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 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 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.

Norbury and Maguire

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of Booth Street, Chapel Street, Salford

1855 June. 'John Norbury was charged with manslaughter following the death of Frederick Anderson, caused by the explosion of the boiler at the premises of Ralph Wood, wood turner, Blackfriars Street, Salford. Wood's son, Ralph Wood Jr., was seriously injured.
The boiler was working without a pressure gauge. A new safety valve had been fitted about 6 months earlier. 'Thomas Cowburn, inventor of oscillating safety-valves, said he was in the service Mr. Bellhouse, ironfounder. He had assisted the previous witness in examining the boiler, but the safety-valve had not been found at that time. On examining the safety-valve, which had been discovered amongst the rubbish that morning, he found that the valve had not been properly "dressed" or cleaned out after being cast, or else it would have been discovered that the branch was solid, and that consequently no breath of steam could escape through the safety-valve. It was surprising that this was not discovered when the valve was fitted up.— Mr. Wood said that he had occupied the premises about eight years, and had used the exploded boiler (which he purchased from Mr. Buck) two years. It had a safety-valve when he bought it, and had been in use previously about twelve months. He procured a new safety-valve last Christmas from Messrs. Norbury and McGuire, Booth-street, Chapel-street, and it was fitted by one of their men. The valve was cast for Messrs. Norbury and McGuire by Mr. Jenkinson, jun.; and it was fitted up complete when brought home. His son had made complaints of the safety-valve, but he did not know what was wrong about it. He was not aware till now that the branch valve was solid. Mr. Norbury was the person with whom he had to deal principally respecting the new valve.— The inquest was adjourned, about seven o'clock, till twelve o'clock on Wednesday.
The inquest was resumed on Wednesday evening, when the first witness called was John Potts, who said he was a fitter in the employ of Messrs. Norbury and Maguire, engineers. He fitted the valve produced to Mr. Wood's boiler about two or three months ago. Mr. Norbury was with him, and he acted under his directions. He had nothing to do with the casting, but he and Mr. Wood's son examined the valve, and saw that all the three holes were clear. Witness then examined the valve, and said that there was now no passage through it for the steam. He had seen steam blow off through the valve, and could find witnesses to prove it. The passage was now made up, and appeared to be of solid iron. The valve was cast by Mr. Jenkinson, at the Clowes-street foundry. After it was cast it was bored and a seating put in, and a wheel and screw applied to the junction valve. Had seen the boiler at work when the valve was fixed. Mr. Norbury lifted the lever and he (witness) saw a column of steam blow off. That could not have been so, had valve been in its present state. Was positive he saw steam blow off.
Mr. Cowburn was recalled and said : There never had been nor was there an opening in the valve. It was now in exactly the same state as it was when cast. It was the duty of the dressers to see that the communication was perfect, and if they overlooked that, it was the duty of the parties fitting the valve to ascertain the fact.
The Coroner then addressed the jury, and said it was unnecessary to examine other witnesses. They had now clearly discovered the cause of the explosion, as there could be no doubt that the primary cause was the imperfect construction of the valve. It was the duty of Mr. Norbury to have seen that the valve was correct, and with respect to him, therefore, he did not see that the jury could do otherwise than return a verdict of manslaughter for the gross negligence he had been guilty of in not ascertaining that the valve was complete. There was some absence of information on the point of how far Mr. Wood was criminally responsible for the loss of life that had occurred. Mr. Wood appeared to have taken into his service a young man — his son - who might or might not have had sufficient knowledge, and been sufficiently competent to manage the boiler. So far as he (the coroner) could judge, he thought the young man was incompetent, because it appeared that there was no gauge, and the water gauge was imperfect — at least that was the presumption, for although there was no very decisive evidence to that effect, no steam gauge had been seen, and the water gauge was stated to have been so imperfect that it was impossible to ascertain the quantity of water in the boiler at any one time. Supposing the jury had not met with the defectivo valve, it would have been a question whether Mr. Wood himself was not guilty of manslaughter causing the death of deceased. Mr. Wood, in the first instance, taking upon himself that dangerous occupation, should of his own knowledge have been aware of what was necessary to be attached to the boiler to ensure its safety. According Mr. Bates, the boiler was strong enough to bear considerable pressure — as much as 60lb. to the inch and if the steam and water gauge had been imperfect, Mr. Wood was exceedingly blameable for their imperfection, because those instruments were intended to indicate both the quantity of water boiler and the amount of pressure; and any person having the management of the engine could not have failed to discover if anyhing went wrong, supposing they had been perfect. On these grounds, both Mr. Wood and his son were legally responsible; but whether, in the opinion of the jury, one or other was criminally responsible, was a matter for their judgment only. If they thought Wood himself ought to have seen to the better working of the boiler, he certainly was blameable; because, notwithstanding the existence of the impediment in the valve, the two gauges might have been sufficient, had proper caution been used, to have prevented the explosion. Mr. Wood, of course, could have had no knowledge of the stoppage in the valve; of that he (the coroner) perfectly acquitted Mr. Wood. As regarded Mr. Norbury, he did not see how the jury could possibly do otherwise than find a verdict of manslaughter ; as regarded Mr. Wood, the evidence was more presumptive than decisive, because the steam gauge was not seen ; but whether there was a steam gauge or not, there was no evidence to show.
The jury then deliberated for an hour, and on the re-admission of the public, returned the following verdict: "That it is the opinion of this jury that the death of Frederick Anderson was caused by the explosion of the boiler belonging to Mr. R. Wood, and that the cause was an imperfect safety-valve fitted to the said boiler by Messrs. Norbury and Maguire, which valve should had a passage or communication with the boiler, but had none. Consequently, the jury can not but return a verdict of 'Manslaughter against Mr. Norbury' who fitted the valve to the boiler, and cannot separate without expressing an opinion that some neglect has been exhibited by Mr. Wood in not having a proper steam and water-gauge attached to the said boiler." ....'[1]

