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British Industrial History

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Wren and Bennett

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Iron casting from rim of 30 ft dia, 18 ft wide waterwheel at the mill of William Fison and Co, on display at Bradford Industrial Museum
Other side of casting. Advanced concept, fine foundrywork
Single screwing machine

Wren & Bennett of Manchester

Makers of screwing machines (see illustration) [1]

1832 Partnership of Henry Wren and William Bennett [2]. This followed the death of T. C. Hewes, who was Wren’s partner in Hewes and Wren. Wm Bennett married James Nasmyth’s sister, and provided funding for Nasmyth’s 1842 steam hammer patent. [3].

1835 Large casting (part of water wheel) dated 1835 on display at Bradford Industrial Museum

1841 Listed in Pigot & Slater's directory as millwrights, machine makers and engineers, of 31 Dale Street and 6 Newton Street. Henry Wren lived at 43 Dale Street.

1847 Supplied a large waterwheel for Arkwright's Masson Mills[4]

1848 An advertisement for the sale of two cotton mills in Wharfedale, known as Burley Mills, included several waterwheels, the largest of which was made by Wren & Bennett, of 140 HP and 30 ft diameter by 18 ft wide.[5]

1849 There is evidence to suggest that Wren & Bennett made some of the earliest sewing machines. It is known that Barthélemy Thimonnier went to Manchester in 1849 to manage the manufacture of his patented sewing machines (couso-brodeur)[6]. A transcribed reference from an 1849 newspaper says that the Manchester company involved was Wren and Bennett [7]. Burley mills presumably came under the ownership of William Fison and Co. See photos of 1835 wheel casting.

The company's address in the 1850 Slater's Directory for Manchester & Salford was Newton Street Works, Dale Street. This was in the street in which James Nasmyth rented a floor (a 'flat') in a former cotton mill, referred to in his autobiography. See James Nasmyth by James Nasmyth: Chapter 10. In his autobiography, Nasmyth says that his early work included planing cast iron inking tables for printing machines made by Wren and Bennett, and that these machines were used in considerable numbers, and refers to the involvement of Ebenezer Cowper, brother of the inventor (presumably Edward Shickle Cowper, who worked with Applegarth).

1850 Slater's Directory for Manchester & Salford records the following as engineers at Wren & Bennett: William Bennett, Henry Wren, Henry Wren Jr., and John Hopkinson.

1850 December 31st. William Bennett leaves the partnership. '..undersigned, Henry Wren, William Bennett, Henry Wren the younger, and John Hopkinson, as Millwrights, Engineers, and Machinemakers, at Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, under the firm of Wren and Bennett, expired this day by effluxion of time, so far as regards the said William Bennett...[8]

The business was subsequently known as Wren and Hopkinson


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. ‘The Engineer and Machinist's Assistant. Published by Blackie and Son, 1863 edition
  2. The Manchester Guardian, 3rd March 1832
  3. J. A. Cantrell has provided a valuable source of information on James Nasmyth, which includes many references to other engineering companies of the era.'James Nasmyth and the Bridgewater Foundry' by J. A. Cantrell, published for the Chetham Society, 1984. ISBN 0 7190 1339 9
  4. [1] Online photograph: Matlock Bath: Masson Mill's Water Wheel, about 1930
  5. Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 19 February 1848
  6. [2]Website 'Sewing Machines from the Past to the Present'
  7. [3]Liverpool Journal 27th Jan 1849 (note that the names Magnin and Thimonnier are incorrectly spelt in the transcription).
  8. [4] Gazette Issue 21169 published on the 7 January 1851