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British Industrial History

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Ambrose Firth

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Ambrose Firth (1845-1923) of the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Co

1845 Born in Sheffield, son of Joseph and Sarah Firth, fork maker master[1]

1865 Started business on his own account - see A. Firth

1871 Ambrose Firth 26, ironfounder, lived in Brightside Bierlow, with Sarah Firth 22, Edmund Milner Firth 1[2]

1877 Ambrose Firth and Jabez Stanley were joint partners in Brightside Iron Foundry Co[3]

1880 Also involved in Thomas Widdowson and Co, of Fitzroy Works, Sheffield, with George Milner and Thomas Widdowson[4]

1881 Ambrose Firth 36, Iron Founder - Metal Castings in Tramway chairs, etc, employing 46 men & 16 boys, lived in Ecclesall Bierlow, with Sarah Firth 32, Thomas Hy. Firth 9, Beatrice M. Firth 7, Fredk. Wm. Firth 6[5]

1891 Ambrose Firth 44, iron founder, employer, lived in Ecclesall Bierlow, with Sarah Firth 40, Thos H Firth 20, iron founder, B M Firth 17, F W Firth 14, M W Firth 10[6]

1901 Ambrose Firth 56, iron founder, employer, lived in Bamford, with Sarah Firth 51, Marguerette A Firth 19 [7]

c.1907 Married Martha

1911 Ambrose Firth 66, engineer and ironfounder, lived in Bamforth, Derbyshire with Martha Firth 44[8]

1923 Died



1922 Obituary [9]

AMBROSE FIRTH was born at Grimesthorpe, Sheffield, in 1845, and at an early age was apprenticed in a foundry which, by a coincidence, occupied the site of the present works of Thomas Firth and Sons, with which firm, however, he had no connection.

Towards the end of 1865, when still in his twentieth year, he commenced business on his own account as a Master Foundryman, in what was practically a small shed by the side of the River Don. This site soon proved inadequate to the needs of the business, and a new foundry was established in Newhall Road, where some of the largest castings made in this country were produced, and where heavy engineering, such as the construction of giant rolling mills, was developed on modern lines.

Later, the Carbrook Works and the Wicker Iron Works were established to meet the expansion of the activities of the firm. Subsequently other firms, not only foundries, but such enterprises as brick-making and heating engineers, became absorbed in the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Co., Ltd., which was the title of the undertaking of which Mr. Firth was the head.

Until quite recently he retained the foremost part in the firm's activities in addition to other administrative business, but ill-health compelled his retirement, and he died at Bournemouth on 11th January 1923 in his seventy-eighth year.

Among the numerous social obligations fulfilled by him it should be mentioned that he was a Member of the Derbyshire County Council and was a Justice of the Peace for the County.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1899; he was also a Member of the Iron and Steel Institute and the Cutlers' Company of Sheffield, among others.


1923 Obituary[10]

"THE engineering profession and the city of Sheffield are regrettably the poorer by the death of Mr. Ambrose Firth- the Chairman of the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Company, Limited - which occurred at Bournemouth on the 11th inst.

Mr. Firth, who had been aptly described as being "in the truest sense of the term a self-made man, and, what is more, a practical man," was born at Grimesthorpe in 1845. But for his death he would have completed his seventy-eighth year within a few days. He was, when very young, apprenticed in a foundry and engineering works which stood on ground now occupied by the works of Thomas Firth and Sons, Ltd Sheffield. The identity in names was a pure coincidence, as we believe that there was no connection whatever between the subject of this memoir and the firm mentioned. Towards the close of 1865 he started in business on his own account as an iron founder in a very modest way, his foundry - at first but a small shed - being in a field on the bank of the river Don. It is recorded that the first week's wages bill amounted to the large sum of £6. The original foundry disappeared long ago, its site having been included in the area now occupied by the works of Vickers, Limited. Quite an event was made of the firm's first really heavy casting, an anvil block weighing some 20 tons. A party of manufacturers and others was invited to witness the operation. As a contrast our readers may be reminded that a year or so ago the Brightside Company made its record casting, which weighed 112 tons.

It was only a few years before Mr. Firth found his original works too small for him, and so he acquired what were known as the Old Newhall Running Grounds. He turned the grand stand into a pattern store and an existing hotel into offices. For some time this larger space was sufficient to satisfy the growing needs of the business, but eventually it, too, became too small, and the Carbrook Works and the Wicker Ironworks were started. In these the making of large rail rolling mills was commenced and in time very considerably developed. Even these additions were not for very long adequate to allow for expansion, and the following businesses were at various periods acquired and absorbed into the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Co:- J. C. and J. S. Ellis, heating engineers, London; James France Hill, heating engineers, London ; Clayton, Howlett and Co., London ; Hunter and Middleton, London; Pullan and Mann, Leeds, manufacturers of brick-making machinery; Walker, Eaton and Co., Sheffield, ironfounders; John Robinson, Royds Foundry, Sheffield ; and Moorwoods, Limited, of Brightside, who were also specialists in large castings as well as other branches of engineering.

In the development of the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Co Mr. Firth played a predominating part. The type of work undertaken in the original foundry was the casting of ingot moulds and of rolls for the heavy steel trades; but he was not long to remain content with such restricted production, and he launched out into the manufacture of steel works plant of all descriptions, including, in addition to the specially powerful forging presss, forge equipment, hydraulic machinery, brick and tile presses, colliery decking plants and machinery, heating and ventilation installations etc. Its only a couple of years ago that he relinquished active participation in the conduct of the firm, while still holding the office of chairman, and went to live at Bournemouth. For many years previously he had been accustomed every morning to catch the 9 o'clock train from his home at Barnford, in Derbyshire, on his way to work. [More]


1923 Obituary [11]

AMBROSE FIRTH died on January 11, 1923, at the age of seventy-eight.

He was born at Grimesthorpe, and in his early days he was associated with John Stanley at the Foundry, Brightside.

When only nineteen years of age he commenced business on his own account as an ironfounder in a small foundry in a field near the River Don, Sheffield, the site of which is now covered by Vickers Works, and from these small beginnings the Brightside Foundry and Engineering Co., Ltd., of which he became chairman, has grown to its present proportions.

On one occasion, forty years ago, when the firm cast its first 20-ton hammer block, great interest was caused amongst the manufacturers in Sheffield, and prominent men visited the works to see the "cast," a striking contrast to the ease with which, in subsequent years, many castings ranging about 100 tons were made. About a year ago, a casting weighing about 112 tons was produced at the works.

The first foundry soon became inadequate and larger premises were acquired in Newhall Road, and, still later, the Carbrook Works and the Wicker Iron Works were established. Here heavy engineering, and especially the building of giant steel-rail mills, was developed on modern lines.

In rapid succession a number of other works were purchased and absorbed into the Brightside Foundry & Engineering Co. He was also connected with other business enterprises, being a director of Messrs W. Cooke & Co. of Tinsley and chairman of the Hathersage Gas Company.

He was a member of a large number of organisations, including the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Sheffield Society of Engineers and Metallurgists, and the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1888.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1851 census
  2. 1871 census
  3. The London Gazette 30 October 1877
  4. The London Gazette 31 December 1880
  5. 1881 census
  6. 1891 census
  7. 1901 census
  8. 1911 census
  9. 1922 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  10. The Engineer 1923/01/19
  11. 1923 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries