Sir Bernhard SAMUELSON (1820–1905)
Industrialist and educationist
Banbury Library (formerly the Mechanics Institute), Banbury
Bernhard Samuelson was born into a London merchant family and brought up in Hull. He entered his father’s office at fourteen, was apprenticed to a Swiss merchant firm in Liverpool and became involved in the export of engineering machinery to the continent. After becoming a manager for Sharp, Stewart & Co. of Manchester, he spent much time abroad.
In 1848 he purchased a small factory manufacturing agricultural implements in Banbury and by 1872 the works were producing an annual turnover of 8000 reaping-machines. This business helped to convert Banbury from a market town into an industrial centre. Meanwhile Samuelson’s interest had extended to iron foundries. He erected blast furnaces at Middlesborough and Newport and by 1905 the output of iron, tar and by-products was colossal.
He was a considerate employer of labour and played a part in developing Middlesborough and Cleveland and their institutions but his greatest contribution in civic affairs was in Banbury. He represented the Banbury area in parliament almost continuously from 1865–1895. In the House of Commons he gave expert advice on industrial questions and was well known for his advocacy of technical instruction and scientific training, writing papers and chairing committees on the subject. He also chaired committees on patents and railways and was a member of the royal commission for the Paris Exhibition of 1878. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1881. In 1884 he presented a technical institute to Banbury. At the opening by A. J. Mundella in July 1884, it was announced that a baronetcy had been conferred on Samuelson for his services to the education of the people.
He died in London in 1905 and was buried at Torre Cemetery, Torquay.
- Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- Picture: Banbury Library with plaque
The plaque was unveiled at Banbury Library (formerly the Mechanics Institute), Marlborough Road, Banbury on 30 April 2002 by Hugo Brunner, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
SAMUELSON M.P. F.R.S.
Industrialist & Educationist
Provider of this Building for
The Mechanics’ Institute
Banbury Civic Society