Brunton, William 1777 - 1851

Brunton, William (1777–1851), engineer, was the eldest of three sons of Robert Brunton. He studied mechanics in his father's watch and clock making shop and engineering under his grandfather, who was a local colliery viewer. From 1790 he worked in the fitting shops of the New Lanark cotton mills. He then obtained employment in 1796 at Soho works of Boulton and Watt, eventually becoming foreman and superintendent of the engine factory. After leaving Soho works Brunton joined William Jessop's Butterley works in Derbyshire, which specialized in the production of castings

At Butterley he invented a walking machine called the ‘mechanical traveller’ or ‘steam horse’ (patent 3700), which he built in 1813, and which worked at the Newbottle colliery, Co. Durham. The machine used metal stem powered legs to push itself forward. On 31 July 1815, after receiving a new boiler, this machine exploded because of the driver's carelessness, and unfortunately several people were killed and many injured.

In 1815 Brunton became a partner and engineering manager in the firm of Francis, Smith, Dearman, and Brunton (the Eagle Foundry) of Broad Street, Birmingham. This company manufactured various metal products. c 1825 Brunton moved to London, where he practised as a civil engineer. On leaving London in 1835 Brunton took a share in the Cwmafan tin works, Glamorgan, where he designed and erected copper smelting furnaces and rolling mills at the foot of the Foel Mountain. He then became connected with the Maesteg ironworks and also with the Vale of Neath brewery in 1838; but by 1847 the latter had failed and his life savings were lost.

Brunton was an early member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and developed a number of original methods of reducing ore and manufacturing metals (1841, patent 9135; 1842, patent 9351) and the machinery for the processes. He played an important part in the introduction of steam navigation by making some of the original engines for craft on the Humber and Trent, and some of the earliest on the Mersey. He fitted out the Sir Francis Drake at Plymouth in 1824, the first steamer to take a man-of-war in tow. Brunton died at Camborne, on 5 October 1851.