Francis Egerton came to be known as “the Canal Duke”, and he is celebrated most for his works in developing the inland waterways navigations into Manchester, and in particular his commissioning the building of the Bridgewater Canal. A rather dull and unpromising young man, tending towards being sickly, it had been planned to omit him from the family succession, and had it not been for the premature death of his elder brother, he may never have been Duke at all. Having travelled Europe at the age of 17, he had made a good collection of classical artefacts and treasures, and they were to form the basis of the valuable Bridgewater Collection. At the age of 23, Egerton left London to live in the Old Hall at Worsley, where he was to develop the coal mines on his estate, and which, due to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and the need of coal to produce steam power, proved to be his most valuable assets. He realised that it would far cheaper if the coal could be shipped by water to Manchester, rather than having to be hauled overland on badly made muddy roadways, or left to the vagaries of the River Irwell. In this connection, he took advice from the engineers John Gilbert and James Brindley (see below), who suggested the possibility of constructing an artificial waterway to Manchester, one which could run independently of the River Irwell. Brindley was to become the supreme canal engineer, though this canal was surveyed and constructed largely to Gilbert’s plans. The massive undertaking would involve the building of an aqueduct over the River Irwell at Barton. The concept was widely ridiculed, but in 1751, Britain’s first man-made canal was completed, running from the coal mines at Worsley into Castlefield in Manchester. It was to earn Egerton a fortune and guarantee his place in engineering history. Later, Egerton extended the canal in the other direction, towards Liverpool, covering difficult marshy terrain. The Manchester-Liverpool Canal took 10 years to build, from 1762 to 1772, and was to use up most of Egerton’s money. Having spent �220,000 on constructing canals, they earned him only �80,000 a year, and the return on his capital outlay was hard to recoup. Both Liverpool and Manchester benefited, however, from the increased trade which Egerton’s canal brought. Other local towns were to later build their own canals to join up with Egerton’s – Rochdale, Leigh, Bolton and Stockport – all had link canal branches. A fresco in the Manchester Town Hall, by Ford Madox Brown, depicts the opening of the Bridgewater Canal.
Sir Frederick Henry Royce
(1863-1933) Sir Frederick Henry Royce, inventor of the Rolls-Royce motor car, was born in Alwalton near Peterborough, though he has an indelible association with Manchester. It was here, in Hulme that he set up his first workshop and produced the first Rolls Royce. Due to the premature death of his father while Royce was still relatively young, he had to give up his education to seek employment. From the earliest, he displayed a keen interest in engineering, and worked for a time at the Great Northern Locomotive Works, where he gained invaluable engineering experience, before going on to work in Liverpool, Leeds and London. By the age of 21 he was able to set up in his own business. The firm, F.H. Royce & Co, was established in Cooke Street, Hulme, and he had started it with a capital sum of no more than �70. Here he began manufacturing arc lamps and dynamos to a high standard, and his business flourished. It was only the introduction of cheaper competitive goods from America and Germany which forced him to change his production line, and to move into the development of motor cars, a subject which had always interested him. Beginning with a 10 horse power 1903 Decauville which he had purchased, he experimented into the possibility of producing a better, silent-running and reliable engine. In 1903 he produced his first 2 cylinder engine.
This was only a modest beginning, but building on his engineering expertise, he completed his first Rolls Royce motor car by the end of March 1904. During that year he met Charles Stewart Rolls, an able businessman, entrepreneur and marketeer – it was to be he who would handle the business and financial side of what became a world famous team, and the new marque of “Rolls-Royce” had come into being. He agreed to buy all the cars which Royce could produce in his Hulme factory, and to sell them under the Rolls-Royce name. Their 2 companies merged in 1906. Rolls was from an aristocratic background, Eton and Cambridge educated, but he had a degree in mechanics and applied science, and was quick to see the potential of Royce’s cars. He was also a daring motorist and aviator. Royce went on to develop the 50 hp “Silver Ghost”, which remained in production until 1925, to be followed by the “Phantom” and the “Wraith”. In 1911, Rolls was killed in a flying accident; money worries and overwork led to Royce’s deteriorating health. Even so, he continued to work on a new engine designed for an aeroplane – by 1915, the “Eagle” aero-engine was ready, and would be used throughout the First World War. A generation later, during the Second World War, Royce’s engines were still at the forefront of aero aviation, with the distinctive 12 cylinder V engines which he designed being used in most British combat aircraft of the war. Aeroplanes using his racing engines also won the Schneider Cup Trophy in 1929 and 1930. In 1918 Royce was awarded an OBE, and he was knighted in 1930. He died 3 years later. A plaque marking the location of his Cooke Street Workshop can be found today in Charles Barry Crescent in Hulme.
