Nicholas Holman

Engineer and entrepreneur from Camborne

6th August, 1862
Buried at:  
Roskear churchyard

Nicholas Holman was born in 1778 in Camborne, and married his wife Ann (born in nearby Illogan) in 1802 at Illogan Church. Nicholas started a company making boilers in 1801, in Pool, near Camborne, and it is here where Richard Trevithick's famous Puffing Devil was assembled later that year. Nicholas Holman expanded his business to include a foundry in nearby Camborne, 2 miles to the west, in 1838. The quality and range of products Nicholas Holman's company made must have met with approval in the local mining industry - then a major employer across the west of Cornwall - and the good reputation of the products allowed the business to continue to expand. Many additional manufacturing sites were added over the next century and more, though few traces of these once major sources of employment now remain. The remains of Rock Drill Factory No. 3 near to the railway station gives an insight in to the scale of the influence of this company on the town.

A remarkable fact about the company that Nicholas Holman founded is that it remained within the family for over 150 years: Nicholas bought his four sons - Nicholas, William, John and James - in to the business, and after Nicholas passed away in Illogan in 1862, his son John created the company Holman Brothers, in which many of the succeeding generations of family were involved. The company produced air compressors, pumping and winding engines, and - most famously - the Cornish Rock Drill, which used the innovation of spraying water on to the drill tip to reduce dust and provide cooling. Provision of equipment for the mining industry, both in Cornwall and further afield ensured that the company expanded steadily; it was a dominant source of employment in Camborne; in 1961, it employed 2500 people.

Nicholas Holman was pre-deceased by his wife, Ann, who passed away in 1856. Together they created a dynasty of engineers that created much employment and wealth in and around Camborne over the next 150 years. The name of the family lives on in various ways in the town: Nicholas Holman Road is a relatively new addition, being located just opposite where one of the factories once stood; and a gated housing development, Holman Park, named for the Georgian Manor House on the site, which was originally called Rosewarne, but was renamed when Holman family restored the house in 1911, and subsequently used it as company offices.


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