Salmon, Robert (DNB00)

SALMON, ROBERT (1763–1821), inventor, youngest son of William Salmon, carpenter and builder, was born at Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire in 1763. At an early age he entered the service of an attorney named Grey, residing near Leicester Fields, who aided him in his education. He soon displayed remarkable mechanical ability, and, being fond of music, made for himself a violin and other musical instruments.

A few years later he obtained the appointment of clerk of works under Henry Holland (1746?–1806) [q. v.], and was engaged in the rebuilding of Carlton House. In 1790 he was employed under Holland at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, and, attracting the notice of Francis Russell, fifth duke of Bedford [q. v.], became in 1794 the duke's resident architect and mechanist. In this capacity he effected many reforms in the management of the property. He designed the home farm at Woburn, the Swan Inn at Bedford, and many buildings and farmhouses on the Russell estates, all of which were models in their way. His services in the improvement of agricultural implements proved of the highest importance, and his numerous inventions attracted much attention when exhibited at the annual sheep-shearings at Woburn. In 1797 the Society of Arts awarded him thirty guineas for a chaff-cutting engine, which was the parent of all modern chaffcutters. In 1801 Salmon exhibited his ‘Bedfordshire Drill,’ which became the model for all succeeding drills. In 1803 he showed a plough, where the slade was replaced by a skew wheel, as in Pirie's modern double-furrow plough. In 1804 he brought out an excellent ‘scuffler,’ or cultivator, and two years later he exhibited a self-raking reaping machine, which was described in 1808 in ‘Bell's Weekly Messenger,’ and which embodied all the principles of the modern self-raker, introduced nearly sixty years later. In 1814 Salmon patented the first haymaking machine, to which modern improvement has added nothing but new details. He received at various times silver medals from the Society of Arts for surgical instruments, a canal lock, a weighing machine, a humane mantrap, and a system of earthwalls. John Russell, sixth duke of Bedford, father of Lord John Russell [q. v.], conferred on him the stewardship of his Chenies estate, that he might improve the system of plantation. He paid great attention to the proper method of pruning forest trees, for which he invented an apparatus, and made numerous experiments to determine the best method of seasoning timber.

Salmon continued his duties at Woburn until September 1821, when failing health caused him to resign his offices and retire to Lambeth. He died, however, within a month, while on a visit to Woburn, on 6 Oct. 1821, and was buried two days later in Woburn Church, where the sixth Duke of Bedford placed a tablet commemorating his ‘unwearied zeal and disinterested integrity.’

Salmon was the author of ‘An Analysis of the General Construction of Trusses,’ 1807, 8vo. He also contributed several papers to the ‘Transactions’ of the Society of Arts.

[Ann. Biography and Obituary, 1822, pp. 487–490; Clarke's Agriculture and the House of Russell, 1891, p. 10; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, p. 305; Reuss's Register of Living Authors, 1790–1803, ii. 291; Woodcroft's Alphabetical List of Patentees, p. 498; Journal Royal Agricult. Soc. 1891, p. 132 and 1892, p. 250.]

E. I. C.