Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,784 pages of information and 235,427 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Tennant, Clow and Co

From Graces Guide

Tennant, Clow and Co, makers of bleaching powder and other chemicals, of Liverpool and Manchester


1841 Notice of partnerships: C. Tennant and Co, of Glasgow and elsewhere, Tennant, Sons and Co, of London, and Tennant, Clow and Co of Liverpool, as regards W. Cooper and A. Dunlop[1].

1844 James Young joined Tennant, Clow and Co as manager of the Ardwick Bridge chemical works in Manchester. Young made improvements to methods of production at a number of their plants.

1844 A chimney at the Ardwick Bridge works collapsed, just 18 hours after a chimney had collapsed at C. Tennant and Co works at St Rollox[2]. 'FALL OF A HIGH CHIMNEY AT ARDWICK.— The chimney of the chemical works of Messrs Tennants, Clow, and Co., at Ardwick bridge, having for some time past shown a leaning to one side, it had been determined to take it down, when the late high south easterly winds came, during the night of Friday last affected it so much, that on the men coming to work on Saturday morning about six o'clock, its fall was dreaded every moment. It was found that about three feet only from the ground it was completely cracked across, that it was in imminent danger of falling with the next gust of wind. No time was lost, and all necessary precautionary arrangements having been completed with great care and promptitude, about nine o'clock the chimney at length fell, with a tremendous crash, breaking through several buildings, all the inmates of which had been removed, and crushing the arches over the river which had been erected for the purposes of the works. On the whole damage was thus sustained the extent, we are assured, of about £1,000 ; but fortunately, though one individual had a very narrow escape, no lives were lost.'[3]

1848 Mr Young, manager of the works, was reported to have found a treatment for diseased potatoes which involved use of sulphuric acid[4].

1848 The Ardwick Bridge works was damaged by flying debris following the disatrous boiler explosion at the works of Thomas Riley[5]

1851 Exhibited at the Great Exhibition, various dyes including copper sulphate, zinc sulphate, madder[6]. Mr Young was also recorded as a separate exhibitor.

1851 Dissolution of the Partnership between John Tennant, Charles James Tennant, George Brown, Charles Tennant Dunlop, John Clow, Jonathan Bridges Statham, and Rodolph Heilmann, as Merchants and Manufacturing Chemists, at Liverpool and Manchester, under the firm of Tennants, Clow and Company, in respect of John Clow, who retired therefrom. The business was carried on under the firm of Tennants and Company.[7]

1852 Partnership dissolved Tennants, Clow and Co, Liverpool and Manchester, merchants, as regards J. [John] Clow. After this the company (presumably) became Tennants (Lancashire)[8].

After Mr Young left the business, his post as manager was taken by William Hart

The Works at Manchester

Edward Peel Thomson sold the Ardwick Bridge works to Tennant, Clow & Co. He then entered the calico printing form of Thomson, Brothers, and Co. He committed suicide at his home at Legh Place, Ardwick, in 1848[9].

The 36-inch 1849 O.S. map [10] shows the Ardwick Bridge Chemical Works in some detail. It had evidently developed piecemeal, its extent and shaped defined by the sinuous River Medlock. At the north side of the site the buildings extended over the river and continued on the north side. The buildings over the river are marked as the 'Vat House' and the 'Solution of Tin House'. Other buildings on the site included 'Garancine Works', 'Vitriol Stores', 'Vitriol Chambers', 'Nitrate of Soda Works', 'Cylinder House', etc. Immediately opposite the southern end of the works, on the river bend, there were terraces of large houses with gardens running down to the river bank. Presumably these had been built before the development of the chemical works! These houses were on Temple Street and Russell Street. Several of those on Russell Street were destroyed in July 1895 when one of the former chemical works' chimneys collapsed (see below). See photographs[11] [12] [13]. Some of the photos, showing the back of the houses, hint that the gardens were no longer the occupants' pride and joy[14] [15]

Bancks's 1831 map of Manchester shows a small chemical works on the north bank of the Medlock, suggesting that the works started there before expanding on the opposite side of the river.

Considerable alarm was occasioned in the neighbouhood of London-road, on Thursday, by the fall of a chimney stack, said to have been 200 feet high. The stack formed part of some old chemical works, which are situated on the bank of the River Medlock, close to the point which it crossed London-road. The works, which are, we believe, the property of Mr. Schofield, were formerly carried on by Mr. Tennant. but they have not been occupied for some time past. There was no reason for believing that the stack was in a dangerous condition, and its collapse came as a startling surprise to everyone the neighbourhood. The heavy mass of bricks and mortar fell with terrific force upon two cottages situated on the opposite side of the river in Russell-street. The houses, which were used by Mr. Horsley, of Grosvenor-street, for chairmaking purposes, were completely wrecked. The police and fire brigade were quickly summoned, and there was soon force of 50 constables on the spot, under the direction of Inspector Bannister. It was rumoured that someone was buried under the wreckage, but there is every reason for believing that this is fortunately not the case. The debris was cleared away with the greatest despatch, and no trace of anything of the kind was found. The Irish Nationalist Club had an exceedingly narrow escape. It is situated next to one of the cottages which was demolished, and, at the time of the accident, was packed with members. A quantity of the debris fell into the already swollen river, and forced the water over the banks into the adjoining streets and into the lower rooms of some of the houses.'[16]

Incident of Cruelty, 1847

The following newspaper report concerns the abuse of a chimney-sweeping boy at and outside the Manchester works.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chapman, the Borough Coroner, was for a considerable time engaged in investigating the circumstances attendant on the death of a poor climbing boy named Thomas Price, residing in Shepley street, London Road, who died on the afternoon of Sunday last, in consequence of the cruelty of his master, a chimney sweeper named Gordon. The unfortunate deceased, a lad of tender age, was only seven years and seven months old, and in the immediate neighbourhood where the circumstances were known, the inquiry excited the most intense interest. It would appear, that on Sunday last, the master of the deceased was sent for to sweep the flues attached to the engine-house of Messrs. Tenant, Clow, and Co., chemical manufacturers, in Jackson-street. Finding the job too hot for him, from the heated state of the flues, he engaged another sweep, named Kerry, to undertake the task. He himself, however, was in attendance with the deceased boy, to assist Kerry, and although unwilling or unable to go into the flues himself, he insisted upon and compelled the lad to do so. Finding himself overpowered, however, the lad came out, being unable to stand the oppressive heat, when his brutal master chastised him severely, and forced him again to re-enter. Shortly afterwards he was brought out almost suffocated, and perfectly insensible to all around him, when his master, Gordon, carried him home, and flogged him brutally for what he called " foxing." This he did whilst the poor lad was in convulsions, and in fact on the verge of death, and the result of such inhumanity was, that he expired under it the same afternoon. The inquest was held at the Red Lion, in London Road, when the following evidence was adduced:

George Winstanley, of No. 1, Clowes' Court, Jackson-street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock, said,—I am a labourer in the employ of Messrs. Tennant, Clow, and Co., at their chemical works, Jackson-street. Being sat in the lodge on Sunday afternoon, the 11th inst., I heard a boy scream, on which I ran to the steam boiler fire-hole, supposing it to be deceased, having last seen him there about eleven o'clock in the forenoon, emptying soot out of a water can, having seemingly just come out of one of the boiler flues he had been sweeping. When I got there I did not see anybody, but I heard the voice of the master sweep (John Gordon, of Buxton-street), and on turning my head I saw him (Gordon) standing near the mouth of the flue, shouting to deceased, who was in the flue, and asking him if he was for working. I said, “what's up, that that boy is shrieking so." He replied the young devil is gone up without his shoes, it burns him. I added, "Why do you keep him so long in the flue if it burns him so." He said, "It’s not that hot, I've been in myself, the young devil's foxing;" on which he called up the flue again several times, “Tommy," but the boy never answered. I said you’ve no business to keep him so long in the flue, on which he replied I'll go up myself and make the young beggar work. I then shouted up the flue to deceased to come down, but he would not answer. I intended to persuade him to come, being afraid Gordon would beat him. I heard him sobbing. Being called off I went away, and in a quarter of an hour I saw Gordon go across the yard, three times, and fetch water from opposite in a can lid. As he went into the place he said, this is a rum thing to carry drink in ; and in a quarter of an hour I saw him come out of the place, followed by a man sweep, whom I had before seen him assisting him as a servant, carrying something in a bag. As he got near the lodge he laid it down, whilst Gordon went out of the lodge door, the gate being closed; and, soon after, the man opened the bag, and pulled out deceased. I ran up to him, but the man had carried him out at the door, and as I was following him through the front door of the lodge, I met Gordon returning. I asked him, “What's up with the boy?" He replied, “The young devil has fainted away, or is foxing." I said “You should not have kept him in so long”. He replied, "That's not it. It is not so hot - he is foxing:" and added, "bless your life! When I went into the flue it was not too hot. I found him in the flue with his face downward in the soot, and that was enough. He was drawing all the soot into him”. He went into the place again through which the flues run. On both occasions when I went into the place, nobody else was there but deceased, Gordon and the other man. The man returned alone, shortly after taking away deceased, and Gordon finished the job without deceased, whom I did not again see. The flues run under ground, and when I heard him sobbing he was under where I stood, as I judged from the sound of his voice. It was not hot, but warm, but not out the way. When I saw deceased pulled out of the bag, I thought he was dead. I don’t' think he was in the flue when I heard the shriek. If he had been, I should not heard from where was at the time When Gordon and the man with the bag went out at the lodge, and pulled out deceased, neither of them spoke, except that Gordon said, “Thank God, we've finished." I added, it’s perhaps the last, thinking deceased was killed, and I told George Tipping, the engineer, who was standing by. The flue was fit to work in where I was: Deceased, as I thought, was near the boilers and stove; if it was hot at all it was hot there, and I think less ventilation would be there. Deceased had been working about eleven, when I saw him. The fire had been put out at two o'clock the previous afternoon, and the boiler filled with cold water several times, to assist in cooling the flues. It was a cooler place where the man was.

George Tipping, the engineer, said Gordon and deceased had been at work alone from eleven o'clock on Sunday forenoon to half-past twelve o'clock, when he went to his dinner. He had been with them during that time, but did not return from dinner till half-past five the same afternoon. On his return he found Gordon, and a man whom he had then with him finishing the job, but he did not see deceased. As he returned through the lodge, the last witness told him of the circumstance, and after seeing Gordon and the man (as before stated) he went to look after deceased, and found him at Gordon's cellar in a cradle. He said, “at my request Mrs. Gordon laid him on a bed, and I then saw he was very poorly. I sent a woman who was there to fetch a druggist, while I went to Gordon to send him home to fetch other assistance. In about twenty minutes after he came back, saying the deceased was dead. I found him at the works with the other sweep. For the last five years he had swept the flues, which are swept about five times a year. Deceased had never been there before. There is only one flue, and only one fire goes into it. It had been put out at two on Saturday afternoon, in order to clean the boiler out; and the better to cool the place, we filled the boiler once with cold water, which remained in it until five the next morning, when we began, and the water was let off. Up to half-past twelve deceased had not been in the flue. I had been out of the place part of the time, perhaps a quarter of an hour at once, and he might have been in during my absence; but when I left he was out of the flue and was skipping about well and hearty.

James Bailey, firer-up of the engine, corroborated some portion of this witnesses evidence, stating, however, that in his opinion the place was sufficiently cool to work in, and stating that he had been where it was five times as hot.

Thomas Gill, a labourer in the same employ, said I was within eight yards of Gordon and deceased in the cellar, about three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, being at that time in the yard. I heard Gordon say “If you don’t be quick and get down I’ll kill you"' and deceased was crying as if Gordon had "been "milling" him. He had been crying for the space of three minutes, during all which time Gordon had been scolding him. I saw no blows, but I heard a sound as of somebody striking something like a person clothed. I know Gordon's voice, and that it was deceased's cry as there were no other boys there, and it was a weaker voice.

Eliza Grimshaw, of Buxton-street, said, that on Sunday afternoon, about half-past three, she saw Kelly carry the deceased past her door into Gordon's cellar. She thought he was in a fit from the way in which his eyes worked about, and in about half an hour afterwards she went in to see him. She left the cellar to go for Mr. Mount, and on returning with him, in about seven minutes, deceased was quite dead.

James Cooke Kerry, chimney sweeper, of Gould-street, Major-street, said, about half-past one on Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Gordon came to me saying, " My master wants you to clean a flue at the chymic works", opposite Barns's mill, in Jackson street—it is too hot for him, and be can't do it, and he will give you shilling for it." I accordingly went with her, and found Gordon and deceased at the cellar, and about two o'clock we went together to the flue. I went up the side flue, near the boiler, and as I sent down the soot deceased stood at the mouth and took it from Gordon, who was at the mouth, as he filled a can with it. After he had filled three cansfull, I came out to cool myself, it was so hot, the soot at the bottom of the flue being on fire. I went outside, and about ten minutes after I went again, and Gordon and the deceased continued to take away the soot as before, for about seven or eight minutes, when I finished there I came out. I then went to the other side, at the front of the boiler, leaving deceased in the same place with Gordon, and after finishing that which was hot and on fire at the bottom (as the other side) I came out and went to Gordon, deceased being still with him. I then went into the long flue, under ground towards the chimney ; this was not hot, it was cool and fit for anybody (even deceased) to go in, and after I had been in about five minutes Gordon cried to me and said " the lad is dead" and I got out, I found him on the ground in the cellar ; Gordon said the deceased had been in the flue at the end of the side where had first been, and he had been for him and found him on his face lying in the soot; deceased followed me as I went into the side flue, when I first entered, and stood at the entrance, being about a quarter of a yard from the back part of the boiler, and about six feet from where Gordon stood underground, to receive the soot from me and to hand it to Gordon ; and when I so came out at Gordon's request, the boy came out too, to cool himself; before I went in again Gordon had sent him in again, and I passed him at the same place; as |I left in order to go to the other end I passed deceased, and left him there to go to the front, which I swept, and then went into the long flue, as stated, but did not pass deceased, there being three entries, and I going down that next the chimney. Deceased was still at the bottom of the entrance next the back of the boiler, and I did not see him again until after Gordon called me out as above stated. He might have been in altogether about ten minutes ; where he was very hot. I mean he had been in ten minutes from his going the second time. I could not have stopped in so long, the soot being on fire, and very sulphurous, and there being no draft, from the holes being open. It was improper to allow such a boy to remain there so long. After I so found him. Gordon fetched some water and I bathed his forehead with it—he was taking his breath quite sharp. Gordon said "he was only capping,” but he went and fetched a chimney cloth, in which, at his request, I put him, and carried him to the lodge gate, where I took him out and carried him to Gordon's cellar in my arms, and put him on his bed in a back cellar, where he began to kick. The bed was straw on the floor, such as such lads lie on when they are dirty. He knocked his head very badly against the wall and the floor, and rolled into some soot kept there, being still insensible. Gordon said "he is only capping, fetch me the rod," but I could not find it, and his wife refusing to fetch it, he beat him (deceased) across his back, having pulled off his (deceased's) shirt, and giving him five or six strokes, when I and his wife stopped him; nobody else was there; Gordon said we were soft, like children, and deceased screaming very hard, he struck him again; Mrs. Gordon tried to wash him, he being still kicking and insensible, but she could not finish, he kicked so bad ; I and Gordon then went away together, Gordon saying his wife must get him (deceased) asleep, if she could. I thought he had been suffocated from the heat in the flue ; he refused to go in the second time, but Gordon hit him on the head with something in his hand, and compelled him to go in; he was filling the can as I passed him in the flue, holding his head down, and breathing very thick from its being so hot—very hot. He did not froth at the mouth or vomit, but spat only. I was present, and had just come out of the yard when Gordon asked him to go into the flue again; he refused, saying "it is hot," and cried, on which Gordon hit him on his head a heavy blow, it sounding as if on the bare bone, and deceased therefore went in again, and I immediately followed him.

