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John Gjers

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1866.
1870. Puddling furnace at works of Fox, Head and Co. Designed alongside Richard Howson and John Allcock Jones.

John Gjers (1830-1898) of Gjers, Mills and Co.

Ironmaster of Middlesbrough, and of Bournewood, Bournemouth.

1898 Died.


1898 Obituary [1]

JOHN GJERS was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 4th March 1830, his father being a major in the Swedish army.

Having been educated at the Slojd school in his native town, at the age of eighteen he entered upon an engineering career, and had an early opportunity of learning the intricacies of cotton-spinning machinery.

Coming over to England in 1851 to visit the first international exhibition, he spent three years as an engineering draughtsman in various works in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

In 1854 he obtained a responsible position at Middlesbrough in the Ormesby Iron Works of Messrs. Cochrane, Grove and Co., where he assisted in the building of the Ormesby blast furnaces, and of the large pipe-foundry, which at that time was the largest of its kind in this country.

In 1855 he succeeded Mr. Edwin Jones in the management of the blast-furnace department of the works until 1861, and took an active part in the two great improvements effected during that period, namely the heating of the blast to a higher temperature by means of regenerative stoves, and the complete utilization of the waste furnace-gases for raising steam and for heating the blast.

In the beginning of 1862 he became manager at the Tees Side Iron Works of Messrs. Snowdon and Hopkins, for whom in 1864 he designed and erected the Linthorpe blast furnaces. Here he introduced, in the quick-running direct-acting blowing engines which he designed, air-valves made simply of india-rubber flaps; and also pneumatic hoists or lifts, for raising the charging materials to the top of the blast furnaces or calcining kilns. Additional blast-furnaces for the same owners were built from his designs and under his direction in 1866 and 1870.

In 1867-8 he erected two blast-furnaces at Ardsley, between Leeds and Wakefield, for the West Yorkshire Iron Co. in 1868 he remodelled the Wingerworth Iron Works near Chesterfield, and utilized the whole of the waste gas from the open-topped blast-furnaces.

In 1869 he reconstructed the blast furnaces of the Clay Cross Iron Works, raising their height from 48 to 60 feet, and increasing by one foot their diameter at the bashes. In the same year he also reconstructed the Frodingham Iron Works, removing the two old blast-furnaces and erecting four of larger size and better shape.

At the beginning of 1870 he commenced the erection of the Ayresome Iron Works, Middlesbrough, for the firm of Gjers, Mills, and Co., of which he had become the senior partner; their first two blast-furnaces were blown in on 29th March 1871. The circular calcining kiln of his invention was a great improvement upon the older angular forms of kiln, and resulted in economy of fuel and better calcination of the ore.

In the Bessemer steel works of the Darlington Steel and Iron Co. he introduced several improvements. His most important invention was that of soaking pits, in which the steel ingots hot from the ingot moulds are surrounded by thick walls of fire-brick previously brought to a red heat by preceding ingots, and are left for twenty or thirty minutes to soak in their own heat, whereby internal molecular strains are got rid of, and the heat becomes uniformly distributed throughout the mass of metal, which is then ready for rolling at once, without re-heating. These advantages, coupled with the consequent great saving in fuel, labour, steel, and heating furnaces, ensured the speedy and extensive adoption of the soaking pits in a modified form wherever Siemens and Bessemer steel ingots are made, not only in this country, but also throughout Europe and the United States.

In recognition of its value he was awarded in 1894 the Bessemer gold medal of the Iron and Steel Institute. After a serious illness in 1891 he spent each winter away from Middlesbrough, the last four at Bournemouth, where he resided since October 1897, with a view to recovering his health.

His death occurred suddenly in Middlesbrough from failure of the heart's action on 6th October 1898, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1874, and was also a Member of the Iron and Steel Institute.


