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Peter Brotherhood (1838-1902)

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Peter Brotherhood (1838-1902)

Born 1838 at Maidenhead, the son of Rowland Brotherhood

1851 A pupil boarder at Silver Street, Calne (age 13) with William (age 14), James (age 7) and R. (Rowland) (age 9) [1]

Four years on a science course at King's College.

Worked at the GWR Swindon Works

1859 of the Railway Works, Chippenham[2] exhibited a model of a Patent Coal-burning locomotive boiler

1861 Living with parents Rowland and Priscilla Brotherhood at Chippenham. Engineer. [3]

Worked at Maudslay, Sons and Field

1867 Went into business on his own account in London - see Kittoe and Brotherhood

1871 Living at 15 Elgin Road, Kensington (age 32 and born at Maidenhead), Civil Engineer. With wife Eliza P. (age 31 and born at Chippenham) and children Arthur M. (age 3 and born Kensington) and Mary A. (age 11 Months and born Kensington) plus three servants. [4]

1872 Introduced his own design of three-cylinder steam-engine, first exhibited at the Agricultural Hall.

1881 Living at 25 Ladbroke Gardens, Kensington (age 42 and born Maidenhead), Engineer Civil Mechanical. With wife Eliza P. (age 41 born Chippenham) and children Mary A. (age 10 born Kensington), Montague (age 7 born Kensington), Stanley (age 5 born Kensington), Edith K. (age 2) plus five servants [5]

1891 Living at 15 Hyde Park Gardens, London (age 52 born Maidenhead), Civil Engineer. With wife Eliza (age 51 born Chippenham) plus nine servants [6]

1902 October 17th. Obituary. Died at his home at 15 Hyde Park Gardens. Leaves widow, son Stanley Brotherhood and two daughters. Very private man dedicated to his engineering work.

From above his children were:

  • Arthur M. 1868
  • Mary A. 1870
  • Montague 1874
  • Stanley 1876
  • Edith K. 1879

1902 Obituary [7]

PETER BROTHERHOOD was born at Maidenhead on 22nd April 1838, being the son of the late Mr. Rowland Brotherhood, railway contractor, of Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Having received a good elementary education, he afterwards passed through the engineering course in the department of Applied Science at King's College, London.

At the age of nineteen he entered his father's works for a short period, proceeding in the following year to the locomotive works of the Great Western Railway at Swindon.

When twenty-one years of age, he returned to his father's works to superintend the designing and construction of locomotives and other railway plant and material.

He next went to the drawing office of Messrs. Maudslay, Sons and Field, at Lambeth, where he obtained a knowledge of the best practice in marine engineering.

In 1867 he commenced business on his own account. At the outset he became a partner in the engineering works at Compton Street, Goswell Road, London, with Mr. H. Kitto, who, however, soon after wards retired. Later Mr. Hardingham became associated with him, and continued until 1878, when Mr. G. B. Oughterson joined him as general manager — a position he held until 1897. But from first to last Mr. Brotherhood was the main element in the success of his works, a fact due to his skill as a mechanic and his ingenuity as an inventive designer.

In 1872 he introduced his special three-cylinder steam-engine, which was first exhibited at the Agricultural Hall, and came speedily into use. The distinctive feature of the design was that the three cylinders, which were fitted with single-acting pistons, were arranged at angles of 120 around a central chamber; the three connecting-rods were attached at one end to the inner side of their respective pistons, and at the other end to a common single crank by a pair of guard rings at front and back. As the pressure was always at the back of the pistons, it kept the rods up to their seats on the crank-pin.

This engine, exhibited for a second time at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, created a considerable amount of interest. Shortly afterwards the superintendent of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich Arsenal, on seeing the engine, was greatly impressed with its adaptability for driving torpedoes because of its compactness, and of its suitability for such a confined cylindrical vessel, with the shaft placed in the centre line. The Whitehead torpedo had up to this time been driven by a compound oscillating engine, using air as a prime mover; but the success of the first Brotherhood engine using compressed air resulted in its ready and almost universal application for torpedoes.

The engine was also applied for driving centrifugal fans direct, for running forced-draught fans direct, and for hydraulic work.

The development of the engine alone necessitated larger premises, and the works at Belvedere Road, Westminster, were laid out in 1881, being considerably enlarged in 1896.

He had previously to this designed a compressor for the Whitehead torpedo with two air-cylinders instead of four, and in other ways saved considerable space. In the introduction of the modern bight-speed engine, which ultimately displaced his three-cylinder steam engine, he had some share, and his first ordinary double-acting engine was fitted direct-coupled to the dynamos in the late Queen's yacht, the Victoria and Albert. He had, what might be termed, a mechanical instinct. He could evolve from his experience, even in the earlier days, sizes and capacities without any formulae or calculations, being seldom, if ever, wrong in his results.

