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British Industrial History

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John Hawthorn Kitson

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John Hawthorn Kitson (1843-1899)


1899 Obituary [1][2]

John Hawthorn Kitson was born at Leeds on 17tb May 1843, being the third son of Mr. James Kitson, senior partner in the firm of Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson, Airedale Foundry, Leeds.

He received his second name after his father's friend, Mr. Robert Hawthorn (Proceedings 1868, page 15). After being educated at University College School, London, and graduating B.A. in 1863 at the University of London, he entered the Airedale Foundry, and worked through the various departments; and in 1866 became partner with his father, upon whose retirement in 1876 he was joined in the re-construction of the firm by his brother, now Sir James Kitson, Bart., by Mr. Thomas Purvis Reay, and later by his nephew, Mr. E. Kitson Clark.

For thirty-six years he applied himself exclusively to the management of the engine works; and during this period he was actively concerned in the consideration of the design and material suitable for nearly all classes of locomotive engines, burning all kinds of fuel, and under all conditions of climate and permanent way. Possessing a remarkable memory, he was able to recall with accuracy details of locomotive design and dimensions, and incidents of locomotive history; and thus would attractively illustrate his intimate acquaintance with the construction and development of the locomotive engine.

In the formation of the engineering employers' federation in 1897 he took an active part, and was chairman of the Leeds section; and was also a member of the emergency committee. He became a Member of this Institution in 1868, and was a Member of Council from 1880 to 1884.

In 1875 he became a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Having long suffered much from rheumatism, he died at his residence, Elmet Hall, near Leeds, on 21st May 1899, at the age of fifty-six.


1899 Obituary [3]

JOHN HAWTHORN KITSON, born at Leeds on the 17th May, 1843, was the third son of the late James Kitson, after whose friend, Robert Hawthorn, he received his second name.

He was educated at University College School, London, and graduated B.A. at London University in 1863. Entering the Airedale Foundry he worked through the various departments and became partner with his father.

On the retirement of his father he was joined, on the reconstruction of the firm by his brother, now Sir James Kitson, by T. P. Reay, and later by E. Kitson Clark.

For thirty-six years Mr. Kitson applied himself exclusively to the management of the engine works, and during that time he was actively concerned in the consideration of locomotive design and material suitable for engines of nearly all the known types, for all classes of fuel, under all conditions of climate and road-beds.

Possessing a remarkable memory, he was able to recall with accuracy details of locomotive design, dimensions of locomotive parts, and incidents of locomotive history; and thus would attractively illustrate his almost unique acquaintance with the anatomy an& development of the locomotive engine.

In the formation of the Engineering Employers' Federation in 1897, Mr. Kitson took an active part, and was a member of the Emergency Committee.

In 1868 he became a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and served on the Council of that body from 1880 to 1885.

Mr. Kitson was a distinguished Alpine climber at an early date, and was elected a member of the Alpine Club in 1867. The records of his work in Switzerland bear evidence of extreme endurance and resource, and point to a genuine knowledge of ice and rock craft. Reference may be made in particular to his ascent of the Weisshorn from the north and his traverse of the icefall of the Monling Pass.

Owing to a severe illness he gave up climbing after 1876, and turned his interest to Alpine flowers, of the habits of which he enjoyed a thorough and practical knowledge. He laid out in his grounds a rock garden, where he grew successfully one of the largest collections of Alpine plants in this country. More recently he was attracted to the cultivation of orchids, and was paying special attention to hybridisation.

Mr. Kitson was a staunch friend, and a fearless champion of what he believed to be just. In 1894 he became a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of Yorkshire.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 2nd March, 1875.


1899 Obituary [4]



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