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British Industrial History

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John George Bodmer

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1842 tyre rolling mill, constructed by P. R. Jackson and Co in accordance with Bodmer's patent
1856. Seed crushing machines.

For much more information, see John George Bodmer: Obituary.

John George Bodmer (1786-1864) was the Anglicised name of Johann Georg Bodmer.

J. G. Bodmer of Britannia Foundry, 22 York Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester

1786 Born in Zurich, Switzerland.

1799 Millwright apprentice at the age of 13/14.

1806 Producing interchangeable parts for rifles.

1809-13 Invented the detachable bayonet for breech-loading rifles, but this idea was not taken up for many years.

1821 Left the service of the Grand Duke of Baden. He also relinquished his partnership in the cotton mill and returned to Switzerland.

c1821 Birth of son Louis Rudolph Bodmer in Zurich

1825 John George Bodmer, Chorlton Row, Manchester, Civil Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1828 He returned to this country to push the sale of his inventions. He lived for a time at Manchester, and then at Bolton, where in partnership with a man named Novelli he set up a cotton mill in which his improved machines were installed. However, towards the end of the year his health failed and he had to return to Switzerland.

1828 Partnership dissolved. Philip Novelli of Manchester and John George Bodmer of Egerton, near Bolton-le-Moors, Lancs.[2]

1833 Returned to England in the Summer. He appointed Sharp, Roberts and Co sole makers of his improved cotton machinery.

1834 Working in the Manchester area and known as John George Bodmer, he hired a workroom at Rothwell and Co in Bolton and built his first railway locomotive.

1835 'BODMER'S PATENT.
Whitehall, Wednesday, 16th May, 1849.
Before Lords Brougham, Langdale, and the Judge of the Admiralty Court, Lords of the Judicial Committee of her Majesty's Privy Council.
This was petition of Mr. Thomas Hornby Birley, of this city, cotton spinner, praying for the prolongation of the term of certain letters patent, dated 27th May, 1835, granted to Mr. John George Bodmer for "certain improvements in machinery for preparing, roving, and spinning cotton and wool."
The petitioner appeared before Mr. Hill, Q. C., and Mr. Webster; and the Attorney-General came in on behalf of the crown.
The counsel for the petitioner stated in the opening, that the present application was made under the provisions of an act of parliament, passed in the 5th and 6th William the Fourth, by which the judicial committee may report to the crown that an extension of letters patents should be granted for any term not exceeding seven years, and the crown is thereby empowered to grant such extension.
That Mr. John George Bodmer, after great experiments and the exercise of great inventive genius and mechanical skill, had procured the patent in question, to be granted to him for numerous improvements in cotton-spinning machinery.
That the inventions detailed in the specification, in fact, constituted a series of improvements in such machinery, all of which were new and useful; but that those which had got more extensively into use were such as were applicable to the carding engine, scutching machine, and blowing machine.
That these improvements were brought under the notice of Mr. Hugh Hornby Birley, (since deceased), and the result was the formation of a partnership between Mr. Bodmer and Messrs. Birley, for the purpose of carrying on the business of machine-makers, at Manchester, and that large sums of money had been introduced by Messrs. Birley, as capital in that partnership concern.
The learned counsel then proceeded to state that efforts were made by the Messrs. Birley to get the improvements introduced into various mills, two travellers being employed for the purpose, but that those efforts had been unsuccessful, owing in great part to the reluctance of spinners to adopt changes in their machinery which necessarily led to a hindrance in their business of greater or less amount, and which might moreover be found unsuitable, and not improvement, but the contrary.
In support of the case for the petitioner, Mr. Bright, the member for this borough, gave evidence that certain of the improvements in question had been applied to carding engines in his own mill,— that they ware found to be very useful; and four or five other cotton-spinners from various parts of Lancashire and Cheshire were examined to the same effect, adding, that the charge made for the use of the patent waa fair and reasonable.
Evidence was given of the nature and character of the experiments made by the patentee; and Mr. Bodmer, jun. (his son) proved, by a statement made from the books of the concern, that cash loss of £3039 8s. 8d. had been sustained by the partnership concern in endeavouring to introduce the various improvements and to that sum £2,940 had to be added for the interest on capital, increasing the loss to nearly £6,000.
At the close of the petitioner's case, the Attorney-General addressed the council opposing the prolongation.— At the conclusion of his speech the council chamber was cleared, and their lordships having deliberated, the parties were again admitted.
Lord Brougham delivered judgment, eulogising the inventions to which the patent related, and proceeded to state that the public were indebted to the Messrs. Birley for their great generosity in supporting the patentee in bringing out and prosecuting the very useful improvements in question, and their lordships had determined to grant prolongation for tbe term of five years.
Solicitor for the petitioner, Mr. Harrison Blair, Messrs. Newton & Son, office for Patents, Agents. [3]

