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John G. N. Alleyne

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Sir John Gay Newton Alleyne (1820-1912)

1821 September 8th. Born in Barbados.

c1853 Became manager and engineer of the Butterley Co

1865 John Gay Newton Alleyne, Manager, Butterley Iron Works, Alfreton.[1]

1912 February 20th. Died.


1912 Obituary [2]

Sir JOHN GAY NEWTON ALLEYNE, Bart., was born at Barbados on 8th September 1820, being the son of Sir Reynold Abel Alleyne, Bart. Though the Baronetcy was created in 1769, Sir John, who succeeded his father in 1870, was only the third holder of the title.

He was educated at Harrow and at the University of Bonn, and from 1843 to 1851 was Warden of Dulwich College; it was claimed that he was related to Edward Alleyn, the Founder of that establishment.

After a short engagement at Barbados in the sugar industry, he entered the service of the Butterley Iron Works in Derbyshire, and in 1852 he assumed the direction of the Butterley Company's extensive collieries, iron works, engineering and other departments, employing about 7,000 workmen. One of the first manufactures which engaged his attention was that of rolled-iron girders for floors, and deck beams for iron ships.

In 1853 Messrs. Fox and Barrett introduced their system of fire-proof flooring, for which the Butterley Company supplied the rolled girders or joists. A great demand arose and the capabilities of the mills then in use were soon exceeded, but he introduced his system of welding which enabled the largest sections required to be produced without unduly taxing the capacity of the small rolling-mills then in operation.

In the Exhibition held in London in 1862 the largest exhibit in iron and steel was that made by this company, and every item in this exhibit was made under Mr. Alleyne's personal supervision.

The Bessemer and other processes for cheap steel had not been introduced when Mr. Alleyne turned his attention to manufactures in iron; and, owing to the increasing difficulty of obtaining good puddlers, in 1867 he devised a puddling furnace with a rotating circular bottom combined with a reciprocating mechanical rabble.

About this time he designed and made a two-high reversing mill for rolling iron and steel girders and deck beams up to 16 inches deep, fitted with traversing tables, movable saws, and other appliances which only appeared at a much later date at other works.

In 1868 the Butterley Company secured the contract for the large roof of St. Pancras Station, London, which has a span of 240 feet springing from rail level to a height of 102 feet, with 24 main ribs weighing about 60 tons each, for the erection of which he designed two timber stages fitted with power-driven hoists for lifting the ironwork into position.

In 1872 the same company undertook the manufacture and erection of the large double-line railway bridge over the Old Maas at Dordrecht, which was a heavy and difficult work; and another piece of work of a different kind, which was carried out under his supervision, was the 84-inch cylinder Cornish pumping engine for the Clay Cross Collieries.

Numerous other large works were also carried out whilst the development of the Butterley Company's collieries, blast-furnaces and forges, and many minor works, was in progress. Nor were his labours confined to practical ordinary work.

He was a skilled astronomer, having a well-fitted observatory; and the method of determining small quantities of phosphorus in iron and steel by means of the microscope was devised by him.

He received no engineering education whatever; it was all natural genius, except that during the time he was Warden of Dulwich College, he occasionally attended the works of Messrs. Pontifex and Co.

On his retirement from business, he removed his astronomical instruments to Chevin, near Belper, where he was able to devote more time to such work, and was especially interested in the study of sun spots and their relation to meteorological conditions.

His death took place at his residence in Falmouth on 20th February 1912, at the age of ninety-one.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1865; he was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and one of the original Members and Vice-President of the Iron and Steel Institute.


1912 Obituary [3]

SIR JOHN GAY NEWTON ALLEYNE, Bart., the son of Sir Reynold Abel Alleyne, was born at Barbados on the 8th September, 1820, and died at Falmouth on the 20th February, 1912, aged 91.

He was educated at Harrow and Bonn University.

In 1852, after a brief connection with the sugar industry at Barbados, he became Manager and Engineer of the Butterley Iron Works, Derbyshire, a position which he occupied for 28 years. During this period, he introduced various improvements in we1ding and puddling processes and reversing rolling-mills, and carried out a number of important contracts, notably the roof of St. Pancras Station and the railway bridge over the Old Maas at Dordrecht, a description of which he contributed to the Proceedings of The Institution in 1872.

He was also responsible for the design and erection of a number of colliery installations, rolling caissons at Malta and Portsmouth Dockyards and many other contracts. Apart from such special work, all the details of a very extensive business, employing thousands of men, came under his daily supervision.

After his retirement in 1880, he was able to devote more time to astronomy and spectroscopic analysis, in which pursuits he was keenly interested and made some valuable researches. His private workshop was the scene of many activities, amongst his productions being a church clock, a revolving observatory-roof and a windmill for pumping water. He was an original member and a Vice-President of the Iron and Steel Institute, a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and for several years a Warden of Dulwich College.

He married Augusta Isabella, daughter of Sir Henry FitzHerbert, who died in 1910, and had two sons and eight daughters.

Sir John Alleyne was elected a Member of The Institution on the 9th April, 1872.


1912 Obituary [4]

Sir JOHN GAY NEWTON ALLEYNE, Bart., of Chevin, near Belper, died at Falmouth on February 20, at the age of ninety-one. He was born at Barbadoes on September 8, 1820, and was the son of Sir Reynold Abel Alleyne, Bart. Though the baronetcy was created as far back as 1769, Sir John, who succeeded his father in 1870, was only the third holder of the title.