For some time he had been in indifferent health, but his death came somewhat suddenly, due to internal hemorrhage, at his residence in Hyde Park Gardens, London, on 13th October 1902, in his sixty-fifth year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1874; and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.


1903 Obituary [8]

PETER BROTHERHOOD, who died at his residence, 15 Hyde Bark Gardens, on the 13th October, 1902, was by intuition a thorough mechanic, and contributed in no inconsiderable degree to the evolution of the modern high-speed engine, while to him were also due many improvements of importance in connection with air-compressors for high pressures, and hydraulic motors.

Born at Maidenhead in 1838, the son of the late Rowland Brotherhood, a successful railway contractor at Chippenham, in Wiltshire, the subject of this memoir received a good elementary education, and afterwards passed through the engineering course in the Department of Applied Sciences at King’s College, London, during the years 1852-56.

At the age of 19 years he entered his father’s works for a short period, proceeding in the following year to the locomotive works of the Great Western Railway at Swindon, where he gained experience which was invaluable.

When 21 years of age he returned to his father’s works to superintend the designing and construction of locomotives and other railway plant and material.

He next went to the drawing-office of Maudslay, Sons and Field, at Lambeth, where he obtained a knowledge of the best practice in marine engineering, for it will be recollected that in the early sixties this firm was at its zenith, as then many warships and early Atlantic liners received their engines from Messrs. Maudslay.

Such, in brief, was the training received by Mr. Brotherhood ; and in 1867, when 29 years of age, he decided to commence business on his own account. At the outset he became a partner in the engineering works at Compton Street, Goswell Road, with Mr. Kitto, who, however, soon afterwards retired.

Later Mr. Hardingham became associated with him, and continued until 1878, when G. B. Oughterson joined him as general manager - a position he held until 1897.

But from first to last Mr. Brotherhood was the main element in the success of his works, a fact due to his skill as a mechanic and his ingenuity as an inventive designer.

It was in 1872 that he introduced his special three-cylinder steam-engine; it was first exhibited at the Agricultural Hall, and came speedily into extensive use. The distinctive feature of the design was that the three cylinders, which were fitted with single-acting pistons, were arranged at angles of 120degrees around a central chamber ; the three connecting-rods were attached at one end to the inner side of their respective pistons, and at the other end to a common single crank by a pair of guard rings at front and back. The pressure being always at the back of the piston kept the rods up to their seat on the crank-pins.

This engine, exhibited for a second time at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, created a considerable amount of interest; and Henry Chapman, who took up the French patents, appointed as manufacturing agents Flaud and Cohendet, of Paris, and Manlove, Alliott and Co, at Rouen, with the latter of whom Mr. Oughterson was then manager, so that thus early his association with Brotherhood commenced. Shortly afterwards the superintendent of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich Arsenal, on seeing the engine, was greatly impressed with its adaptability for driving torpedoes because of its compactness, and of its suitability for such a confined cylindrical vessel, with the shaft placed in the centre line. Up to this time the Whitehead torpedo had been driven by a compound oscillating engine, using air, of course, as a prime mover; but the success of the first Brotherhood engine using compressed air resulted in a ready and almost universal application for torpedoes. This preference still obtains.

The advantage of the principle for other power purposes was recognized with equal promptitude, and as a steam prime-mover it was largely applied. The first direct-driven dynamo was one coupled to a Brotherhood engine and fitted on the French ironclad 'Richelieu' in 1875, on which vessel the engine was also applied for driving the centrifugal pumps direct. It was also used largely for running forced-draught fans, many of the British war ships built in the eighties being so equipped; but later with increased steam pressures, and the application of the compound system, more economical steam-engines of the ordinary vertical type displaced it in public favour. For hydraulic as for air work it still obtains, and many cases of its application to the working of capstans and caissons, as well as for portable hydraulic drills, etc., might be instanced.

The development of this engine alone necessitated larger premises, and the works at Belvedere Road, Lambeth, were laid out in 1881. As was remarked at the time, it is but rarely that an engineer who has established a reputation in a particular branch of manufacturing engineering has a chance of turning his experience to account in the erection of entirely new works, specially designed with a view to his particular requirements.

These works formed, and still constitute, an admirable specimen of a modern engineer’s workshop of moderate size. The guiding principle of the design was the production of a factory in which all the local circumstances should aid in the rapid production of the better class of work, and in which every part should be thoroughly adapted to the processes to be carried on in it, and be open to constant and easy supervision. Unlike premises that have grown up by degrees, there are no corners in which idleness or untidiness can find a hiding-place, or where the manufacture suffers from want of light or of room. The works were considerably enlarged in 1896-97.

