Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,363 pages of information and 245,904 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

David Napier

From Graces Guide

David Napier (1788-1873) of D. Napier and Son.

See Napier Genealogy

David Napier was born in Dumbarton to a family of engineers (the Kilmahew branch of the Napier family). He was the son of Robert Napier, blacksmith for the Duke of Argyll, and cousin of another Robert Napier - the "Father of Clyde Shipbuilding."

Like his cousins, he was trained in the Dumbarton business, which was one of the largest engineering works on the Clyde at the time, and engaged throughout their early years in boring cannon cast by the Clyde Iron Works for war with revolutionary France. While they remained in the west of Scotland all three continued to work in one of the family's various engineering and iron-working enterprises.

1810 David moved south, initially worked for Henry Maudslay.

1818 He went into partnership with Francis Baisler, a London stationer, and opened a machine shop in Lloyd's Court, St Giles, repairing and later building printing machines.

1820 Married Isabella Murdoch; they had seven children, the second of whom was James Murdoch Napier (father of Montague Napier).

1822 Baisler left the partnership; Napier continued in business on his own account.

1824 Added a device to his machines which he called "grippers," which conveyed the paper sheet from the laying-on board through the machine.

1831 David and two of Robert's sons, James and William, worked on improving a steam carriage designed by David Napier (1790–1869) which had been tested near Dunoon.

1832 Birth of his son John Napier (1832-1883)

1834/7 Son James joined the business.

1836 Built larger works in York Road, Lambeth. Father and son developed a bullet stamping machine in 1838 (patented in 1840), ordered by Woolwich Arsenal and later by foreign governments.

1841 David Napier 50, engineer, lived in Lambeth with Isabella Napier 40, Margaret Napier 20, Robert Napier 15, appt engineer, James Napier 15, appt engineer, John Napier 8, Robt Napier 45, engineer, Ann Napier 20[1]

1843 Developed a range of machines for minting and sorting coins. During the 1840s he also constructed several large hydraulic presses and lifts for the Great Western Railway.

1847 The business became Napier and Son, when David added his son James Murdoch Napier to the partnership.

1848 In collaboration with Robert Napier developed a registering compass to trace the course and distance covered by ships.

1851 Living at 51 York Road, Lambeth (age 63 born Scotland), Master Engineer employing 40 men and 6 apprentices. Shown as married but wife not listed. With children James Murdock (age 27 born London, Master Engineer; Isabella (age 24 born London; William Donald (age 20 born London), Dentist; and John (age 18 born London), Farmer. Plus two servants. [2]

The company produced machines for bullet-making, gun-boring and turning for a number of government arsenals, as well as coin-weighing machines for the Bank of England, two-cylinder printing presses (designed to print simultaneously on both sides of a sheet of paper) and a centrifuge for sugar manufacturing before turning to automobile manufacturing under David's grandson Montague Napier. His machines were described as "delicate as any clock could be"; his printing press in particular earned praise by Thomas Curson Hansard.

1861 Living at Dunedin Villa, Victoria Road, Kingston, Surrey (age 72 born Scotland), Civil Engineer. With wife 'Mrs Napier'(sic) (age 70 born Scotland) and children Isabella M. (age 34 born London) and John (age 28 born London), Civil Engineer. Also grand-daughter Margarte N. Wright (age 18 born London). Plus two servants. [3]

1871 Living at 68 York Road, Lambeth (age 82 born Scotland), Engineer retired and a widower. In the house of his son James Murdoch Napier and family. [4]

1873 Died at 68 York Road, Lambeth on 17 June and buried in Kensal Green Cemetery

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1841 census
  2. 1851 Census
  3. 1861 Census
  4. 1871 Census
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) by J. M. Bruce. Published 1982 ISBN 0-370-30084-x
  • Biography of David Napier by Michael S. Moss ODNB [2]