Chief Railway Engineer of the West CornwallRailway
William was born in Dalkeith, Scotland, in 1777, where he studied watch and clock-making in his father's shop, and learnt engineering with his grandfather (another William Brunton), then worked in the fitting shops of the New Lanark cotton mills. He moved south to Birmingham in 1796, and there made acquaintance with, and worked alongside, many famous names, such as Boulton, Watt, and Thomas Telford. He married in Birmingham in 1810.
Later in his life, William worked in London, and erected copper smelting furnaces and rollings mills in Glamorganshire, Wales, though most of his life savings were lost as a result of a failed investment in a brewery at Neath, Scotland. His most famous inventions were refinements of engineering equipment, and included a calciner design which was used extensively in Cornwall, and he made a huge contribution to the development of steam engine technology for use on ferries and ships. William was also the Engineer engaged to construct the Redruth and Chacewater 4ft-gauge mineral railway, begun in 1824 and in operation until the decline of mining in the area in 1915. Models of his suggestions for ventilation in coal mining were displayed at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1850.
William died while staying with his son, also called William, in Camborne, who, along with his brothers, would go on to become well-known engineers themselves: William jnr was born in 1817 and became the Chief Engineer on the West Cornwall Railway.