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British Industrial History

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William Henry Beck

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William Henry Beck (1835-1915) of W. H. Beck and Co, mechanical engineer, inventor, specialist in refrigeration.

of 115 Cannon Street, London, E.C.

1861 Mechanical engineer, lived in Chelsea[1]

1861 Left the Civil Service and went into business for himself, which subsequently became W. H. Beck and Co

1871 Consulting engineer, employing 2 others, lived in Deptford with Emma Beck 34, William H Beck 6, Alexander E Beck 5, Emma Beck 1 Month[2]

1881 Consulting engineer (Civil), lived in Deptford with Emma Beck 44, William H. Beck 16, apprentice, Edith M. Beck 10, Alice L. Beck 6[3]

1891 Consulting engineer and patent agent, lived in Deptford with Emma Beck 54, Edith M Beck 20[4]

1901 Consulting mechanical engineer, employer, lived in Deptford with Emma Beck 64, Edith M Beck 30, Alice L Beck 26[5]

1911 Consulting engineer and patent agent, working on own account, lived in Brockley with Emma Beck 74, Alice Lilian Beck 36[6]

1915 Died in Greenwich[7]



1915 Obituary [8]

WILLIAM HENRY BECK was born at St. Helena on 31st December 1835, his father being in the Army of the then existing East India Company, to whom the island belonged at that time. On the death of his father in 1841 he was brought to this country and lived with an uncle, who was also in the Army, at Waterford, and at Rye and Blatchington in Sussex, where his early education was received.

In 1853 he came to London and studied engineering at King's College.

In 1856 he was engaged as an assistant to classify and arrange the exhibits which were left over from the Great Exhibition of 1851, and it was then suggested that these should form the nucleus of a permanent museum under the Science and Art Department. This idea materialized in 1857, resulting in the establishment of the Patent Museum.

Mr. Beck was then a mechanical assistant in the Civil Service, which position he held until 1861, shortly after which year he established the firm of W. H. Beck and Co., consulting engineers and chartered patent agents. He designed all the mechanical details of the first ice skating-rinks, in conjunction with the late Professor Gamgee, amongst which may be mentioned the Chelsea Glaciarium, the Southport Glaciarium, also the old Charing Cross floating baths. Subsequently he was engaged in an advisory capacity in connexion with various refrigerating works, stores, and ice factories.

He introduced the system so much in use for cooling milk known as the Elevated Brine Storage System, and also designed factories and machinery for crushing and grinding asphalt. For various Municipal Bodies he also carried out heating and ventilating arrangements in asylums, baths, and wash-houses.

He remained the senior partner of the firm until his death, which took place at Brockley, Kent, on 4th July 1915, in his eightieth year.

He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1873; and was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents.


Read his obituary in The Engineer 1915/07/16.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1861 census
  2. 1871 census
  3. 1881 census
  4. 1891 census
  5. 1901 census
  6. 1911 census
  7. BMD
  8. 1915 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries