The Engineering Tophams

Ovid Topham (1780-1848), George Topham (1812-1869), George Ovid Topham (1838-1907)

On 13 August 1811, Maria Burchatt married Ovid Topham in the church of St Marylebone. Maria was an aunt of Henry Hatch Reffell and there was an association at that time between the Reffell, Burchatt & Topham families that lasted for several generations.

Ovid Topham, his sons and grandson were engineers at a time when technology was rapidly advancing enabling a change from a rural economy when Ovid was born, to an industrialised society and global empire. The family lived in Montpellier House at 157 White Cross Street in St Luke’s, near Cripplegate. Ovid had married Elizabeth Goodrich in the Manchester Cathedral in 1803 and there was one daughter; Julia (1807). Second wife Maria had five children; George(1812), Charles (1814), Jemima (1816), Harriett (1821) and Alfred(1826). Both George and Charles joined their father in a company called Ovid Topham & Sons, which lasted until it was wound-up in 1851 after their fathers death, at which time it was employing 28 men in Islington. All the debts from the company were taken on by Charles alone. Ovid was buried in the church of St John Upper Holloway and subsequently his body was taken from the vaults in 1860.

A number of patents were taken out by Ovid during his lifetime, including the following;

  • for certain improvements in dressing, starching, cleaning, and drying lace, or net, known by the trade by the term of getting up lace or net. 1835
  • of certain improvements in the construction of sluice cocks for water-works applicable to steam, gas, and other purposes. 1837
  • for improvements in engines, machines, apparatus, or means for extinguishing or stopping the progress of fire in any room or part of different buildings, which may have become ignited, consequently preserving them from destruction, and preventing the loss of life. 1841

After his father’s death, George moved to Topham House in Islington carrying on with engineering. He married Ann Painter in 1832 and they had three children; Harriett (1833), Jane Maria (1835) and George Ovid (1838). George Ovid moved to 138 Maida Vale where he lived with his aunt Jemima, and in 1871 two children of Henry Hatch Reffell, Mary Ann and Susan Matilda were also there.

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, George Ovid also took out a number of interesting patents;

  • new or improved apparatus or means of preventing injury to persons learning to skate on ice or rinks. 1876
  • improvements in suspending seats, couches, and berths on shipboard, for the prevention of sea sickness. 1877

George Ovid married Mary Joyce late in life during 1893, he was 55 and she was 32, and they moved to Wembley. Like his uncle Charles before him there were no children to carry on the name or engineering heritage.