He was educated at Harrow and at the University, Bonn; and from 1843 to 1851 was warden at Dulwich College, to the family of the founder of which his own family claimed to be related. His business career commenced with a short engagement at Barbadoes in the sugar industry, after which he entered the service of the Butterley Iron Works Company in Derbyshire.

One of the first manufactures which engaged Sir John (then Mr.) Alleyne's attention was that of rolled iron girders for floors, and deck beams for iron ships. In 1853 Messrs. Fox & Barrett introduced their system of fireproof flooring, for which the Butterley Company supplied the rolled girders or joists. An enormous demand arose, and the capabilities of the mills then in use were soon exceeded, but Mr. Alleyne introduced his system of welding which enabled the largest sections to be produced without unduly taxing .the capacity of the comparatively small rolling-mills then in operation.

Sections of T-iron were rolled, and by welding two of these together an H-section was formed. For still deeper sections a piece of boiler plate was inserted between the T-bars, so that there were two longitudinal welds instead of one. Great difficulties were met with in the welding process, but the skill and perseverance of Mr. Alleyne overcame them; and the method finally adopted proved exceedingly effective.

In the Exhibition of 1862 the largest exhibit in iron and steel was that made by the Butterley Company; every item in which exhibit was made under the personal supervision of Mr. Alleyne. It may be interesting at this date to name a few of the specimens out of many:— A solid deck beam 16 inches deep, with knees welded in. A solid wrought-iron engine beam 31 feet 9 inches long by 7 feet wide, 21 inches thick, weighing 7 tons. An armour plate, 14 feet long, 5 feet wide, 41 inches thick. A solid welded wrought-iron girder, 3 feet deep, with flanges 12 inches wide, and another similar girder 2 feet 6 inches deep.

In consequence of wrought iron proving unequal to resist the fire of improved guns, the manufacture of iron armour plates was not proceeded with, but Government orders for deck beams, chain iron, &c., were such, that for many years two Admiralty inspectors resided near the works to carry out their duties in connection with the firm's Government contracts.

The Bessemer and other processes for cheap steel had not been introduced when Mr. Alleyne turned his attention to manufactures in iron; and owing to the increasing difficulty of obtaining good puddlers, in 1867 he devised a puddling furnace with a rotating circular bottom combined with a reciprocating mechanical table. This furnace was shown working at Codnor Park in 1870.

In that year Sir Reynold died, and Mr. Alleyne succeeded to the baronetcy; in the same year he designed and constructed the splendid two-high reversing-mill for rolling iron and steel girders and deck beams up to 16 inches deep, fitted with traversing tables, movable saws, and other appliances which only appeared at a much later date at other works. Many schemes for reversing rolls had been publicly discussed, and Sir John adopted the bold and novel expedient of two independent engines fitted with heavy fly-wheels, which alternately drove the mill in either direction as required; and as the reduction in speed during each pass was recovered by one engine whilst the other engine was driving the rolls, the output of the mill was increased considerably. Although this arrangement was afterwards improved upon by reversing engines, this mill worked with success and economy.

In 1868 the Butterley Company secured the contract for the large roof of St. Pancras Station, London; and as no roof of so large a span and of similar design had been then erected, the masterly way in which the manufacture of this roof at the works, and the still more difficult problem of its erection on the site, were carried to completion, is in itself a striking testimony to the originality and resource of Mr. Alleyne. It has a span of 240 feet, springing from rail level to a height of 102 feet, with twenty-four main ribs weighing about 60 tons each, for the erection of which Mr. Alleyne designed two large timber stages, each made in three divisions, running on wheels so that each part could be moved independently, fitted with power-driven hoists for lifting the ironwork into position, and on these stages pairs of ribs with intermediate purlins were erected; and when one pair was completed the stages were moved forward for the erection of the succeeding pairs. This system of erection has been followed by other contractors in similar cases.

In 1872 the Butterley Company undertook the manufacture and erection of the large double-line railway bridge over the Old Maas at Dordrecht, consisting of four fixed spans varying in length from 283 feet 10 inches to 211 feet 9 inches, and two double openings respectively 167 feet 4 inches and 105 feet wide, crossed by swing spans. This was a heavy and difficult work; and again were the remarkable skill and foresight of Sir John evidenced in his arrangements for the design of the staging and tackle and the erection of the ironwork. The bridge remains to this day as a splendid example of good material and workmanship.

Nor were his labours confined to practical everyday work. He was a skilled astronomer, having a well-fitted observatory; and the method of determining small quantities of phosphorus in iron and steel by means of the spectroscope, as devised by him, placed him in the front rank of those who have enriched science by physical research.

The products of his private workshop bore evidence as to his technical skill, and few workmen could handle tools better than he did.

Sir John Alleyne contributed a paper on "The Estimation of Small Quantities of Phosphorus in Iron and Steel by Spectrum Analysis" to the Iron and Steel Institute. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was one of the original members of Council of the Iron and Steel Institute, having been subsequently elected a vice-president in 1870.

He married in 1851 Augusta Isabella, the daughter of Sir Henry Fitzherbert, by whom he had one son, Reynold Henry Newton Alleyne, who predeceased him. Lady Alleyne died in September 1911. His eldest grandson, John Meynell Alleyne, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, succeeds to the baronetcy.


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