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British Industrial History

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George Edward Belliss

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George Edward Belliss (1838-1909) of Belliss and Seekings, G. E. Belliss and Co and Belliss and Morcom

Had been apprenticed to R. Bach and Co, mechanical engineer and boiler maker[1].

1862 Shortly after completing his articles, Belliss acquired the business of R. Bach and Co at 13-14 Broad Street, Islington, Birmingham, and went into partnership with Joseph J. Seekings, as Belliss and Seekings


1909 Obituary [2]

GEORGE EDWARD BELLISS was born in Birmingham on 30th August 1838, being the youngest surviving son of the late Mr. John Belliss who early in his life had removed to that city from Shropshire.

He received his education at Park School, Bewdley, and also at King Edward's School, Birmingham.

In 1855 he was apprenticed to Mr. R. Bach, an engineer and boiler maker, who had established the business about 1852, and whose works were in Broad Street, Birmingham.

Shortly after the termination of his apprenticeship, he, together with Mr. J. J. Seekings, acquired the business, but his partner very shortly afterwards retired, and Mr. Belliss continued the business alone under the style of G. E. Belliss and Co. The early work of the new firm included a great variety of general engineering and contractors' machines, besides fixed, portable, and locomotive steam-engines and boilers.

Gradually, however, Mr. Belliss appreciated the value of specializing in a particular branch, and in conjunction with Mr. J. S. White of East Cowes, Isle of Wight, he, about the year 1864, built and equipped what is believed to be the first of the type of steam service-cutters and pinnaces of which they subsequently supplied several hundred sets of sizes, varying from the small 21-foot boats, to yachts and torpedo-boats of 180 to 200 feet in length, and machinery developing over 1,000 horse-power.

The late Marquess of Hastings had one of the first steam-cutters for his yacht, and this attracted the attention of the British Admiralty authorities, who gave an order to Messrs. White and Belliss to build a 27-foot life-cutter which was to be attached to H.M.S. "Silvia," then being equipped for a surveying expedition under the command of the late Captain Brooker.

The subsequent fifteen to twenty years that Mr. Bellies and Mr. White continued to build this speciality for the British, Colonial, and foreign navies, were one line of continued successes, and the trial of a 36-foot single-screw life-pinnace, built in 1867, induced the Admiralty to determine generally that all future cutters and pinnaces for the Navy should be of the same type.

The earlier vessels were of the single-screw type, but as time went on and the size of boats increased, twin-screw boats with compound condensing-engines of 150 h. p., running at about 400 revolutions per minute, were supplied.

In 1872 the Broad Street Works having become too small for the growing business, the firm removed to Ledsam Street. These works were started with about 200 hands, and continued the marine work and stationary and portable engine work, besides boiler-snaking.

In 1884 Mr. Belliss was joined by the late Mr. Alfred Morcom, who was for many years first assistant to the Chief Engineer at Portsmouth, and subsequently Chief Engineer at Sheerness Dockyard. The firm's work was now further augmented by manufacturing auxiliary machinery for warship and mercantile marine purposes, such as centrifugal pumps, ventilating and forced-draught fans, also steamboat winches, steering-engines, capstan engines, and such like.

A speciality also was made of air-compressing machinery for use on warships for charging and firing torpedoes from the vessels, and many hundreds of these sets have been fitted on warships not only for the British and Colonial Navies, but also for several of the principal foreign navies.

Between the years 1888 and 1892, the firm built the whole of the main machinery and most of the auxiliary machinery for H.M. twin screw gunboats "Sharpshooter," "Spanker," "Swordfish," and "Spitfire," for the British Navy, each vessel developing about 4,500 h. p., and the "Boomerang" and "Karrakatta " for the Australian Navy.

In 1889 the firm pioneered their well-known system of forced lubrication, and commenced building enclosed quick-revolution engines, the first of which is still running on ordinary daily work in their power-house equipment. Owing to the great demand for electricity for various uses in Corporation central station and general industrial works, this type of engine gradually superseded the marine work formerly carried out.

In 1893 the business was formed into a private company, with Mr. Belliss as chairman, and Mr. Morcom as managing director.

In 1899, owing to necessary extensions of the business, it was decided to increase the capital of the company, and Mr. Bellies still retained the chairmanship until 1904, when, owing to failing health, he retired from active participation in its affairs.

Some six or seven years before his retirement the works had been added to considerably by the erection of the Rotton Park Street Works, a department devoted to engines for driving electrical machinery, and other uses, and also condensing plants, the sizes of engines for this class of work being standardized and constructed up to 3,000 horse-power.

His death occurred at his winter residence at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, from pneumonia following a chill, on 14th February 1909, in his seventy-first year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1868.



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