Robert Applegarth (1834-1924), carpenter, trade union organiser, submarine engineer and proponent of electric lighting.
1834 January 26th. Born in Hull the son of Robert Applegarth, a master mariner, and his wife Diana Brigham
1852 Moved with his mother to Sheffield
1855 Married Mary Longmore. Soon after they married, he went to America on his own, to improve himself
On his return after 3 years in the USA he joined the local carpenters' union.
1861 he persuaded the union in Sheffield to become part of the newly established General Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners.
1861 Robert Applegarth 27, cabinet maker and joiner, lived in Ecclesall Bierlow with Mary Applegarth 23, Sampson D Applegarth 5, Kate E Applegarth 1
1862 Became general secretary of the union
1868 Elected chairman of the International Working Men's Association. He was involved in many of the major political and industrial issues of the time.
He was the first trade unionist to present evidence to the Royal Commission on the legal status of trade unions.
1870 He was war correspondent on the Franco-Prussian war for various newspapers.
1870 His wife, Mary, died
1871 Appointed to the Royal Commission on contagious diseases but as a result he was forced to resign from the trade union's executive
1871 Robert Applegarth 40, secretary to a public company, widower, lived in Lambeth with Sampson D Applegarth 15, Albert L Applegarth 4, Lillian S Applegarth 1
He was soon appointed the British representative for a firm of French mining and submarine engineers. He risked his life many times in demonstrating the breathing apparatus used for rescues in mines.
1876 Applegarth took out a British patent for Denayrouze and Co, who had acquired the rights for an electric lighting system invented by Paul Jablochkoff of Russia, and conducted the first trials in Britain.
He later became proprietor of the English branch of the business.
Applegarth brought a Giffard cold air machine to England and sent it to J. and E. Hall who worked on the design to remedy its problems and produced a compact refrigeration unit for use in cargo ships.
By 1878 he was one of the honorary secretaries of the Free Bridges Association, campaiging to remove tolls from bridges
1880 Applegarth suggested to the Crystal Palace Co that they should host an electrical exhibition; they accepted the idea and asked him to organise it the following year - see 1882 Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition. As assistant engineer he conducted Mr Gladstone round the exhibition
1881 Robert Applegarth 46, civil engineer, lived in Lewisham with Lillian S. Applegarth 11
1888 Recorded as an engineer on the marriage of his daughter Lilian
1891 An electrical engineer, married, an employer, staying in a hotel in Brighton
1892 and 1893: Again was engineer for exhibitions at Crystal Palace
1895 Advertised as Robert Applegarth (late A. Denayrouze), improved diving apparatus & submarme lamps, of 11 Queen Victoria St
He continued to support the improvement of elementary and technical education, particularly through the National Industrial Education League which he started.
1911 Electrical engineer, retired, a widower, visiting Croydon
1911 A public appeal was launched to provide him with support, as well as a testimonial to his work in trade unions, education and general social progress
1917 Declined the invitation to become a Companion of Honour.
1924 of Thornton Heath when he died
-  R. Applegarth and Epsom
-  Robert Applegarth, Trade Unionist, Educationist, Reformer, by A. W. Humphrey, The National Labour Press, c.1913
Sources of Information
- 1861 census
- 1871 census
- The Engineer 1890/12/05
- Popular Science Monthly,Volume 7, June 1875
- Dartford Archive 
- The Times, October 8, 1878
- Telegraphic Journal of the 1st November, 1878
- 1881 census
- parish records
- 1891 census
- Post Office Directory
- The Autocar 1897/04/10
- 1901 Census
- 1911 census
- The Times, July 24, 1911
- National probate calendar
- Biography of Robert Applegarth, ODNB
- The Times July 14, 1924