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Maudslay, Sons and Field by J. Foster Petree

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Note: This is a sub-section of Maudslay, Sons and Field

MAUDSLAY, SONS & FIELD as GENERAL ENGINEERS by J. Foster Petree, M.I.Mech.E., A.M.I.N.A. Pub. 1943.

The name of Maudslay, Sons & Field is so intimately associated with marine engineering that there is a tendency to remember the firm in that connection alone, just as Henry Maudslay’s slide-rest is liable to obscure his other contributions to engineering science. It is hoped that this paper may redress the balance by indicating something of the achievements of the firm in general engineering. Originally this was the field of operations of most of the early mechanical engineers; but, although the chronicle of the miscellaneous work undertaken at Lambeth resembles in many respects the corresponding history of that carried out at the establishments of Penn, Rennie, Braithwaite & Ericsson, Bryan Donkin, and others, its extent is not generally realised.

Some explanation is desirable of the rather disjointed nature of some of these notes and, indeed, of the fact that they are presented at all by one who can claim no personal acquaintance with the Lambeth Works. In the preparation of a pamphlet to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation in 1884, by the Maudslay apprentices, of the Junior Institution of Engineers, it was desired to include a view of the works. As no published print could be traced, even in the Crace Collection at the British Museum, the author approached Mr. Joseph Maudslay, a great-grandson of Henry Maudslay, and through his good offices obtained permission to reproduce a water-colour drawing preserved by his cousin, Mr. Cyril Maudslay, another great-grandson of the founder. This drawing, though evidently old, bore no date or signature, and these particulars the author attempted to supply, with what result is set forth in The Engineer of June 8, 1934. The search proved inconclusive in both respects, although the probable period was narrowed down to about 1835-45. A few clues still remain to be investigated. One of these, the absence of any sign of street lighting, has been examined in part, but with no positive result; in any case, the omission may be purely fortuitous. The peculiar chimney cowls suggest another possible line of inquiry; and a third clue is the name, J. Southam, over a shop window. This is obviously a deliberate insertion, being the only fragment, in a considerable amount of what passes for lettering, which the artist has troubled to make legible, and it might be his own name. No Southam appears in contemporary directories as resident in Lambeth.

This quest emphasised how quickly the knowledge of the firm and its work was becoming obscured by the passage of time. No connected account of it, or complete biography of any of its eminent directors, has yet been written; and now the books have been destroyed, very few drawings survive, and if any of the former staff have been moved to set down their reminiscences while their memory served, they have omitted to advertise the fact. Hence, some effort seemed desirable to collect such material as is available, before it dwindles still further and while the later period, at least, can be checked by personal recollections. That is at once the main purpose and the author’s excuse, for submitting a paper so liberally festooned with loose ends. It seemed better to set down something, however sketchy, in the hope of stimulating others to come forward with additions and corrections, rather than to withhold publication until the account could be made more presentable. The attempt is already overdue by at least 30 years.

Thanks mainly to Smiles (Industrial Biography, page 198) it is common knowledge that Henry Maudslay transferred his rapidly expanding business from 78 Margaret Street, off Oxford Street, to Lambeth Marsh in the year 1810, where the works the works remained, although with many alterations in arrangement, until the close of the century. In April, 1900, the plant was sold by auction, and soon afterwards the buildings were demolished to make way for those now occupying' the site. For some time the concern had been in the hands of a receiver and when the liquidation was accomplished, an order of the Court was obtained for the destruction of the books, as being no longer required. It was interpreted so drastically that hardly any official records remain, save the Maudslay Collection of models and drawings, now in the Science Museum, and a few other drawings preserved by members of the family. The only way to piece together the firm’s history, therefore, is to search for contemporary references, and to amplify them as much as possible with the aid of family papers and such data as may exist in the records of former clients.

The directions in which information may be sought are numerous, but it is improbable that any rich vein still awaits discovery. The principal sources are:

1. Maudslay, Field, and Sells papers;

2. Documents in official repositories;

3. Early technical, biographical, and other works;

4. Press references, technical and otherwise;

5. Proceedings of learned societies.

All of these have been explored to some extent, but none exhaustively. The process is somewhat laborious, as may be supposed in view of the long career of the firm, and can only proceed slowly, especially if extended among national, ecclesiastical and municipal records.

Disconnected as they are, however, the particulars already gathered are too extensive for a single paper, and for this reason it was decided to omit marine engineering and to include no more biographical matter than is needed for explanatory purposes; nor is it proposed to discuss topographical details, or the internal arrangement and organisation of the works. It may be observed that, although the marine engineering work carried out by the firm is well known and frequently mentioned by technical writers, it has never been thoroughly collated as a separate subject, so far as the author is aware; but it is fairly well documented, full lists being extant of the sets of machinery constructed, and extensive records at the Admiralty and elsewhere of the details and performance of many of them.

A brief outline may be given of the changes in the directorate from time to time. Apparently, Henry Maudslay was still sole proprietor when the move was made to Lambeth in 1810; his eldest son, Thomas Henry Maudslay, was then 18 years of age, and Joshua Field about 24. The earliest mention yet found of “H. Maudslay & Co.”[1] occurs in 1813; and as Thomas Henry Maudslay came of age on June 16 in that year, the formation of the Company may be presumed to have followed that date. The author has discovered no record of its formation, giving the names of the parties, but there is an announcement of the dissolution, as from December 18, 1820, of the partnership hitherto existing between Henry Maudslay, John Mendham, Thos. Henry Maudslay, and Joshua Field, “trading under the firm of Henry Maudslay and Co. as Engineers and Mechanists, and carrying on trade at Lambeth, in the County of Surrey.” This clearly indicates that the date,9 1822, hitherto accepted as that of Joshua Field’s entry into partnership, requires revision. Who John Mendham was, remains to be investigated.

