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British Industrial History

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Paul Bedford Elwell

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Paul Bedford Elwell (1853-1899), often referred to as Bedford Elwell, which distinguished him from his father.

1853 Born 7 February, in Albrighton; second son of Wolverhampton merchant, Paul Elwell who was director of the Wolverhampton Bank amongst other things.

Educated at King’s College, London where he obtained a distinction in mathematics, and spent a year at Liège studying coal mining and iron manufacturing.

1863 Larger premises (Commercial Road) were leased and the Elwells were asked to loan more money, the business being placed in the hands of the Elwells with Stocker as manager of (presumably) the "Patent Tip and Horseshoe Company"[1].

1864 Court case brought by Alexander Stocker against Charles and Paul Elwell as a result of Stocker being dismissed by the Elwells for being absent from the business[2].

1864 Alexander Stocker (see Bordesley Iron Works) had made inventions and received patents in relation to manufacture of horse shoes and shoe tips; Charles and Paul Elwell (presumably the father) had advanced money to enable Stocker to set up the business in exchange for assignment of the patents and an agreement to supply the goods only to the Elwells[3].

1871 Paul Elwell recorded as clerk to the Patent Tip and Horseshoe Co[4].

Married Elizabeth, also born in Wolverhampton.

1873 Messrs Paul Elwell and Co of the Patent Tip and Cut Nail Works, Commercial Road, Wolverhampton, reduced the price of cut nails; it was also noted that Mr Elwell led the reduction in prices of iron and hardwares in 1872[5].

1876 Paul Bedford Elwell was manager for Patent Tip and Horseshoe Co who registered a patent for improvements in nail-making machinery[6]

1878 Patent registered for shoe tips

1879 Patent registered for Venetian blinds

1881 Living at The Cottage, Ryton with one son, Paul L. Elwell, aged 7 months. Occupation 'the manager of a works making nails etc., employing 100 hands'. [7].

1882 Living at St. Cuthbert's, Albrighton. Business "Patent Tip and Horseshoe Co.", Commercial Road, in premises rented from J. Smallman. In October, joined by Thomas Parker who had agreed to go into partnership with Elwell, to manufacture accumulators at the premises in Commercial Road. Soon after also made dynamos.

1883 Mr. Elwell's country house at Albrighton was equipped with two sets of twenty-four cells each, placed in the corner of the cellar, and charged twice a week during the daytime by a Siemens dynamo, worked directly by Elwell and Parker's 3-horse power high-speed steam engine, giving 120 revolutions per minute at a steam pressure of 35 lb; the fire is tended by the gardener. The house was fitted with about 60 20-candle lamps[8]

1883 Paul Bedford Elwell was promoted to captain of the Rifle Volunteers[9].

Elwell and several relations invested in the Bush Hill estate, near Enfield.

1883 Elwell-Parker accumulators successfully tested at the Bush Hill estate.

1883 Paul Bedford Elwell was also Managing Director of the "Patent Economic Coal Company" Limited, Commercial Road[10].

1887 Elwell left Elwell-Parker. This appears to have been due to the large debts incurred by the failure of his Bush Hill estate investments (North London Estates Co which went bankrupt in 1886). He sold his house at Albrighton, and went to Paris to prepare plans for the Paris underground electric railway. Soon afterwards his wife died of typhoid. He then moved to Australia to become Electrical Engineer to the New South Wales Railway Commissioners. He was responsible for the electrification of the Sydney tramways.

1899 Died in Australia on 10 September, 1899 but some land at Bush Hill Estate was not sold until after his death.


1900 Obituary [11]

PAUL BEDFORD ELWELL, born on the 7th February, 1853, was educated at King’s College, London, where he obtained distinction in mathematics.

After spending a year at Liege, where he gained experience in coal mining and iron manufacture, he studied electricity, and was engaged from 1875 to 1879 in the construction of large experimental machinery.

He then acted for a time as Consulting Engineer for electric lighting to the Northern London Estates Company, and in 1884 he joined Thomas Parker in partnership on the formation of the undertaking at Wolverhampton known as Elwell-Parker, Limited.

For the next three years he was engaged in that capacity in the design and manufacture of all kinds of heavy electrical machinery for tramways, lighting, mining, the deposition of metals, and other purposes.

From 1887 to 1889 he practised as a Consulting Engineer, preparing plans, in conjunction with Messrs. Berlier, for the proposed underground tubular electric railway in Paris, and carrying out experiments with Messrs. Commelin and Desmoyhres in connection with submarine boats. While in Paris he translated into English Gaston Plante's 'Recherches sur l’Electricite.'

In 1889 Mr. Elwell went to New South Wales and practised for a time as a Consulting Engineer in Sydney. His ability and experience soon attracted attention, and in 1891 he was appointed Electrical Engineer to the Railway Commissioners of the Colony. In that capacity Mr. Elwell rendered valuable service to the Railway Department. Under the direction of the Commissioners the electric train staff and tablet system of safe railway working was extended to cover practically all the busy portions of the line, being in operation in the north as far as Tamworth, in the west to Dubbo, and in the south to Albury: and during the installation of the electric instruments for the safe working of the lines numerous improvements were devised, largely by Mr. Elwell, in order to meet special traffic requirements on particular sections.

In 1895, at the instance of the Commissioners, he studied in America and on the Continent the latest devlopments in connection with electric tramway working; and the experience thus obtained, coupled with his wide technical knowledge, enabled him to render great assistance to Mr. Henry Deane, the Engineer-in-Chief of the Railway Department, in the construction of electric tramways in New South Wales and in the conversion of the present steam system into electric traction. The last and most important work on which he was engaged was the George and Harris Streets Tramway, with its large power station containing four generators of 850 kilowatts each.

Unfortunately Mr. Elwell did not live to see the completion of this work. He was found to be suffering from some disease which attacked the ankle, and, in the hope of entire eradication, the leg was removed above the knee. The operation did not have the desired effect, and the disease, spreading further, caused his death on the 10th September, 1899.

Mr. Elwell was elected a Member of the Institution on the 6th February, 1894



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Birmingham Daily Post, 20 July 1864
  2. Birmingham Daily Post, 20 July 1864
  3. Birmingham Daily Post, 20 July 1864
  4. Birmingham Daily Post, 21 July 1871
  5. Birmingham Daily Post, 14 June 873
  6. London Gazette 5 January 1877
  7. 1881 census
  8. The Engineer 1883/06/15
  9. Birmingham Daily Post, February 14, 1883
  10. Crocker's Director as cited in [1]
  11. 1900 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries