Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,352 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.

Fawcett, Preston and Co

From Graces Guide
1891. Cyclone hydraulic baling presses.
1904. Hinkford pumping engines.
1904. Vertical compound pumping engine.


Portable Riot Shield. Exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool.
Portable Riot Shield. Exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool.
Portable Riot Shield (detail). Exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool.

Fawcett, Preston and Co of Phoenix Foundry, York Street, Liverpool. Subsequently at Bromborough, Cheshire.

See William Fawcett, Robert Preston and his nephew William Preston

Historical Development

1758 Foundry established by George Perry as the Liverpool branch of the Coalbrookdale Co, specialising in three-legged cast iron cooking pots.[1]

1771 George Perry died and was replaced by Joseph Rathbone

1784 William Fawcett joined the management,

1811 Fawcett was declared bankrupt, but the Littledale family came into the business under the style of Fawcett and Littledale. New works were built.

1816-7 Supplied steam machinery for four sugar plantations in Cuba.

The firm provided engines for the wooden paddle steamer Conde de Palmella, the first ocean-going steamer to leave this country. She made the voyage Liverpool to Lisbon in four days. The firm went on to provide engines for all types of steam vessels.

1823 This partnership dissolved; Robert Preston joined the firm which became Fawcett, Preston and Co.

1836 Partnership dissolved. '...the Partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, as Engineers and Iron-Founders, at Liverpool, under the firm of Fawcett, Preston, and Co. is dissolved, so far as regards the undersigned Isaac Shakespeare. Signed Isaac Shakespeare, Willm. Fawcett, Willm. R. Preston'[2]

1838 'PLATES OF IRON.— There are in Messrs. Fawcett, Preston and Co.'s yard, London[?], two plates of iron, which are said to be the largest ever made. They measure 10 feet 7 inches long, 5 feet 1 inch wide, 7-16ths of an inch thick, and weigh between 7 and 8 cwt. They are intended for the bottom plates of two steam generators on Mr Howard's plan, and were made by the Coalbrook Dale Iron Company, Shropshire, who, we are informed, are the only company in Britain (we may say in the world) that can make plates of this size, or even approaching it.'[3]

1840 Lengthy newspaper description of the works [4]

1843 Major fire at the York Street works. Subsequently the following advert appeared:-

'THE LATE FIRE IN YORK-STREET. In consequence of the FIRE which occurred at Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, and Co.'s Establishment, in York-street. upon the 7th day of March, the MILLWRIGHTS, MODEL MAKERS, and JOINERs have lost their TOOLS, which, from the extent of the Premises, and the rapid progress of the Fire, it was found impossible to save, by which they have sustained a loss, amounting to £393; and most of them having Families, they feel themselves necessitated to appeal to the liberality of the Public to mitigate their heavy loss, and beg to state, that several Gentlemen have formed themselves into a Committee, to apportion the amount received in proportion to the loss sustained by each individual. They have to add, that Books have been left at the various Newspaper Offices. ....' There follows a list of 36 contributing firms and their donations.[5]

1843 'A LARGE SPINDLE.-Yesterday week a large cylindrical mass of wrought iron, weighing no less than 22,400 lbs., was conveyed from the foundry of Messrs. Fawcett and Preston to the Clarence Dock, where it was to be shipped for London This immense piece of metal is intended for the spindle of one of her Majesty’s steam frigates. It was placed on two strong trucks, and was drawn through the streets by eleven powerful horses, twenty or thirty men holding by drag ropes in the rear to prevent the trucks attaining too much velocity in descending inclined planes.'[6]

1848 Built one railway locomotive and this was bought by the East Lancashire Railway.

1854 Announce they have acquired a large plot of ground fronting the Birkenhead Great Float to where they will move their boiler works.[7]

1859 Patent No. 1710 to Henry Berthon Preston for improvements in apparatus for superheating steam [8]

1863 The firm consisted of Herman James Sillem, William Thompson Mann, Jacob Willink, Henry Berthon Preston and David William Thomas.[9]

The firm supplied equipment for sugar refineries in many parts of the world, sending employees out to erect and install the equipment.

1869 Partnership change. '...the Partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, Herman James Sillem, William Thompson Mann, Jacob Willink, and Henry Berthon Preston, carrying on business, under the style or firm of Fawcett, Preston, and Company, in Liverpool in the county of Lancaster, as Engineers and Iron and Brass Founders, was, on the 31st day of December, 1867, dissolved and determined so far as the said Jacob Willink was concerned...'[10]

1872 Partnership change. '...the Partnership heretofore existing between the undersigned, Herman James Sillem, William Thompson Mann, and Henry Berthon Preston, carrying on business at Liverpool, as Engineers and Ironfounders, under the firm of Fawcett, Preston, and Co, was this day dissolved by mutual consent, so far as respects the said Herman James Sillem and Henry Berthon Preston...'[11]

1872 Partnership change. James Gregson Chapman and his brother Alfred Chapman became partners in the firm having worked for the firm overseas for many years and joining William Thompson Mann

1881-2 John Shield Pattinson was in charge of the electrical department including the manufacture of secondary storage batteries.

