Stephen Ballard, engineer  1804-1890

Stephen Ballard

Stephen Ballard was born on 5th April 1804 at Ivy House in Malvern Link. His father Philip was a Herefordshire man who married Charlotte Baylis, who came from a well-known Ledbury family, on 27 January 1795 in Ledbury. He had an elder brother, Thomas who was an artist and painted the Last Supper for Ledbury Parish Church altar. There were also three other brothers and three sisters. He was educated at Worcester Grammar School and started work in horticulture at the age of 18 but decided to become apprentice to a Cheltenham builder, Henry Lucy, and began work there in May 1825. In August 1827 he applied for and was appointed Clerk to the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Navigation Company. They allowed him to gain experience by accepting extra duties and for a year he worked for the engineer Thomas Rhodes recording river flows and surveying for the Severn Navigation Company. With this experience, he became an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1836 at the age of 32.

He received the Telford Medal from the Institution for his invention of an ice-breaker which was first launched from the Ledbury Wharf on 20th December 1837.

He lived with his brother Robert, who had a brickworks in Ledbury on the site of Ledbury Preserves factory, in Bye Street from the time when he was appointed to the canal company but when his brother married in February 1839 he moved to a house in the South Parade in Ledbury. Soon after his appointment by the canal company, he put forward plans to make a start on the Ledbury to Hereford section. The management of the company, which included Earl Somers of Eastnor, Major-General Sir James Kyrle Money, John and Robert Biddulph of Ledbury Park, Thomas Ballard, Hubert Edy and Thomas Baylis, were by this stage looking for a route that would be capable of conversion to a railway! Excavation began in November 1839 and the water-filled canal reached Hereford in May 1845 to almost complete lack of interest from Herefordians. That same day, 22nd May, Stephen Ballard left to take up a two-year post as Resident Engineer on a drainage scheme in the Fens.

He had an offer of supervision of railway construction work in Canada in 1852 but he had settled in Colwall and was planning matrimony. He married Maria Bird who came from Yaxley near Peterborough in June 1854 and in 1858 they settled in Colwall at ‘The Winnings’ farm. (His elder brother, Thomas, had a daughter Charlotte and, about 13 years later, she married a George Bird). Stephen and Maria had nine children the last, Ernest, being born in 1870. 1

When the Hereford to Worcester railway line was to be constructed Stephen Ballard was apponted engineer for the line. The Hereford to Worcester railway line Act passed in 1853 and work started 1854. Three stations were built between Hereford and Ledbury. The middle of these was built at Tarrington, although it was called Stoke Edith Station. The Ledbury to Colwall section was completed in April 1861 and the tunnel through the Malvern the following year. The line was operated by the West Midland railway.

One of his last works was to construct in 1884 a carriage drive along the west side of the Malvern Hills. It was completed in October 1887 in Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year. Named ‘Jubilee Drive’ it was built on The Winnings Estate land by his employees using pick and shovel!

The Ballard Grave

Stephen Ballard died in December 1890 aged 86 and he and his wife and a number of his family members are buried in a private burial ground set in fields over the railway tunnel on The Winnings farm land.

The Ballard Grave