What of the companies? I have found myself exploring some of the earliest machines, but also the economics that drove people to make them. I have come across names and, as always seems to be the case, connections. Here are just some examples: the number of engineers in the Stevenson family, the generations of Maudslays, and, more generally, the prevalence of families.
One fascinating source is the catalogue to the Great Exhibition, copies of which are in many libraries but which is also available on line. This revealed a connection with the Stokes Mortar, which was invented by the managing director of the Ipswich engineers, Ransomes, who had exhibited the equipment they were making for the railway companies. For Lincoln dwellers there is an entry for Clayton, Shuttleworth & Co with an oscillating steam-engine but with ‘arrangements simple and compact, suitable for working corn mills, sawing machinery etc
My great grandfather was secretary to the committee of Surgical Instrument makers and he managed the business of J Weiss Co at 62, The Strand. He was presented with a catalogue, the cover of which has been preserved.
My next book, How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World seeks to tell this remarkable story.