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A Victorian Engineer
William Ellis Metford (1824 - 1899)

Walking past the church recently, I met David Minshull looking for the grave of William Ellis Metford (which I showed him on the Woodstock Road side of the church).

William Ellis Metford was the eldest son of William Metford, M.D., of Flook House, Taunton. He was apprenticed to one of Brunel's resident engineers on the construction of the railway between Bristol and Exeter Railway from 1841 to 1846. After marrying a daughter of his father's old college friend Dr. Wallis of Bristol, he obtained a job on the East Indian Railway. He and his wife arrived in India in 1857 just as the Mutiny broke out. His health broke down and they returned to England in spring 1858 where he lived for the rest of his life upon his private means.

From 1852 Metford spent much effort and time in experiments and designs for rifles and their ammunition. From 1871 to 1894 the Metford rifle only four times failed to win the Duke of Cambridge's prize of the National Rife Association. Many features of the 1883 Lee-Enfield .303 magazine rifle that became standard British Army issue were due to Metford. All the bullets used in his match and military rifles were made in his house (Redland Villa) in Elm Lane. He died there in 1899 aged 75. His biographer says, “though devoted chiefly to scientific pursuits, .. he was above all a God-fearing man".

Metford Road across the Green appears to have been given its name in the 1930's because of the ownership of the land by Baron Cottesloe who was a keen rifleman and a 'disciple' of Metford.

You can read a fuller biography of William Metford on David's web-site - www.lrml.org

Sun 16 May 2010