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British Industrial History

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Alexander Chaplin

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1870. Vertical separating boiler.

Alexander Chaplin (c1819-1903) of Alexander Chaplin and Co.

1854 of Cranston Hill, Glasgow.

1865 Married Rebecca Mary Wimshurt, daughter of Henry Wimshurst, shipbuilder, in South Hackney[1]

1903 Obituary [2] [3]


We regret to announce the death on Thursday morning of Mr. Alexander Chaplin, the famous engineer, who has lived in retirement in Hastings for over 20 years.

The deceased gentleman, who had attained the great age of 84, was born at Greenock, and received his education in Edinburgh. He was afterwards apprenticed to the engineering trade in Glasgow.

Having served his time he joined the Birmingham and Gloucester railway, which is now amalgamated with the Midland Railway. From there he went to the Woolwich Dockyard, where he was second in the drawing office, and acting chief. Then back again to Glasgow, where he first set up for himself, and gradually worked up his business.

While in that town he brought out the series of inventions which made his name familiar to the public 30 or 40 years ago. He first became known by his portable forge, but his most striking success was his invention of the steam crane, which was awarded the only gold medal at the Exhibition of 1862.

Since then he has successively taken out at a large number of patents, notably for the first contractor's locomotive ever invented, for an early type of water tube boiler which the public would not take up, but which is now, or a similar one, in common use, and the first road traction engine. Subsequently he brought out a ship's engine and distilling apparatus, which, by the order of the Council entitled all ships fitted with it to go with half the quantity of fresh water otherwise necessary.

Then came his shallow-built steamer, with a patent steering apparatus, specially made for shallow South American rivers. Instead of a keel was a hollow, and the steering was done by two blades in the stern, which, when the ship was grounded on a sandbank, were knocked up, and received no damage. So successful proved these that several are in use in South America.

Mr. Chaplin invented a device for lowering a lifeboat by both ends at once, which had considerable vogue at the time, and he also made some hundreds of iron houses of his own devising for the Colonies.

This remarkable series of inventions was closed by his selling his Glasgow business, and entirely devoting himself to a repairing shop he had set up in London some years previously.

He retired altogether from business in 1880, and since then has lived in retirement the life of an invalid at St. Leonards, residing successively at Warrior-square, Charles-road, Chapel Park-road, and lastly at 60, Warrior-square, whither he moved last summer.

Mr. Chaplin had been ill about a month, but his relatives did not anticipate a fatal turn until a few days ago. He died on Thursday morning at 9.50.

The deceased gentleman was married in ? to Rebecca Wimshurst, daughter of Henry Wimshurst, the first man to apply the screw propellor to practical use, and the man who built the first screw steamer ever to make a mercantile voyage. He leaves three children, two daughters and one son.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday, at noon, there being a preliminary service at the Presbyterian Church.'

1903 Obituary [4]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 28 November 1903
  3. Note: Some of the claims for priority are questionable.
  4. Engineering 1903 Jul-Dec: Index: General Index