1837-8 concentrated on work for the cotton spinning industry with machine tools and foundry work

1838 Patent extension. 'JOHN GEORGE BODMER, formerly of No. 50, Oxford-street, Chorlton-row, in the parish of Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, Civil Engineer, but now of Mayfield-terrace, in Chorlton-row aforesaid (now called Chorlton-upon-Medlock), Civil Engineer, hereby, gives notice, that he intends, forthwith to apply to Her Majesty in Council for a prolongation for the further term of seven years, or such other term, not exceeding seven years, as Her Majesty shall please, of the term of sole using and vending his the said John George Bodmer's invention of 'certain improvements' in the machinery for cleaning, carding, drawing, roving, and spinning of cotton and-wool,"...'[4]

1839 Patented a vertical lathe (Patent No. 8070), which he called a Circular Planer' [5]

1841 Listed as 'John George Bodmer, Britannia Foundry, 22 York Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock' [6]

1842 Advertisement. 'RAILWAY COMPANIES, ENGINEERS, AND OTHERS.- BODMER and Co. invite the attention of Railway Engineers, Ironfounders, and Machinists, to their various PATENT IMPROVEMENTS in the following articles:-
Steam Engines, high and low pressure.
Lathes, Common and Circular Planing Machines, of every description.
Key Grooving, Wheel Cutting, Nut Cutting, and Shaft Grooving Machines.
Machines for Screwing Bolts and Nuts.
Self-acting Drilling Machines, single and double.
Britannia Foundry, York-street, Chorlton, and 10, St. Marys-Gate, near the Exchange, Manchester.
Agent, JOSEPH RADFORD. [7]

1842 Another locomotive built

1845 Advert: 'ON SALE, a Number of 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12-inch SLIDE, BREAK and COMMON LATHES, both new and second-hand; several PLANING MACHINES, of various sizes; and one about 15ft. 10in. high, with a jib of 14ft.in length in length .— Apply at BODMER & CO.'S Britannia Foundry, York-street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester. [8]

1845 The Manchester premises closed.

1846 Contents of Bodmer & Co's machine shop in York-street advertised for sale 'in consequence of the premises being required by the South Junction Railway Company'. See advert below.

1848 Bodmer left England for Vienna

1852 Details of Slotting machine (J. G. Bodmer of London) and Radial drill (J. G. Bodmer of Manchester)

1852 Bodmer's improved stopcock

1860 Returned to Zurich.

1864 May 30th. Died in Zurich age 78. 'for many years established in Manchester'.[9]

See here and here for some details of Bodmer's machine tool inventions.[10] [11]


1846 Sale of Manchester Works and Equipment [12]

1846 Advertisement: 'Valuable Lathes, Planing Machines, &c.

By T. M. FISHER, THIS PRESENT WEDNESDAY, and two following days, the 20th, and August, at the Machine Shop belonging to Messrs. Bodmer and Co., situate in York-street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester, (in consequence of the premises being required by the South Junction Railway Company,) sale to commence each day punctually at eleven o'clock in the forenoon :

