Charles Burrell and Sons were very much a family business with several operations involved at all levels. in this outline of the family’s history only these directly involved in the company are mentioned. The family tree provides a more complete picture of the family. As it has so far been impossible to prove the actual founder of the company, our history begins with the three Burrell Brothers; Joseph, born in 1758, William, born in 1766 and James, born in 1769. By the early 19th Century the three brothers were in business as agricultural engineers advertising a range of machinery including drill roles, dressing engines, drill machines, threshing machines and chaff engines. In 1803, all the brothers were married. Joseph married Mary Pooley and James married Elizabeth Pryke at a double wedding ceremony in December. William married Catherine Howard in the same year. William Burrell died in 1822 and Joseph died in 1831, leaving James to continue the business.
James and Elizabeth had five children, two of whom, James born 1804 and Charles, born in 1817, went into the manufacturing of agricultural machinery. James senior died in 1837 at the age of 68 and it would appear from newspaper advertisements of the period that his sons James and Charles were competing for business. Charles, however, already an accomplished engineer at the age of 20, assumed control of the family firm. His brother James appeared to have made several unsuccessful attempts to make a going concern of his agricultural engineering and iron founding business.
The Charles Burrell Museum is housed in Burrells [Museum] original paint shop and tells the story of the Charles Burrell Works – Charles Burrell was a Thetford business that once employed 350 plus people and supplied beautiful and reliable steam-powered engines throughout the UK and the world. We are now running solely from donations and support from the Trustees and Volunteers. Burrells built traction engines, agricultural machinery, steam trucks wagons and tram engines and were thriving until the internal combustion engine took over from steam power.
Charles Burrell Museum Thetford displays include fine engines and agricultural machinery alongside recreations of parts of the original works such as the foundry and the machine shop. The Charles Burrell engines included: Queen Mary Engine – Queen Mary was built in 1920, her reg is No BR 1498 – 8NHP Double Crank Compound Showmans Road Locomotive, Her working pressure is 200psi, cylinder bores 6″ * 11.5 x 12″, The diameter of her wheels are Front- 4’11”, rear 6’6″, Her original colours are painted Lake and Yellow, The overall length of the engine was 22’3″ and the width across the rear wheels was 8’81”, The engine can cover between 12 and 16 miles between water stops, The engine was completed on 03/05/1920. The Burrell Traction Engine, The Charles Burrell Roller Engine.