grocer in Bristol, in 1749. On the expiration of his apprenticeship in 1756, he became a partner in the large ironworks at Ketley in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, of Abraham Darby [q. v.], whose daughter Mary he married at Shrewsbury on 20 May 1757. She died suddenly on 24 May 1762, leaving two children. Subsequently, upon the death of his father-in-law, and during the minority of his brothers-in-law, Reynolds assumed the charge of the extensive works at Coalbrookdale, then the most important of the kind in England. Reynolds's energy and business capacity did much to develop and extend them. Under his direction the cylinders of most of the early steam-engines were cast there, and the first rotative engine made by Boulton & Watt was ordered by Reynolds for a corn-mill at Ketley. He is said to have been the first to use cast iron instead of wood for the rails or tram-plates of colliery railways. In 1766 a patent for refining iron was taken out under his auspices by Thomas and Robert Cranage, the latter of whom was a workman at Coalbrookdale. The process has been regarded by some as being in part an anticipation of Cort's discovery of making wrought iron by puddling. Reynolds saw its importance, and it seems to have been practically carried out at Coalbrookdale (notes kindly supplied by Mr. R. B. Prosser; Percy, Iron and Steel, p. 636; Smiles, Industrial Biography, 1863, p. 87). In 1768 he resigned the post of active manager, but remained associated with the concern, and greatly improved the works in the interests of his workpeople. In 1785 he joined in forming the United Chamber of Manufacturers of Great Britain, and himself represented the iron trade. In 1788 he obtained an act for the construction of a canal from the works to the river Severn. About 1789 he retired from business, having amassed a large fortune. A description of his home at Coalbrookdale in 1790 is given in Mrs. Schimmelpenninck's ‘Autobiography’ (edit. 1858, pp. 193–5). He had already purchased the neighbouring manor of Madeley, but in April 1804 he settled in Bristol. Determining to ‘be his own executor,’ he devoted himself thenceforth to dispensing charity unostentatiously and through private almoners, but on a very large scale. It is computed that he usually gave away at least 10,000l. a year, besides giving 10,500l. to trustees to invest in lands in Monmouthshire for the benefit of seven Bristol charities. In 1795, a year of much distress, he distributed 18,000l. in London. Among his personal friends were James Watt, Jonas Hanway, Dr. John Fothergill, John Howard, Mrs. Sarah Trimmer, Josiah Wedgwood, the Fletchers of Madeley, James Montgomery, and William Roscoe, M.P. He died while on a visit to Cheltenham for his health on 10 Sept. 1816, and was buried at the Friars, Bristol, on the 17th. Verses to his memory, ‘The Death of the Righteous, the Memory of the Just, and a Good Man's Monument,’ were published by James Montgomery (3rd ed. London, 1817, 8vo), and by William Roscoe (Works, London, 1857, p. 93). Montgomery's lines were inscribed to the Reynolds Commemoration Society, formed 2 Oct. 1816 to commemorate and develop the benefits that Reynolds had conferred upon Bristol and its vicinity. By his first wife Reynolds had a daughter, Hannah Mary, who married, in 1786, William Rathbone of Liverpool; and a son William (see below). By his second wife, Rebecca Gulson of Coventry, who predeceased him, he had three sons, Michael, Richard, and Joseph, who succeeded him in the ironworks.

A fine portrait of Reynolds is in the possession of Mr. W. G. Norris of Coalbrookdale (reproduced in ‘Hardware Trade Journal,’ 30 Sept. 1895, p. 100). Another portrait, drawn by William Hobday, is in the possession of J. B. Braithwaite, esq., of London. It was engraved by Sharp, and dedicated to the prince regent. A third portrait, by S. Bellin, was engraved for the memoir by Reynolds's granddaughter, Hannah Mary Rathbone [q. v.] A bust, by S. Percy, was also engraved by Meyer (European Mag. February 1817).

William Reynolds (1758–1803), eldest son of the above, was born at Ketley on 14 April 1758. He was associated with his father in the management of the works and collieries of Ketley and the neighbourhood. He was the inventor of a method of raising canal boats from one level to another by means of inclined planes, which subsequently came into general use. The first plane was constructed on the Ketley canal in 1788, and is described and illustrated by Telford in a chapter contributed by him to Plymley's ‘Report on the Agriculture of Shropshire,’ published by the board of agriculture in 1803. In conjunction with Telford, he constructed a cast-iron aqueduct for carrying the Shrewsbury canal across the river Tern at Longden, which is also described by Telford. In 1799 Reynolds obtained a patent (No. 2363) for preparing iron for conversion into steel by the use of manganese. It was of no practical importance at the time, but it was put in evidence during the proceedings in the great patent trial of Heath v. Unwin in 1842 and following years. Reynolds died at the Tuckeys, near Broseley, Shropshire, on 3 June 1803, and was buried at Coalbrookdale. His portrait was painted by Hobday, engraved by Sharp, and reproduced in the ‘Hardware Trade Journal,’ 30 Sept. 1895.

[Speech of the Rev. W. Thorp at Bristol Commem. Soc. with memorandum and anecdotes, &c., 1816; Excitements to Beneficence held out … in the Character of R. Reynolds, &c., with portrait, London, 1817; Letters and Memoir by H. M. Rathbone; Life of Reynolds, by M. P. Hack, London, 1896; Friends' Biogr. Cat. p. 504; Gent. Mag. 1852, ii. 580–5; Friends' Quarterly Examiner, x. 551–555; Smith's Cat. ii. 478; European Mag. February 1817, p. 91; Montgomery's Life by Holland and Everett, iii. 75, 105–7; Elegy on the Death of R. Reynolds (by Hannah Young of Milverton), London, 1818, 8vo; Sonnet in the Ladies' Monthly Museum, v. 55; Annual Monitor, 1817, p. 24; and art. Darby, Abraham.]

C. F. S.