The Galton Family

DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS

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Many of the guns used by British troops during the Napoleonic Wars were manufactured in Birmingham by the Galton family.

The Galtons grew wealthy from the gun trade, but as the war with France intensified, their commercial prosperity set them on a collision course with the pacifist Quaker Society to which the family belonged.

When William Pitt declared war on France on a rainy night in February 1793, one of the first things the government needed was a good supply of guns. Over the next twentytwo years, until the final relief of Waterloo, these were supplied by Birmingham makers, including three generations of the Galton family, grandfather, father and son – Samuel, Samuel and Samuel.

The Galtons’ firm was in Steelhouse Lane, near John Kettle’s cementation furnaces, in an area where the back gardens of elegant Georgian houses had now become a maze of workshops. Samuel Galton senior (1720-1799) had entered the gun trade in the 1750s, making barrels and locks in the company run by his father-in-law, James Farmer.

When Farmer’s firm nearly crashed after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, Galton bought him out, taking on a stream of government contracts. His son, Samuel Galton junior (1753-1832) – Samuel John to his family – joined the company at seventeen and when he was twenty-one his father put £10,000 into his business account and made him manager at Steelhouse Lane.

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