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Henry Allason Fletcher

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Henry Allason Fletcher (1834-1884)

1858 of Lowca Engine Works, Whitehaven.[1]

1884 July 6th. Died.

1884 Obituary [2]

HENRY ALLASON FLETCHER, of Croft Hill, Whitehaven, who died on the 8th of July, 1884, was born in 1834, and was the youngest son of the late Mr. John Wilson Fletcher, of Tarnbank, near Cockermouth.

Mr. Fletcher’s family had been engaged in the coal trade of West Cumberland for several generations, and also for some years ‘in the iron trade of that district, which has expanded into enormous proportions during the last quarter of a century. Two of his brothers successively represented the borough of Cockermouth in Parliament.

Mr. Fletcher was educated at a private school. Having been fond of mechanics as a boy, he elected to follow the profession of a mechanical engineer, for which he received the necessary training in the works of Messrs. Gilkes, Wilson and Co., at Middlesbrough.

Soon after leaving Middlesbrough he became the Principal and Managing Partner of the Lowca Engine Works, near Whitehaven.

These works had been established in 1794 by Heslop and Millward, the original makers of the 'Heslop' atmospheric engine, once as well known in the north of England as the Boulton and Watt type of engine elsewhere. In the 'Heslop' engine the patent right of Watt for a separate condenser was evaded by the use of two cylinders, one of which condensed the steam from the other. A complete specimen of the 'Heslop' engine was some years since presented to the Patent Office Museum, through the instrumentality of Mr. Fletcher, who about the same time gave a full description of the engine in a Paper read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Mr. Fletcher continued to conduct the Lowca Engine Works until the beginning of 1884, when ill-health compelled him to retire, and the works were sold to the Lowca Engineering Co., Limited.

Mr. Fletcher possessed an inventive mind, and took out a number of patents. One was for improvements in the boring and planing of metal; another for specialities in tank-locomotives; and a third for improvements in the permanent-way of railways. 'Fletcher’s tank-locomotive' acquired considerable reputation.

Mr. Fletcher was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. It had once been his intention to make a careful study of the heavens, by means of an achromatic telescope left to him by his brother the late Mr. Isaac Fletcher, M.P., F.R.S. Unfortunately the intention was frustrated by the bodily infirmities which seldom left him free from suffering during the later years of his life, and which gradually undermined his vital powers.

As long as strength permitted, he freely lent the aid of his ability and good judgment to the furtherance of many useful objects in his own neighbourhood. He had filled the office of President of the Whitehaven Scientific Society, to which he contributed a valuable Paper on the 'Archaeology of the Iron Trade of West Cumberland.'

He did excellent service as Chairman of the local Rural Sanitary Authority, as well as in the capacity of Chairman of the School Attendance Committee. He was also Chairman of the Moresby School Board. Indeed, he was ever ready to ally himself with any effort to amend the social condition of those around him. As a county magistrate he did not limit his functions to the attendance of quarter and petty sessions, but he took an active part as an ex oficio guardian, and as a member of the highway board.

Mr. Fletcher was a man of considerable culture. He was very clever in sketching with pen or pencil, and as a caricaturist had few superiors. Some of his performances in this way found a place in Punch.

Mr. Fletcher was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1865, and was transferred Member in 1877.

1884 Obituary [3]

HENRY ALLASON FLETCHER was born near Cockermouth in 1834, and was descended through younger branches from the ancient family of Fletcher of Cockermouth Hall. Two of his brothers represented Cockermouth in parliament.

After having been educated at a private school, he received a practical training as a mechanical engineer in the works of Messrs. Gilkes Wilson and Co., Middlesbrough.

He then became the managing partner in the firm of Messrs. Fletcher Jennings and Co., Lowca Engine Works, near Whitehaven. These works had been established in 1794 by Adam Heslop, the inventor of an atmospheric engine which for many years competed successfully in the north of England, and especially in Cumberland, with the earlier invention of Watt. Of the Heslop engine he gave a description to the Institution in 1879 (Proceedings, page 85).

In connection with engineering work he introduced several improvements, including a mineral tank-locomotive much approved in various parts of England and Wales.

He was an active magistrate for the county of Cumberland.

In consequence of failing health he had to relinquish business in the spring of 1884; and after a long and painful illness he died at his residence, Croft Hill, near Whitehaven, on 6th July 1884, at the age of forty-nine.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1858.

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