Reynolds, Richard

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b. 1 November 1735 Bristol, England
d. 10 September 1816 Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
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English ironmaster who invented iron rails.
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Reynolds was born into a Quaker family, his father being an iron merchant and a considerable customer for the products of the Darbys (see Abraham Darby) of Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. After education at a Quaker boarding school in Pickwick, Wiltshire, Reynolds was apprenticed to William Fry, a grocer of Bristol, from whom he would have learned business methods. The year before the expiry of his apprenticeship in 1757, Reynolds was being sent on business errands to Coalbrookdale. In that year he met and married Hannah Darby, the daughter of Abraham Darby II. At the same time, he acquired a half-share in the Ketley ironworks, established not long before, in 1755. There he supervised not only the furnaces at Ketley and Horsehay and the foundry, but also the extension of the railway, linking this site to Coalbrookdale itself.
On the death of Abraham Darby II in 1763, Reynolds took charge of the whole works during the minority of Abraham Darby III. During this period, the most notable development was the introduction by the Cranage brothers of a new way of converting pig-iron to wrought iron, a process patented in 1766 that used coal in a reverberatory furnace. This, with other processes for the same purpose, remained in use until superseded by the puddling process patented by Henry Cort in 1783 and 1784. Reynolds's most important innovation was the introduction of cast-iron rails in 1767 on the railway around Coalbrookdale. A useful network had been in operation for some time with wooden rails, but these wore out quickly and were expensive to maintain. Reynolds's iron rails were an immediate improvement, and some 20 miles (32 km) were laid within a short time. In 1768 Abraham Darby III was able to assume control of the Coalbrookdale works, but Reynolds had been extending his own interest in other ironworks and various other concerns, earning himself considerable wealth. When Darby was oppressed with loan repayments, Reynolds bought the Manor of Madely, which made him Landlord of the Coalbrookdale Company; by 1780 he was virtually banker to the company.
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Further Reading
H.M.Rathbone, 1852, Letters of Richard Reynolds with a Memoir of his Life, London.
A.Raistrick, 1989, Dynasty of Iron Founders, 2nd edn, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (contains many details of Reynolds's life).
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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