The Thomas Brassey Society has unveiled a new interpretation panel outside Chester railway station. It celebrates the life and achievements of Chester’s unsung hero, Thomas Brassey who died 150 years ago on 8 December 1870. Brassey was a railway contractor who went on to build one third of the railways including stations and viaducts, in this country and went on to then build 1 in 20 miles of the world’s railways during the 19th Century. He also constructed other major works including sewage systems, docks and embankments.
The panel, which was unveiled last week was funded by the Thomas Brassey Society with the aid of a donation from the Tyrer Charitable Trust. Its design and installation is the result of a close collaboration with Cheshire West and Chester Council, Network Rail and Transport for Wales. The Thomas Brassey Society is open to all those who have an interest in Victorian engineering, railways and associated projects. The aims of the Society are to promote Thomas’s achievements through talks, publicity campaigns and other means.
On behalf of the Brassey family of today Rowena Feilden (ne Brassey) said: “how delighted we are that the Brassey Society is doing so much to promote our ancestor’s great achievements”.
Pete Waterman, OBE, record producer, railway enthusiast and Patron of the Thomas Brassey Society said: “At last a man that helped build a modern world gets the recognition he so rightly deserves.”
Brassey was born at Buerton, Aldford a few miles south of Chester in 1805. His career began as a trainee surveyor on Thomas Telford’s Shrewsbury to Holyhead road through North Wales. He learned a lot about civil engineering, became a quarry manager on the Wirral and then set up his own business as a railway contractor. This coincided with the start of ‘railway mania’, and Brassey was at the forefront, building one third of all the railways in this country during his lifetime.
Thomas Brassey’s enterprising business was not confined to Great Britain. He quite literally built railways all over the world, on almost every continent, and at the height of his career he employed an estimated 80,000 men in his global workforce.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “We are always pleased to support community initiatives and special interest groups, especially when attention is being drawn to one of Chester’s most famous sons.
“Thomas Brassey was indeed a remarkable man; a civil engineer and entrepreneur who deserves to be as well-known as Brunel, Stephenson and other great figures of the Victorian age. He built Chester Station in less than two years and it is now one of the city’s most important Listed buildings.”
The Thomas Brassey Society was inaugurated a year ago although some of its members have been lifelong Brassey enthusiasts. Chairman, Stephen Langtree, added: “This is by no means the end of our ambitions. There are statues of Stephenson, Brunel, Gresley and Locke around the country and we think Brassey deserves his own bronze sculpture here in Chester. Our fundraising campaign will start in earnest next month.”
For more information about the Thomas Brassey Society visit: www.thomasbrasseysociety.org