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 163,355 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 by David Napier and David Bell: Note 13

From Graces Guide


James Cook, referred to by Napier as "the oldest and most respectable engine-maker in Glasgow," commenced business about 1785, as millwright and engineer, in premises near St. Enoch Square, Glasgow. He took up the construction of sugar mills, the earliest of which were driven by water wheels and windmills, and those of later date by steam power. About 1800 he removed to the south side of the Clyde, where he had acquired a large tract of open ground. The engineering factory he erected there — known as "Cook's Works" — were at the time reckoned very extensive and complete. The sugar industry having then its chief seat in Glasgow Cook's business prospered, bringing him wealth as well as a high reputation. His first marine engine is said to have been fitted into the Elizabeth, a small vessel built by John Wood and Co in 1812 for John Thomson. If so, Cook must be regarded as the first on the Clyde to design and construct machinery expressly for a steamboat, the Comet's engine not having been originally intended for that purpose. The Elizabeth went to Liverpool in 1814, being probably the first steam vessel to enter that port. Within ten or twelve years thereafter he had supplied the machinery for over twenty steamers; but no record appears to exist of the marine work he carried out in the later years of his business career. Two of the vessels engined by him in 1814 were notable, as having been apparently the first steamers to reach London from an outside port, viz. the Margery in the end of 1814, and the Argyle, re-named Thames, early in 1815; the latter being placed on the station between London and Margate.

It is recorded that, in 1815, Cook was visited by two Austrian noblemen then in Glasgow, who examined the machinery of one of his boats with much interest, and that he thereafter furnished to the Austrian government certain plans and models, including those of his latest improvements in "paddle apparatus." In 1822 he supplied the machinery of the Tartar, a vessel built by Charles Wood (of Port Glasgow) to the order of the Post Office authorities, and intended like the Britannia and Hibernia for the Holyhead mail service. The engine, from a design by Mr. Broderip, is described as having consisted of a single horizontal cylinder, three feet diameter, with "two pistons connected to one crosshead, and connecting to one paddle shaft." Whatever the supposed merit of this arrangement, it appears to have had no greater success than Cook's engines in the earlier channel boats; and the Tartar, like them was soon laid aside. It may be here noted, on the authority of Robert Cook, a nephew of James, that until about 1820 nearly all the marine engines made on the Clyde were fitted with conical valves, these being gradually superseded by the slide valve, which, it is said, was invented or introduced by John Robertson. Cook's lengthened experience of marine engineering led to his being consulted by the Parliamentary Committee of 1822 respecting the type of steamships that he considered most suitable for the Irish mail service. He then recommended vessels of about 180 tons — slightly larger than Napier's boats of 1819 — to be lightly rigged, with two condensing side-lever engines and two boilers, each having two furnaces. His energy and public spirit were shown in his long connection with the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, of which he was for many years a director; and by the interest he manifested in the work of the Andersonian Institute. In 1831 he presented to that institution, for use in its laboratory, "a new steam boiler with flues after the manner of those used in steamboats." He died about 1835; and the business he had so successfully carried on for half a century then passed into the hands of his former manager — but no relative — David Cook, whose firm was known as D. Cook and Co. David Cook does not appear to have continued the marine engineering. Thereafter James Cook, nephew of James, who had been long in his uncle's employment, together with Robert Harvey, sen., succeeded to the business, the firm then becoming Robert Harvey and Co, sugar-mill engineers. On Mr. Harvey's death, his son Robert came into the management, under whose guidance the business has developed into the present "Harvey Engineering Company, Limited." This firm's speciality is the construction of sugar machinery and erection of central sugar factories, and it has a high reputation in all sugar-producing countries. It thus upholds the traditions of James Cook's original business; and it further possesses interesting relics of his early work, in drawings of sugar-mills made by him, and the original drawings of steamboats fitted with his engines about 1814.

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