Outram, Benjamin (1764-1805) (DNB00)

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OUTRAM, BENJAMIN (1764–1805), civil engineer, the eldest son of Joseph Outram (1732–1810) of Alfreton, Derbyshire, by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Hodgkinson, was born on 1 April 1764, and named after Benjamin Franklin, who was a friend of his father. He was educated as a civil engineer, projected the aqueduct over the Mersey at Chapel-en-le-Frith, and was constantly employed in the construction of roads and canals. But his chief title to remembrance is his instrumentality in introducing iron railways for colliery traffic. The lines hitherto used had generally been constructed of wood. Outram greatly improved the material and the method of laying, and it has frequently been asserted both that he invented tramways and that the term ‘tram’ was derived from his name. But it is certain that the word was used long before his time, both for a plank-road in a mine and for the wagons used upon such a road in the collieries. Hence the term was readily applied to the planks or rails, to the line itself, and also, elliptically, to the vehicle running along the rails (see Surtees Soc. xxxviii. 37, where the word 'tram' occurs in a will dated 1655. It appears to be identical with the old Swedish 'tram,' a log or beam; cf. Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ii. 225, 356, 498; Skeat, Etymological Dict. 1884). About 1800 Outram founded the extensive Butterley ironworks in Derbyshire, but he died suddenly in London, on 22 May 1805, before the large outlay made upon the undertaking (which passed to Messrs. Jessopp & Co.) had proved remunerative. By his wife Margaret, only surviving daughter of James Anderson (1739-1808) [q. v.], whom he married on 4 June 1800, he left five children: Francis, Anna, James [q. v.], the celebrated general, Margaret, and Elizabeth. A fine-looking, high-spirited man, of a generous temper and restless energy which could ill brook either stupidity or opposition, Outram possessed many of the characteristics which were inherited by his more famous son.

[Goldsmid's Life of James Outram, 1880; Barker's Peerage and Baronetage; Smiles's Life of Stephenson, p. 69; Wood's Practical Treatise on Railways; Glover's Hist. and Gazetteer of the County of Derby, ii. 200; Brand's History of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ii. 681 n.; Whitney's Century Dictionary, s.v, 'Tram.']

T. S.