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British Industrial History

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C. A. Parsons and Co

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December 1889.
1891. Steam Turbine and Alternating Current Dynamo.
1893. Parsons Steam Turbine Dynamo and Alternator.
1893. Parsons Helicopter.
1925. Transformer.
1925. Turbo-Generator.
1927. 20,000 kW Steam Turbine at Rotterdam - Top Half of High-Pressure Cylinder.
1927. 20,000 kW Steam Turbine at Rotterdam - Low Pressure Rotor.
Exhibit at Powerhouse Museum.
1933. Water Gauge Projector.
1933. 25 kva Pole Mounting Transformer.
1933.Model of 30,000 kw Turbo Alternator.
1934. 32kw Parsons Turbine Set.
1942. 20,000 kVA three phase transformer.
1945. Transformer Bank.
1947. Research and development plant.
1948. New alternator shop at Heaton Works.
1956. Drawing Office of the research laboratory at the works in Newcastle.
February 1959.

of Heaton Works, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

1884 The first Parsons turbo-generator was completed; by 1888 about 200 were in service, mainly for lighting on ships.

1889 Charles Algernon Parsons founded C. A. Parsons and Co at Heaton to exploit his inventions in high-speed turbo-generators[1].

1890 The first power station with a Parsons turbo-generator started operation at Forth Banks Power Station, Newcastle. An example of a 1891 radial flow steam turbine is in the London Science Museum.

1891 A radial flow land turnien is on display at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, and a radial flow marine steam turbine is in the London Science Museum. See Parsons Turbines: Early Examples

1892 Turbo-alternators installed at Cambridge and Scarborough with efficiency equal to the best reciprocating engines of equivalent power[2].

1894 Parsons formed the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co to to construct the Turbinia and to exploit the marine applications of his turbine.

1900 Details and illustration of 500-kW Turbo-Alternator in 'The Engineer'

1911 Electrical Exhibition. 6,000 kW turbo alternator set for Randfontein Gold Mining Co of South Africa.

1912 The largest turbo-alternator made to date (25,000kW) was ordered for the Fisk Street station in Chicago[3].

1913 Expansion of capacity by purchase of Ernest Scott and Mountain of Gateshead. The business would be continued and assist C.A. Parsons in general manufacture[4].

1913 Private company.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Charles' daughter Rachel Parsons, replaced her brother on the board of directors and worked in the training department of the Ministry of Munitions. She supported hundreds of women who stepped up to work in the industry to support the war effort. See C. A. Parsons and Co: Women of the War.

1914 Engineers and contractors. Specialities: steam turbine dynamos, alternators, blowing engines, compressors, pumps, exhausters, mixed pressure and exhaust steam turbines, searchlight reflectors. Employees 1,200[5].

1923 Commonwealth Edison Co of Chicago ordered a 40,000kW turbo-alternator[6].

1927 One of the UK's major electrical-machinery and plant manufacturers, others beings GEC, BTH, Metropolitan-Vickers, and English Electric Co[7].

1930 C. A. Parsons and Co gained the order to make the blades for the turbines for the new Cunard liner under construction on the Clyde[8] and 12 turbines[9]

1932 Advert: Steam turbines, turbo-alternators, high-voltage alternators, low speed alternators, direct current generators, static transformers, centrifugal blowers, centrifugal compressors, condensing plant, high speed gears, fabricated steel structures, searchlight reflectors, iron and brass castings, etc[10].

1934 Parolle Electrical Plant Co Ltd acquired the shares in C. A. Parsons and Co from the executors of the estate of the late Sir Charles Parsons[11].

1937 Established Savage and Parsons, a private company, with British Instrument Co, A. Reyrolle and Co, Societe Internationale pour le Reclame Aerienne and J. C. Savage, to carry on the business of manufacturers and operators of and dealers in searchlights and projection apparatus, sound locators and detectors, etc[12].

1938 Started experimental work on gas turbine prime mover but work was suspended during WW2[13].

1938 A new company Parolle Electrical Plant Co Ltd formed to take over the contracting business of a company of the same name. The shares in the new company would be held equally by C. A. Parsons and Co and A. Reyrolle and Co. The shares in C. A. Parsons and Co held by the old company have been acquired by A. Reyrolle and Co[14].