It is possible that he was the “one assistant” who was Henry Maudslay’s staff and “sufficed for all his wants” in Wells Street; but this is pure conjecture, unsupported by evidence.

Once established in Lambeth, Henry Maudslay & Co. issued an advertising circular, bearing an engraving of a sectioned engine-house containing a boiler and beam engine, flanked by an inscription, in elegant copperplate, setting forth that:

“Henry Maudslay & Co., Engineers, London, / beg leave respectfully to acquaint Gentlemen, Merchants, Manufacturers / and their Agents, that they are enabled by their extensive Manufactory / and Machinery at Lambeth, to furnish (upon reasonable terms) the / most approved and complete Steam Engines, & when to send abroad / provided with all necessary duplicates &c. of the wearing parts to ensure / their perfect success in countries where mechanical assistance can- / not easily be procured. / They also beg leave to state that they keep on Stock small / Engines and the principal parts of those larger powers most in demand / that an order may be executed at the shortest notice. / Mill-work, Water Works & Machinery of every kind executed / in their usual style of workmanship.” The author’s copy is printed on paper watermarked “1813.” Another copy, among the Field Papers in the Science Library, is watermarked “1812”; so that the possibilities cannot be entirely excluded that the original partnership was of earlier formation than 1813, and that Thomas Henry Maudslay was not a partner at the outset. Mr. Freke Field told the author that the original of this drawing was the work of his grandfather, Joshua Field, F.R.S.

After the retirement of John Mendham, the firm was continued by the remaining partners as “Maudslay, Son & Field,” retaining this title for about ten years. The contract for the engine and scoop-wheel for the drainage of Haddenham Level, dated July 10, 1830, was between the Commissioners and “Maudslay, Son & Field’.” The second son, William Nicholson Maudslay, one of the founders of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who died in 1818 at the age of 23, appears not to have been a partner. John, the third son, came of age in 1820, and Joseph, the fourth son in 1822, but it is clear that the change to the familiar form of Maudslay, Sons & Field did not take place until the latter part of 1830 or the beginning of 1831 In a German reference of 1833, apparently based on first-hand information is a definite statement that there were “zwei Sohne” directing the business after the death of Henry Maudslay (which occurred on February 15, 1831) and this received fresh currency m a French transcript a year later; but Joseph Maudslay was also a partner before July 1, 1834. A Gazette notice, announcing the expiry “by effluxion of time, as from that date, of the partnership carried on “ under the firms of Maudslay, Son & Field, and of Maudslay, Sons & Field,” is signed by “Jno. B. De Mole, T. G. Glover, Executors of Henry Maudslay, deceased,” and by Thos. Henry Maudslay, John Maudslay, Joseph Maudslay, and Joshua Field, in the older named. The two executors were Henry Maudslay’s sons-in-law, John Bamber De Mole having married Isabel Maudslay, the second daughter and fourth child and Thomas George Glover being the second husband of the third daughter, Sarah, who was the youngest of Henry Maudslay’s seven children.

By this time the firm’s reputation was thoroughly established, so that Thomas Allen could write of “the extensive factory of Messrs. Maudslay’s, supposed to be the most complete in the kingdom. Steam engines, tanks for shipping, and all works connected with various factories, are here executed in the best manner. They occasionally employ upwards of two hundred men.” In Margaret Street, it may be noted, Henry Maudslay had employed 80 men; during the Crimean War, the numbers at Lambeth rose to about 1,200.

Joseph Maudslay’s copy of a deed of partnership, dated November 9, i860, has been preserved, in which the following are named as partners for a period of 21 years, as from June 30, 1860. . . . Thomas Henry Maudslay the elder, Joseph Maudslay, Joshua Field the elder, Henry Maudslay (son of Thos. Hy. Maudslay), Herbert Charles Maudslay (son of Joseph Maudslay), Joshua Field junior, Thomas Henry Maudslay (another son of T. H. Maudslay), Telford Field (another son of Joshua Field), and Daniel Fitzpatrick. The order of the names is as given, and the descriptions are transcribed verbatim. Daniel Fitzpatrick had been at Lambeth since the time of Henry Maudslay. He died suddenly on October 5, 1865, and was then described as having “been connected with the firm for nearly forty years.” The deed states that the partners prior to June 30, i860, were Thomas Henry Maudslay sen., Joshua Field sen., and Joseph Maudslay; it does not mention John Maudslay. The author has found nothing relating to him of later date than the Gazette notice of 1835.

The 21 years’ partnership soon began to lose its members. Henry Maudslay retired in 1861 and Joseph Maudslay died a few months later; Joshua Field sen. died in 1863; Thomas Henry Maudslay sen. died in 1864, leaving his share in the business equally between his sons Henry and Thomas Henry. The latter was already a partner; Henry, who had retired, returned to the business, but retired again in 1867. Herbert Charles Maudslay retired in 1868. The vacancies were filled by the appointment of Walter Henry Maudslay, a younger son of Joseph Maudslay, apparently about 1867-8, and, shortly afterwards, of the Hon. George Duncan, brother of the third Earl of Camperdown. Thomas Henry Maudslay jun. retired in 1879, and Telford Field, who for some time had been prevented by ill-health from taking an active part, in 1884.

The registration of the business as a limited liability company took place on April 10, 1889, which was also the date of the official retirement of the Hon. George Duncan, although he had virtually retired some time previously. In 1888 he had married an American lady, and thereafter made his permanent home in the United States. His withdrawal left only Joshua Field and Walter Henry Maudslay in the partnership. In 1918, he succeeded his brother in the earldom, and, as the fourth (and last) Earl of Camperdown, died at Boston, U.S.A., on December 5, 1933.