1898 Obituary [2]

... at the age of sixty-eight years, Mr John Gjers, senior partner of the firm of Messrs. Gjers, Mills and Co, Ayresome Ironworks, Middlesbrough, a gentleman who may fairly be described as one of the pioneers of the Cleveland iron trade, he having been connected with it as an engineer and an iron master almost from the time of its establishment some forty-seven years ago...

... He was, indeed, ever on the outlook for new departures in industrial development; and producers of pig iron are indebted to him for a number of useful inventions which have been generally adopted. As a designer of blast furnace plant he was probably unsurpassed. He bad to do with the erecting of many of the Cleveland furnaces, and his reputation was fully acknowledged in other iron-making districts, for his advice and assistance in the construction of works in other parts of the country were readily sought. His own works - the Ayresome - were considered a model of what a blast furnace plant ought to be, and they have received the encomiums of many practical engineers....

...The late Mr. Gjers was born in 1830 at Gothenburg, in Sweden, his father being an officer in the Swedish army. Mr. Gjers, who for many years was Foreign Secretary to the Russian Government, was a collateral relative. Mr. Gjers was brought up to the engineering profession in his native city, and in 1851, on the occasion of the first International Exhibition in London, he came over to England, and decided to remain in this country. During the next three years he occupied positions as an engineering draughtsman in various parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, one situation being at the Low Moor Works and another at Sir F. Crossley's works at Halifax.

In 1854, his connection with the Cleveland iron trade commenced, as he obtained an engagement at Messrs. Cochrane and Co's Ormesby Ironworks, of which the late Mr. Edwin Francis Jones was then the manager. Mr. Gjers assisted in the building of some of the original Ormesby blast furnaces, and subsequently he superintended the laying down of Messrs. Cochrane's pipe foundry, which was one of the largest of its kind in Great Britain, its capacity being then over 600 tons of castings per week. He was, although so young, entrusted with the designing of all the machinery and plant required at this foundry.

In 1855, on the retirement of Mr. E. F. Jones from the management of the blast furnaces, Mr Gjers was appointed his successor, a position which he held till 1861, and during those six years two great improvements in the economical production of pig iron were introduced - the employment of hotter blast, and the utilisation of the waste gases from the furnaces for the purpose of raising the steam and heating the blast. The patent heating stoves of Siemens, Cowper, and Cochrane were introduced in 1858, and were adopted at the Ormesby Works. Mr. Gjers himself invented a method of superheating the blast for heated air engines. He also patented an invention for granulating blast furnace slag to be used instead of sand for the pig beds, as well as a new description of calcining kiln. In the early part of 1862 Mr. Gjers was appointed manager for Messrs. Hopkins, Gilkes and Co, at the Teesside Ironworks, Middlesbrough, and in 1864 erected for them an entirely new blast furnace plant, since named the Linthorpe Ironworks, at which were adopted a number of new arrangements proposed and designed by Mr. Gjers, among them the patent pneumatic lift or hoist, which has since been adopted at many furnaces in Cleveland, and also in other parts of the country. The designing of these works gained Mr. Gjers a great reputation, and his name became known throughout the country as one of the foremost blast furnace engineers of the day.

In 1866 he planned the new furnaces at the Teesside Works, and was generally complimented on the efficient manner in which he had performed his work. In 1868 he was engaged in the erection of two blast furnaces for the West Yorkshire Iron Company, at Ardsley Junction, near Leeds; he also remodelled the Wingerworth furnaces and the Clay Cross Ironworks in Derbyshire - the latter originally designed and partly owned by George Stephenson - and he afterwards planned the Frodingham Ironworks in Lincolnshire. In 1870, in conjunction with the late Mr. Mills and Mr. Emerson, be founded the firm of Gjers, Mills and Co, and put up the Ayresome Ironworks, of which he remained chief proprietor for the rest of his life...

... His most important invention, however, was what are known as "soaking pits", into which the steel ingots are dropped from the moulds, and kept at a uniform temperature until they are rolled into rails or other finished material. These soaking pits were put down at the Darlington Steel Works, with which Mr. Gjers was intimately connected as vice-chairman of the company; but they have not been much adopted elsewhere in this country, though German, Austrian, and Belgian manufacturers have taken to them largely, and find them of great advantage. In recognition of this invention and his other services to the iron and steel trades, Mr. Gjers was a few year ago awarded the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute.