(1820-1890) Daniel Adamson was the main motivating force behind the building of the Manchester Ship Canal. Born in County Durham, he had studied engineering at the famous Stockton & Darlington Railway Company. In 1850, he came to Manchester to take up the post of manager at the Heaton Foundry in Stockport. By 1857 he had formed his own company and was manufacturing steel boilers and heavy machinery for engineering, and due to its rapid and successful growth by 1871 he was able to open a new premises in Dukinfield, where he patented several boiler designs, and became part-owner of the Penistone Iron & Steel Works. The idea for a man-made canal which would join the city of Manchester to the sea, thereby bypassing the port of Liverpool and bringing trade and raw materials directly into Manchester, was originally proposed by the engineer Hamilton Fulton, but it was Adamson’s support and backing which made the concept a feasible prospect. On the 27th of June 1882, Adamson convened a meeting at his home, The Towers in Didsbury, to which he had invited 76 of the most influential and wealthy men of the region, when a proposal was put and met with general enthusiasm. A committee was formed with Adamson as their chairman. It took several attempts to get the necessary Bill through parliament, but in 1885 they succeeded and work began in 1887. Adamson was never to see its completion, as he died before the Ship Canal was completed in 1893. The canal was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the 1st of January 1894.
(1801-1853) George Bradshaw is best remembered by train spotters and railway enthusiasts for his famous Railway Guides. Born at Windsor Bridge, Pendleton, he was apprenticed, on leaving school, to the engraver, Beale, author of “The Art of Penmanship Improved”. His family having moved to Belfast in Northern Ireland in 1820, Bradshaw attempted to establish his own engraving business there, but the it failed, and he returned back to Manchester in 1821, to set up an engraving stall in the market place. He specialised for a time in engraved maps – his first being one of Lancashire, and the success of a subsequent map of the Lancashire and Yorkshire inland waterways led to him embarking on a whole series on inland navigations. In 1863 he published his ambitious map of the Railways of Great Britain. Next he produced his now famous “Bradshaw’s Railway Timetables” which sold for sixpence (2.5p) a copy. Later changed to “Bradshaw’s Railway Companion”, it included many of his maps and cost one shilling (5p). This publication also included sectional maps, the rules and regulations of the railways, and other details. He produced monthly time sheet supplements to update information and keep it currently accurate, to the great dismay of the railway companies who objected at being kept strictly to time in this way. “Bradshaw’s Monthly Guides”, despite this opposition, was immensely successful. Later, he joined the Society of Friends (the Quakers), and worked a great deal with Richard Cobden in organising peace conferences and in setting up schools and soup kitchens for the poor of Manchester. He died of cholera in a trip to Norway in 1853 and is buried in the Quaker burial ground in Park Road, Sale. A recent BBC Television series, “Great Railway Journeys” narrated and starring former MP Michael Portillo has traced rail journeys using the original Bradshaw Guide.
The Brindley Monument at Etruria, Stoke on Trent
James Brindley was the engineer considered by many authorities to be instrumental in the construction of the Bridgewater Canal for Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater, along with John Gilbert, his foreman and chief land agent. Brindley was the celebrated engineer largely responsible for starting the canal systems which eventually stretched across all England and Wales, and heralded the way for other later engineers like Thomas Telford. Brindley had little formal education, (though his mother had taught him to read), but soon began to demonstrate an imagination and innovative conceptualism which were to become hallmarks of his career as an engineer. He was born in Thornsett, near Chapel-en-le-Frith, (in the High Peak District near Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire). In 1733, as a young lad, he was apprenticed to millwright Abraham Bennett in Macclesfield, and by 1742 he had set up his own business nearby at Leek, in Staffordshire. His first real engineering experience was in 1752 when he went to the Wet Earth Colliery, near Salford to resolve a persistent flooding problem in the mine – a problem which he solved using a siphon principle, a waterwheel and pump. The success of this project, as well as other work, brought him to the attention of the Duke of Bridgewater’s chief of operations, John Gilbert. He was taken on at Gilbert’s recommendation to start work on the Bridgewater Canal (the so-called “Duke’s Cut”) in 1759. This was to be the first true modern canal, designed specifically to carry coal from the Duke’s collieries at Worsley over the 10 miles to Castlefield in Manchester. Its construction called for many ingenious engineering solutions; an example of Brindley’s genius is the Barton Swing Aqueduct, built to allow his canal to cross over the River Irwell in Salford, and to swing back, still holding the rough of water to allow tall ships to pass on the Irwell beneath. In 1769, Brindley married Anne Henshall and they had two daughters, Susannah and Anne. He went on to develop other canal engineering projects including the Birmingham and Chesterfield Canals, the Caldon Canal at Stoke-on-Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal. The latter involved the construction of the impressive 2880 yard long Harecastle tunnel at Kidsgrove. A commemorative statue to Brindley stands at the Junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals to mark his death while undertaking construction of the Caldon Canal. He is said to have died of overwork.