WW2: Production of naval and merchant vessel turbine propulsion equipment, guns, radar, and research work for Ministry of Supply and the armed services[15].

c1945 Claude Dixon Gibb appointed chairman and managing director

1946 Considerable investment, company turned over from wartime work, orders for plant; no shortage of labour[16].

1946 Company meeting told that orders for power equipment from abroad exceeded those from home markets but Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Co had few orders for large telescopes. Investment in plant and in research. Commercial size experimental gas turbine now under test. Traditions of "reliability, efficiency and service" in electricity generation, as laid down by Charles Parsons, were being maintained[17].

1947 The first industrial gas turbine, a 500 h.p. unit, had been operating at C. A. Parsons and Co's Heaton works for about a year[18].

1947 Annual meeting told of delivery of first 3 turbo-electric propulsion systems for shipping; control gear provided by Reyrolle's. Many orders for power plant. Issue of shares to the public in order to be able to respond to the large increase in demand for the company's products[19]. The company owns 50% of the shares in Parolle Electrical Plant Co and 22% of the shares in Savage and Parsons[20].

1955 Four industrial groups formed to exploit the information being made available by UKAEA on design of nuclear power "furnaces" - Industrial Atomic Energy Group involving AEI and John Thompson with electrical generating expertise from Metropolitan-Vickers and BTH; English Electric Co and Babcock and Wilcox; C. A. Parsons and Co and Head, Wrightson and Co; GEC and Simon-CarvesLtd[21].

Jointly C. A. Parsons and Co and A. Reyrolle and Co had the largest shareholding in the Nuclear Power Plant Co Ltd, the first nuclear consortium to be formed in the U.K.[22].

1959 Recognised that the number of orders for nuclear power plants would be constrained because each one had such large generating capacity. For this reason, Parsons decided to make a move towards rationalisation by joining with the AEI-John Thompson consortium, forming the Nuclear Power Group. Although this caused some loss of work for the constituent companies it meant that, by 1968, the Group was constructing 6 out of 12 nuclear plant ordered in the U.K., and one of two such plant sold abroad[23].

1961 Mechanical and electrical engineers, manufacturing electrical machinery, feed heating plant, condensing plant and turbo blowers and compressors. 8,000 employees. [24]

1965[25]. As a response to the CEGB's policy of restricting orders for turbo-generators to just two designs (when there were 4 manufacturers), C. A. Parsons and Co bought the turbo-generator business of GEC[26]

1967 Supplied the turbo-generators for Ferrybridge C Power Station.

1968 The company was acquired by A. Reyrolle and Co to form Reyrolle Parsons, which would be a holding company - the Parsons and Reyrolle subsidiaries would continue to trade under their own names as these are well known in the industry[27]. Reyrolle purchased 37% of the shares from GEC which, with its existing holding, gave it control, and then offered to buy the other 45% which were in public hands[28].

1969 Announced redundancies of 2000 people by end of 1970 at its Erith works (site leased from GEC). Uncertainty about future of the Witton works[29].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Biography of Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, by Claude Gibb, revised by Anita McConnell, ODNB.
  2. Biography of Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, by Claude Gibb, revised by Anita McConnell, ODNB.
  3. The Times, 17 January 1923
  4. The Times, 29 January 1913
  5. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  6. The Times, 17 January 1923
  7. A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964)
  8. The Times, 2 September 1930
  9. The Times, 23 September 1930
  10. The Times, 1 November 1932
  11. The Times, 22 January 1934
  12. The Times 24 November 1937
  13. The Times, 1 January 1947
  14. The Times, 17 February 1938
  15. The Times, 4 June 1946
  16. The Times, 4 June 1946
  17. The Times, 1 August 1946
  18. The Times, 1 Januray 1947
  19. The Times, 16 May 1947
  20. The Times, 2 June 1947
  21. The Times, 17 March 1955
  22. The Times, 27 May 1968
  23. The Times, 27 May 1968
  24. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  25. The Times, 22 February 1969
  26. The Times, 27 May 1968
  27. The Times, 27 May 1968
  28. The Times, 21 March 1968
  29. The Times, 22 February 1969