The subsequent changes in the directorate can be readily traced at Somerset House and in the Stock Exchange Tear Book, and therefore need not be detailed. From the start, the new company was fighting a losing battle. Not only was there a heavy burden of debentures, but northern competition was growing in intensity, and it was becoming increasingly evident that no heavy engineering business, least of all a marine-engine works, could hope to thrive in the heart of London. Schemes were considered for a removal to the provinces—Ipswich and Southampton being favoured in turn—but the beginning of the end came before any move was made.

On October 11, 1899, in three actions by debenture-holders, Mr. Justice Darling made an order appointing receivers.

In The Engineer of March 23, 1900, appeared a small paragraph . . . The engine works of Maudslay, Sons & Field, Ltd., at Lambeth, will be closed at the end of the month, and the plant, machinery, and accessories will be sold by auction in April. The important contracts which the company have on hand for the British and Austrian Governments are to be completed at the Greenwich Works.”

To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the only reference by the technical Press at the time to the imminent disappearance of this historic centre of mechanical engineering.

Three months later, the unfinished work having been transferred to East Greenwich, it was reported to the Lambeth Vestry that “Maudslay & Co.” had given up possession of their wharf to the Lambeth Surveyor on June 23, and the tale of the Lambeth Works reached its ending. This wharf, originally a part of “Pedlar’s Acre,” was entered from Belvedere Road and “was used by the firm for the best part of a century,” during which time “the rent rose from a few pounds to £800 a year.” The site is now covered by the northern wing of the County Hall. The use of the form “Maudslay & Co.” after so many years’ interval suggests that the compiler of the minutes may have had at hand the original tenancy agreement, dating back before the days of “Maudslay, Sons & Field ”— possibly to 1815, when the first marine engine was built at the works.

Realisation of the assets was completed in 1904, and the books were then destroyed, most unfortunately for the technical historian. The greater part of the site is now occupied by the blocks of tenements known as Campbell Buildings. An older block, Burdett Buildings, took the place of the former “front erecting shop” during the ’eighties; and the remainder of the frontage to Westminster Bridge Road, where stood the houses of the partners and of Charles Sells, with the offices between, is now the Lambeth North station of the Underground Railway, and associated buildings.


During the early years of the Lambeth Works, most of the London directories referred, with various misspellings of the name, to “H. Maudslay, patent machine manufacturer”; although the Post Office Directory of 1813 describes the firm as “engineers.” The same publication, two years before, gave both the Margaret Street and the Lambeth address in consecutive entries; the former as that of “Maudsley, H., Machinist,” and the latter, rather strangely, as “Maudesley, H., Patent Machine-manuf. to the Asylum, Lambeth.” The Bethlehem Asylum had not then been removed to Lambeth, so that the reference must have been either to the Blind Asylum in St. George’s Fields or to the Royal Female Orphan Asylum, which stood opposite to the works, on the site now occupied by Christ Church and Messrs. Oakey’s factory, and of which Henry Maudslay subsequently became a governor. Of the two, the Blind Asylum seems the more probable, as it is not easy to imagine what “patent machines” the female orphans could have required in 1811; but letters in the Field Papers and elsewhere, which were addressed to the firm “near the Asylum, Lambeth,” tend to weaken the probability. It is quite evident that “the Asylum, Lambeth,” without other qualification, meant the Orphan Asylum, in common usage. The mystery of the orphans’ “patent machines” remains unsolved.

Some obscurity seems also to surround the manufacture of Dickinson’s iron tanks, the patent for which was acquired by Maudslay at some time between February, 1811, and April, 1815. The manufacture was greatly expedited, and the quality of the product improved, by the use of punching and shearing machines devised for the purpose, apparently about 1820, and described in general terms by Henry Maudslay, the grandson, in 1858, when it was also stated that “these machines had been extensively employed by the Governments of England, France and Russia.”

The making of machine tools, to be used productively by other firms, as distinct from those (such as gun-boring mills) for special purposes, was evidently an extensive department of the business, though largely unrecorded. Duplicates of Maudslay’s own treadle screw-cutting lathe appear to have found a steady market among amateurs at £200 each; and from the fact that Carmichael & Go., of Dundee, had Maudslay machines and ex-Maudslay workmen in their shops before Nasmyth left Scotland in 1829, may be inferred that this trade had attained such dimensions that the few actual orders traceable can only be typical of very many more.

The principal sale for the Table Engine, patented in 1807, was for the purpose of driving factory machinery of all kinds; there are numerous references in the Sells Papers to the engines of this type, which were standardised in a number of stock sizes. There are indications that small beam engines, such as that illustrated by Bourne, were also standardised for factory work.

References by Smiles, Beamish and others to flour-mills, sawmills, sugar-mills, and the equipment of mints suggest that these, in particular, were specialities of the firm, which the Field Papers and Sells’ notebooks tend to confirm, although it is not always clear whether the reference is to an order or only to an estimate. There are also definite statements that machinery (not necessarily coining machinery in every case) was supplied to “the Royal and Calcutta Mints, Imperial Ottoman Mint, Anglo-Mexican, New Granada, and many other South American Mints”; to the Berlin Mint48 and other mints of “the Principal Governments of the world — although Dr. Conrad Matschoss, to whom the author applied, has not been able to confirm the case of Berlin; and to “Constantinople, Bombay, Bogota, Columbia (sic), China, London, and many other places.” A coining press for Constantinople, eccentric-operated, was one of the firm’s exhibits at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Sells gives notes on mints at Constantinople, where there was also a sawmill, Naples, Holland, New Granada, Colombia, Mexico, Bombay, and Portugal. Rennie refers to Barton’s “equalizing machine” (or drawbench) as having been constructed by Maudslay; and Nasmyth worked, with James Sherriff, on a machine for engraving dies, for the Royal Mint. Some 60 years later, a coin-weighing machine was made at Lambeth, apparently for the South African Mint.

During the railway expansion of the ’forties, a variety of railway work was undertaken, including the hauling engines for the Euston incline of the London & Birmingham Railway, goods locomotives (to Bury’s design) for the same line and the Minories hauling engine for the rope-operated London & Blackwall Railway. The firm supplied all the air-exhausting pumps and engines for the Croydon atmospheric railway and some of those for the South Devon line. Brunel’s first shield for the Thames Tunnel, a number of pumping engines for waterworks and docks, time-ball mechanisms for the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and elsewhere, Congreve’s “hydro-pneumatic lock” for the Regents Canal, and an equatorial mounting for Liverpool Observatory were other miscellaneous contracts, all of which, so far established, are listed in the appended chronological table. It is likely, also, that many recorded estimates, and other notes which appear to be estimates, relate to eventual orders.

The names of ships mentioned in the list are those of vessels of which the hulls were built by the firm. Their first venture in shipbuilding appears to have been the four iron steam boats and four “accommodation vessels ” for which tenders were invited by the Honourable East India Company in 1831. Messrs. Maudslay, Sons & Field secured the order, and the first, the iron steamer “Lord William Bentinck,” was launched on August 28, 1832, apparently at Lambeth. She is believed to have been the first iron vessel built on the Thames. Six similar steamers were built a few years later, after which shipbuilding seems to have been abandoned until, in 1865, the firm acquired the East Greenwich yard of the National Company for Boatbuilding by Machinery (Limited), which they operated as a shipyard until 1872. Subsequently the yard was converted into a boiler works. There, also, in the ’nineties, were fabricated the Earl’s Court “Great Wheel” and its several successors.

The general engineering works of Maudslay Brothers, at Cardiff, may be mentioned, although it seems to have been an independent venture. Herbert Charles Maudslay, after resigning from the Lambeth firm, joined with his brother, Charles Edmund Maudslay, to acquire the shipyard formerly occupied by Norman Scott Russell, on the left bank of the River Taff. The lease was dated June 24, 1874, but its period of 99 years ran from September 29, 1869. There were two slipways, but no evidence has been found that Maudslay Bros, built any vessels there, the business being mainly with dock gates. Work of this kind was done in 1878 for the Cumberland Basin at Bristol, but the business was then declining, and in 1879 the partnership was dissolved. Charles Edmund Maudslay took over his brother’s half-interest, by way of mortgage, and in 1882 assigned the lease and goodwill. No doubt it was for this undertaking that the Lambeth works engined the tug “Alert” in 1869 (listed as for “H. C. Maudslay, Esq.”); and, in the same connection, that Sells noted particulars of “Steam barges, Mr. H. Maudslay for Cardiff,, about January, 1870. The tug and barges may have been built at the Greenwich yard.

Of necessity, many details have been omitted from this rapid survey and also many doubtful points on which additional information would be welcome One however, may be included: in a letter to the author of October 30 1934, Mr C. de Grave Sells stated that “the famous Perkins high-pressure boiler was made and tested at the Lambeth works. He does not state which of the Perkins boilers this was, and Mr. Loftus P. Perkins, to whom the author referred, had no knowledge of any association of the two firms in boiler experiments or manufacture, pointing out that Jacob Perkins had his own works in 1819 at 41 Water Lane Fleet Street and from 1828 in Francis Street, Gray’s Inn Road. It may be noted that Charles Sells records some details of a biscuit bakery, with 13 ovens, at Deptford, apparently for the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard, which may or may not have some bearing upon the question.

Acknowledgment is due, and is gladly made, to Messrs Joseph and Cyril Maudslay; Mr Charles de Grave Sells; Dr Conrad Matschoss; the superintendent of Records, India Office; the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company; the Grand Union Canal Company; and the many institutions and individuals without whose ready and generous collaboration this paper could not have been written.


1797 Ironwork for artist’s easel. (Henry Maudslay’s first order —Smiles.)

1800-1 Models of Brunei’s block machinery.

1802-8 Block machinery for Portsmouth Dockyard. (A duplicate set was made for Chatham; also one for the Spanish Government. Mr. C. de G. Sells states that “copies were sent all over the world to the various Govt. Dockyards.”)

1808 Sawmill machinery and beam engine for Gun-Carriage Dept., Woolwich. (Probably various other sawmills also, as Brunel stated in 1814 that all his Government contracts were executed by Maudslay.)

1811 Portable floor crane, included in sale in 1900. (A larger portable crane is described and illustrated in German and French references given in Notes on page 27, ante.)

1813 Gun-boring machinery for Brazil (Rio de Janeiro).

1814 8 h.p. Table Engine for Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, Paris. {Trans. Newcomen Soc., vol. V., p. 91.)

Congreve’s patent lock, for Regent’s Canal. (Original contract, of June 23, 1814, ordered twelve; but a new contract of January 2, 1815, cancelled this, and ordered one only, which was constructed at Hampstead Road.)

1815 10 h.p. Table Engine at Lambeth Works. (Originally 8 h.p., but converted to “high pressure ” in 1858.)

1816 16 h.p. engine for Rheims, ordered by Brunei. {Trans. Newcomen Soc., vol. V., p. 95.)

Draw-bench for Royal Mint. {The Engineer, January 19, 1883, p. 53.)

