Friday 11 October 1991

John Wallis Titt


Further to yesterday's blog, in which we quoted passages about John Wallis Titt, from Kenneth Major's Rolt Memorial Lecture 1990, as published in the Industrial Archaeology Review, we feature some biographical notes here on the great J.W.T. himself:
Like his fellow Warminster resident John Hall, John Wallis Titt was a pioneer of the Tariff Reform Movement. Titt and Hall were also associated together in the founding of the Free Trade League as it was originally called.

John Wallis Titt was born at Chitterne on 14th May 1841, the second son of Mr John W. Titt, a farmer, whose wife was formerly a Miss Wallis. The farm at Chitterne featured a windmill with four sails, used for milling, and Titt often had to rise from his bed at night to see to it. The experience gained from tending to this old windmill probably prompted his manufacture of an improved wind engine when he later founded his agricultural implement making, iron founding and waterworks business at Woodcock, Warminster.

Titt left Chitterne when he was 25, to work as a commercial traveller with Messrs. Wallis and Steevens, the steam roller manufacturers of Basingstoke. He subsequently worked for Brown and May, the celebrated portable steam engine makers of Devizes.

He came to Warminster in 1872 and established himself at Portway, making hay and straw elevators, and dealing in mowing and reaping machinery.

Three years later he moved to Woodcock, Warminster, and in 1876 he secured a contract with the War Office to pump water from the river Wylye at Codford to the troop camps at Lamb Down and Yarnbury Castle.

Another contract was made in 1884 with Sir Edmund Fane to supply water to the Boyton Estate. Further contracts followed, both at home and abroad, for wind engines and water pumps, including Southern Italy, Siberia, and one in the market place at Khartoum. The largest was for the Italian Government at Margherita di Savoia, with a wind engine that raised sea water and distributed it to vapourising beds for the production of salt.

John Wallis Titt retired from his business in 1903, owing to ill health, and spent the rest of his life as an invalid. He died on 5th May 1910, at his home, Rock Villa, at Boreham Road, Warminster, a stone's throw away from St John's Church, where he was at one time a chapelwarden.

Notes by Danny Howell.
Photograph Copyright Danny Howell Photographic Archive.