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British Industrial History

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Francis Holt

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Francis Holt (1825-1893) of Manchester

1853 Francis Holt and Hiram Barker patented the first ball-grinding machine used to produce hardened balls for locomotive clack valves

1853 Patent No. 1502 to Hiram Barker of Manchester, Engineer and Tool Maker, and Francis Holt of Manchester, Engineer, for improvements in machinery and apparatus for grinding and turning metals [1]. A description of the equipment is available online, in German[2]

1853 Hiram Barker listed as a machine maker (T. Fitton and Co), Foster Street, Crowther Street, Salford [3]

1853 Patent No. 1502 was granted to Hiram Barker of Manchester, Engineer and Tool Maker, and Francis Holt of Manchester, Engineer, for improvements in machinery and apparatus for grinding and turning metals. L. T. C. Rolt states that this was the first machine made for grinding metal balls [4]. Details (in German) here. The description gives an example of six 2" cast brass balls being 'ground sufficiently round in 6 to 7 hours to be used as valves for locomotive pumps'.

1856 Patent No. 1502 of 1853 became void [5]

1863 Francis Holt, Engineer, Gorton Foundry, Manchester.[6]


1893 Obituary [7]

FRANCIS HOLT was born at Todmorden on 5th December 1825.

After serving his apprenticeship with Messrs. Sharp Stewart and Co., Manchester, he remained with them for some time as foreman, and went thence to Woolwich dockyard.

Afterwards he was engaged in Italy on the construction of a railway at Pisa; but in consequence of the stoppage of that undertaking he returned to England, and had charge for about a year and a half of the locomotive department of the South Staffordshire Railway at Walsall.

He next went out to India, to erect and fit up a cotton mill for the Oriental Spinning and Weaving Co., Bombay, and remained there three years.

Returning to this country he became manager for some years at Messrs. Beyer Peacock and Co.'s locomotive works, Gorton, Manchester; and then manager to Messrs. R. and W. Hawthorn, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

In 1874 he left there to undertake the managership of the Midland Railway locomotive works at Derby, where he remained up to the time of his death. During his connection with these works they underwent large extensions, in which he took a prominent part.

He was well known in the railway and engineering world as a man of large and varied experience, and of indomitable perseverance in whatever he undertook.

He invented an arrangement of pipe connections between locomotive engines and tenders for water, steam, and air; and also a plan for securing and finishing the eccentrics on the crank-shafts of locomotive and other engines. He was also concerned in a method of applying sand for preventing the driving wheels of locomotives from slipping.

His death took place at Spondon, near Derby, on 7th January 1893, at the age of sixty-seven.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1863.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] The London Gazette, July 29, 1856
  2. [2]Verbesserungen an den Maschinen zum Schleifen und Drehen der Metalle, welche sich Hiram Barker und Francis Holt, Ingenieure zu Manchester, am 20. Juni 1853 patentiren ließen: extracted from 'London Journal of Arts, August 1854. In the text, click on the highlighted 'Fig. 20', for example, to see illustrations
  3. Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1853
  4. 'Tools for the Job' by L T C Rolt, HMSO, 1986
  5. [3] The London Gazette, July 29, 1856
  6. 1863 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  7. 1893 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries