Charles Bisset (1717-1791)
Charles Bisset was a physician and military engineer. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and in 1740 was a surgeon at the Military Hospital in Jamaica serving in Admiral Vernon’s fleet. He returned to England in 1745 and was an Ensign in the 42nd Highlanders a year later. He was responsible for preparing a report on the progress of the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom, a town now in the south of Holland that was being attacked by the French during the wars of Austrian Succession, a siege which ended with the massacre of the holding garrison.
Charles became an ‘Engineer Extraordinary’ in the Engineer Brigade and later practiced medicine in Skelton, Yorkshire. He published several works on fortifications and medical subjects.
James Bisset (1762 – 1832)
James Bisset was born in Perth, the son of a merchant who had fallen upon hard times. Initially educated at Perth Academy he moved to Birmingham when he was 13 to join his older brother who had more success as a merchant. By age 15 he became an apprentice japanner (a technique of ornate painting on a black enamel base) and later painter of miniatures. He was very successful and was able to move up the social scale and marry the daughter of a local landowner.
Bisset’s business expanded into medal making and art dealing and he was able to move to a large house on Birmingham’s New Street, establishing the cities first art gallery. The gallery had a number of celebrity patrons including Lord Nelson. After selling two valuable Canaletto paintings he was able to move to Leamington Spa.
Bisset was a notable figure in Birmingham’s cultural and commercial life, a prominent member of the Birmingham Book Club and a composer of verse His most notable work is his 1800 Poetic survey round Birmingham… – a directory of Birmingham trades at the time of the town’s revolutionary industrial expansion, written in heroic verse and intended as a “grand tour”.