1819 Engines supplied to J. L. Roard, Clichy, France; and to Seilliere le Lorrain & Cie., Rheims.

{Circa) Punching and shearing machines for manufacture of tanks under Trevithick and Dickinson’s patent. (These were still in use in 1881.) Hydraulic press cylinders and rams for Cockerill, Liege.

1824 Table engine at Lambeth Works. (Possibly the same engine as mentioned above.)

1825 Additional table engine for Lambeth Works.

Brunei’s first shield for Thames Tunnel; also 30 h.p. pumping engine and boiler(s) for Thames Tunnel.

1826 Iron roofs at Lambeth Works; collapsed May 24, but subsequently reconstructed.

Table (?) engine for Prussian Technological Institute, Berlin; ordered 1825, delivered 1826, erected 1827. (Dr. Conrad Matschoss, in sending precis of correspondence relating to this order, observes . It is safe to say that still more about Maudslay is to be found if one had more time. In fact, bulky material on the history of the English industry is preserved in German archives.”)

1830 Haddenham Level drainage engine and scoop-wheel; ordered July 10, price £3,600. It is possible that this engine still exists.

c.1830 The firm reconstructed an engine supplied to Lambeth Water Works by Jonah Davies, of Tipton; 100 h.p., for Belvedere Road pumping station.

1831 Lambeth Water Works pumping engine, said to be duplicate of the reconstructed Davies engine; but, Nasmyth says, of 200 h.p.

1832 S.S. “Lord William Bentinck,” for service on River Ganges; and other vessels previously mentioned.

1833 Time-ball, Royal Observatory, Greenwich; possibly the first of its kind — at least, the author knows of none earlier. First used, October-November, 1833.

1835 Engine and boiler for Dance’s steam carriage.

1836 Grand Junction Water Works, Kew Bridge, 65-in. engine; set to work, August, 1838; understood to be still in existence.

1837 Chelsea Water Works, single-acting beam engine, 65 in.; completed July, 1837; sold May 16, 1859. Replaced “an original engine of Boulton and Watt, probably the last to be seen in the neighbourhood of London” {Penny Cyclopedia, 1842).

1838 Euston-Camden Town incline, London & Birmingham Railway, two condensing engines for rope haulage. (Osborne’s London & Birmingham Rly. Guide, 1840, says four engines; two working, two spare.) Last used on July 14, 1844.

Six coupled luggage engines,” to Bury’s design, for London & Birmingham Railway {Minute of Board, No. 412).

1840 London & Blackwall Railway, two pairs of 224-h.p. rope-haulage engines for Minories station. (Line opened July 4, 1840; worked by rope until 1849.)

Royal Mint, equipment for Melting Houses {Record Book, No. 36, p. 241).

1843 Bars of various alloys for new Imperial Standard Yard. (Marks inscribed by Troughton & Simms.)

1845 Air-pumps and engines for Croydon Atmospheric Railway; one set at West Croydon station, one at Norwood Junction, two at Dartmouth Arms, Sydenham.

c.1846 Pumps for Sebastopol Docks. (Destroyed in Crimean War)

Air-pumps and engines for South Devon Atmospheric Railway (The firm were not the only contractors for these; information is desired, to identify the sets supplied by them.

1847 Iron roofs on foundry and boiler shop at Lambeth Works.

1848 Equatorial mounting, Liverpool Observatory; still exists.

c.1848 Engine (? table) at Francis’s Cement Works.

c.1849 “New engine” for Constantinople Mint.

1850 Engine and pump for Belgium. Alterations at Constantinople gun-boring mill.

1852 Time-ball at South Foreland Lighthouse, Deal. (Discontinued 1927— Supplement No. 7 (1927) to Channel Pilot, Pt. I, 1920.)

1853 Time-ball at Edinburgh; still in use.

Pumps and engines (probably beam type) for No. 3 Dock, Southampton. (Replaced by Gwynne pumps, 1888.)

c.1854 Beam engines and pumps, Naval Dockyard, Copenhagen. (Replaced by centrifugal pumps, 1914.)

Breech-loading gun, Joseph Maudslay’s patent. (Original at Warnham Court, Horsham; model, formerly at Science Museum, now at Rotunda Museum, Woolwich.)

1855 Time-ball at Sydney, N.S.W.

c.1857 West Middlesex Water Works, 72-in. engine.

1865 S.S. “Lady Derby ” (first vessel launched from East Greenwich yard). Barque for Scrutton & Campbell. (Name wanted.)

Cable-proving machine for Trinity House.

1867 H.M.S. “Pelter” (tank vessel).

1869 H.M.S. “Despatch" (tank vessel).

36-in. beam pumping engine for Indus Tunnel, Attock, India.

1870 China clippers “Blackadder and “Hallowe’en” for John Willis & Son (“Blackadder” dismasted on first voyage; cf. Basil Lubbock, The China Clippers, 1925.)

Bosphorus ferry steamers “Azimet,” “Selomet,” and “Souhoulet.”

1871 Bosphorus steamers “Meymenet ” and “Sahilbend.”

1872 S.S. “Legislator” for Harrison Line; H.M.S. “Elizabeth” (tank vessel).

1873 Time-ball for Cape of Good Hope.

c. 1881 Yacht “Marama” for Telford Field.

1882 Main engines and rolling mills for Royal Mint, Tower Hill replacing earlier Maudslay engine, c. 1825. (The Engineer, January 19, 1883, p. 52,)

c. 1889 Coin-weighing machine, South African Mint.

1895 Parts of “Great Wheel,” Earl’s Court; 270 ft. diameter.

1896 Parts of Blackpool Wheel; 200 ft. diameter.

1897 Parts of Vienna Wheel; 200 ft. diameter.

1898 Parts of Paris Wheel; 300 ft. diameter.

B. C. Pole’s “ Momentum Engine ” (Patent No. 6430 of March 16, 1898).


Machinery for Royal Mint (in addition to items listed above); Berlin Mint (Nasmyth says 1830); Calcutta Mint, Bogota Mint, Anglo-Mexican Mint, Constantinople Mint (prior to 1863); Bombay Mint, Chinese Mint.

