Tools & Trades History Society

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It's here! British Planemakers 4th Edition is published

4th edition of British Planemakers


The long awaited 4th edition of British Planemakers was released on 1 February 2020.

Perhaps the most significant change in the 4th edition is the change of title. This book could never have been written without Bill Goodman’s inspiration, energy and enthusiasm in producing the first two editions. Without Bill’s foresight, this book would never have seen the light of day. However, this new edition only bears a passing resemblance to the first two editions and so it has been felt that the time has come, although acknowledging its most important roots, to change the title to reflect the new form.  This new name change also reflects the other major change in that there are now four confirmed planemakers who were working in the late 1600s – three in London and one in Bristol – and more may be found in due course so the description “from 1700” no longer seems appropriate, and has been omitted.

Other significant new information includes a total of 2417 planemakers who have now been identified (there were 1325 makers in the 3rd edition) of whom 223 were working before 1800 (146 in the 3rd edition).

295 planemaker apprentices have been recorded, taken on by 102 masters (in the 3rd edition there were 121 apprentices under 51 masters). Some these records have shown that planemakers sometimes travelled far away from their home town to apprentice, such as Samuel Cox from Bristol who apprenticed to Williams Cogdell in London and then returned to Bristol to work, as did George Holbrook, who was apprenticed to William and  Jane Shepley in London, and then also returned to Bristol to work.

2497 makers marks have been identified, of which 2250 are illustrated with 241 marks recorded as text (2031 in the 3rd edition of which 1798 were illustrated with 242 recorded as text).

In addition, it has been established that, in general, planemakers moved around the country to a much greater extent than previously realised.

Several new family dynasties of planemakers have been identified, such as the Welsh family in Dundee and the Bayliss, the Davis and the Fellows families, all working in Birmingham.

The identification of the owners of some problem marks has been established, such as Sam Cox, now known to a have been working in Bristol from at least 1747 to 1774; John Spurr of Malton, working from at least 1760 to 1804  and Wheeler and Allin, now known to have been a partnership between John Wheeler of Thatcham and John Allen, who was apprenticed to William Wheeler.

The re-emergence of the Gabriel ledger some years ago, and the subject of the book Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trades in 18th century London, written by Jane & Mark Rees in 1997, has allowed the entry for Gabriel to be greatly enlarged and Mark Rees’ researches into the Preston family have allowed the full story of the demise of that firm to be recorded. The mystery surrounding the two Robert Towells, father and son, has been unravelled with help from his descendants.

The connection between Christopher Gabriel and John Griffiths, long suspected but never before confirmed has now been proved and a connection between Robert Bloxham, David Whitmore and Thomas Morse has solved the mystery of planes with fully rounded toes – all actually made by Robert Bloxham.

It is being published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD USA. The estimated cost will be $59.95 / £ 39.95 and it will also be issued as an eBook shortly after publication of the hardback edition. Details can be found on the Rownam & Littlefield website at's-British-Planemakers-Fourth-Edition#

Distribution in the UK will be handled by PGUK. Contact details are as follows:


Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 1105

Distribution in Australia and New Zealand will be handled by Footprint. Phone 1300 260 090; Fax 02 9997 3185; Website: