Bramah Press

Bramah Press Kelham Island Museum

The Bramah Press is a hydraulic pressing machine made by Joseph Bramah and Co, London in the early 1800s.

Joseph Bramah was a brilliant engineer and inventor and the hydraulic press was his most famous invention. Presses were used for jobs such as flattening or compressing paper, cloth and steel and before the Bramah press, most were wooden.

He was born in 1749 and lived with his family at Stainborough Lane Farm near Barnsley in South Yorkshire where he served as an apprentice to the village carpenter for seven years. At the time, most machinery was made of wood, and Joseph later used his woodworking skills to become an engineer. After moving to London in 1773, he set up his own business and began a long career in inventions. He patented the hydraulic press in 1795.

The Bramah Press was first in use in the Tower of London from 1806 to 1874. It was probably used there for keeping paper flat. The press then went to Woolwich Arsenal from 1874 to 1894. It was used there for pressing maps.

After 1894, this press was taken to the Ordnance Survey at Leatherhead in Surrey. When the Ordnance Survey was evacuated to Chessington in Surrey during the Second World War, the Bramah press went with them. The press remained at Chessington in working order until 1966.