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The Reyrolle Story: One - Introducing Alphonse Constant Reyrolle

Beginning his history of one of Britain's most famous engineering firms, A Reyrolle & Co Ltd, Robert Owen introduces us to the man who founded the business, Frenchman Alphonse Reyrolle.

The Reyrolle Story will appear in weekly episodes in Open Writing on forthcoming Fridays.

Robert Owen served his engineering apprenticeship with Reyrolles.

Correze is a beautiful area of central France, which borders the Dordognes. Nestling between the undulating hills and medieval villages, is the small town of Juillac. It was here on 5th October 1864 that Alphonse Constant Reyrolle was born to parents Martial and Marie Faye. His birth certificate indicated that his father was a twenty-nine year old merchant. Alphonse had a younger brother named Gustave and an older sister named Eleonore Marguerite.

France was a country in turmoil during Alphonse's childhood, and it is likely that the French Revolution caused his family to move and his father to join the army. As a six-year-old, he recalls his father, now a soldier, taking him to the outskirts of Paris during the famous siege of 1870.

Alphonse's mother Marie-Faye, died during his early childhood. His father re-married and the new union gave Alphonse a half-brother named Lucien and a half-sister called Helen.

Very little is known about Alphonse's education and training. He did not have a university degree, so it must be assumed that he received practical workshop training during his teenage years and studied part-time for some vocational qualification. It was not uncommon for continental students to come to England to finish their training and this is what Alphonse did in 1883.


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