Brassey was born 7 November 1805 at Buerton in Cheshire, and died at Hastings on 8 December 1870. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Brassey, a farming family whose ancestors had arrived in England with William the Conquerer. Brassey's formal education in a Chester school ended at the age of sixteen, when he was articled to a land surveying and agency firm. By the age of twenty-one he had been made a partner and sent to establish a new branch at Birkenhead. At the same time he was acquiring experience in road building and amassing substantial assets, including a quarry. While arranging the supply of quarry materials, he met the engineer and inventor George Stephenson. This stimulated Brassey's interest in railway building. After several unsuccessful tenders, he was awarded the tender for the Penkridge viaduct near Stafford. His reputation was already high, and he received financial backing from a major financial institution. Still in his twenties, he concentrated at first on railway projects in Britain. In 1841 he successfully tendered for the Paris-Rouen railway and his career as ‘railway builder to the world’ was launched.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.