Machinery for Government Tobacco Factory, France (prior to 1848); and for Government Tobacco Factory, Lisbon (c. 1848).

Dock pumps and engines for Egypt (prior to 1863).

Gun-boring machinery for Constantinople (prior to 1863).

Ship-resistance models and resistance-measuring apparatus (about 1830—Nasmyth) Bronze-foundry equipment for Sir F. Chantrey (prior to 1831).

Heavy parts of Ferranti’s alternators at Deptford (c. 1887-90).

Work supervised by Henry Maudslay (1822-1899) at Malta in ‘forties; possibly dock-pumping machinery for No. 1 Dock (1844-48).

Calico-printing machinery; flour-milling machinery; sugar machinery.

Engine for White’s Swanscombe cement works.

Dredging plant (Trinity House, Swan River, Naples, Pernambuco, etc.). Cigarette-making machine (prior to 1886).

Pneumatic gun for projecting dynamite.

A machine for making and packing meat-cubes, mentioned by Mr. Cyril Maudslay, probably came within the period of the Limited Company, i.e., 1889-1900.


From Charles Sells’s Notebooks (1842-1883).

Engines and/or boilers for Brixton, Reigate and Lambeth Water Works extensions, Manchester and Salford Water Works, Cambridge Water Works,

Walton-on-the-Hill (Liverpool) Water Works.

A. Robinson’s Sugar Mill; Sir Wm. Young’s Sugar Mill.

Fire Engines. Surrey Lunatic Asylum. Mr. Crawshay’s Engine.”

Mr. Sharp’s Engine.

Marriott’s Oil Mill, Lynn (? Linseed mill).

Engine for English Copper Co.; possibly another for “Navigation Colliery.”

Dutch coining press (? Utrecht). Coin mills for Portugal.

Dock pumps for China. “Sewage pump.”

55-in. pump for Southampton (? Docks or Water Works).

High-pressure engine for Upper Godavery Navigation Works.

Pumping engines, Blackwall and/or for Thames Iron Works (? Dock).

Boilers (? and engines) for Littleport and Downham District (almost certainly for drainage); and for Upwell, near Wisbech.

Biscuit bakery at Deptford.

“Ship No. 32,” fitted with hydraulic propulsion.

Pumping engines for St. Petersburg; and for Portsmouth Dockyard extension.

Wrought-iron girders for “M.D.Rly.” (? Metropolitan District).

From the Field Papers (Science Library).

George Prinsep & Co, Steam engines. “Edge stones ” (various).

Brunel, furnace for burning sawdust.

Mann & Barnard (for Jas. Drummond, Esq.), sawmill building.

Pumps for Plymouth Dockyard. Wharf cranes

Wm. Drayson, Royal Engineers’ Office, Waltham Abbey, iron building “for charring wood”

Barrois & Fils, Lille, engines for driving carding-machines

Spirit pumps for the Hon. East India Company.

“Machinery for driving Congreve’s rockets,” Woolwich

Gun-boring mills, Woolwich. " Rice-whitening machine »

Machine for making casks.

Ceylon, machinery for “beating paddy, sawing wood, etc.” (apparently equipment for a complete mill, including “Winnowing machines ”).


THE PRESIDENT, MR. C. F. DENDY MARSHALL, recalled that Joshua Field had given evidence before the Select Committee on Atmospheric Railways on April 2, 1845 but there was not much to be gathered from it in connection with the engines, except that it confirmed the fact that Messrs. Maudslay had made the engines for the Croydon and Blackwall Railways. The engines for the former had cost £4,240 per pair (100 h.p.). There were two for the latter railway, one being always in reserve.

In an address to the proprietors of the South Devon Railway, by their chairman, in 1848, it was stated: “Soon after the atmospheric apparatus was put into operation it was discovered that all the engines were, from their malconstruction, more or less inadequate to the duty required of them, particularly the Dawlish engine, which has invariably consumed from 40 to 50 per cent, more of fuel than the others. They were originally designed to work at a speed of from 18 to 20 strokes per minute, but it was found necessary to work them from 25 to 30 and even more.

Brunel’s report of August 19, 1848, stated: “The three first manufacturers of the day were employed: Messrs. Maudeslay (sic), who had had some experience in this particular branch, having made the engines for the Croydon Railway; Messrs. Boulton & Watts (sic); and Messrs. Rennie. They prepared their own designs.” All the engines were unsatisfactory and extravagant. There were eight of them — at Exeter, Countess Weir, Turf, Star Cross, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Summer House and Newton Abbott. The President added that Field had been asked if he had made locomotives, and he had said that his Company had done so, but not many. Finally, the President suggested that the “patent machines ” referred to in the paper as having been supplied to the Asylum at Lambeth might have been water pumps.

MR. CYRIL MAUDSLAY thanked the Society, on his own behalf and that of his cousins who were present, for having given them the opportunity to attend the meeting. He was sorry that the investigations into the activities of Messrs. Maudslay, Sons & Field had not been conducted earlier, when much more information was available. Mr. Foster Petree’s investigations had brought to light an extraordinary amount of information, and it was hoped that, as a result of the reading of the paper, more facts would be revealed. About three years before, he had written to the Superintendent at Portsmouth Dockyard, asking whether the block machinery was still in operation and whether he might be allowed to see it. The Superintendent had replied that a great deal of the machinery was still in use and that he would be pleased to show it to Mr. Maudslay.