1855 August. 'South Lancashire Assizes .....John Norbury, aged 35, engine-builder, of Manchester, charged on a coroner's inquisition, with manslaughter, against whom the grand jury returned no bill, was placed in the dock this morning, formally, to be arraigned on the charge. Mr. Monk, who had been instructed to prosecute, offered no evidence. The jury were instructed by his lordship to return a verdict of not guilty, which they did. Mr. Norbury was then discharged.'[2]

1855 August. Business transfer to James Parrott. 'NORBURY & MAGUIRE, Engineers and Machinists, having declined business on their own account, beg leave to return sincere thanks to their friends and the public for the kind support they have hitherto received; and also to state that they have disposed of their Business and Stock in Trade to Mr. JAMES PARROTT, whom they can highly recommend to execute any orders with accuracy and despatch. Salford, August 1, 1855. JAMES PARROTT, in entering on the business of Engineer and Machinist, begs leave to announce to his friends and the public that any orders entrusted to him shall be executed with care and despatch. JAS. PARROTT, Booth-street, Salford.'[3]

1858 'Messrs Norbury & Maguire, late of Salford, engineers and hydraulic press makers, beg to thank their Friends and the Public for their favours, and to inform them that they have TRANSFERRED their BUSINESS to more spacious premises situate opposite the entrance to the Gasworks, SACKVILLE STREET, Chapel-street, Salford, where they hope to merit a coutinuance of that patronage which they have hitherto enjoyed.— Messrs. N. and M. also beg to call attention to the recent improvements which they have effected in the construction of hydraulic presses, power pumps and engines, of which improvements they are the exclusive patentees.'[4]

1860 Partnership dissolved. '... the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, John Norbury and George Maguire, as Engineers, and carried on at Salford, in the county of Lancaster, under the name, style, or firm of Norbury and Maguire, is this day dissolved by mutual consent. All debts due to-or owing by the said partnership will be received and paid by the said George Maguire, who continues the business...'[5]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 16 June 1855,
  2. Liverpool Daily Post - Saturday 18 August 1855
  3. Manchester Times - Saturday 4 August 1855
  4. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 18 December 1858
  5. The London Gazette Publication date:8 May 1860 Issue:22383 Page:1763