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John Ashworth (1826-1888)

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John Ashworth (1826-1888), of John Ashworth


1889 Obituary [1]

JOHN ASHWORTH was born on the 3rd of August, 1826.

From his earliest youth he evinced an aptitude for mechanics, and was constantly making models of small pieces of machinery. When quite a boy he constructed several miniature water-wheels, which he fixed in small streams near his father’s house. As he advanced in years he gave much attention to improvements in the steam-engine, and was one of the first, if not the first, in Bolton to see the advantages of using steam at very high pressure.

He spent some time in experimenting with a new railway-chair, and some specimens of the pattern he invented were laid on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway near Bolton. He afterwards brought this invention under the notice of Sir Edward Watkin, but being at the time greatly occupied with other matters, he failed to follow it up.

In due course Mr. Ashworth joined his father, who was in business as a cotton-spinner at Bolton, and turned his attention to the improvement of spinning machinery, taking out several patents for that purpose. One related to what is called a lap-machine, used for making laps for combing-machines. The selvedges made from the machines then in use were not satisfactory, and after a considerable time in experimenting, he introduced a revolving plate in lieu of the stationary or fixed one. This was a great success, and was adopted by many machine-makers, who paid Mr. Ashworth a considerable amount for royalties; he also invented an improved cam for lifting conical valves, which was applied by several other engineers in Bolton.

About the year 1862 Mr. Ashworth left his father’s mill, and built a large one for himself at Astley Bridge, near Bolton. This was a model structure in every respect, both as regarded the building and the engines, and machinery. Here he had a pair of engines of 500 or 600 indicated HP., working with an initial pressure of 100 lbs. to the square inch, and burning less fuel in proportion than any engines in the neighbourhood. In the necks of the steel crank-shafts of these engines, he cut elliptical grooves which caused the lubricating oil to pass along the necks in such a way as to be suffused equally over the whole surface, and so prevent heating.

Several other inventions also proceeded from his prolific brain, amongst them an improved cheese-toaster, which is a great favourite, all of the inventions being of a practical nature, and such as commended themselves to his associates in the spinning trade. Mr. Ashworth‘s motto was “thorough.”

Mr. Ashworth was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 12th of May, 1874. He died on the 18th of September, 1888.


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