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George Haden

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George Haden (1788-1856)

1834 George Haden of Trowbridge, an Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1857 Obituary [2]

MR. GEORGE HADEN was born at Handsworth, near Birmingham, on the 23rd of July, 1788.

He received his education at a school at that place, and at an early age worked in several of the manufactories in that neighbourhood, changing as he became acquainted with the system at each, for the purpose of acquiring general knowledge of the various branches of manufacture. The information thus acquired, he found extremely useful to him in after-life.

At Sir Edward Thomason’s manufactory, he by accident saw a machine, and, from memory, made one so exactly like it, that he was supposed to have been employed by some party to pirate the invention ; but, on explanation, it was found that he had constructed it entirely at his own house, and for his own amusement. This firm, perceiving his ingenuity, wished to retain his services, but he preferred Engineering, and was, therefore, apprenticed to Messrs. Boulton and Watt, of Soho, in whose service his father, (who is honourably named in Mr. James Watt’s will as an 'honest man,') had been for many years employed, chiefly in the superintendence of the copying-machine business. His energy during his apprenticeship, was very marked.

At that time the late Mr. Brunton was manager of the engine-works, and if he wanted any little matter schemed and fitted up, young Haden was generally employed upon it, and he never hesitated to work all night, and would not leave it until it was completed, frequently working during three nights in a week.

On the completion of his apprenticeship he was employed by the firm, first at Manchester, whence he was sent for as 'the young man that was never tired;' and for them he also erected the first gas-works established in Leeds.

He afterwards went to Glasgow for the same firm, where he remained five years, engaged in erecting the Cranston Hill Waterworks, since removed, being the first in Glasgow.

He was also engaged in erecting the first pair of engines that worked together, at right angles, on board a steam-boat, the ‘Princess Charlotte,’ on the Clyde. They were two 4 HP. engines, and were intended to work each paddle separately, but Mr. Haden connected them.

He subsequently erected many engines in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the neighbourhood; and, in the pursuit of his calling, he was so indefatigable and industrious, that Mr. James Watt at one time doubted whether he could have been occupied so many hours as were stated ; but after examining the books, and seeing what was done each day and night, Mr. Watt expressed himself as perfectly satisfied, and returned the books, with a present in addition to the overtime.

One incident will serve to show the active and persevering character of the man. On being sent for to repair an engine, fifteen miles from Glasgow, he rode over, on horseback, in a storm of sleet and snow. He at once took out the piston, when he found a leak in the bottom of the cylinder, and as the cylinder was too hot to stand in, he was suspended for twenty minutes, head downwards, repaired the leak, started the engine, and returned immediately to Glasgow.

On his return to England, he settled at Trowbridge, and was appointed, by Messrs. Boulton and Watt, their agent in the West of England, including the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Somersetshire, where he erected a great number of steam engines for the cloth-manufactories : this engagement continued for thirty-four years, and after its expiration, he continued to practise on his own account, taking out patents, for improvements in the machinery for the manufacture of cloth. One of these had reference to the dressing machinery, which, by an ingenious system of revolving steam cylinders, on a revolving barrel, gave a high lustre to the broad cloth. Another was for changing the usual gig barrels to certain angles while in rotary motion. A third was for causing the boards and brushes to move horizontally during the revolving motion of the cylinder itself.

During this period his attention was drawn to the ventilating and warming of buildings of all kinds, a department of the profession which he followed with great assiduity, and in which he attained a good reputation, being intrusted with many large buildings in all parts of the country. He was much engaged with the Commissioners of Prisons, for whom he designed many works, having a patent for apparatus specially applicable to such buildings.

Mr. Haden possessed great decision of character, and from his long practical experience, had gained an extensive acquaintance with all kinds of machinery, his views on mechanical subjects being remarkably clear-sighted. He was deservedly respected by all who employed him, or who served under him, as being a man of strict integrity and honesty of purpose, and who was always desirous of promoting the interests and well-being of others. He was frequently engaged in arbitrations, and was often selected to act as umpire.

He was, during the whole of his life, especially anxious for the welfare of the young, and for thirty years took the active superintendence of a large Sunday-school. Frequently in his journeys in different parts of the kingdom, he met, and received the grateful thanks of those who, in early life had been his pupils, and who had profited by the instruction imparted by him and the discipline he enforced. However great his labours and exertions might have been during the week, he never neglected this work on the Sabbath-day.

He was a steady promoter of the education of the people, and all liberal and philanthropic measures were ever supported to the best of his ability, displaying in this the spirit of a Christian philanthropist. As a father he was kind in manner, but firm in discipline, and his decease, which occurred on the 29th of October, 1856, in the sixty-ninth year of his age, left a blank in the family-circle which cannot be replaced.

His remains were followed to the grave by a large number of the members of the local Mechanics’ Institution, of which he had always been a liberal supporter, and by many Sunday-school teachers. The local Advertiser, in alluding to his death, says :

'In the decease of Mr. Haden, science has lost an able engineer, society a useful member, and the poor a generous and sympathising friend. Independently of the benefits he afforded the town from the number of men he employed, and the productions of skill he sent all over the globe, he was always ready to lend a helping hand to any good work. He was religious without sectarian bigotry-liberal without ostentation'

At a special meeting of the Committee of the Mechanics’ Institution, the following resolution was passed :

'That the Committee of the Trowbridge Mechanics’ Institution (on behalf of themselves and the other members of the Institution) have heard with deep regret of the death of Mr. George Haden, their late President, benefactor, and friend ; and in expressing their sympathy with the surviving son and other relatives, they cannot but feel, that it must be an alleviation of his and their sorrow, to reflect that the life of the departed wa3 devoted to piety and benevolence; and that, as the promoter of every good object, the special friend of the working classes, and the kind instructor and guide of the young, his name will be cherished, his actions live, and his example be followed when marble monuments have crumbled into dust.'

He had been a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers for twenty-two years, having joined it in 1834, and he always took a lively interest in the proceedings, but his constant residence in the country prevented his frequent attendance at the meetings.



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