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Samson Fox

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1866.

Samson Fox (1838-1903) of Leeds Forge Co was a British engineer, industrialist and philanthropist.

1838 July 11th. Born in Bowling, Bradford, to James and Sarah Fox but the family moved shortly afterwards to live in nearby Leeds.

1848 At the age of ten he started work in a textile mill

1851 Living at Kirkstall Road, Headingley (age 12 born Bradford), Power Loom Weaver. With his parents James and Sarah and bothers William and Jonas. [1]

1853 At fifteen became an apprentice at Smith, Beacock and Tannett, a toolmaking and foundry company.

c.1860 Fox and his brother (William) and another partner established the firm of Fox Brothers and Refitt, manufacturing special machine tools at the Silver Cross engineering works in Leeds[2].

1874 He set up the Leeds Forge Co to produce "Best Yorkshire" iron for locomotive and marine engine parts.

In 1877 he developed and patented the corrugated boiler flue for which he became famous. This simple idea involved corrugating the flue pipes inside the boiler, improving both their heat transfer capability and compressive strength, enabling smaller boilers working at higher pressures to be used with improved safety. "Fox Corrugated" was adopted as standard by the Royal Navy and major steamship lines and was widely patented.

In 1887 he applied his knowledge and experience in forging to building pressed steel underframes for railway wagons. His railway trucks could support 120 tons without failing, were guaranteed for five years and were soon being sold in Argentina, Belgium, Bengal, India, Japan and Spain, in addition to Britain.

1888 North America was the world's biggest market so Fox went there and made a deal with the famous railway salesman Diamond Jim Brady whereby Brady would sell American-made Fox bogies pressed steel cars, and remit one third of the price to Samson Fox as commission. Brady's sales techniques soon succeeded and in 1888 the Fox Solid Pressed Steel Company was incorporated to manufacture the trucks in Joliet, Illinois.

Fox won a number of awards for his work, including the Society of Arts gold medal for the corrugated flue and the French Legion of Honour.

Fox bought and extended a large house (Grove House) in Harrogate, a Yorkshire Spa town and became a benefactor to the local community. He provided Harrogate with its first steam Fire Engine, built the Grove Road School opposite his home and provided affordable social housing. He also built a "water-gas" plant to provide the main street of Harrogate with some of the earliest street lighting.

1888 Fox was made president of the British Water-Gas Syndicate upon its formation in 1888 but it went into liquidation in 1893.

1894 Fox produced the first calcium carbide for making acetylene gas by the method discovered by T. L. Willson in America. He was the pioneer of the acetylene industry in Europe, for which works were set up at Foyers, Invernessshire.

1889 he provided most of the funds (£46,000) to build the Royal College of Music in London (his statue is in the entrance hall). Eventually he became Mayor of Harrogate for three successive years (1890–1892), a record never equalled since.

He was a JP (Justice of the Peace) for both Leeds and Harrogate.

1903 August 24th. He died in Walsall, Staffordshire when campaigning as a candidate in the Parliamentary election. The King sent Harrogate a telegram of condolence.

He had married Mary Anne Slinger in Leeds in 1861. They had four children. At the 1889 wedding of his eldest daughter Clara Louisa to engineer Bernal Bagshawe, Dan Leno was paid the then unheard of sum of £100 to entertain the guests and the grounds of Grove House were thrown open to the people of Harrogate.

He remarried in 1899, after the death of his first wife in 1895, Annie Louisa Baxter (1872-1956).

The BBC TV programme 'Who Do You Think You Are?' featured the actress Emilia Fox, daughter of actor Edward Fox, and included an interesting account of the life and achievements of her great-grandfather, Samson Fox. The programme visited Leeds’ Armley Mill Museum where Samson Fox’s portrait is displayed, and where an example of Leeds Forge’s corrugated flues is stored (but not displayed, being in the outside storage ground).


1903 Obituary [3]

SAMSON FOX was born on 11th July 1838, in Bradford, Yorkshire.

