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Emperor of Brazil

Newspaper report on the Emperor and Empress of Brazil in Sheffield by Pril Rishbeth

First published in the November 2020 edition of the Edge Magazine

Following my 2-part article on the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Brazil to William Bragge at Shirle Hill featured in the Edge, Nov. 2019 and Feb. 2020, new information has come to light. William Bragge’s brother’s letter about the visit mentioned a reporter who had approached the servant Yates, offering him a guinea for news. This brother wrote that Yates didn’t get the guinea as he knew nothing. However I now have a copy of an article from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated August 9th 1871, the day following the visit, headed ‘The Emperor and Empress of Brazil in Sheffield.’ From this it is clear that he was not exactly travelling incognito as I’d previously believed!

It is an extremely lengthy and florid piece finishing with just a few sentences:- ‘His Imperial Majesty also spent some time in examining the fine collection of ancient books, the museum of pipes, and the numerous works of art in Mr Bragge’s house at Shirle Hill, and gave special attention to the minutest details of the household arrangements. Today their Imperial Highnesses will visit Chatsworth.’

They’d had a busy schedule before the visit to Shirle Hill. Even before breakfast (!), apparently early risers due to the hot midday sun in Brazil, the Emperor and Empress, together with two ladies of the Imperial Court, visited one rail making department (presumably John Brown’s where William Bragge was managing director) where ‘two rolling mills turn out 1,000 tons of Bessemer steel rails per week.’ There is a wonderful description of the Bessemer process with the Converter being pictured as a monster ‘roaring

like the four winds and breathing forth a flaming tempest’ and ‘pouring out a large ladle of some 10 tons of liquid steel, dazzling as melted gold.’ The whole process within the works is described in marvellous literary detail, ending in ‘the smooth and polished society of perfected armour plate.’

Next, ‘Their Majesties paid a visit to the fine Cutlery Works of Messrs. Rodgers and Co., and made some purchases there; after which they breakfasted at their hotel.’ In the afternoon Mr. Bragge took them to see the great Crucible Steel Works of Messrs. Vickers, Sons and Co., Brightside. From there they meant to view the works of Messrs. Thomas Firth and Sons but, ‘the exhausting effects of the excessive heat began to tell on the Royal Party, and this part of the programme was reluctantly given up.’ They were pleased to move on to the Botanical Gardens. Here the Emperor offered to send to the ‘esteemed curator’ any plants from Rio de Janeiro he might wish. Only then did the party go on to Shirle Hill, and were no doubt pleased to get refreshments!

The early part of the article is taken up with praise for the Emperor and Sheffield. It says that the Emperor is ‘a Power among Princes’. ‘Among the Crowned Rulers of the World there is none who more fully comes up to the ideal of what the chief man and leader of a rising nation should be.’ As a man interested in the sanitary well-being of great cities, ‘he desired to see that memorial of error and monument of warning, the Bradfield Dam.’ As one ‘familiar with the engineering science’, he wanted to visit some of the largest engineering works, England being known as the ‘Workshop of the World’. There is a list of wares branded ‘Sheffield’ and a long list of countries to which they are sent, finishing with how ‘Enlightened Humanity is helped to its bread and butter with Sheffield knives.’

I reckon it’s good that Sir John Brown with his managing director William Bragge and George Wostenholm all lived in Nether Edge!

Written by Pril Rishbeth

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