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British Industrial History

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John Henry Darby

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John Henry Darby (1856-1919)

1856 Born in Brymbo, son of William Henry Darby and his wife Sarah[1]

1873 Apprenticed to Henry Robertson

1880 Gained certificate of competence under the Coal Mining Regulations Act

1880 Mining Engineer of Brymbo Ironworks, near Wrexham [2], stood for election to the Iron and Steel Institute

1881 Living at the house of his parents[3]

1882-3 Assisted Mr Robertson on several railway schemes

1883-4 Designed and erected the Brymbo Steel Works where basic open hearth steel was first made in Britain on a commercial scale. Invented a method of carburizing steel by direct contact with carbon which was widely used.

1891 Ironmaster, visiting London[4]

1890s Designed and erected coke ovens for production of hard metallurgical coke.

1897 Joined Institution of Civil Engineers; directed the Brymbo Steel Co's operations; engineer to the English Electric Carbon Co, Broughton Solvay Coke Co, Brymbo Colliery Co

1901 John H Darby 44, widower, civil engineer, employer, lived in Brymbo with his cousins (and brothers in law) Thomas G Littleboy 31, electrical engineer in steel works, and William N J Littleboy 33, manager of ore mines[5]

1919 died in Dorset


1919 Obituary [6]

JOHN HENRY DARBY died on October 26, 1919, at the age of sixty-three. His connection with the iron and steel industry is best known from his association, as far back as 1880, with the late Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, and the introduction of the basic process. The first basic open-hearth furnaces for the manufacture of steel on a large scale erected in this country were those built under his supervision at Brymbo in 1884. He was the inventor of a process of recarburising steel in the ladle, a method which was largely used for many years in the production of rails and sections. He was also one of the first to use a basic-lined, gas-heated metal mixer.

In 1893 he installed a Semet-Solvay by-product coking plant at the Brymbo works, this being the first of its kind to be operated in conjunction with iron and steel works in this country.

Later, he founded the coke-oven business now registered as the Coke Oven Construction Co., Ltd., and was responsible for the design and erection of a large number of Semet-Solvay plants throughout Great Britain. Amongst the improvements introduced by him were the automatic coke-quenching hood, and he was the first in this country successfully to carry out the mechanical stamping and charging of coal for by-product coke-ovens. He did much towards the development of the ironstone deposits of Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire, and he undertook in 1908 the design and erection of a new plant, comprising by-product coke-ovens, blast-furnaces, steelworks and rolling-mills at Normanby Park, near Scunthorpe.

He was a frequent contributor to the proceedings of the Institute, and for the services he had rendered in the advancement of the metallurgy of iron and steel he was, in 1912, awarded the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Institute.

He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1880. He became a Member of Council in 1907, but retired owing to ill-health in 1916.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. The Engineer 1880/08/13
  3. 1881 census
  4. 1891 census
  5. 1901 census
  6. 1919 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries