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British Industrial History

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Crescent Mill, Todmorden

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of Todmorden

Gledhill, Ashworth and Co.

1877 The 7 ft diameter flywheel of the horizontal engine burst, killing Samuel Fielden. The engine had been made by S. S. Stott and Co two years previously. As one often the case at this time, the investigation left much to be desired, but the inquest probably correctly identified the cause.

Various witnesses said that the engine had a habit of running too fast, although this was denied by the engineer who was in sole charge of the two engines and boilers (the other engine was a beam engine). One of the witnesses at the inquest was Thomas Stephen Holt, called as an expert. The reporting of his comments regarding the construction of the flywheel was somewhat confused, but the flywheel was cast in two halves, evidently united at the boss by shrunk-on wrought iron hoops, and at the rim by shrunk-in wrought iron links. Holt considered that the wrought iron links were too slender, and one of them was poorly welded. He also criticised the method securing of the halves of the rim by links.

It was also reported that one arm of the governor had broken three times in two years, and the arms had been repaired. It was thought by members of the jury that on this occasion a governor arm had broken, causing the overspeed. Luke Barlow of Stott & Co was called. He was a draughtsman, and been with the firm 16 or 17 years. He stated that they had supplied an engine with a similar governor and flywheel to John Hargreaves of Crawshawbooth, and no problems had been reported. The governor arms were made of brass, for no obvious reason.

'The Coroner pointed out that the witness's [Luke Barlow's?] evidence was greatly of a negative character. He admitted the insecurity both of the links and the governors, and, as they all knew, an insecure principle might work for an indefinite time, but it would break down at last. It was possible that, by a great deal of the weight upon the engine being removed [weavers stopping their looms because of excessive speed], the velocity of the fly-wheel might be sufficient of itself to cause the wheel to break away wholly.

'The jury retired to consider their verdict, and, after an absence of nearly half an hour, returned, having found that, "In the opinion of the jury, the death of Samuel Fielden was accidentally caused by the breakdown of a stationary steam engine at Crescent weaving-shed, Todmorden, on the 24th February." The jury were further unanimously of opinion that the breakdown was caused by the breaking of the arm of the governor balls, and that the links binding the rim of the fly-wheel of the engine together were not of sufficient strength.'[1]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter - Friday 2 March 1877