Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Sandford, Owen and Watson

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of Phoenix Iron Works, Rotherham

1823 James Yates and Charles Samuel Roberts Sandford became partners at the Phoenix Works.

1832 William Owen (1810-1881) was taken into the partnership.

1833 They took over the Rotherham Foundry.

1838 The partnership was dissolved; Sandford and Owen took the Phoenix Works while Yates took the Rotherham Foundry which later became Yates, Haywood and Co and The Rotherham Foundry Co.

1851 Exhibition: Sandford, Owen and Watson showed an Improved screw-cutting lathe, exhibited for simplicity of construction, and economy in working; and patent railway wheels, made of wrought-iron, and welded into one piece, manufactured by machinery.

1871 The works changed to making steel using the Bessemer process, and the name was changed to Phoenix Bessemer Steel Works.

Boiler Explosion, 1852

'Alarming Boiler Explosion at Masbro.' — On Saturday last, a large steam boiler exploded with great violence at the works of Messrs. Sandford, Owen, aud Watson, of Masbro', and although it completely demolished the shed in which it stood, carrying the bricks a distance of 100 yards, no injury was sustained by any of the workmen. It appears that the same boiler exploded on the 16th of September, in consequence of the inattention of the engine-man. The boiler was one constructed on the Cornish principle, the fire being inside the tube which passes through it. Above the tube were three taps to regulate the supply of water. By testing these the engine-man could ascertain the amount of water which the boiler contained, and if by any means it fell below the third tap, which was placed four inches above the tube, he had instructions to withdraw the fire. These precautions he neglected, and suffered the supply to fall 12 inches below the third tap. The upper part of the tube being then laid bare, became heated to redness, and finally collapsed and exploded. The injury was repaired during the following week, the injured plates being replaced, and one or two, which had been bent by the explosion, but not otherwise injured, were straightened and used again, in addition to the repairs of the tube, the two uppermost taps were removed, and a glass pipe inserted, so that the height of the water could be detected at a glance. The boiler was again brought into use on the 25th ult, and during the following week it appeared to be perfectly safe. Last Saturday, about hall-past twelve, Mr. Lewis, one of the overlookers of the works, on passing the boiler-house, stopped to examine the guage, and found that all was right. A few minutes afterwards he again passed the spot, in company with another man, and again looked at the guage. There was then four inches of water in the glass, which gave a depth of ten inches above the tube. Scarcely had the men departed when the boiler exploded, the hot water and steam rushing with great violence through the tube at each end, completely demolishing a shed at the north eastern extremity, and carrying the bricks and debris a distance of 100 yards each way. Three or four men, who were working about forty yards from the spot, were knocked down, and covered with dust, but otherwise escaped. On examining the tube, it was seen that the rupture took place where the repairs ceased ; and it is thought that some of the plates, which were considered to be uninjured, had been weakened by the heat, and rendered incapable of sustaining the necessary pressure. The old tube has since been entirely replaced by one of a smaller diameter. The construction of the boiler has also been altered, the fire being placed underneath, and the tube only acting as a flue. A suspicion has arisen that some evil genius has been at work in the matter, and an incident occurred the day the repairs of the boiler were completed, which has tended to strengthen that suspicion. There is a pipe connected with the lower part of the boiler, which is used to draw off the water during repairs, or when too large a quantity has been admitted. On the day above-mentioned, the engine man finding he had too much water in the boiler, went to this pipe to draw some off. As soon, however, as be had turned the tap, the plug flew out, and the man narrowly escaping being dreadfully scalded by the stream of hot water which was forced through the aperture. He had sufficient presence of mind to hasten round and extinguish the furnace fire, otherwise an explosion must have inevitably occurred. On examining the pipe, it was found that some scoundrel had maliciously broken off the nut which secures the plug, so that when the force of the water was brought to act upon the hollow surface of the plug, it would of necessity force it upwards, and place in imminent peril the man whose duty called him to turn it.' [1]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • History of Yates and Haywood: [1]
  1. Sheffield Independent, Saturday 9th October 1852