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Evan Leigh

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1858. Improvements in Carding Machines.

Evan Leigh (1810-1876) of Evan Leigh and Son, Manchester

Invented the revolving flat card used in cotton spinning [1]

1863 Evan Leigh, Engineer, Miles Platting, Manchester.[2]


1876 Obituary [3]

Evan Leigh, son of the late Mr. Peter Leigh, an extensive cotton-spinner, at Ashton-under-Lyne, was born on the 21st of December, 1810.

The intricate surroundings of a cotton-mill appear to have been congenial to his natural proclivities; for when a youth of about twenty, young Leigh effected an improvement in the mule, which almost revolutionised the trade, reducing the cost of spinning on the mule from 5d. to about 3d. per lb. This he accomplished by the coupling of mules and the 'putting-up motion,' an invention that was not patented and soon became common property.

Mr. Leigh was at this time in partnership with his father, and continued in the cotton trade for about twenty-five years. In the interval he took out many patents for improvements in machinery, especially cotton-spinning.

In 1850 appeared the first of a series relating to carding engines, also dubbing and roving frames, paper tubes, throstles, and the use of cast iron for spindles.

The invention with which Mr. Leigh's name is principally associated is, however, the self-stripping carding engine, of which he claimed to be the originator. In working out this idea he at first employed an endless cloth of flats and then an endless chain, and made or altered about a hundred machines to the new system. But it was found to be defective, and resulted in a heavy pecuniary loss, as the defects sometimes caused considerable damage to the card clothing from the flats going the wrong side up. This was successfully overcome by the adoption of a bushed chain, which prevented the complete turning over of the. flats. The machines then found favour, and soon brought competitors into the field.

In 1858 he patented a further development of the machine, part of which formed a new grinding arrangement without removing the flats. Mr. Leigh‘s interest in the carding machine continued to the last, for in 1875 he took out, in conjunction with his son Mr. E. A. Leigh, another patent, which they were engaged in perfecting at the time 0f his death.

The business soon outgrew the premises at Collyhurst Mill, and during the American war he erected and started the fine works at Miles Platting, where he carried on the business of machine manufacturing, under the name of Evan Leigh and Son, until the year 1864, when the works became the property of a limited liability company, though they still bear his name.

In 1849 Mr. Leigh patented the twin screw, of which he was. the original inventor, although the principle did not come into use until after the expiry of his patent. Then the principle was adopted in a vessel that was being fitted out by Messrs. Dudgeon, of London, for the China trade, but on account of her handiness. was sold by the builders to a Whitby firm, who employed it as a blockade-runner during the American war. In connection with this subject, the following note is extracted from one of many papers and pamphlets, relating to mechanical works, which Mr. Leigh from time to time put forth:-

'In the year 1849, I took out a patent (No. 12,708, dated July 18th) for steering ships, by having separate power to each propeller, being twin screws or detached paddles, with the object of turning a vessel more readily out of its course in time of danger, by reversing one paddle or other propeller, and steering generally by giving more or less steam to one engine or pair of engines. Notwithstanding the common sense of this arrangement, by which all the power on board could be employed in cases of emergency to, avoid collisions, &C., I could neither get the Government of the day nor any of the shipbuilders to take it up; but I must admit that I received a letter from the Lords of the Admiralty thanking me for the communication, but nothing more.'

Another subject in which Mr. Leigh took a deep interest was a project for transporting railway trains on shipboard. In 1870 he published a pamphlet, with a large diagram, entitled 'A Plan for conveying Railway Trains across the Straits of Dover.' Some years afterwards he exhibited, at a conversazione of the Manchester Scientific and Mechanical Society, a model of this design, and gave explanations of it in the presence of many representatives of science and engineering.

In 1871 Mr. Leigh published a work giving the results of nearly half a century of practical experience of mills and mill machinery. It was issued in two large volumes, with numerous illustrations, under the following explanatory title: 'The Science of Modern Cotton Spinning, embracing Mill Architecture, Machinery for Cotton Ginning, Opening, Scutching, Preparing, and Spinning, with all the latest improvements; also articles on Steam and Water Power, Shafting, Gearing and American system of Belting compared, Generation and Application of Steam criticised and explained, Boilers, Boiler Explosions, &C., all tending to show where the outlay of capital may be economised, and production cheapened.'

This work is one of authority, circulating both in Europe and in America, and in 1875 had attained its third edition.

At the time of his death Mr. Leigh was in practice as a consulting engineer; he was also interested in the firm of E. A. Leigh and Co., machinery contractors and shippers, Manchester; Evan Leigh and Son, merchants and shippers, Liverpool; and E. A. Leigh and Co., importers of machinery, Boston, U.S.

In 1863 he was elected a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and he has taken an active part on its Manchester committee. On the 3rd of December, 1872, he was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was also an Associate of the Institution of Naval Architects, a Member of the Society of Arts, and in May 1875 he was elected President of the Manchester Scientific and Mechanical Society, of which latter society he was one of the founders in 1870.

Mr. Leigh had latterly become subject to chronic bronchitis, and this, aggravated by heart-disease, caused his death on the 2nd of February, 1876, in his sixty-sixth year. His loss is widely regretted, not only as a man of science, but for the unostentatious way in which he engaged in works of charity.


1877 Obituary [4]

EVAN LEIGH was born on 21st December 1810 at Ashton-under-Lyne, his father being an extensive cotton spinner in that town.

At the age of twenty, having then taken the management of his father's mill, he introduced the coupling of the spinning mules and the "putting-up" motion, an invention which effected a reduction of 40 per cent. in the cost of spinning on the mules.

About 1850 he retired from the business of cotton spinning, to enter upon the manufacture of machinery at Miles Platting, Manchester; and about the same time he invented the self-stripping carding engine. He also then invented the twin screw for steamers, which has since come into general use both in the mercantile service and in the navy.

In 1856 he invented the loose-boss top roller, now universally adopted in cotton mills; and about the same time he erected and started the Junction Works at Miles Platting for the manufacture of machinery on a more extensive scale; from which he withdrew in 1869 and then commenced practice as a consulting engineer and exporter of machinery.

In 1871 he published a large work upon "the Science of modern Cotton Spinning," giving the results of nearly half a century of practical experience of mills and mill machinery, which has an extensive circulation both in Europe and in America.

In 1861 he conceived the idea of conveying railway trains across the Straits of Dover, and designed a vessel for that purpose, which he exhibited to the Admiralty; and in 1867 he designed a plan for shipping and unshipping the trains.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1863.

His death took place on 2nd February 1876 at his residence in Manchester, in the 66th year of his age, after a short illness, from chronic bronchitis aggravated by heart disease.


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