1888 Conversion to limited liability. '...subscriptions in Fawcett Preston and Co. Limited, which has just been formed, the proposed capital being £100,000, in 10,000 shares of £10 each, and £60,000 in 600 debentures of £100 each.....Consequent on the death of Mr. W. T. Mann, the senior partner in the firm of Fawcett Preston and Co., of Liverpool, the surviving partners, who have for many years conducted the business, have formed this company for the purpose of carrying on the business under the provisions of the Limited Liability Acts, and have agreed to act as managing directors for a term of not less than five years. During the last three years the works have been to a very large extent reconstructed, and new buildings have been erected and fitted with powerful plant and tools of improved type, suitable for the economical manufacture of the various specialities of the firm. The works cover an area of about 13,669 square yards, of which about 11,640 are freehold and the remainder Liverpool Corporation...'[12]

1891 Description of their works in 1891 The Practical Engineer. Also manufactured the Cyclone press of Mr. James Watson, used for pressing jute, cotton, silk, feathers, etc.

1894 Two Woolf Compound Beam Engines for Wallasey Waterworks (Liscard Station).

1894 Pumping engine for Bournvale Pumping Station, Walsall. Scrapped in the 1930s [13]

Producing machinery for the manufacture of nitrate of soda which was supplied to nitrate works abroad.

1901 Mention of Alfred Chapman as managing director.[14]

1905 The company was registered in 8 June, to take over the business of the company of the same name, engineers. [15]

1907 Produced a light goods chassis.[16]

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history.

General Engineers, of Bromborough Port, Cheshire

1948 Acquired by Metal Industries

1949 Reconverted to private company

1955 Joint sales and service operation Fawcett-Finney for Finney Presses and Fawcett, Preston (see advert)

1958 Merged with another Metal Industries subsidiary, Finney Presses; operations concentrated at Bromborough; the Fawcett facility at Birmingham was closed[17].

1961 Hydraulic and general engineers, manufacturing presses, rubber and plastics machinery, electrical resistors. 800 employees. [18]

1967 Metal Industries sold Fawcett, Preston and Co, rubber and plastic extrusion machinery makers to Tube Investments[19].

Location of Phoenix Foundry: The foundry fronted onto Lydia Ann Street. Map here.

Marine Engineering

1817 The firm was among the earliest manufacturers of marine steam propulsion machinery, building the engines for the PS Etna, which began to ply on the Mersey in 1817

1829 Made the side lever engine for the French Navy's first steam ship, the Sphinx. A large scale model of the engine, made in 1843, is on display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. See PS Sphinx: Side Lever Engine.

1830 Steam packet 'Paul Pry' advertised for sale, with 14 HP engine by Fawcett, Preston.[20]

1834 Made the engines for the Carlisle and Annan Steam Navigation Co's 'City of Carlisle', to ply between Liverpool, Carlisle and Annan, built by Mottershead, Hayes and Son of Liverpool.[21] Vessel advertised for sale in 1843[22]

1836 Made 270 HP engines for the Roscommon, built for the Dublin Steam Packet Co by Wilson (Liverpool?). [23]

1838 Advert: TRANSATLANTIC STEAM SHIP COMPANY prospectus: 'The first two vessels now building, of 450 horse power and 1,250 tons burthen each, by Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, and Co., and Messrs. W. and J. Wilson, will, it is expected, be launched early next year; and the well-known character of those houses cannot fail of giving confidence to the public, and ensure the utmost perfection in build and machinery of which steam navigation is at present susceptible.'[24]

1838-42 See 1839-1842 Marine Engine Makers for details of engines made for the Admiralty.

c.1839 320 HP engines for the Dublin-Liverpool mail packets Medusa and Merlin (designed by Sir William Symonds).[25]

1840 Made side lever engines for the French frigate 'Gomer' ('La machine ... a été construite en 1840, par Fawcett et Preston, pour la frégate le Gomer').[26]