Professor Tom Kilburn CBE
(1922-2001) Thomas Kilburn was responsible, along with Freddie Williams, for the design and development of the first so-called Baby Computer capable of stored memory at Manchester University in the 1950s, the forerunner of the modern desktop PC computer. Kilburn was born in Yorkshire in 1922 and had graduated in mathematics from Cambridge in 1942. He had gone to work at Malvern College in Worcestershire and had learnt telecommunications under Freddie Williams who had set up a team of telecommunications research engineers at the college. After the war, both Kilburn and Williams moved to Manchester University, where they set to work with cathode ray tubes and within a few months had discovered how to store information in digital form on a tube. It came to be known as the “Williams Tube”, and was developed locally as the Ferranti Mark 1 Computer in 1951, the forerunner of modern digital computers. Other more powerful computers followed, including “Atlas” in 1962, after which Manchester University set up the country’s first Department of Computer Science, with Tom Kilburn as its first professor. Kilburn retired in 1980, and died in January 2001 aged 79 years.
Roy Chadwick CBE MSC FRSA FRAeS
(1893-1947) Born in 1893 at Marsh Hall Farm, Farnworth, (then in the County of Lancashire), Roy Chadwick was the son Charles Chadwick, a mechanical engineer, (the fourth generation of mechanical engineers in the Chadwick family). Roy was to become the most celebrated chief designer for A V Roe & Company (Avro) and was responsible for practically all of their aeroplane designs. From 1915 until his death in 1947 he produced designs for over 200 aircraft, but is probably best remembered as the designer of the World War Two Lancaster Bomber. In 1898, when young Roy was just 5 years old, his father had been Supervisor of Installations of Steam Laundry equipment in houses and castles throughout the British Isles, and by 1917 had become Works Manager at the Avro Company at their experimental station at Hamble, Southampton. Roy Chadwick did the draughtsmanship for the Avro 504 in 1913 and was the designer of the famous Avro Vulcan, in 1946/47, which was to be his last design. He was known to originate designs as doodles on graph paper – the famous Vulcan Bomber for example, according to family members, began life as a just such a sketch. Similarly, he had sketched a transatlantic jet airliner, the forerunner of Concorde. Chadwick had originally been employed by the British Westinghouse company in Trafford Park but left in September 1911, to work as personal assistant to Alliot Verdon Roe himself at his factory at Brownsfield Mill in Manchester. Initially, Chadwick was a draughtsman for the Avro company, translating A V Roe’s sketches and notes into detailed drawings. Subsequently, he was made chief draughtsman, and in 1918 he became, officially, chief designer. His first design, in 1915, was the Avro Pike, a biplane bomber, which he designed at the age of 22. Later, he went on to design the Anson, which made its maiden flight at Woodford Airfield in 1935. Roy Chadwick died at Woodford on 23rd August 1947. While testing his Tudor II Airliner, the aircraft lost control and crashed into Shirfold Farm nearby. Later it was established that the accident had been due to a servicing error, and not a fault in the aircraft. In the tragic accident all but two members of the crew were killed outright, including Chadwick himself. Proud of being a Lancastrian and a Mancunian, Roy Chadwick is said to have been one of the Institute of Technology’s most famous students, and a plaque to commemorate his achievements can be seen in the entrance hall (now UMIST, the University of Manchester Institute of Science & technology).
Footnote: We are indebted to Roy Chadwick’s daughter, Margaret Dove, (who holds numerous archives of her father’s life and career), for correcting our earlier errors and for providing accurate details of his life and work See more detail on her website at https://homepages.manx.net/mdove/