MR. JOSEPH MAUDSLAY, referring to the block machinery, asked if it were possible to obtain data with regard to it, or photographs.

ENGINEER CAPTAIN E. C. SMITH, R.N., said that references to the work of the firm of Maudslay were to be found in unexpected places. In his Autobiography (1893) Sir George Biddell Airy, Astronomer Royal 1835-81, gave an account of his visit to Portsmouth at the request of the Admiralty, who desired his opinion on Lord Dundonald’s rotary engine, fitted in H.M.S. “Janus.” In Airy’s letters, dated January 6 and 7, 1846, to his wife, he said that, the vessel not having arrived, we went off to see the small engine of Lord D-D’s construction which is working some pumps and other machinery in the Yard. It was kept at work a little longer than usual for us to see it, and I have no hesitation in saying that it was working extremely well.” At Portsmouth, Airy met “Shirreff,” obviously James Sherriff (1801-63), the General Superintendent of Maudslay’s factory. It would seem that the firm constructed several of Dundonald’s engines. Airy also refers to several time-balls. In his notes for 1854, he says: “The Deal Time-Ball has now been executed by Messrs. Maudslays and Field, and it is an admirable specimen of the workmanship of those celebrated engineers.” With reference to Barton s equalising machine or draw-bench, this would seem to be one of the inventions of Sir John Barton (1771-1834), who, for 46 years, was Secretary and Treasurer to William IV, and for a time was Comptroller of the Mint. Barton died August 25, 1834, and was buried in the cloisters of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, where a memorial tablet to him was erected by command of the King.

MR. H. W. DICKINSON (Past-President) said, with regard to the drawing showing the house occupied by Henry Maudslay at Lambeth, and the suggestion that the name “J. Southam ” over the window of the adjacent shop was the name of the artist who made the drawing, it might be mentioned that no one of that name was to be found in dictionaries pf painters and engravers; possibly Southam was a draughtsman in the Maudslay works. Discussing the reference to the iron tanks: though the patent was obtained by Dickinson and Trevithick, the man with the brains was the latter. He would like to learn more about the sale of the patent to Maudslay by Dickinson.

The Maudslay firm had exhibited not only at the 1851 Exhibition, but also at that of 1862; on the latter occasion they built a special engine for the purpose of exhibiting their models in motion; that engine was now in the Science Museum.

It was Mr. W. I. Last who had had the foresight and energy to move in the matter of the acquisition of the Maudslay models for the Science Museum. He (Mr. Dickinson) was a junior at that time, but if he had known that the books of the Company were to be destroyed, he would have made an effort to have had a few of them preserved in the Museum; it was a pity that the records had not been preserved in the same way as those of Boulton & Watt at Birmingham.

MR. J. H. R. BODY (Member) read an excerpt from The Observer, August 11, 1833, referring to the first experimental journey, on Tuesday, August 6, of the new steam carriage built by Messrs. Maudslay, the journey being from Lambeth to Croydon. It was in the form of an omnibus to carry 14 persons. The noise and excitement it created as it passed through the streets of Croydon obliged the Judges to suspend the proceedings of the Assize Court. It was further stated that the carriage would shortly be making a second experimental journey, travelling at the rate of 12 miles per hour.

MONS. C. DOLLFUS (Member) mentioned that a good model of the Maudslay table engine, very similar to the engine illustrated by Mr. Petree, was preserved in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, Paris. Maudslay’s engines were very popular in France, and were mentioned very often in French books on steam engineering in the first half of the 19th Century. He believed that many other engines were supplied by Maudslay to France, and possibly information with regard to them could be obtained at the places at which they were located.

MR. ALFRED W. MARSHALL, who had entered the Lambeth works in 1886 as an improver after an apprenticeship with David Napier & Sons, remarked on the variety of work then in hand. Shortly before, they had made an easel for Princess Beatrice. On an upper floor was a two-bladed Maudslay feathering propeller and a cigarette-making machine; the latter left there, he was told, because the man who ordered it could not pay for it. He believed that the firm had made a curious form of high-speed engine for Professor Hearson, but he had not seen it. In the shops were the main engines for the Italian battleship “Re Umberto,” with Joy’s valve-gear, then coming into marine use. Mountings for torpedo tubes were being made, and the tubes also, complete with firing mechanism; and propelling machinery for the “torpedo-catchers,” as they were then termed, which proved to be not so fast as the torpedo-boats they were designed to catch. The models, now at the Science Museum, were arranged in a special room and driven by a belt from the works shafting, each at its appropriate speed. During the Crimean War, the company sub-contracted with David Napier & Sons for some work, including 100 valve-motion links for gunboat engines; assuming two links per engine, this indicated the volume of work in hand. The old hands told him that they were “building engines one on top of another” during the national effort to produce 90 gunboats in 90 days.

Mr. Marshall recalled that Henry Maudslay acted as arbitrator when Joseph Clement charged, and was refused payment of, £400 for making an extremely accurate screw required for astronomical work, which David Napier had declined to undertake, and that he settled the dispute by offering to pay £400 for it himself. He could add to the list of work done by Maudslay, Sons & Field, Mr. Marshall continued, the cable-proving machine at Trinity House Wharf, Blackwall. He had seen the block machinery and was struck by its elegant construction and effectiveness for its purpose.

MR. J. FOSTER PETREE, in reply, said that his only inquiries about the block machinery had been at the Admiralty Library, and he had not much information about its present state. He had tried to ascertain how many sets were made, and also to find out something about Dickinson’s tanks, for which there had been an Admiralty contract, but found that it would be necessary to go to the departments directly concerned. There might be some references in the Public Record Office.