1840 The firm made the machinery of the President, the largest Atlantic steamer built up to that time. 'The President's Engines.— Our readers are already aware that the fine steam-vessel, the President, now lying in the Trafalgar Dock, has been brought from London to this port to be fitted and take on board her engines, manufactured our townsmen, Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, and Co., who have obtained considerable celebrity in the annals of steam-engine making on account of the high character which their engines bear in the mercantile world. The engines in question, which have in the usual preliminary way been fitted in the yard of these gentlemen, in York-street, in order to their completion, are now in course of being taken down, preparatory to their removal on board the President. They are the largest marine engines hitherto made in this or any other country, being of 540 horse power, and are said by competent judges to be unrivalled for strength and neatness. They are certainly of colossal magnitude, and cannot fail to elicit the admiration of the spectator, scientific or otherwise. Their style is that of the gothic, and no pains have been spared to render them worthy of the establishment in which they have been manufactured. The respected proprietors of the works kindly permitted a considerable portion of the public to inspect them, and for the last two or three weeks the parties who have visited the Phoenix Foundry have been very numerous. To give our readers some idea of ihe magnitude of these splendid specimens of human skill and ingenuity, we subjoin a few particulars of the engines.
Height of columns 23 feet 0 inches.
Diameter of each cylinder 6 feet 8 inches
Stroke of piston 7 feet 6 inches
Diameter of each air pump 3 feet 10 inches
Stroke of ditto 3 feet 9 inches
4 beams, each 6 tons
4 columns, each 15 tons
Weight of shaft 10 tons
Plates for engines to stand on 32 tons
Total weight of metal in engines, including boilers 500 tons. [27]

1842 Supplied 520 HP engines for the PS Hindoostan. Cylinders 79 inches; 'stroke — the largest of any engine in England — 8 feet. ... The engines are by Messrs. Fawcett, Preston. They are ponderous pieces of mechanism, and beautifully finished.'[28]

1844 Contract for 210 HP engines for a vessel to be built for the Steam Navigation Co by Vernon and Co. of Liverpool[29]

1845 Two steam packets being constructed by P. Cato at Brunswick Dock, with 40 HP screw engines by Fawcett, Preston[30]

1847 Made 200 HP side lever engines for the Guadalquiver, built by Thomas Vernon and Co for a Cuban company.[31]

1848 Steamship 'Antelope' advertised for sale. Engines by Fawcett, Preston. [32]


1845 'LARGE CANNON.- An immense cannon, intended for the American navy, is just being finished at the foundry of Messrs. Fawcett and Co., in this town. It is of malleable iron, of a superior quality, manufactured for the the purpose at the Mersey Iron works. The weight of metal previously to being bored was upwards of eleven tons, and the gun will be about eight tons when finished. The length is l3 feet, and bore 12 inches; outside diameter of the widest part 27 1/2 inches, the iron varying in thickness from 3 1/2 inches at the mouth to 7 3/4 inches at the opposite extremity. The exterior is beautifully finished, bearing a polish similar to engine work, which has cost considerable time and labour. This ponderous piece of ordnance will, on its completion, be placed on board the American frigate Princeton, which is expected here shortly to receive it, and mounted on the same carriage which supported the huge cannon that burst some time back, when several persons lost their lives. It is the largest ever made in this country, and will rank as one amongst many in other efforts of mechanical skill and ingenuity in iron work, which have emanated from Messrs. Fawcett and Co.'s establishmment. Before its delivery, the gun will be tested with a double charge of gunpowder, (45lbs.) and two balls, made for the purpose.'[33]

1845 'Trial of the Monster Gun.— On Friday, and again on Saturday, the monster gun, recently manufactured by Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, and Co.'s foundery, Liverpool, for the American war steamer Princeton, was repeatedly tested on the sands, about three miles beyond Waterloo. The gun was conveyed from the foundery to the place selected for the trial about four o'clock on Friday morning, when very few of the inhabitants were astir in the streets. About half-past five it passed through Bootle, almost unobserved, most of the good people of that locality being in the enjoyment of their morning dreams at the time. It was drawn by nine horses. On arriving at its temporary destination, it was firmly embedded in the sand, and the muzzle, which was pointed out to sea, was slightly elevated in a line above the surface of the water. The first ball, weighing 219lbs., was then driven home, the gun being charged with 30lbs. of powder, and the first shot was fired at ten, in the presence spectators. The result was most satisfactory. The report was deafening, and was distinctly heard nine miles off. At the distance of about three miles, as nearly as could be judged, the ball was seen bounding the surface of the water, occasionally dipping and springing again, until at length it became wholly lost to view. The second was the trial shot. Two balls, each weighing 219lbs., were " driven home," 45lbs. of powder being the charge. This shot was equally satisfactory. The report, of course, was terrific, but the gun withstood the shock, and thereby proved that it had been manufactured on a principle and with a material which render bursting almost, if not altogether, an impossibility. A great number of single shots, with balls of 219lbs. each, were fired during the afternoon of Friday and the whole of Saturday, with the like successful result. We understand the gun will be shortly shipped by vessel for America, there to be taken on board the war steamer for which it was manufactured.'[34]. Note: the forgings for the gun were produced by the Mersey Steel and Iron Co.

