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British Industrial History

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Robert Mallet

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c.1857 Mallet mortar at Fort Nelson
JD 2013 Fort Nelson08.jpg
JD 2013 Fort Nelson09.jpg
JD 2013 Fort Nelson10.jpg

Robert Mallet (1810-1881)

Born in Dublin, the son of John Mallet.

Until the age of 16 he was educated at Bective House in Dublin.

In December 1826, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, remaining there for 4 years.

1839 Robert Mallet of Dublin became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1865 Patent for improvements in mounting ordnance[2]

Note: Robert Mallet's great uncle, Robert Mallet (1761-1804), had been an employee of Joseph Bramah.

1882 Obituary [3][4][5][6]

. . . born on the 3rd of June, 1810, in Dublin, where his father, John Mallet, originally of Devonshire, had established a brass and copper foundry . . . After leaving college he spent a good deal of time in his father’s works, and visiting engineering establishments in England at every opportunity, taking, at the same time, practical out-door lessons in surveying and levelling from Mr. J. J. Byrne. . . . One of his first works of importance, interesting for its originality, was the raising and sustaining of the roof of St. George’s Church, Dublin. . . . At this time the celebrated firm of brewers, Guinness and Co., began to consult him upon various matters . . .

In 1840 Mallet began to make beam engines of considerable power, such as those erected at the Ringsend Dock Mills of Hastings and Carter, but the Irish market for steam engines was not more extensive then than now, and he turned his attention more to railway and civil engineering work . .

In 1841 Mallet constructed a manumotive engine to carry the mails between Kingstown and Dublin. It was worked by eight men, and made the trip (about 5 miles) each wa,y in twenty minutes. He also constructcd a fine 40-ton crane for the Kingstown Wharf. ...

In 1845-6 he designed and erected the terminal station of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway; the large polygon engine-shed, with a hydraulic turntable in the centre ; the Kingsbridge passenger sheds, and all the workshops and other buildings for the Great Southern and Western Railway ; the engines and machinery for the Castlecomer Coal Mines, Co. Kilkenny ; a 40-ft. overshot water-wheel and machinery for Mr. McDonald's paper-mills in Sagart, Co. Dublin, besides numerous other railway stations. Of this work, the Nore Viaduct should be mentioned, as the design for this, a wooden structure, though nominally prepared by Captain Moorsom, was re-designed by Mallet, as failure might have resulted from following the original drawings. The bridge was 200 feet in span, the main girders or wood trusses being 22 feet in depth, constructed of Canadian hacmatac, a wood very similar to pitch pine, but not possessing the strength of that material. Six hundred tons of timber were used in its construction, and during the erection a flood rise of 5 feet 9 inches took place in one night, bringing down cots and hay which rested against the staging, and the whole structure only just missed being wrecked in consequence. The timber trusses were replaced in 1876 by an iron lattice girder, constructed by Messrs. Courtenay, Stephens, and Bailey, from designs by Mr. R. Galwey, C.E.

. . . . In 1849 he designed and constructed the iron station roofs at Belfast, Portadown, and Armagh. He also constructed the large engine-shed of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway at Miles Platting, of which Mr., now Sir, John Hawkshaw, was Engineer-in-chief. . . .

About the year 1840 he had commenced some experiments with the buckled plates, by which his name is well known to many ignorant of his connection with science and the arts. The buckled plate, patented in 1852, was one of the most successful of his inventions in a commercial sense, although in most other men’s hands it would have becn worth a hundredfold what it ever was to him. It was one of Mallet’s faults that he had little commercial tact. As it vas, however, the buckled plates were very extensively used in this country and abroad. They formed, perhaps, the best floor ever made, combining the maximum of strength with the minimum of depth and weight. They were cmployed on the Westminster and other London bridges, one of which was floored at Mallet’s cost, owing to his own laxity in accepting verbal assurances from a contractor from whom the most stringent conditions should have bcen secured. He received a prolongation of the patent in 1866. He subsequently took out patents for buckled plate railway sleepers, and on the Bolivar Railway sixty miles of those cross-sleepers were laid by Messrs. Brunlees and McKerrow. ...

In 1850 he turned his attention to the construction of large guns, and first practically investigated the physical conditions involved in the construction of ringed ordnance, and in 1854 designed his monster mortars for throwing 36-inch shells. Two of these mortars were constructed for use at the Siege of Sebastopol, but were not used owing to peace having been proclaimed before the large iron rafts, specially designed for their reception, were ready.

The 70-ton sheerlegs at the Victoria (London) Docks were built by C. J. Mare and Co., of Blackwall, from Mallet’s designs. . . .

In 1861 Robert Mallet gave up his house at Glasnevin, in Dublin, and came to London, when he opened an office in Westminster and practised as a consulting engineer, also attending to his patents. He edited the “Practical Mechanics’ Journal,” besides contributing largely to “ The Engineer,” and gave evidence as a scientific witness in patent cases. In 1863 he was employed by the proprietors of the Hibernia and other collieries in Westphalia to report on the best means of sinking and ventilation of their pits, with which they had encountered considerable difficulty. A year later he became associated with Mr. J. S. Burke in the scheme known as the Dublin Trunk Connecting Railway.. . .

Mallet's 70-ton sheer legs for Victoria Dock (London) were described in 'The Engineer' in 1856. The legs, approximately 100 ft long, were of tubular section, made from wrought iron boiler plate, instead of the traditional wooden construction [7]. See C. J. Mare and Co for an illustration.

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