THE Capital MACHINERY, which is mostly new, on the best modern principle, and in excellent condition, and comprises two 7 inch, two 7½ inch, and one 7 inch raised to 9½ inch double geared slide lathes, each with planed bed, compound and common rests, regulating screw and driving apparatus ; five pairs of 7 inch, and one pair of 12 inch headstocks for lathes, all double geared, and arranged for being connected with the regulating screw of slide lathes ; three 8 inch double geared surfacing slide lathes, on four cast iron planed beds, each 8 feet long, with breaks to take in 4ft. 7in. diameter, with three 34 inch face plates, and three self-acting surfacing slides; pillar lathe; 7 inch raised to 9½ inch single speed lathe; five pairs of 8-inch double-geared headstocks for lathes, each with two face plates and bell chucks; nineteen regulating screws for lathes, from 4ft. to 21ft. 6in. long, and 3/8 and ½-inch pitch; compound and other slide rests, for 8 to 12-inch lathes; thirty-four patent self-acting screw chucks, for 4 to 12-inch lathes; power planing machine, self-acting in the angular and horizontal cuts, will plane 7ft-10in. long, 3ft. 4in. wide, and take in 3ft. 4in. deep; two power planing machines, self-acting in the angular and horizontal cuts, with angle tables, each will plane 16ft. long, 2ft. 7in. wide, and take in 1ft. 9in. deep; upright drilling machine, with fixings for an 8-inch pillar ; circular self-acting planing and boring machine, will take in 8ft. 3in. diameter, 3ft. deep; eight self-acting horizontal boring machines, each with planed table, boring bar and head; large shaping and nut cutting machine, with compound slide rest and 16-inch cutter; grooving or stand cutting machine, with sliding table and three cutters; self-acting nut cutting machine, with sliding pinion, cutters, and arbors; two patent grinding or equalizing machines, with rack, pinion, and grinding disc; upright boring machine for large cylinders, pillar 11ft. high 9 -7/16 in. diameter; capital self-acting radial drilling and boring machine, will take in 4ft. 6in. high; powerful crane, jib 13ft. 4in. long, capable of raising 15 tons; excellent foundry crane, jib 21ft. 6in. long, both with strong chains, hooks, and blocks; first-rate hoist, with traversing apparatus, railway, and carriage, crab, crane, and fixings, with 100 feet of ½-inch chain; weighing machine, Fairbanks patent, up to 6½ tons; vices, benches; several pairs of stocks, with taps and dies; surfacing plates, maundrills, catches, drills, rosebits, boring rods, bits, rimers, steel cutters, chasing tools, turning tools, for iron and wood; circular saw, with cast iron planed table; grindstones, cupboards, fitters’ and joiners’ benches, driving straps, bar, rod, and scrap iron, steel, twelve smiths’ hearths, with anvils; tongs, swages, hammers, and bolt tools; six smithy cranes, and a powerful fire engine, with branches and hose. To be viewed on Monday and Tuesday, the 17th and 18th August, when catalogues may be had on the premises, or before, by applying to the Auctioneer, 21, Princess-street, Manchester.'


1849 Sale of Equipment [13]

1849 Advertisement: 'To Coal Proprietors. Engineers, Millwrights, Machine Makers, Rope Manufacturers, and others.—

'Sale of Six Steam Engines, on a new and improved plan ; Large Cutting Machine, Drilling do. Surface Polishing do.; Two Pentographs, One Drawing Frame, for hemp ; and Four Spinning Frames, for do.; Lathes &c. By JAMES DREW (by order of the late firm of Messrs. J. G. Bodmer and Co. machinists), on Wednesday and Thursday, the 2lst and 22d days of November, 1849, at the warehouse opposite the Atlas Works, Great Bridgewater-street, Manchester.