At the time that the Deal time-ball was erected, another time-ball was placed on top of the Nelson monument on Galton Hill, Edinburgh, where it was still in use. The Practical Mechanic's Journal (Vol. VI, April, 1853—March, 1854, p. 293) recorded the interest taken in it by Sir Thomas Brisbane, formerly Governor-General of New South Wales, who spent some weeks studying its action and recommended that similar balls should be erected at Glasgow and Greenock. It might have been due to his influence that a ball was supplied to Sydney, N.S.W., in 1855. Charles Sells’s note-books referred to a fifth time-ball, at Capetown, with a mention of “Siemens ”; possibly Messrs. Siemens supplied the electrical apparatus. At Greenwich Observatory the ball mechanism was as Maudslay’s had left it, except that a modification was made to the dropping arm by Sir George Airy, to ease the load upon it. An 8-in. piston at the lower end of a vertical rod was held by two catches and, when released, dropped freely for about a foot before entering the bell- mouth of a vertical cast-iron pipe, in which it was a loose fit. A valve at the bottom of the pipe controlled the outflow of the air compressed under the falling piston.

In reply to a question by Mr. W. J. Tennant: It was practically certain that the Indian river steamers built at Lambeth were constructed on the wharf.

The Sells’s note-books referred to Brixton Water Works, but inquiry of Mr. W. B. Hart, the resident engineer, elicited that his oldest remaining engines were by James Simpson & Co. — one of them being reputed to be the first engine “McNaughted ” by that firm. There had been earlier engines, however, which old employees at the station spoke of as “table engines.”

There was a great deal of information about early steam navigation in India in the records of the Hon. East India Company, now preserved at the India Office. Captain J. H. Johnston, who had taken out the Maudslay-engined steamer Enterprize” in 1825 {Trans., VIII, pp. 56-68, and XIII, pp. 165-181) was sent to England to examine the possibility of promoting steam navigation on the rivers of India. The H.E.I. Company then issued a specification to a number of firms, and the tenders received were collated in a report by Thomas Love Peacock, the novelist, who was an official of the Company. It was the practice at first to have the motive power in one vessel and the passengers in another — an “accommodation vessel of similar dimensions, for fear of accidents due to the “high boiler pressure.

He was glad to have Mr. Body’s reference, which confirmed a statement in the obituary notice of Charles Sells.

PROFESSOR P. M. BAKER (Member) pointed out that most of the ferry and other river steamers in India still provided passenger accommodation on flats towed alongside. That was not due to the fear of accidents nowadays, but merely in order to provide the accommodation required.


MR. RHYS JENKINS (Past-President) wrote that, at the reconstruction of the Royal Mint in 1881-2, the coining presses were made by Ralph Heaton & Sons, of Birmingham, but the main engine and rolling mills were by Maudslay, Sons & Field. The engine, a tandem compound with Corliss valve gear, was described and illustrated in The Engineer of January 19, 1883, and the article also contained a reference to the drawing table made by Maudslay in 1816.

An article on “The Early Machine Tools of Henry Maudslay,” by W. A. S. Benson, with a number of illustrations, appeared in Engineering of January 18, 1901. The 1841 edition of Buchanan’s Millwork gave drawings of a lathe and of punching machines, and a punching machine was also illustrated in The Mechanic's Magazine in 1828. Cf., also, Rees’s Cyclopedia and Gregory’s Mechanics.

Henry Maudslay had a patent, No. 2872 of July 29, 1805, for a calico-printing machine (a model of which was in the Science Museum), and Joseph Maudslay had one, No. 11,908 of October 14, 1847, for a candle-moulding machine; both of these were Lambeth industries at that time, so that it was possible that the firm did work in these directions. The Times published obituary notices of Walter Henry Maudslay (1844-1927) on August 27, 1927, and Reginald Walter Maudslay (1871- 1934) on December 17, 1934.

MR. FREKE FIELD, a grandson of Joshua Field, F.R.S., was able to identify John Mendham, who was an uncle of Mrs. Joshua Field, on her mother’s side. Joshua Field was the son of John Field, a corn and seed merchant in the City of London and Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1800. He was a relative of a Dr. John Field, who married Anne Cromwell, a great-granddaughter of Henry Cromwell, fourth son of the Protector. A grandson of Dr. Field, Henry William Field, was Queen’s Assay Master at the Royal Mint, 1851-71, and the last holder of that office. Mr. Freke Field well remembered Henry Field (who died in 1888) and had heard from him that Joshua Field borrowed £600 from relatives at the time of the move to Lambeth, to invest in Maudslay’s business — perhaps by some private agreement with Henry Maudslay. That might explain the presence in the partnership of John Mendham, who had the reputation of being a shrewd man of affairs; and his retirement from the firm might be an indication that by December, 1820, the loan had been repaid.

THE AUTHOR expressed his thanks to Mr. Rhys Jenkins for his references, which would be followed up. The Barton draw-bench at the Royal Mint, and the rolling mills supplied in 1882, had been added to the chronological list

He was grateful to Mr. Freke Field also, and hoped to be able to draw further upon Mr. Field's personal recollections of the firm. It might be, as suggested, that Joshua Field had some private agreement with Henry Maudslay when the move was made to Lambeth, but the formation of the Company appeared to be later. The article in Engineering of January, 8, 1901, cited by Mr. Rhys Jenkins, illustrated a portable floor crane bearing a name-plate, “Henry Maudslay, London, 1811” nor “H. Maudslay and Co”.

With further reference to Mr. A. W. Marshall’s remarks in the discussion, he had since been able to see the cable-proving machine at Trinity House Wharf, which bore the date 1865 and added it to the list accordingly. It was still in regular use.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Critchett and Woods, London Directory, 1813