But even before these works were started, Mr. Brotherhood had utilized his ingenuity in a new direction. When the Government commenced the manufacture of the torpedo on an extensive scale, the type of compressor used was that devised by Mr. Whitehead. In it the air was compressed successfully in four air cylinders of diminishing diameter, operated direct from a crank-shaft driven by an engine at each end. This required a large space, which is always difficult to provide in warships. Mr. Brotherhood set himself the task of simplifying the apparatus, and making it more compact; and it is an evidence of his concentration of mental effort. that the solution of his problem came to him when he was travelling from the Birmingham meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1876, in a saloon carriage, along with his companionions, whose minds were bent upon less abstruse matters. He reduced the number of air cylinders to two, and obtained the advantages of four stages of compression by a combined piston and plunger, to which motion was imparted by a crosshead worked by a pair of reciprocating double-acting steam-cylinders, the valves of which again were actuated from B crankshaft fitted with a flywheel.

There was also an ingenious cooling system. This idea, evolved in the presence of the convivial company, was carried out, and the first compressor fitted to the first British torpedo-boat the 'Lightning.' With some modifications it subsequently became the standard compressor in the French Navy, and was adopted in almost every navy. From this engine Mr. Brotherhood subsequently developed other types, of which the principal was his three-stage pump worked from a single rod, whereby space and weight were further economized.

In 1876 also he devised and submitted to the authorities at Woolwich a servo-motor, which was first successfully applied to their 15-inch experimental torpedo, so that from first to last he played a prominent part in the application of the torpedo in modern warships.

In the introduction of the modern high-speed engine, which ultimately displaced his three-cylinder steam-engine, he had some share, and his first ordinary double-acting engines were fitted direct-coupled to the dynamos in the late Queen’s yacht, the 'Victoria and Albert,' under exceptional circumstances. The two engines for the 'Victoria and Albert,' to drive at 250 revolutions a dynamo giving 200 amperes at 80 volts with 20 lbs. steam, were designed, completed and under steam within twenty-seven working days of the order being placed. Since then many similar engines have been built for auxiliary purposes on board ship, while the three-cylinder engine and the air-compressors continue to be largely manufactured for torpedo-work.

Mr. Brotherhood had what might be termed a mechanical instinct. He could evolve from his experience, even in the earlier days, sizes and capacities without any formulas or calculations, and he was seldom, if ever, wrong in his results. He had a penchant for experimental work, which he was fortunately able to gratify.

While never professing intimate knowledge or great capacity for the commercial department of an engineering business, he was ever ready to give freedom of control to his manager. His one order was that 'first-rate material and first-rate workmanship' must be ensured at all cost, and to this and to his designs can be attributed the continuous success of his business. In it he found complete and pleasant occupation, so that although he was a Member of this Institution and of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, he took little active part in the proceedings.

For some time he had been in indifferent health; but the end came somewhat suddenly. Two of his sons predeceased him ; the eldest, Arthur, gave promise, when assistant general manager of the works, of being a distinguished engineer. His surviving son, Stanley, has been general manager of the business for the last three years.

Mr. Brotherhood was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 5th May, 1868, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 4th February, 1879.


1902 Obituary [9]

PETER BROTHERHOOD died at his residence, 15 Hyde Park Gardens, on October 13, 1902, at the age of sixty-five years.

He was born at Maidenhead in 1838, the son of Rowland Brotherhood, railway contractor, of Chippenham, Wilts. Having passed through a four years' applied science course at King's College, he received a practical training in several engineering works, including the Great Western Locomotive Works at Swindon, and Messrs. Maudslay, Sons, & Field's marine engineering establishment at Lambeth, and began business on his own account in 1867, his present works by the riverside near Westminster Bridge being opened in 1881.

It was in 1872 that he invented the special engine with which his name has since been identified. It has three cylinders set at angles of 120° round a central chamber, and all three connecting rods operated upon one crank within the central chamber. When exhibited at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873 it aroused great interest, and its first application as a steam motor was for driving dynamos and also centrifugal pumps in the French warship Richelieu. The Woolwich authorities recognised that, if arranged for working with compressed air, it would be greatly superior to the ordinary vertical oscillating cylinder engine then in use in Whitehead torpedoes, the new motor admirably accommodating itself to the limited and circular section of the torpedo. The first Brotherhood three-cylinder air engine made for this purpose proved a success, and it has since been applied almost universally for torpedoes. It has also been adapted for hydraulic power, and is largely used for capstans. As a steam engine, however, it has been supplanted by high-speed engines of the vertical type using steam expansively in two or more cylinders. Mr. Brotherhood also introduced important improvements in the pumps for compressing air on board ship for use in torpedoes, and his compressors have been largely used in British and foreign ships since first applied in the first British torpedo boat, the Lightning. He also invented a vertical direct- acting engine, the first of which was made in the remarkably short period of twenty-seven working days, for Queen Victoria's yacht, the Victoria and Albert, in special circumstances. Mr. Brotherhood took little part in public life, being entirely devoted to his engineering work.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1877.


1902 Obituary [10][11]



1902 Obituary [12]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • The Times, Friday, Oct 17, 1902