'The Monster Gun for the Princeton. —The enormous gun made in this town to supply the place of Captain Stockton's gun, which burst on board the Princeton, American war steamer, with such dreadful results, is now ready for use, and was tried on the shore near Formby, on Friday, Saturday, and Monday. Not less than 24 shots have been fired from it, all of them with a larger charge of powder than that which will be used under ordinary circumstances, and in one case with charge of double the ordinary strength. It stood the trials well, and may safely be considered one of the strongest as well one of the largest pieces of cannon ever made. We sincerely trust that it will never be turned to worse use than it was on Friday, Saturday, and Monday. The following are some interesting particulars with regard to the gun and its trials :— " Proved 40th[!] May, 1845, at Formby, near Liverpool. Twenty-three shots were fired out of it, and the proving of it occupied the whole of Friday, 30th, Saturday, 31st May, and Monday, 2d June. To prevent as much as possible the crowd from hindering the operations, the day fixed for proving it was kept a secret, and early in the day there were not more than 200 people present, but it was very soon known what was going on, and people began to arrive pretty thickly about two and three o'clock. The gun was removed from Fawcett, Preston and Co.'s yard at two a.m. Friday, and, just outside the town, the bushes of the under wheels came out, and the men were detained till two more timber carriage wheels could be obtained. The first shot was fired about ten o'clock.
1st— 30lbs. powder, single shot, weighing 2201bs
2d— 40lbs. " double shot, 220lbs. each.
3d- 44lbs. " " 220lbs.
This was the grand proof charge, and the gun stood the whole of the trials very well. It was forged at the Mersey Steel and Iron Company's forge, Sefton-street, (C. Horsfall and Co.), and turned and bored at Fawcett, Preston and Co.'s yard, York-street. Weight in the rough, 11 tons, 3 cwt., 3 qrs., 11lbs.; finished, tons, 16 cwt., 2 qrs., 13 lbs. Length of gun , 18 feet ; length of bore, 12 feet ; diameter of bore, 12 inches; thickness of metal at breech, 8 inches ; ditto at muzzle, 3 1/4 inches. The wads used weighed 15lbs. each. It was beautiful to see the recocheting of the balls along the water, and when double shot were fired, they looked like two birds playing in the air, being quite visible throughout their course,—Liverpool Times.' [35]

1855 'At Fawcett’s foundry, Liverpool, mortars of large size are being cast, and the shells and the mortars are said to be superior to those supplied from other places. The mortars are all proved by hydraulic pressure before they leave the foundry. One of the engineers at Fawcett’s has made an important discovery in the construction of a shell, and the Admiralty and the War-office are delighted with the improvement. The shell is cast very thin, and lined inside in a way (which is secret) to resist the influence of molten iron. With molten iron the shell is to be filled, and, while in fluid state, fired. Each shell will contain 50 lb. of iron a state of fusion; and, where the shell falls, destruction extends around it, on damp ground no man can live within fifty yards of it. The filling of each shell will take twenty-five minutes, and there will be no difficulty, in ship or trenches, in preparing the molten metal. in ancient times forts were defended by pouring molten lead on the besiegers ; now, we shall project the molten metal upon the besieged.'[36]

Note: For more information on molten iron-filled shells, see HMS Colossus.

1860 'DESPATCH OF CANNONS, GUNS, AND STEAMSHIPS FOR GARIBALDI. (From the Liverpool Daily Times, August 4.) This morning, at one o'clock, a noble paddle-wheel steamer, the second of two which have been purchased in this port for Garibaldi, rounded the rock on her way to the coast of Sicily. Although, as upholders of constitutional government, we have no right to interfere in the distractions which have fallen upon Naples, yet the sympathy of England is ever with the oppressed, and pervades even commercial circles. Everyone has, more or less, felt unusual interest in the movements of Garibaldi ; and we have already mentioned that MM. Feletti and Orlando, his agents, have been busy in this town negotiating for the purchase of steam-vessels and war materiel for that distinguished chief. MM. Feletti and Orlando are men of judgment and extensive experience, and the illustrious Dictator has shown a wise discretion in his selection of them as his agents for this delicate and important mission. M. Feletti, to whom we have had the pleasure of being introduced, once held a command the Sardinian army, in which he served during the war with Austria 1848. His colleague, K. Orlando, is an eminent engineer in Genoa, owning large works there, and having upwards of 900 men in his employ. These gentlemen, in their arrangements for the purchase of the required steamships, have wisely reposed unlimited trust in Messrs Curry, Kellock, and Co., the eminent shipbrokers of this town ; and the result, we need not say, has amply justified their confidence. Not only have vessels of first-rate character been secured, but they have been bought up on advantageous terms (being paid for cash), refitted, loaded, and despatched with true business-like celerity. The paddle-wheel steamer Independence, which sailed this morning for Sicily, .... The Independence takes out no guns or ammunition, but she has a first-rate supply of coal. The Queen of England, which left Liverpool on Thursday last was provided with formidable armament, having on board some of Captain Blakeley's patent rifled cannon, manufactured by Messrs Fawcett, Preston and Co., engineers, of this town. They are six to seven inches diameter, and will throw shell, with eight or ten degrees elevation, three miles. We believe the amount of materiel purchased from Messrs Fawcett, Preston, and Co. amounts to upwards of £1200. One of the guns is mounted on the forecastle upon a traversing carriage, and she also carries 12 other heavy guns. .... The four Whitworth guns subscribed for in Manchester for Garibaldi did not arrive in time for despatch by this vessel.' [37]