'THE Valuable MACHINERY, comprising one condensing steam engine, equal to 100 horses' power —his engine was made for a coal pit, and the piston rods are coupled to the pump rods; one steam engine, equal to 30 horses' power, for high-pressure or condensing, not quite finished - one do. equal to 30 horses' power, not finished ; two high-pressure steam engines, equal to 10 horses' power each, with propellers on a new plan, for steam navigation, with high pressure steam boiler on the locomotive principle; one steam engine equal to 8 horse's power, fitted up for high-pressure or condensing; parts of a 60-horse steam engine, one large excellent cutting machine, for cutting wood spur and bevil wheel patterns to 28 feet diameter— specimens of wheels cut by the above machine may be seen by applying on the premises ; one very superior machine for drilling throstle and mule spindle rails, with regulating screw and dividing index, will bore three holes at once ; - machine for grinding and polishing slide lathe beds, surface plates, &c. from 1 foot to 12 feet long; two pentographs, for making wheel cutters for 1 to 12 inches diameter; one drawing frame, for preparing hemp; four machines, of four spindles each, for spinning hemp—these are the best machines that have ever been made for the above purpose, the screws that work the gills are 4½ feet long by three inches diameter, one on the same principle is now working at the dockyards, Plymouth, and is much approved , of; two apparatuses for boring nuts of regulating screws, for 5 and 12 inch slide lathes ; machine for boring and turning parallel or cone spindles, for hemp machines ; two sets of rollers, for making spherical springs for railway carriages ; spherical apparatus, for turning governor balls, valve balls, and seat or circular steps ; do. for boring and turning circular steps; machine for drawing and flattening wire, for reed makers; machine or rest for shaping keys, for staking on wheels, pulleys, &c. drawing frame for cotton, and three lap machines; self-acting slide lathe, eight feet on the bed, for turning and boring carding engine cylinders ; maundrill, for turning cast-iron doffing cylinders for carding engines ; one very excellent eight-inch turning lathe, with face plate, bell chuck, and cone speeds; a number of hollow and round steel and case-hardened guages or templates, from ½in. to 4in.; about fifty yards of new bright wrought-iron shafting, from 2in. to 3in diameter, with couplings, keys, hangers, brass steps, and turned cast-iron pulleys; one 12-inch slide rest; cast-iron division wheel, 3 1/3 feet diameter; large casting for slotting machine; cast-steel screw taps and cutters, various sizes; screw nuts, finished and unfinished ; new forged work for turning lathes; a complete set of wood patterns of 100 horse steam engine ; one complete set of grid patterns for a 60-horse steam boiler; ditto for 20-horse; ditto for 8 horse; one complete set of wood patterns s for hemp machinery; a quantity of wood corebeses [core boxes], a good assortment of spur and bevil wheel patterns, a large quantity of packing boxes and other articles. Sale to commence each day at eleven o'clock—

'Catalogues are in course of preparation, and may be had seven days prior to the sale; on application to the Auctioneer, No. 1, New Cannon-street, Manchester; or at the place of sale.'


Location of Bodmer's Britannia Foundry

The precise location of Britannia Foundry has not been identified on maps. We know that the foundry, at 22 York Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, was demolished 'in consequence of the premises being required by the South Junction Railway Company'. This enables us to place the foundry at the northern end of York Street, where it ends at the River Medlock. By comparing Bancks's 1831 map and the 1849 O.S. map (which shows the M&SJR railway viaduct) we can see that two buildings on the west side of York Street would have been demolished, while a mill on the east side of the street would have had its southern end removed (this is shown as Medlock New Mill on the 1849 map). The site of the demolished and severed buildings is crossed by trains immediately after leaving Oxford Road Station and crossing Oxford Street and the River Medlock.

Edward Baines's 1825 Directory informs us that in 1825 Britannia Foundry, York Street, was occupied by John and William Dorning. However, the occupant of 22 York Street was listed as Thomas Coxon )coach proprietor).

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1825 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. Globe - Saturday 18 October 1828
  3. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 23 May 1849
  4. The London Gazette Publication date:15 May 1838 Issue:19617 Page:1114
  5. 'A History of Machine Tools' by W. Steeds, OUP 1969
  6. 1841 Pigot’s Directory of Manchester and Salford
  7. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 9 April 1842
  8. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 31 May 1845
  9. Sheffield Independent - Tuesday 07 June 1864
  10. [1] Machine Tools - II by John Richards, American Machinist, 4 May 1899, pp.379-382
  11. [2] American Machinist, 13 March 1902, p.369ff.,
  12. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 19 August 1846
  13. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 3rd November 1849