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Arthur Potts

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Arthur Potts (1814-1888) of Jones and Potts


1889 Obituary [1]

ARTHUR POTTS, the second son of Mr. Henry Potts, of Glan-yr-Afon, Denbighshire, was born on the 23rd of June, 1814. He was apprenticed to Mather, Dixon and Co, of Liverpool, where he was a contemporary of W. B. Buddicom, and other engineers afterwards destined to rise to note in connection with the establishment of the railway system.

He was known to George Stephenson, who was constructing the Liverpool and Manchester Railway when young Potts was serving his time. Messrs. Mather, Dixon and Co. did a good deal of work for the early lines, and in this way Mr. Potts was thrown much in contact with Robert Stephenson, Mr. Locke, and Mr. Errington, and became a personal friend of each.

Some tine after completing his apprenticeship, Mr. Potts joined John Jones at the Viaduct Foundry, near Newton-le-Willows, which had a very prosperous career. Jones and Potts employed about eight hundred men, and for several years were fully employed in making locomotive-engines for various railways, notably the Caledonian Railway. This latter line owed much to the Newton firm, for being about the year 1848 in great pecuniary straits, owing to the financial crisis caused by the unsettled state of the Continent, it was very much owing to the forbearance of Messrs. Jones and Potts that the great bulk of the company’s creditors were prevented from taking hostile action. Had that been done the completion of the Caledonian line would have been deferred for years, and many a prosperous manufactory would have ceased to exist.

The firm also executed stationary and marine-engine work. Mr. Potts did not take a large share in the practical management of the works; he did nearly all the travelling, but when at the works used to make frequent rounds of all the shops. He used to amuse the good fitters when he examined the work of their indifferent mates by trying to insert the edge of his pen-knife into the joints of those parts of the engines supposed to fit closely.

Mr. Potts was much liked by the men, and more especially by the drawing-office apprentices to whom he had always something pleasant to remark. In those days locomotive-engines were in great demand, at large profits, and Messrs. Jones and Potts were turning then out at the rate of about one engine a week. A strike, which lasted a considerable time, caused the firm great anxiety, but owing to the confidence that Mr. Brassey, Mr. Locke, and others had in the two partners, they did not suffer so much as might have been expected.

Some of the men eventually gave in, but many of the best mechanics did not, and in many cases their places had to be filled up by indifferent workmen who were by no means efficient substitutes. Notwithstanding this, Messrs. Jones and Potts turned out some excellent work ; the quality of the work in their engine the 'Newton' was not surpassed by that of any other firm of the day.

In 1852, offers were made by the London and North Western Railway Co. for the purchase of the Viaduct Works (without the machinery), and that company ultimately acquired the property, when Mr. Potts retired from business with an ample fortune.

Thereafter, until his death on the 4th of April, 1888, Mr. Potts lived at Hoole Hall, Cheshire, and amused himself in horticultural pursuits, growing orchids, &c. ; he also had a love for Alpine plants, and had collected a good many; he was much esteemed by his friends and neighbours for his frank and simple manner, his warm-hearted generosity, and the liberal views he took of his responsibilities as a county gentleman and Justice of the Peace.

Mr. Potts was elected a Member of the Institution on the 6th of December, 1870.



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Sources of Information

  1. 1889 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries