Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,374 pages of information and 233,518 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

John Elder

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Memorial at Glasgow Necropolis.
Memorial at Glasgow Necropolis.
Memorial at Glasgow Necropolis.
1859. Steam engines.

John Elder (1824-1869) of Randolph, Elder and Co, marine engineer and ship builder

1824 March 8th. Born at Glasgow, the third son of David Elder.

He was educated at Glasgow high School and served an apprenticeship with Napier under his father, David Elder.

Worked for about a year in the pattern-making works of Messrs. Hick, at Bolton-le-Moors

Worked as a draughtsman at the Great Grimsby Docks.

1848 returned to Napier's to take charge of the drawing office as chief draughtsman.

1852 he became a partner with Charles Randolph in Randolph, Elder and Co; Randolph did not have experience with engines; Elder's knowledge led to work on steam engines for ships, particularly the first use of a compound engine in a ship; achieved some patents.

1860 The company began making steamships in the yard of J. R. Napier[1].

1862 John Elder, Randolph, Elder and Co, Centre Street, Glasgow.[2]

1864 John Elder laid out the Fairfield Yard at Govan[3] which in later years became Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.

1868 Patent on circular ironclads (i.e. floating gun batteries)[4]

1868 Upon the retirement of his partners the firm became simply John Elder

1869 September 17th. He died aged 45.

1869 After the death of John Elder, his widow Isabella (1828 - 1905) continued to run the company which was renamed John Elder and Co in his memory[5].

1888 When his statue in Govan Park was unveiled in 1888 it said: by his many inventions, particularly in connection with the compound steam engine, he effected a revolution in engineering second only to James Watt, and in great measure originated the developments in steam propulsion that have created modern commerce

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 2 June 1909
  2. 1862 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  3. The Times, 2 June 1909
  4. The Times, 30 October 1875
  5. Famous Glaswegians [1]
  • A Short History of Naval and Marine Engineering by E. C. Smith. Published 1937
  • Glasgow Men [2]