Mr. Thomas Wilson Dyson, surgeon, said, I made a post mortem examination of the body last night; it had been partly washed and laid out; the fingers were clenched, teeth set, the tongue not between the teeth; there was a congested swelling of the neck, such as might have been present either from suffocation or convulsions; on the right side of the forehead was brown hard patch, one and a half inches diameter, which appeared to have lost its cuticle from friction, after having been blistered by the application of heat. There were three similar patches on the left side, rather towards the back. There was a blistered surface at the back, and under side of right hand, and the knee-cap was slightly blistered. These were all recent, and appeared as resulting from heat. The right eye, and right side of the face, appeared reddened by congestion, or heat and congestion jointly, and the right ear appeared to have been full of soot. There were recent bruises on parts of the body, three of those on the back appearing in stripes. When the skin was dissected from the back, sides, and breech, a great number of extravasations of blood presented themselves, chiefly in continuous lines or stripes. From their character and situation, they could only have re suited from external violence such as blows, same as from a stick. The internal parts of the body presented no appearance of disease. There was slight congestion of the brain. The heart and lungs were healthy ; the right side of the heart contained a little black fluid blood; the left side was empty. The air tubes were filled with liquid similar to that in the stomach which had most probably oozed from the mouth through the windpipe after death. The mouth, gullet, and stomach were partly filled with half digested food, intermixed here and there with small portions of soot. The bladder was quite empty. There were no post-mortem appearances sufficient to enable me to speak, positively as to the cause of death. The appearance of suffocation are not strongly exhibited in the case; yet I believe it quite possible for suffocation to have been the cause of death, and no greater appearance of than here alluded to. Neither the burns nor the severe punishment which it evident deceased had undergone can have been the immediate and direct cause of death. Having heard the statement of the last witness, I have little doubt that the cause of death was convulsions from suffocation; and think this consistent with his having screamed when being beaten.

Elizabeth Price said the deceased was my son. He lived with Gordon, and was his chimney-sweeper. His health was good, and I never knew him to have fits. I last saw him alive on Saturday night, and he was then well and hearty. After deliberating a short time, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Gordon, who has since been committed for trial the assizes under the coroner's warrant.’[17]

Note that this case occurred five years after the use of 'climbing boys' for sweeping chimneys had been outlawed by Act of Parliament. It seems that the law was widely disregarded by chimney sweeps - the 'masters' - while some employers of those sweeps turned a blind eye.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Leeds Mercury, 22 May 1841
  2. The Morning Post, 12 November 1844
  3. Leicestershire Mercury - Saturday 9 November 1844
  4. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser, 23 September 1848
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 12 February 1848
  6. The Morning Post, 10 May 1851
  7. London Gazetter 30 Dec 1851
  8. The Preston Guardian, 3 January 1852
  9. Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 29 April 1848
  10. 'The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Maps: Manchester (London Road) 1849: Manchester Sheet 34' [1]
  11. [2] Manchester City Council Local Image Collection. Click on thumbnail
  12. [3] Manchester City Council Local Image Collection
  13. [4] Manchester City Council Local Image Collection
  14. [5] Manchester City Council Local Image Collection
  15. [6] Manchester City Council Local Image Collection
  16. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 27 July 1895
  17. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 17 July 1847