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British Industrial History

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Thomas Greenwood

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Died 1873

1874 Obituary [1]

Thomas Greenwood was born at Gildersome, near Leeds.

After serving some years in his father’s machine shop, he, about the year 1833, established himself, in conjunction with his brother, as a machine and tool maker.

On the death of his brother, he, after a short engagement with Messrs. Whitham, of the Perseverance Ironworks, entered the drawing office of Sir Peter Fairbairn, of the Wellington Foundry, Leeds, and continued with him as manager, and shortly afterwards as partner along with Mr. Batley, under the firm of Fairbairn, Greenwood, and Batley, until 1856.

Sir Peter Fairbairn principally devoted himself to the manufacture of flax machinery; but the outbreak of the Russian war so interfered with the ordinary business of the firm that nearly every order on hand was countermanded, and it became a question how to utilise the existing machinery and keep the men fully employed, At this crisis Mr. Greenwood’s energetic mind conceived the idea of constructing machinery for the manufacture of the Enfield rifle and other war stores.

Having persuaded Sir Peter Fairbairn to take up this new branch of art, he successfully competed with the most celebrated and experienced American tool-makers (who at that time had entire charge of the Enfield factories) in making machinery for the manufacture of interchangeable small arms for the British Government, and was thus instrumental in securing for this country a new branch of machine making.

On the close of the Russian war in 1856, Mr. Greenwood left the Wellington Foundry, and, associating himself with Mr. Batley, who had been formerly cashier in the same works, established the Albion Foundry, under the style of [[Greenwood and Batley]]. Subsequently this firm built a large and extensive range of premises in Armley Road; and by way of preserving the old association, they called their new premises the Albion Works, at the same time keeping up their humbler establishment at East Street. Here the firm rapidly gained a high position, and it is not too much to say that the Albion Works, Leeds, are known all over the civilised world.

Following the example of Sir Peter Fairbairn, Mr. Greenwood’s attention was principally devoted to the production of flax and silk spinning, and small-arm machinery, thus curiously lending himself to the development of arts diametrically opposed to each other. Mr. Greenwood, in 1871, went to Russia to establish it small-arm manufactory in that empire, and there obtained one of the largest orders his firm ever received. He also went to America, and while there in the summer of 1872, suffered severely from the effects of the intense heat which then prevailed, and to which suffering his death, a few months after, may be traced.

Mr. Greenwood‘s life was a story of self-help and enterprise, and the success he ultimately achieved was as much owing to his industry and perseverance as to his undoubtedly high mechanical talents. On the subjects with which he was more particularly acquainted, Mr. Greenwood contributed Papers which have been published in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of which society he was a Member.1 As a citizen of Leeds he was held in deserved respect. He at one time was a member of the Town Council, and also acted as Chairman of the Leeds Board of overseers.

The news of his death, which occurred on the 9th of February, 1873, at Gipsy Hill, near the Crystal Palace, caused general regret; and his funeral, at the Woodhouse Cemetery, whither his remains had been conveyed from London, partook of the nature of a public ceremony, sixteen hundred of the work-people employed by the firm following him to the grave. Mr. Greenwood was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 4th of February, 1860.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Institution of Civil Engineers Minutes of the Proceedings