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Charles Tennant (1823-1906)

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Charles Clow Tennant (1823-1906)

1823 Birth, as the son of John Tennant and grandson of Charles Tennant, the founder of Charles Tennant and Co.

1843 Joined the St Rollox chemical works.

After 1850, Charles Tennant reinvigorated the business. He was masterful in negotiations; his success attracted support from a number of Glaswegian investors who trusted his judgement and were eager to share in his initiatives[1].

1852 Contributed to the formation of Humphrys, Tennant and Dykes at Deptford which later became Humphrys and Tennant, Deptford Pier, London S.E.[2]

1853 Tennant bought The Glen estate in Peeblesshire

1864 Charles Tennant, Humphrys and Tennant, Deptford Pier, London S.E.[3]

1866 Tennant brought together various alkali makers to form the Tharsis Sulphur and Copper Co to take over pyrite mines in southern Spain. Tharsis acquired seven metal-extraction companies in Britain by 1872. As a result of Tharsis' by-products, Charles Tennant became interested in metallurgical technology.

1872 Tennant led the formation of the Steel Company of Scotland, intending to make use of the iron found in the Tharsis pyrites but the metallurgical techniques proved inadequate and the Steel Company of Scotland turned to conventional supplies of iron.

1876 Tennant was the chief instigator of the formation of Nobel's Explosives Ltd, formed to exploit the patents of Alfred Nobel, and served as its chairman. He was also chairman of the Union Bank of Scotland and a director of the North British Railway.

1884 The Tharsis pyrites contained tiny components of gold, so Tennant and his associates formed the Cassel Gold Extracting Co which acquired the rights to a cyanide process which raised the level of gold recoverable from 55 per cent to 95 per cent. Tennant and his associates also acquired several gold-mining companies near Mysore in India.

1885 July: Charles Tennant was created a baronet.

1885 the private Tennant company was split into separate limited companies, the chief of which was Charles Tennant and Co of St Rollox (which took over the St Rollox Chemical and Soap works, the Carnoustie works and the Glasgow dry saltery business with branch offices in Belfast and Dublin). A separate company Charles Tennant and Partners Ltd was also formed to hold the Hebburn on Tyne works.

1890 Sir Charles Tennant brought together 45 businesses using the Leblanc process, including the St Rollox works, to form United Alkali Co under his presidency.

1894 The Steel Company of Scotland almost became bankrupt; Tennant retired as chairman, becoming instead honorary president.

Tennant continued as chairman of Tharsis until 1906.

1906 June 4th. Died


1906 Obituary [4]

Sir CHARLES TENNANT, Bart., was born at Ayr on 4th November 1823, being the son of John Tennant, head of the St. Rollox Works, Glasgow.

He was educated privately at Liverpool, where at the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to Mr. Nevitt, a merchant of that city.

Subsequently he joined his father in business in Glasgow. At the age of twenty-eight he founded the firm of Humphrys, Tennant and Co., makers of marine engines at Deptford.

In 1866 he founded and became chairman of the Tharsis Copper Co., for working mines in Spain; and in 1872 he founded the Steel Company of Scotland, also becoming chairman.

In 1890 the St. Rollox Works was transferred to the United Alkali Co., of which he was president.

He was vice-chairman of the North British Railway, and was on the board of many other commercial undertakings. He possessed business qualities of a high order, which was proved by the great success of his various enterprises.

In 1885 a Baronetcy was conferred upon him by H.M. Queen Victoria.

His death took place at his residence at Byfleet, Surrey, on 4th June 1906, in his eighty-third year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1864.


1906 Obituary [5]

Sir CHARLES TENNANT, Bart., died at Broadoaks, the seat of Lady Tennant, on June 5, 1906, at the age of eighty-three. He was chairman of what is known as the "John Taylor" group of Indian gold mines, of the Glasgow Board of the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co., and of the Union Bank of Scotland, honorary president of the United Alkali Company and of the Steel Company of Scotland, director of the Assam Railways and Trading Company, the Linlithgow Oil Company, the New Cycle Company, the Forth Bridge Railway, and numerous other companies.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1879.


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