Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

David Whitehead and Co

From Graces Guide

of Soho Ironworks, Ancoats, Manchester, and Portwood Foundry, Stockport

Unfortunately, little is known about this short-lived company, or its products. Evidently David Whitehead had great foresight, establishing a relatively large engineering works to meet the surging demand from cotton mills, on what would now be called a green field site. We know from William Green's map that in the period of the map's production (1787-1794), that the site of the foundry was, literally, green fields. The fields were doomed by the coming of the Ashton Canal in the late 1790s. The foundry was built alongside the canal, adjacent to two canal basins (see extract of 1831 map in Peel, Williams and Peel).

1803 advert: 'SOHO FOUNDERY, near Ancoats Lane, Manchester.
DAVID WHITEHEAD begs leave to acquaint his friends and the public that on Monday the 20th. June next, he proposes to open a new Foundery near Ancoats-lane, Manchester, and to carry on the IRON BUSINESS, in the various branches of cast and beaten iron work.
The above foundery has peculiar advantages, in being situated on the bank of the Ashton Canal and will enable him to serve those who favour him with their orders on the lowest terms. It particularly merits the attention of those who have establishments near the line of the Ashton, Huddersfield, Peakforest, and other neighbouring Canals, by means of water communication the heavy article of iron may be conveyed at the least expence. His plan comprehends both heavy and light work, especially for the purposes of machinery, and he is now ready to receive orders, which he hopes execute with punctuality, and so as to give general satisfaction.
He is in want of some good Workmen in different departments, but none will be received who are under engagement, or who have not a character for steadiness and good behaviour. He also wants a Loam Moulder, and a Moulder for small work.
David Whitehead return his best thanks to those who have employed him in land-surveying. He has now given up the regular pursuit of this business, but may be occasionally consulted by his friends at the above foundery.'[1]

1804 Making engines for Richard Trevithick [2] Trevithick is quoted, about Whitehead's engine, "It is a perfect specimen of a high-pressure steam-engine, with cylindrical boiler, adapted to locomotive purposes" although it had not been used on rails[3]

1804 Advert: 'TO MOULDERS IN IRON. WANTED, At the Soho Foundry, Ancoats’-lane, Manchester, A NUMBER of MOULDERS and MODEL MAKERS, who have been accustomed to the general department of their business. Likewise Small Work Moulders will meet with good encouragement according to their abilities.
Any persons applying by letter, will please to describe the kind of work he is best capable of undertaking, that he may receive a satisfactory answer, without the expence or trouble of coming a distance. Direct lor David Whitehead and Co. Manchester.'[4]

1807 Mention 'of Soho Foundry, Manchester and Portwood Foundry, Stockport' [5]

1807, 1st July: David Whitehead & Co: Partnership dissolved between John Whitehead (executor of David Whitehead, deceased), John Lees, John Sharpe, William Eccles, John Cooper, Thomas Spanton.[6]

1807 IRON AND BRASS FOUNDRY. SALE BY AUCTION, at the house of Miss Brightmore, the Red Lion Inn, Heaton Norris, Stockport, on Friday the 30th day of October, 1807, at five o'clock in the afternoon, subject to such conditions as will then be produced.
THE PORTWOOD IRON & BRASS FOUNDRY, with the steam-engine, furnaces, machinery, crane, and apparatus thereto belonging; together with an extensive and valuable assortment of boxes and patterns. Also the valuable stock of millwright-work, grates, ovens, and other iron foundry stock.

The above Foundry is freehold of inheritance, subject to the payment of a small chief rent, is in full work, and well worth the attention of any person wanting a situation for carrying on the business of an iron and brass founder, and is now offered for sale merely in consequence of the recent death of David Whitehead, the principal acting partner in the concern. For further particulars apply to Mr John Taylor, on the premises ; Mr Thomas Spanton, at the Soho Manchester; or to Mr. James Taylor, Attorney, Exchange-street, Manchester.'[7]