Produced many guns to the design of Alexander Blakely.

1876 Photos of details of an 1876 2.5" Blakely rifled field gun here.

Machinery for Sugar Production

Fawcett, Preston were pioneers and major producers of equipment for processing sugar cane.

1816-1817 Supplied steam machinery for four sugar plantations in Cuba [38]

c.1830 Supplied sugar cane processing machinery, including a waggon boiler, beam engine, and crushing rolls to a plantation in the Approuague region of French Guiana.[39]

1834 Supplied a 36 HP stationary engine to the New Orleans Sugar Refining Co.[40]

c.1850 Produced some curious combined engines and boilers, in which the beam engine's central column and cylinder were mounted on the cast iron boiler. Recipients included the mill at Ajangua and the mill of Longoni. Drawing and photos here [41]

1862 Exhibited equipment for cane mill and engine including Aspinall's patent evaporating pan; vacuum apparatus; centrifugal machines.

Phoenix Foundry

The 1890/1893 25" O.S. map here shows Phoenix Foundry about 1/4 mile east of Salthouse Dock. It hand a short frontage and entrance gate on York Street, and was bounded on the north by Lydia Anne Street, on the east by Suffolk Street, and on the south by Gilbert Street. The site was more or less triangular, with a length of about 160 yds and an average width of about 55 yds. The site was cleared in the inter-war years, and is now occupied by a modern housing estate. Lydia Ann Street was named after the wife of the founder, George Perry. She was the daughter of Philip Lacroix, of an old Huguenot family.

1843 Fire[42]

We have the painful task to record the calamity of another great fire, in addition to those of the past winter,—and which, though happily unattended by loss of life, will yet be most serious in its effects, in its destruction of a great part of the valuable and extensive works of Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, and Co., founders and engineers, in the delay that will be occasioned in refurnishing some portions of the marine engines and other works in hand immediately wanted, and in the probable throwing out of employment for a long time of many of the numerous hands employed by that firm occasionally in all from 5 to 700 men.

'The foundry and works are situated in the oblong quadrangle bounded by York-street (the narrowest end) northward, Gilbert -street westward, Lydia Ann-street eastward, and Dickenson -street southward,— the whole area being about 150 yards in length, and of an average width (widening to Dickenson-street) of about 60 yards. The works known as "Fawcett's Foundry," or the "Phoenix Foundry," covered the whole of this area, in buildings and yards, with the exception of the comparatively small premises occupied by Messrs. Murray and Brown, millwrights, engineers, &c., at the south-east corner, and the sheds and other premises adjoining on the north-west, belonging to Mr. Waring, hide and leather merchant. Preliminary to the great fire, an alarm reached the fire-station, about twelve o'clock last night, that a timber yard in Great Crosshall-street, (occupied by Mr. R. Newell, jun.,) had caught fire, and engines were immediately got in readiness; but happily, before they started a police-officer brought information that the fire, which was unimportant, had been got out by such means as were at hand, without much damage being sustained. At three o'clock, (we may here mention,) and while the great fire was blazing, another alarm of fire, in Limekiln-lane, also reached the station, but this too was averted before it had gained any great head, so that the engines were left to operate on the greater conflagration, to which we now proceed:-

