A post by Tom Elliott-Aston, work experience student.
In Special Collections I took some time to look through our collection on Gilbert Blount, a man who spent a considerable amount of time working under Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this university’s namesake. Blount was an architect who worked extensively for Catholic churches. Due in no small part to his father’s networking he managed to find a way into a job with the Thames Tunnel Company. There is much evidence of the nepotism that Blount used to get his job with Brunel, in many of Blount’s father’s letters. Blount Sr. urged his contacts personally to employ him. As Blount Sr. writes to Benjamin Hawes:
“I feel confident that you will befriend the young man if possible. Mr Brunel, I am very certain, will not find any one to look after the Works who would follow his instructions more implicitly than my son.”
As he writes to his son:
“My belief is that both Mr Hawes and Mr Allen wish to serve you and that they are not at all inclined to be ruled by Mr Brunel”
This provides fascinating insight into the world of business in the 1840s, it indicates that the old Hollywood adage “It’s not what you know but WHO you know” was incredibly prevalent.
The Blount collection includes many letters from the time and a bevy of work related material pertaining to the civil engineers of the age. You can find out more about the collection on our website.