Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,525 pages of information and 235,436 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.

George Nasmyth

From Graces Guide

George James Nasmyth (1806-c.1869) of Nasmyth, Gaskell and Co

1806 June 6th. Born in Edinburgh, the son of Alexander Nasmyth (1758-1840), a landscape painter and his wife Barbara Foulis. He was one eleven children. His younger brother James Nasmyth also became an engineer

Formed a partnership in Manchester with his brother James.

1841 Living at Barton on Irwell, Lancs (age 35 born Scotland), an Engineer. Also listed are Jane, Barbara and Margaret Nasmyth (all age around 50 and born Scotland) and all are Landscape Painters. Also Barbara Nasmyth (age around 75 born Scotland), Independent. [1]

1843 March. He states 'I occupy the Bridgewater foundry and engine works at Eccles. We employ upwards of 300 people.'[2]

1843 Left the partnership leaving his brother, Holbrook Gaskell, Henry Garnett and George Humphrys of Patricroft, and moved to London and worked as an agent for the business.[3]

1844 Elected member of the Institution of Civil Engineers

1849 19th April: Marriage of George Nasmyth of Great George Street, Westminster, to Isabella, third daughter of the late William Sanford, at St Michael's, Stockwell.[4]

1849 'Bank of England.— Private Drawing Office. — This office, although one of great size, was so crowded with pillars as to render it unfit for business purposes, is now the course of an entire remodelling, the effect of which will remove every support of the roof excepting the outer walls. So bold a course may astonish those who are aware that this apartment is 138 feet long by 43 wide, and the means by which this is effected must be of interest not only to the architectural and engineering profession, but the scientific world in general, as by it an entirely new and incalculable important principle in mechanics is for the first time made manifest. The invention is by Mr George Nasmyth, of Great George-street, Westminster, who by a foresight which rarely falls to the lot of an individual, has discovered that the strain hitherto applied to the bow and string principle is incorrect, and that it should be upon the cord and string, and an uniform pressure on the top of the bow, which is got by encasing the bow, and bearing on the case. In this manner, weights are sustained of immense magnitude, and the discovery will place it in the power of engineers, architects, and builders to construct public edifices, bridges, and warehouses of a span never yet attained or even meditated.'[5]

1850 Creditors. '...that George Nasmyth, of Barrington-road, Loughborough-road, Brixton, in the county of Surrey, Civil Engineer, hath by indenture, bearing date the 7th day of November 1850, assigned unto Jeremiah Greatorex, of Aldermanbury, in the city of London, Warehouseman, and Heannes Sanford, of Park-road, Stockwell, in the county of Surrey, Wine Merchant, all and every the goods, wares, and merchandize, and all other the personal estate and effects of him, the said George Nasmyth, upon the trusts therein mentioned, for the benefit of all and every the creditor and creditors of him...'[6]

1851 Living at 54 Newington Square, Newington, Surrey (age 44 born Edinburgh), a Civil Engineer [7]

1853 Letter to the Morning Post about Railway Accidents [8]

1857 Patent with Charles John Lewsey for improvements in the treatment of woods for casks etc [9]

1857 November. Letter to The Times about the SS Great Eastern [10]

1867 Listed at 7 Park Road, Kensington.[11]


James Nasmyth claimed sole credit for founding the successful Nasmyth engineering business in Manchester, including the establishment of the famous Bridgewater Foundry. His autobiography makes fascinating reading, but should certainly not be regarded as the epitome of historical accuracy.

A masterly account of the business life and work of James Nasmyth, and of the Bridgewater Foundry under Nasmyth, was written by J. A. Cantrell and published in 1985 [12]. This is a thorough, scholarly work, with numerous references and footnotes, and provides a valuable source of information on the engineering industry during the period covered. It critically examines some of the important claims and omissions in James Nasmyth's autobiography.

One such omission is any reference to his brother George, beyond naming him as a family member. J. A. Cantrell states that he has been all but completely eliminated from the Nasmyth records probably because of a professional disgrace later in his career. Cantrell points out that James and George had worked closely on engineering projects, and that the two were equal partners, until 1843, in the Manchester business. In February 1843 George ended his interest in the business, and set up in London as a consulting engineer and an agent for machinery, which included the products of the Bridgewater Foundry, procuring orders for steam pile drivers, for example.

One source states that George Nasmyth was the first curator of the Patent Museum, appointed in 1856, and dismissed less than three years later for the defalcation (misappropriation) of nearly £750 intended for running the Patent Museum.[13]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. London Evening Standard - Monday 6 March 1843
  3. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, Saturday, March 11, 1843
  4. London Evening Standard - Saturday 21 April 1849
  5. Limerick and Clare Examiner - Wednesday 4 July 1849
  6. The London Gazette Publication date:3 December 1850 Issue:21159 Page:3320
  7. 1851 Census
  8. The Morning Post, Monday, March 30, 1853
  9. The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, January 24, 1857
  10. The Times, Tuesday, Nov 24, 1857
  11. ICE Membership list
  12. 'James Nasmyth and the Bridgewater Foundry' by J. A. Cantrell, 1984. ISBN 0 7190 1339 9
  13. [1] 'Celebrating 150 Years of the Patent Office - a Revolution in Invention - The Making of the Patent Office' Melvyn Rees - The Patent Office, LICENSING EXECUTIVES SOCIETY News Exchange, Issue 88: December - January 2003