'It appears, from the most authentic information we could obtain, that about one o'clock this morning the watchman employed at Messrs. Fawcett's discovered that fire, at first apparently trifling in his estimation, had broken out in a room in which paints are ground and prepared, and known as " the paint-room." The premises open out interiorly, between Lydia Ann-street and Gilbert-street, into a succession of yards of oblong irregular form, the buildings lining with each of these streets, and of various widths, being intersected towards the south by two buildings crossing between and joining them at right angles. Under these crossing buildings were two archways for carts; and the " paintroom" is immediately over, on the first floor, that furthest to the south, (the Dickenson -street end of the yard,) and which extended into the centre building in Gilbert-street. There were two stories above that ignited, most of the buildings within the area of the conflagration being four and five stories in height. Unluckily, the watchman, when he observed the fire, thought he could overcome it by his own unassisted exertions, and in place of sending immediately to the firestation, continued for some time to throw such small quantities of water upon it as he could bring. He soon, however, found that it defied his efforts, and the police were sent for. A strong brigade of the fire police, with engines and water carts, were soon on the ground, headed by Mr. Whitty, Superintendents Leverett and Quick, Mr. Hewitt of the fire department, Inspectors Moore, Walker, and others. When they first reached the spot, it was the general, and we believe correct opinion, that had timely notice been given, the whole catastrophe that ensued might have been averted by the application of a dozen buckets of water. The only water, however, to be attained for a long time (perhaps an hour and a half), was solely that brought by the water-carts from the fire-station in Temple Court. There were three water plugs in Greetham-street, opposite the middle of Gilbert-street, and close to the fire, and, we believe, one in the latter-named street; but the mains were not filled, and no water could there be obtained. The water tanks, each, we believe, carrying about 7 tons, were put into operation from the Station • as well as all the water-carts, which last took no fewer than 27 loads during the height of the fire. The poor people in Gilbert-street and neighbourhood did good service by bringing cans and buckets of water from their dwellings. Meantime - the fire went on with uncontrollable fury in and round the spot where it originally commenced. Seven powerful engines were shortly present, and played with considerable effect in arresting the flames, particularly their progress southward, where the valuable model-rooms are situated, next to Dickenson-street, and at the top of the quadrangle in Lydia Ann-street and Gilbert-street. .....'

1855 Account [43]

THE PHOENIX FOUNDRY, 13, YORK-STREET. (From the Northern Weekly Times.)

‘The establishment which comes at present under our notice, belongs to the highly eminent firm of the Messrs Fawcett, Preston and Co., and is situated in the most commercial, and busiest, part of the town. Every portion of the concern seems to have been designedly planned and built so as to have no sort of communication, apparently, with the streets around, though actually erected in the midst of them, just above Cleveland-square —that open museum of all the odds and ends of Liverpool. This foundry is one of the most magnificent workshops in the world. We have seen nothing as yet in the town that could bear comparison with it for a moment, Properly speaking, it consists of a series of workshops, every one of which would furnish forth abundant materials every day in the week for a very valuable article. The business here at all times is of a weighty, ingenious, and scientific character. When we recollect the value, magnitude, and variety of the works that are manufactured regularly, day after day, in this extensive foundry, it will be seen that, without the slightest exaggeration, the impression we have endeavoured to convey of it can be justly and deliberately given. It has not only at present, but at all seasons throughout the year, furnaces, mills, and machines of all kinds, together with mortars, and cannons of every calibre, to cast, bore, and finish for all parts of the globe. Its commercial and business dealings are unlimited and extensive. The West Indies, the Mauritius, and Africa, supply orders and commissions, which are enough to keep the Phoenix foundry at all times alive and busy in its mechanical operations. The number of skilled mechanics, operatives, and labourers—over five hundred in constant employment who are incessantly engaged in their various avocations, will form no unsafe, or unsatisfactory criterion, whereby to estimate the extent and amount of work that is done in the concern. It is inconceivably great.

‘The first portion of the concern which happened to come under our observation, was the moulding-room, one of the most extensive workshops that can be possibly conceived—in length, perhaps, about 108 feet, by 94 feet in breadth, and of splendid proportions. It looks like a short street that has been roofed over for the mechanical purposes of trade. The processes of the art are at all times so ingenious, exciting, and skilful, that they are neither tiresome, nor unattractive, but keep constantly exercising the vigilance and admiration of the visitor. For the most part, throughout this immense space, the ground was covered with fine red sand, or soft dark clay, to be used in moulding, and fabricating, the different articles, which were afterwards to be cast in metal, and in the various beds and preparations for the reception of the burning metallic fluid used in the manufacture. Everywhere it will be necessary to observe the care and attention that must be exercised in the early processes of the art, since the very sand and clay have to undergo the operation of a crushing-mill, to soften and prepare them for the use of the moulder, lest any hard or gritty substances that are to be found in their natural state, should be allowed to remain. When thoroughly ground and softened down to a paste, it is then conveyed to the moulder for his use and application. Here and there were numerous workmen occupied intently, some in the moulding of large mortars, while others, again, were forming lesser moulds of guns of small calibre, suitable to the African trade, and its requirements. Some of these, as mere works of art, were very beautiful in their formation. At one end of the moulding-room are two great stoves or ovens, in which the different moulds are deposited to be baked and hardened, preparatory to the casting operations ; while at the side rises an immense chimney, like a mighty tower above the concern, with hot and cold blast furnaces in close proximity to it. The chimney and the furnaces are both supplied from the yard outside—the former with coals, and the latter with long and ponderous bars of the rough iron ore, for the purposes of the manufacture. Along the entire floor everywhere may be seen huge mortars and guns of various descriptions, and of every calibre, which have just been cast, but are still to undergo the paring, boring, and finishing processes ; so that the workshop wears much the appearance of a warlike magazine. There are, however, many other kinds of metallic construction provided for here, such as mills and wheels of various sizes, and of every weight. Steam engines of splendid and improved mechanism, and condensers of every amount of power, are here fabricated, with as much ease—apparently, at least—as the baker produces his lighter manufacture. The sugar mills, boilers, and pans, which are lying about, one would suppose sufficient to supply Jamaica and the sugar plantations for a half century, yet their demands for every new improvement or for patented articles never cease.

