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British Industrial History

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William Church

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Church's press.
1838. London-Birmingham Steam Coach.
1896 Illustraion of Church's Steam Coach.

Dr. William Church (c1778-1863) of Birmingham. (Note: The 'Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839' refers to Dr. Church with the middle initial of 'H', but no other reference has been found to a middle name)

c1778 Born in Vermont, USA

1818 Made a brief visit to England.

1822 Second visit to England to construct a printing press of his own design for 'Britannia', Lancaster Street.

1824 Patent for improvements in the apparatus for casting iron and other metals [1]

1824 Deed poll whereby William Church of Birmingham, esq., describes his invention of certain improvements in machinery for printing in compliance with a proviso in the Letters Patent granting him protection for the invention. MS 1094/ACC 1931-006/386925 18 August, 1824. [2]

1825 onward. Inventing and constructing machines for making spikes, nails, button shanks, hooks and eyes, etc.

1829 Letters Patent granting William Church of Haywood House, near Birmingham, esq., sole use and exercise for fourteen years of his invention of improvements in machines for propelling vessels and other machines capable of being propelled by steam. MS 1094/ACC 1931-006/386915 15 October, 10 Geo. IV 1829.[3]

1831 Letters Patent granting William Church of Haywood House, Bordesley Green, near Birmingham, gent., sole use and exercise for fourteen years of his invention of improvements in machinery for the transportation of goods or passengers. MS 1094/ACC 1931-006/386924 7 September, 4 Will IV 1833. [4]

1832 Locomotive steam carriage. His first patent for locomotion is dated the 9th February, 1832.

1834 November. First road trials of the steam carriage successful. Will be assisted by Mr. Harrison the 'practical engineer'.[5] [6]

1835 Listed as 'Church Dr. Green lanes'.[7]

1835 Listed under 'Engineers' and 'Physicians' as 'Church William, M.D. Haywood House, Bordesley Green.'[8]

1835 Built an omnibus to carry 40 passengers for the London and Birmingham Steam Carriage Co.

1835 July. '...Fiat in Bankruptcy, bearing date the 23d day of April 1835, awarded and issued forth against William Church, of Birmingham, in the County of Warwick, Civil Engineer, Dealer and Chapman,...'[9]

1838 Built a locomotive to run on the London and Birmingham Railway.

1840 June. Listed as William Church, Aston, near Birmingham, civil engineer.[10]

1840 September. Patent. 'William Church, of Birmingham, civil engineer, for improvements in fastenings applicable to wearing apparel, and in apparatus for making the same and like articles, and also in the method or methods of preparing the said articles for sale'.[11]

1840 November. An accident caused by a boiler explosion at Bromsgrove Railway Station, designed by Dr. William Church and built three years previous by Joshua Horton of Brierley Hill. Two killed.[12]

1841 Listed under 'Engineers' as 'Church William (civil), 98 High Street, Bordesley'.[13]

1842 Patent. 'William Church, of Birmingham, civil engineer and Jonathan Harlow, of the same place, manufacturer, for certain improvements in the mode of manufacturing metallic tubes, and in the mode of joining them, or other tubes or pieces, for various useful purposes. December 16; six months.'[14]

1847 September. Haywood House, Bordesley Green to be let, the former residence of Dr. Church.[15]

1848 Patent. 'William Church, civil engineer, and Thomas Lewis, woollen draper, both of Birmingham, for a certain improvement, or certain improvements in machinery to be employed in making playing and other cards, and also other articles made wholly or in part of paper or pasteboard, part or parts of which said machinery may be applied to other purposes where pressure is required. Oct. 26; six months.'[16]

1850 March. Patent. '...Dr. Church, of this town, has recently obtained a patent for a machine for cutting and printing cards ..... understand that Dr. Church in now engaged in perfecting a machine for dating, which will afford fraud on Railway Companies.'[17]

1850 July. Refers to a property in Bordesley Green 'near the residence of the late Dr. Church'[18] Note: probably means to the late residence rather than the late Dr. Church

1853. Patent. '1277. To William Church, of Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, Gentleman, for the invention of "a new or improved sight,for cannons or other ordnance."'[19]

