Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Maria Carter née Ronalds

Maria's sketch made using Sir Francis' perspective drawing instrument. Courtesy IET

Quarry Hill in Battle, East Sussex

Sir Francis Ronalds' fifth and youngest sister Maria (1804-1880) married his friend Samuel Carter (1805-1878), a solicitor who played a key role in the development of the British rail network. He advised two major corporations (Midland Railway and London & North Western Railway) for almost 40 years.

Samuel had grown up in an influential Coventry family. His uncle John Carter was town clerk for many years - he was apparently the model for the character Mr Hawley, "who was afraid of nobody", in George Eliot's Middlemarch. Samuel was briefly the MP for Coventry and funded an art school and a library for the city.

Maria and Samuel retired to a property called Quarry Hill, sited where William the Conqueror's forces gathered in preparation for the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Sir Francis lived his last years very close by in the village of Battle and was buried in the cemetery there.

Samuel was one of Sir Francis' strongest supporters. He provided business advice on his inventions and, after his death, shaped his collection of electrical books into the renowned "Ronalds Library". Maria and Samuel's children also strove over many years for greater recognition of Sir Francis' accomplishments and their son Hugh Carter (1837-1903) painted his portrait.


Further Information

Samuel Carter (2018)
- published in the Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography

The Ronalds-Carter Family in 19th-Century Battle (2018)
- published by the Battle and District Historical Society

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Samuel Carter's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Samuel and Maria's son Hugh Carter's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography

Image of Samuel Carter negotiating the acquisition of a railway company - based on a painting by Hugh Carter