‘The next workshop — the boring room — appeared to be nearly as spacious, and as lofty, in its proportions, as the former, and was tilled all through with mortars of every description in the rough state, just as they were withdrawn from the moulds ; and guns of all sorts and sizes, from the heavy metal suitable for ordnance purposes, down to the light articles which are the favourites of the African chieftain. A fine old workman, with a portly appearance, such as would confer no little dignity on a London alderman, was superintending the boring machine, which was at work at one of the huge mortars. The borer at first is so arranged as to confine its operations to a circle of eight inches diameter, but this is again extended to eleven inches diameter, until it is finally enlarged, and cuts away to the extent of thirteen inches in the diameter, which is that of the mortar now in hand. At another bench, one of those huge mortars, which was not so far advanced in its paring and boring appliances, was undergoing the operation of losing its head —about one-third or more of its weight. It is found necessary to cast them about nine or ten tons weight, which are —when pared, cut, bored, and finished altogether—reduced to about four or five tons. The powerful instrument cuts it with as much facility as if it were pasteboard, and not the best cast iron, while the careful mechanic stood by, cautiously watching every turn of the wheel and lathe, with the practised skill, and keen eye, of the steady workman. Here again was another mortar, which, after being bored, and, of course, stripped of its head, which is one of the earliest operations, was undergoing some smoothing process on the surface, and it was whipt round to the instrument for its decoration, with as much ease as if it had been a child's toy, and not a great gun, of nearly five tons weight. There were other boring, and planeing, operations which were still more skilful and scientific, and yet were performed with the greatest possible ease. Some metal nuts and screws, which, while they are supplied internally with screws, are polished and smoothed on the surface externally, and here the joint operation was going on at the same time upon one of the former, cutting away and smoothing the rough metal outside, while a large borer, armed with gimlet-like prominences, was working away inside, and safely and expeditiously forming the screw. Thus two instruments of great power, and necessarily requiring, both precision and nicety, in their movements, were in full action together, on one piece of metal, and the careful artisan was quite as much at home during the operations as if he were only peeling an orange.

'Every one of these workshops requires great skill, wonderful attention, and unceasing activity, both in mind and body ; but there are others, to which we are now approaching, that demand from the operative, besides all these physical and mental capabilities, a certain degree of scientific knowledge. That he must have, as a matter of necessity, whether it be obtained by education, by reading, or by practice. These are the fitting up and erecting rooms, where every engine or mill, every wheel or machine, in fact, every article manufactured in the factory—which are cast in pieces, and almost all articles are obliged to be so cast—must be fitted up, and put together, to ascertain their completeness, accuracy, and perfection. These adjusting operations we need scarcely say try the metal of the best workmen ; but the operatives in this foundry appear to be capable of conducting the formation; or erection, of the greatest or most complex machinery. Their steadiness and skill are only surpassed by their energy and intelligence. The fixings here to-day are those, apparently, of some sort of steam engine : and the ease with which two of the mechanics were putting the beautiful, but complex and intricate, pieces of polished metal together, and with so much expedition, must be the very perfection of art. In another part of the concern a sugar mill, destined for the West Indies, was being put together, and it was delightful to perceive, the facility with which the skilled and practical mechanic, put up these large, and heavy, pieces of cast metal, and had their various combinations united, until at length they formed one complete, and beautiful construction. Some of the sugar pans, to accompany this elegant mill, are as graceful in their design, and as well finished in their execution, as many of our marble fountains which have been engraved in the Art Journal, and have received the eulogies of the connoisseur. They are large metallic cups of exquisite shape.