1854. Patent. '1639. To William Church, of Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, Civil Engineer, and Samuel Aspinwall Goddard, of Birmingham aforesaid, Merchant and Gun Manufacturer, for the invention of "an improvement or improvements in ordnance."'[20]

1855 Patent. 'William Church and Samuel A. Goddard for an improvement or improvements in ordnance. Dated July 26.'[21]

1856 Patent. '2074. And William Church, of Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, Engineer, has given the like notice in respect of the invention of "improvements in mounting and adjusting ordnance and other fire-arms."'[22]

1856 Patent. 'To William Church, of Birmingham, engineer, and Whiting Hamlyn, of Birmingham, corn factor "An improved method, or improved methods of constructing or building hay and other ricks."'[23]

1858 Patent. '39. To William Church, of Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, Engineer, for an invention of "improvements in measuring rules, compasses, and other mathematical instruments, and in the machinery to be employed in manufacturing measuring rules and other mathematical instruments."'[24]

1860 May. 'Another new cannon - A 12lb wrought-iron experimental gun, upon a principle varying between that of Sir William Armstrong and Dr. Church, manufactured by Mr. Morgan, was on Wednesday tested at the proof butt, Woolwich....'[25]

1861 November. Letter regarding the gun that Dr. Church and the writer (S. A. Goddard) produced five years previous.[26]

1863 October 7th. Died. 'On the 7th October last, in Vermont, U.S.A., Dr. William Church, aged 85 years: for more than forty years a resident of Birmingham, and one of the first mechanical geniuses of the age.'[27]

1864 Obituary [28]

The late Dr. Church. Born in Vermont and educated for a medical career. 1811 Patent for a screw propeller. 1818 made a brief visit to England. Second visit in 1822 to construct a printing press of his own design for 'Britannia', Lancaster Street. 1825 invented a mode of smelting iron by hot blast and anthracite coal. 1825 onward inventing and constructing machines for making spikes, nails, button shanks, hooks and eyes, etc. Built a steam carriage under the supervision of Mr. Wakefield, Senior, now of Harford street. Built a railway engine to his own plan. Invented a railway ticket machine. 1832 proposed to lay down wires to London and to communicate by electricity. Of late years he invented and constructed with the help of Mr. Higgins of Moseley street, a breech-loading cannon. Took out about seventy patents. As soon as the mechanical difficulty was solved he tended to lose interest in a project. Twice married, the last time in Birmingham, he survived his last wife by twelve years. Five years ago his son-in-law in Vermont invited him to spend his remaining years with him and with the aid of a borough councillor and a few friends was enabled to go. The Doctor never accumulated any money.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Mechanics Magazine 1824/06/19
  2. [1] National Archives
  3. [2] National Archives
  4. [3] National Archives
  5. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 03 November 1834
  6. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 17 November 1834
  7. 1835 Directory of Birmingham
  8. 1835 Pigot's Directory of Warwickshire
  9. [4] Gazette Issue 19287 published on the 10 July 1835. Page 18 of 24
  10. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 01 June 1840
  11. Staffordshire Gazette and County Standard - Saturday 19 September 1840
  12. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 16 November 1840
  13. 1841 Pigot's Directory of Warwickshire
  14. Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 01 January 1842
  15. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 20 September 1847
  16. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 27 November 1848
  17. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 25 March 1850
  18. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 15 July 1850
  19. [5] Gazette Issue 21447 published on the 10 June 1853. Page 16 of 34
  20. [6] Gazette Issue 21584 published on the 18 August 1854. Page 20 of 36
  21. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 22 January 1855
  22. [7] Gazette Issue 21841 published on the 22 January 1856. Page 3 of 42
  23. Morning Chronicle - Saturday 23 August 1856
  24. [8] Gazette Issue 22086 published on the 22 January 1858. Page 13 of 52
  25. Birmingham Daily Post, Friday, May 18, 1860
  26. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Saturday, November 23, 1861
  27. Birmingham Gazette - Saturday 23 April 1864
  28. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Saturday, April 23, 1864
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.