1808 Advertisement: 'SALE BY AUCTION, by J. Goodier, Large and valuable Iron Founder's Stock, Tools and Utensils. This Present Tuesday, To-morrow Wednesday, and Thursday, the 3d, 4th and days of May, 1808, at the Soho Foundry, Ancoats, Manchester,
COMPRISING all kinds of kitchen ranges, register and Bath stove grates, with polished bars, and steel and brass frets ; all sizes of common stove grates; iron ovens of all dimensions and patterns, and patterns with front plates, tops, saddles, &c. a large quantity of iron pots and pans, of all sizes, with doors and frames; sash weights and dressing irons; iron bushes, all sizes; twenty tons of scale weights, all sizes; steam and water pipes, a large quantity from six to two inches bore, all lengths; a great variety of moulders' iron boxes, of every description and size ; several crane and hand ladles; all kind of spur, mitre, and bevil wheels : several large stoves, for factories; dye-houses, &c. and a number of small ones, with pipes; a variety of counting-house stoves; about fifteen tons of beautiful palisades, of various patterns; ten tons of wrought iron ; a valuable assortment of smiths' tools, with stocks, dyes, taps, screws, plates, &c.; five anvils; fourteen pairs of new vices; five pair of new blocks, with two and three sheaves; two large scale beams, and a variety of smaller ones; all kinds of chains, &c. &c. also several steam engine beams, cylinders, condensers, air pumps, and fly wheels; two weighing machines, complete; one Trevithick steam engine, four horses' power; 5,000lb. of good old brass; and a great variety of other articles. The goods may be viewed two days previous to the sale, by applying on the premises; and Catalogues and particulars had at the Auctioneer's, 28, Edge-street. Sale to begin at ten o'clock each day.'[8]

1810 Soho Foundry was put up for sale. Extensive Iron Foundry at Manchester. To be sold or lett (sic) on advantageous terms, all that capital and extensive Iron Foundry called the Soho Foundry heretofore occupied by the late firm of David Whitehead and Co. The foundry is 75 yards long by 25 wide; contains air-furnaces, cupolas, stoves, cranes of extraordinary power, an excellent smithy and finishers shop, and extraordinary well-lighted patten-makers and turners shop, extending 100 yards in length. Adjoining the foundry is a most complete Boring-mill and Turning shop, replete with every apparatus on the very best principle for boring and turning every kind of heavy or small iron and brass work. The Boring-mill and Turners shop are worked by an excellent steam engine, of 18-horses power, which also works the blasts for the cupolas; and there is additional power which may be applied to other purposes. There is an extensive yard, stable, cart-house, sheds and other conveniences; and also six cottage-houses for the accommodation of workman belonging to the foundry. The premises have likewise belonging to them a commodious Wharf on the Bank of the Ashton Canal, which communicates with other canals, by means whereof coals and metal are advantageously brought without any experience of land-carriage, and good conveyed to all parts of the kingdom. - For further particulars apply to Mr John Whitehead at the Green Dragon, in Jersey Street, near Ancoats Lane; or to Mr James Taylor, Attorney, in Exchange Street, Manchester. [9]

It was bought by Peel, Williams and Co [10]


1897 John Whitehead is listed as Whitehead John, victualler, Green Dragon, 11 Jersey Street. [11]

John Whitehead of the Green Dragon, Jersey Street sells the Soho Foundry in 1810.

The Green Dragon had a licence in 1794 and for many years the nearby firm of McConnel and Kennedy paid the rates on it [12]

1821 The Green Dragon is listed as Whitehead, Nancy, vict. Green Dragon, 90 Jersey Street [13]

1828 The Green Dragon is listed under Taverns as Green Dragon, Nancy Whitehead [14]

1851 The Green Dragon is listed as Trethouen Elizabeth, vict. Green Dragon, Jersey Street, Ancoats [15] Elizabeth is age 47 born Willenhall and a widow with her children and her mother Ann Brindley [16]

In 1811 under deaths is 'On Saturday last at an advanced age, John Whitehead, Esq principal in the house of Whitehead and Sons, Manchester [17]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 21 June 1803
  2. 'Richard Trevithick – The Engineer and the Man' by H. W. Dickinson and Arthur Titley. Published 1934.
  3. The Engineer 1876/06/16
  4. Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 20 November 1804
  5. Boulton and Watt papers
  6. London Gazette, p.945
  7. Manchester Mercury, 13th October 1807
  8. Manchester Mercury, 3rd May 1808
  9. The Morning Post, Saturday, February 3rd, 1810
  10. p.464 ff, 'Science & Technology in the Industrial Revolution' by A. E. Musson and Eric Robinson
  11. 1897 Scholes's Manchester and Salford Directory
  12. [] Ancoats: Protecting the unprotectable?
  13. 1821/2 Pigot and Dean's New Directory of Manchester and Salford
  14. 1828/9 Pigot and Co.'s Directory
  15. 1853 Directory of Manchester and Salford
  16. 1851 Census
  17. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser, for Lancashire, Westmorland, &c. , Saturday, April 27, 1811