John Taylor- the forgotten hero of Norwich

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I have wandered around the web amongst the many pages devoted to Cornish mining and have found many mentions of John Taylor. I have hunted, and hunted the pages covering Norwich history, and found not a mention.


I have wanderd the streets of Tavistock in Devon and stumbled across several references to him. And yet my friends have explored the streets and museums of Norwich and never found a trace.

Here was a financial genius  who developed what was at one time the biggest copper mine in the world, a civil engineer who built some amazing industrial complexes, a scientific expert who influenced some of the great advances in steam engine development, who is not recognised in his home town. Check out the various website lists of famous Norwich figures and you will find footballers, pie makers and hymne writes; not a mention of Mr. Taylor


Copyright Ordnance Survey

John Taylor was born at  75 Gildengate , now St. George’s Colegate, in Norwich. On 22nd August 1779. Nearby is the Octagon chapel founded by his Great Grandfather.


Image from Wikipedia

He came from a closely knit dissenting family, whose Unitarian beliefs underpinned much of his future success. He was brought up with a ethos of maintaining close control financial matters and a strong sense of honesty. These traits influenced all is business operations, traits that were rarely found in the shady world of Victorian Cornish mining.

His mother had an active interest in his education. John was given private tutoring, followed by a local day school. On completion of schooling he was apprenticed as a land surveyor and civil engineer. Valuable skills that he utilised to transform many a mine.

Another Norwich influence that played a major part in Taylor’s success was the longstanding family friendship with the Martineau, a family who were also Unitarians. The Martineu’s were more prosperous then Taylor’s. Their interests included brewing, banking and sugar refining. Importantly for this story they also owned shares in Wheal Friendship, a copper mine on the western fringe of Dartmoor.

The Matinue’s do have many mentions within the pages of Norwich’s history. A society even exists dedicated to their political legacy. Yet again however, John Taylor is absent from the story. I could not even find a mention of Wheal Friendship.


Taylor was unique as a successful outsider in the Cornish Mining industry. A ‘wise man from the east’ who knew the industry better than those brought up amidst the engine houses and waste tips. His success was influenced by his up bringing in Norwich, and yet the town appears to ignore him.

So, if you are an engineer, historian,  or any other proud resident of the Norfolk town please consider doing your bit to raise his profile. Do not let the Cornish and Devonians claim all the credit for his work. Share this post if you agree.

3 thoughts on “John Taylor- the forgotten hero of Norwich

  1. Pingback: 1838-William West’s Double beat valve and the scourge of cholera | navsbooks

  2. Pingback: John Taylor, Mining genius- An index of posts | navsbooks

  3. Pingback: Samuel Grose- A great source of family history | navsbooks

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