'The pattern rooms are stocked, like a warehouse, with models, both of what have been, and are about to be, manufactured in the foundry. There are numerous joiners and others at work here, since it is necessary to produce a pattern in wood of most articles about to be cast, before the metallic operation commences. The models of some of these sets of steam engines, would be ornamental in the first drawing-rooms of the land, so highly finished are the designs, and so exquisitely moulded the execution. But the second of these apartments, where all the bygone patterns which have had their day of usefulness, are deposited, is perhaps one of the most curious concerns in the whole town, rich as it is in curiosities, and at all events unrivalled in its way. The visitor will feel no slight degree of surprise on leaving the last workshop, which bears the ordinary living stamp of every day life and activity, when he is taken into a dark, dim, and vast apartment, where two or three rows of strange but curiously shaped, Egyptian columns, or what appears to be such, run from one extremity to the other.

'In the centre and, now and again, between the rows of eccentric columns, are huge piles of heterogeneous construction indeed ; which serve to dispel the illusion which may have been created by a lively fancy. Old wooden models of mills and steam engines, condensers, and seed crushers, heaped upon each other carefully, and with considerable attention to their fitness and size, so as that they seem to preserve a degree of suitability that excites an agreeable surprise. In the same way what, at the first glance, may have been taken as Egyptian columns, turn out to be, neither more nor less, than the modern patterns of the many thousands of mill wheels, of every size and construction which have been for years cast in the foundry, They have curiously and carefully erected the largest wheels as the basis of the column, and then raised them, decreasing in size, to the summit, until they fashioned a pillar of no inelegant, but eccentric, shape. It would be a singular calculation to endeavour to sum up what these strange series, and vast heaps, of models and patterns, must have cost the manufacturers. Every one of them, numerous as they are now, was expensive in its own way, and costly in every sense; Yet, here they are now, like the pyramids themselves—a silent wonder.

'The motive power of this great manufactory consists of a pair of splendid steam engines, of twenty-five horse-power each—collectively of fifty horse power, simple and direct in movement, but powerful in action. One or two of its ingenious, but able indicators, will surprise the visitor with their astonishing capabilities. These are the steam-hammer, and the saw ; the former wields a force that would crush a solid mass into atoms, while the utility of the latter, is not only practically experienced by the joiner, in the pattern room, but is rendered perfectly plain to the visitor in any one of its operations. A rapid notice of this sort cannot entirely convey the immensity, and magnitude, of the works that are thrown off in this magnificent establishment, since, in truth, every one of its various workshops, would easily furnish ample materials for a very excellent article. The great eminence of the firm of Fawcett and Co. needs no other proof than their own foundry can supply.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. National Archives
  2. The London Gazette 15 November 1836 Issue:19437 Page:2053
  3. Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, 14 July 1838
  4. Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser - Friday 06 March 1840
  5. Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser, 6 April 1843
  6. Liverpool Mercury, Friday 13 October 1843
  7. Liverpool Mercury - Friday 21 April 1854
  8. [1] London Gazette, 19 August 1859
  9. Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 23 June 1863
  10. The London Gazette Publication date:5 March 1869 Issue:23476 Page:1531
  11. The London Gazette Publication date:27 December 1872 Issue:23932 Page:6489
  12. Liverpool Mercury - Saturday 14 April 1888
  13. [2] Black Country History: Bournvale Pumping Station; Walsall
  14. St James's Gazette - Monday 24 June 1901
  15. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  16. Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles. Edited by G. N. Georgano
  17. The Times, Jul 9, 1958
  18. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  19. The Times, 1 July 1967
  20. Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser, 23 September 1830
  21. Carlisle Patriot, 5 April 1834
  22. Liverpool Mail - Saturday 06 May 1843
  23. Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 17 September 1836
  24. London Courier and Evening Gazette, 19 October 1838
  25. Waterford Mail, 7 September 1839
  26. [3] Les Merveilles de la science, 1867 - 1891, Tome 5
  27. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 4 April 1840
  28. Northern Whig, 6 September 1842
  29. Carlisle Journal - Saturday 18 May 1844
  30. Dublin Evening Post, 9 October 1845
  31. Liverpool Mail, 27 March 1847
  32. Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser, 1 June 1848
  33. Liverpool Mercury, 11 April 1845
  34. Lincolnshire Chronicle - Friday 6 June 1845
  35. Kendal Mercury - Saturday 7 June 1845
  36. Illustrated London News - Saturday 01 September 1855
  37. Western Daily Press, 7 August 1860
  38. [4] 'The Sugarmill' by Manuel Moreno Fraginals, translated by Cedric Belfrage: Monthly Review Press, 1976, 2008
  39. [5] Une Saison en Guyane: 'The forgotten remains of the Approuague : Industrial treasure' by Philippe Goergen. Includes several photographs of the abandoned machinery
  40. [6] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.308
  41. [7] Les vestiges industriels a Mayotte: Machine a vapeur FAWCETT (1853)
  42. Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser - Friday 10 March 1843
  43. Northern Daily Times - Monday 22 October 1855
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • The Steam Engine in Industry by George Watkins in two volumes. Moorland Publishing. 1978. ISBN 0-903485-65-6