BRAMHAM, James (d.1786), military engineer. Autograph letter signed to ‘the Marquis of Grandby, Master General of his Majesty’s Ordnance’ [John Manners], 2 sides 4to in a neat hand, London, 31st May 1766, acknowledging receipt “of your Lordship’s and the honourable Board’s Commands to set out for Scotland on my Return from Lyme” Bramham seeks to be excused from the Command on the grounds of poor health, knowing it requires “to travel the Hills on Horseback between the different Forts, and a good deal of this in the Fall of the Year, in general very rainy there and often accompanied with driving Winds, which I find myself entirely incapable of performing.” He goes on to ask if Grandby and the Board might appoint some other person “fit, in point of health” to undertake the duty of Engineer to direct the works in Scotland. In closing, Bramham writes that if they are unable to appoint another person in his place “the uncertain State of my Health lays me under the hard Necessity of requesting leave to retire upon Ten Shillings a Day”.
James Bramham’s birth and upbringing is unknown, but his career from 1740 to 1786 is well documented in his capacity as a military engineer. In the 1740s he undertook work as a draughtsman and surveyor in Gibraltar and Scotland, followed by work in Newfoundland, the West Coast of Africa, Jersey, and Milford Haven in the 1750s. In the 1760s he was Chief Engineer in the Expedition to capture of the Belle Isle, and in 1764 was supervising repairs to the Cobb at Lyme Regis, alluded to briefly in this letter. He was later to become Lieutenant Governor of Royal Military Academy (1776-1781) and was in 1781 appointed Chief Engineer of Great Britain, a position he occupied until his death on 11 November 1786.
John Manners marquess of Granby (1721–1770) was an accomplished army officer and politician. Amongst actions in the field, he served in the Seven Years' War (1754- 1763) as overall commander of the British troops on the battlefield. He became Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance in 1759, and Master-General of the Ordnance in 1763, and a couple of months after this letter was written was appointed Commander-in-Chief of British Forces on 13 August 1766.