At about ten years of ago he went to work at a cloth mill in Leeds, where his father was also employed. Showing an early aptitude for mechanics, he was afterwards apprenticed to the firm of Messrs. Smith, Beacock and Tannett, Machine Tool Makers, Round Foundry, Leeds, where he became foreman and ultimately traveller. Whilst in the employ of this firm he designed several special tools for the machine-cutting of bevelled gear, for the manufacture of trenails, and for several of these machines he took out patents.

In 1862 he was in charge of the machine tool exhibit of Messrs. Smith, Beacock and Tannett at the London Exhibition.

Later, he started a small engineering works in Leeds for the manufacture of special machine tools at the Silver Cross Works, Leeds.

In 1874 he founded the Leeds Forge Co. for the manufacture of "Best Yorkshire" Iron and boiler plates and general forging work, and in 1877 ho brought out his first corrugated boiler furnaces, the material for which originally was "Best Yorkshire" Iron and the corrugations of the furnaces were hammered by means of swage blocks under a steam-hammer. The advantages of these corrugated furnaces led to the practical application of triple-expansion engines, and machinery for rolling the furnaces in place of hammering them was undertaken in 1882; and a Siemens steel plant was laid down for manufacturing the material for the manufacture of plates for the production of the furnaces.

In 1877 he took out a large number of patents for various details connected with the manufacture of corrugated furnaces, and in 1887 and 1888 he took out patents for the manufacture of pressed-steel under-frames for railway wagons, &c. The works of the Leeds Forge Co. in 1889 were again further extended for the manufacture of this new form of railway rolling stock.

In 1888 he started works for the manufacture of steel frame rolling stock at Joliet, near Chicago, and made there the first pressed-steel cars which had been used in America, and large numbers of the Fox pressed-steel bogie truck which was principally used for freight cars; both of these inventions met with great success. The extension of the business in America led to other works being built at Pittsburg, and these were in 1889 merged into the Pressed Steel Car Co.

In 1891 he produced at Leeds, in works specially erected, the first carbide of calcium for the production of acetylene gas which was made in England, and founded the industry which is now manufacturing its supplies of carbide of calcium at Foyers, N.B.

For the greater part of his business life at Leeds he was the managing director of the Leeds Forge Co., and had succeeded to the chairmanship of the company just before his death, which took place at Walsall on 24th October 1903, at the age of sixty-five. He resided at Grove House, Harrogate.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1875; and was also a Member of the Legion of Honour of France.


1903 Obituary [4]

"...SAMSON Fox, of Leeds, died at his home, Daisy Bank, Walsall, on the 24th instant, aged sixty-five. He was a self made man, and is best known to the world as the inventor of the corrugated furnace for marine boilers. He devised machinery for making these furnaces, a work of very great importance. It is a remarkable fact that although the corrugated furnace tube was invented on purpose to facilitate the use of high pressures at sea, of late years the plain furnace tube has been employed for pressures over 200 lb. Mr. Fox developed, if he did not invent, the use of "pressed steel" for various railway purposes, such as engine and tender frames, wagons, and such like. Not content with what he accomplished in this country, he started pressed steel works in the United States. These were purchased by an American Trust for a very large sum. Mr. Fox insisted on being paid in gold, and stated that he actually..."More


1904 Obituary [5]

SAMSON FOX, born on the 11th July, 1838, at Bradford, Yorkshire, went to work at about ten years of age at a cloth mill in Leeds, where his father was also employed.

Showing an early aptitude for mechanics, he was afterwards apprenticed to the firm of Smith, Beacock and Tannett, machine-tool makers, Round Foundry, Leeds, where he became foreman and ultimately traveller. Whilst in the employ of Smith, Beacock and Tannett he designed several special tools for the machine cutting of bevelled gear and for the manufacture of trenails, and for several of those machines he took out patents. In 1862 he was in charge of the machine-tool exhibit of Smith, Beacock and Tannett at the London Exhibition.

Later he started a small engineering works in Leeds - the Silver Cross Works - for the manufacture of special machine tools.

In 1874 Mr. Fox founded the Leeds Forge Co for the manufacture of iron, boiler plates, and general forging works.

In 1877 he took out his first patents for the manufacture of the Fox corrugated boiler furnaces, the material for which originally was best Yorkshire iron, the corrugations of the furnaces being hammered by means of swage blocks under a steam-hammer.