1898 Obituary [3]

JOHN GJERS died at Bournemouth on October 7, 1898, at the age of sixty-eight. Born in 1830 at Gothenburg, in Sweden, his father being an officer in the Swedish army, he was brought up to the engineering profession in his native city, and in 1851, on the occasion of the first International Exhibition in London, came over to England, and decided to remain in this country. During the next three years he occupied positions as an engineering draughtsman in various parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, one situation being at the Low Moor Works and another at Sir F. Crossley's works at Halifax.

In 1854 his connection with the Cleveland iron trade commenced, as he obtained an engagement at Messrs. Cochrane & Co.'s Ormesby Ironworks. He assisted in the building of some of the original Ormesby blast-furnaces, and subsequently he superintended the laying down of Messrs. Cochrane's pipe foundry, which was one of the largest of its kind in Great Britain, its capacity being then over 600 tons of castings per week. He was, although so young, entrusted with the designing of all the machinery and plant required at this foundry.

In 1855, on the retirement of Mr. E. F. Jones from the management of the blast-furnaces, he was appointed his successor, a position which he held till 1861, and during those six years two great improvements in the economical production of pig iron were introduced—the employment of hotter blast, and the utilisation of the waste gases from the furnaces for the purpose of raising the steam and heating the blast. The patent heating stoves of Siemens, Cowper, and Cochrane were introduced in 1858, and were adopted at the Ormesby Works. Mr. Gjers himself invented a method of superheating the blast for heated air engines. He also patented an invention for granulating blast-furnace slag to be used instead of sand for the pig beds, as well as a new type of calcining kiln.

In the early part of 1862 he was appointed manager for Messrs. Hopkins, Gilkes & Co., at the Tees-side Ironworks, Middlesbrough, and in 1864 erected for them an entirely new blast-furnace plant, since named the Linthorpe Ironworks, at which were adopted a number of new arrangements proposed and designed by Mr. Gjers, among them the patent pneumatic lift or hoist, which has since been adopted at many furnaces in Cleveland, and also in other parts of the country.

In 1866 he planned the new furnaces at the Tees-side Works. In 1868 he was engaged in the erection of two blast-furnaces for the West Yorkshire Iron Company, at Ardsley Junction, near Leeds; he also remodelled the Wingerworth furnaces and the Clay Cross Ironworks in Derbyshire, and he afterwards planned the Frodingham Ironworks in Lincolnshire. In 1870 he founded the firm of Gjers, Mills & Co., and put up the Ayresome Ironworks, of which he remained chief proprietor for the rest of his life.

He did not confine his attention to devising improvements in blast-furnace practice and plant alone, for in 1862, when the iron manufacturers of the North of England were considering the question of obtaining a better fettling for their puddling furnaces, he suggested the utilisation of rich magnetic ore, and proved that by the use of such ore a great improvement could be effected in the quality of the iron, besides bringing out a greater weight of puddled bar than the weight of pig iron put into the furnace, through the reduction of part of the fettling. In 1868 he patented a new process for the manufacture of steel rails from the iron of the Cleveland district; but in practice, though the process was successful, the cost was too great. His most important invention, however, was what are known as "soaking pits," into which the steel ingots are dropped from the moulds, and kept at a uniform temperature until they are rolled. The value of the work done by Mr. Gjers during his long and honourable career was acknowledged by the Iron and Steel Institute by the award in 1894 of the Bessemer Gold Medal.

He was one of the original members of the Institute, and contributed to its Proceedings in 1871 a paper descriptive of the Ayresome Works, with remarks upon the gradual increase in size of the Cleveland blast-furnaces, and in 1882 one on the successful rolling of steel ingots with their own initial heat by means of the soaking pit process.


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