British Community and Family History
Extracts from Contemporary Englishman's Unpublished Autobiography
John Norton, from whose Mss. autobiography the following extracts have been made, was an early mechanical engineer whose qualifications were gained by trial and error rather than through book knowledge and scientific theory. Born in Birmingham on the 26th November 1801, of what was in those days described as «superior working class» parents, his day schooling ended when he was about 9 years old. Thereafter he worked in local foundries where buttons, brass cocks for tea urns, and similar «Brummagem-ware» was produced, his wages ranging from 3/6 to 7/ - a week, this latter sum not being reached until he was 14. To detail his youthful adventures in full would be interesting but reasons of space compel condensation.
He ran away from Birmingham, joined the navy, and spent some time at St. Helena. There he was one of a working party sent to carry out a small job at Longwood, where he saw Napoleon. Norton's account of the island and of Ascension, which he also visited, is full, accurate, and interesting. The artless description of his homecoming and paying-off is also notable, as good as a page out of Marryat! At the age of 17 he returned to civil life and brass-foundry work, but trade was slack, he went to London and there enlisted in the Honble, East India Company's Artillery, sailing aboard the «Thomas Coutts», East Indiaman, in November 1819. ...
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