The advantages of the Fox corrugated furnaces led to the practical application of triple expansion engines, machinery for rolling the furnaces in place of hammering them was undertaken in 1882, and a Siemens steel plant was laid down for manufacturing the material for plates for the production of the furnaces.

From 1877 Mr. Fox took out a large number of patents for various details connected with the manufacture of corrugated furnaces.

In 1887 and 1888 he took out patents for the manufacture of pressed steel under-frames for railway wagons, etc. The works of the Leeds Forge Company were further extended in 1889 for the manufacture of this new form of railway rolling stock.

In 1888 Mr. Fox started works for the manufacture of steel frame rolling stock at Joliet, near Chicago, and made there the first pressed steel cars used in America, and large numbers of the Fox pressed steel bogie truck, which was principally used for freight cars and met with great success. The extension of the business in America led to works being built at Pittsburg, and these were merged in 1899 into the Pressed Steel Car Company. He was also identified with extensive experiments in connection with water-gas.

Mr. Fox was the greater part of his business life at Leeds the Managing Director of the Leeds Forge Company, and had succeeded to the Chairmanship of the Company just before his death, which took place at Walsall on the 24th October, 1903.

Mr. Fox was a member of the Corporation of Leeds for several years and three years in succession Mayor of Harrogate, where he resided. He was a life governor of the Yorkshire College and Justice of the Peace for Leeds and Harrogate.

A great lover of music, he made through the King (then Prince of Wales) a munificent gift to the Royal College of Music at South Kensington. He was a member of the Legion of Honour of France.

Mr. Fox was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th April, 1881.


1903 Obituary [6]

SAMSON FOX died at his residence, Daisy Bank, Walsall, on October 24, 1903, at the age of sixty-five years. His death terminated the career of one of those inventive business men to whom is largely due the progress of Great Britain in the mechanical world. His special invention was the corrugated flue, whereby high pressures in tank boilers were made possible without the danger of collapse of the furnace, which formerly, owing to its weak form, was liable to come down under the pressure. The manufacture of such flues commercially involved very considerable difficulties, but these his practical knowledge enabled him to overcome.

He organised the Leeds Forge in 1874, for the manufacture of flues and boilers, and from that time forward the system of corrugated or ribbed flues has been universally accepted. He was educated in a village school, and worked first at his father's trade of weaving; but his natural bent towards mechanics soon asserted itself, and he entered upon his apprenticeship in 1853, with Messrs. Smith, Beacock, & Tannett, engineers and tool-makers in Leeds, and in these works he passed through the ordinary course of instruction, becoming, in 1861, assistant manager and draughtsman. He represented his employers at the 1862 Exhibition, and later travelled for them.

When twenty-eight years of age he commenced the business of tool-maker; later, he and others instituted the firm of Fox Brothers & Reffit, of the Silver Cross Works, Leeds. The Leeds Forge was a comparatively small concern at the outset, but now employs 2,000 workmen. His ingenuity had further play in the design of the special machinery which was required for manufacturing the corrugated flue, and in devising improved machinery for manufacturing boilers.

From first to last he took out 150 patents for his various inventions. The latest application of his hydraulic system was in the application of pressed steel frames and plates for railway rolling-stock, the object being to produce a frame plate in one piece sufficiently rigid transversely and longitudinally to dispense with any angle-iron stiffeners. He was also identified with experiments in connection with water-gas, but this was not a successful undertaking financially.

He devoted a large part of his time to municipal life, having been a member of the Corporation of Leeds for several years, while at Harrogate, where he resided, lie was three times in succession mayor, and later represented it also on the West Riding County Council. He was Conservative in politics, and he had been chosen as the candidate for Walsall. He was a life governor of the Yorkshire College, and Justice of the Peace for Leeds and Harrogate. He was fond of all forms of sport, and was associated with many of the clubs in Yorkshire, while he was specially devoted to horses. To music he was also attached, and he gave £40,000 through the King (then Prince of Wales) for the Royal College of Music at Kensington. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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


1903 Obituary [7]



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