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British Industrial History

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Finch and Willey

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of Windsor Foundry, Smithdown Lane, West Derby, Liverpool

Established by John Finch

By 1847 Finch and Willey, an engineering firm in Liverpool, was largely engaged in the construction of railway plant for home and foreign use. The partners in the firm, together with William Pare, established new works in Dublin, under the style of The Irish Engineering Company [1]

1849 'PARTNERSHIPS DISSOLVED. H. Smith, W. Pare, J. Finch, jun., E. Finch, and T. Willey, Dublin, engineers [Note: described elsewhere as partners in the Irish Engineering Company; as far as regards H. Smith — H. Smith, E. Finch, and T. Willey, Liverpool, engineers; as far as regards H. Smith.'[2]

1849 Partnership dissolved. '...the Partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, Henry Smith, Edward Finch, and Thomas Willey, carrying on business at the Windsor Foundry, Liverpool, as Engineers and Ironfounders, under the firm of Smith and Willey, is this day dissolved by the retirement of the said Henry Smith...'[3]

1850 'Large Iron Bridge.— An iron bridge of very large dimensions is now in course of construction at the extensive iron foundry of Messrs. Finch and Willey, Windsor. Its extreme length will be 600 feet, there being four arches or spans, one of 300 feet and three of 100 feet each. The bridge which has designed by Mr. Brunel, C.E., is for the South Wales Railway Company, and will be thrown across the river Wye, at Chepstow. As the navigation of the river cannot interfered with, the immense span of 300 feet is rendered necessary in order to prevent the erection of piers other works as foundation on which to rest the mass of iron work which will be brought into requisition. The principle adopted is that of suspension by girders and diagonal chains, many improvements being introduced to adapt the bridge to the peculiarities of the situation which will be required. The contraction and expansion of the iron work is provided for with the greatest exactness; and oscillation from any of those causes which it is usually produced on railway bridges will be effectually prevented. The roadway will be nearly 100 feet above the level of low water mark. Large cylindrical pillars are to be driven into the ground near the margin of the river, and from these and the piers which form the extreme points of suspension, the main support for the structure will be derived. In order that the work may proceed with greater expedition, Messrs. Finch and Willey have erected premises at Chepstow, near that point of the Wye across which the bridge is to be thrown. Several of the large pillars and other castings have already been made at the Windsor Foundry under the direction of Mr Brown, the manager of that establishment, and these have been forwarded to their place of destination and many of them fixed. Another iron bridge of about 70 feet span is also being made at Messrs. Finch’s works, which will be sent off in a day or two, preparatory to erection; this is for the South Wales Railway Company, to be thrown over a road at Newport.'[4]

Messrs Finch & Willey, iron founders, of Liverpool, have just completed a large machine for the Newport Dock Company, to load coal vessels, without the aid of an intermediate carriage between the railway waggon and the ship. By means of this immense machine the coal-truck, which, with its contents, will amount to about 13 tons, will be raised to an elevation of 16 feet; and, by an ingenious mechanical appliance, as the truck ascends it will be gradually turned in such a manner as to discharge its ponderous contents into the ship; the whole time of the elevation, discharge, and descent only occupying one minute and a half. The machine resembles slightly the temporary fixed cranes used in the erection of churches and other large buildings for raising large blocks of stone, but the framework is much stronger than even these colossal structures ; and, large as it is, it is planted on wheels, so that the whole may be moved to any particular point along the line of docks on which it is intended be used. It will probably be moved through a distance of five hundred yards occasionally. The coal-trucks, by means of a railway laid down at the docks, will approach the ship’s side, in the centre of the framework of the large crane, and run upon a moveable platform, which by means of a couple of unusually strong straps, worked upon large cylinders by a 10-horse power steam-engine, will be raised to elevation of 16 feet, when by means of a lever the contents of the waggon will be tilted into the vessel. On the other side is a compensating power— a large iron trough, capable of being ballasted to almost any weight. Its object is to regulate the descent of the truck; thus saving an unnecessary expenditure of steam-power. The weight of the machine is 45 tons; and the same small engine which works the crane also moves it along the line of docks as required. The following will give some idea of its dimensions:—Length, 32 ft.; height, 34 ft.; and width, 23 ft. By the aid of this appliance, 1000 tons of coals may be shipped in a day with no more manual labour than will be afforded by three men and a boy. At the trial of the machine on Monday, Mr Braitbwaite Poole, several members of the Dock Company, and a number of gentlemen connected with the coal trade, were present, and appeared to be highly pleased with it.'[5]

1851 'Extensive Failure in the Iron Trade—On Tuesday a meeting of the creditors of Messrs. Finch and Willey, of the Windsor Foundry, Liverpool, was held at the Clarendon Rooms, South John Street. The large room was crowded long before the hour of meeting, which was appointed for one o’clock. At that hour Mr. Wickham, of the Lowmoor Iron Company, was unanimously voted to the chair, and a statement of the accounts, drawn by Mr. Bewlay, was submitted to the meeting; from which it appeared that the total liabilities of the firm were £65,000., to meet which it was calculated that the assets from all sources would realise 10s. in the £1. Mr. E. Finch stated that 18 months ago, on the retirement of Mr. Smith, who is a creditor for £7000., there was a loss of £6OOO. on the concern, and that the completion of the contracts then on hand had since entailed a further loss of £7000. The Bank of Liverpool is well secured, as also Mr. Geach, of Birmingham, who had advanced £10,000. on account of Chepstow-bridge; but the creditors of Finch & Son are also creditors to this estate to upwards of £20,000. A committee, consisting of Mr. Pearce, of the firm of Jones, Bland, and Co., Mr. Ledward, and Mr. Langton, were appointed to wind up the concern as speedily as possible.'[6]

1851 'SALE OF THE STOCK OF THE WINDSOR FOUNDRY.- During the last fortnight the large and valuable stock-in-trade, machinery, &c., of Messrs. Finch and Willey has been submitted to public competition. The importance of this sale may be estimated from the fact that its announcement has attracted buyers from Scotland, and all parts of England. The sale last week was limited to the first three days, during which a large quantity of powerful machinery, comprising engines, hydraulic press, planing machines, lathes, &c., &c., were disposed of. The two 40-horse power high pressure steam-engines brought about £450. The powerful hydraulic press brought a good price, from a Bristol purchaser ; a large quantity of bar-iron brought the average price. Indeed, the sale generally realised unexpectedly good prices ; and from its favourabie beginning the best results are anticipated. The machinery is of a very superior description, and much of it perfectly original in its construction. Among the remaining lots are included a number of drilling machines, a large number of bricks, and the valuable lorries and cart horses employed in this extensive establishment. The sale will be resumed shortly, of which due notice will be given.'[7]

1852 The Chepstow Railway Bridge was constructed on site for Brunel by Edward Finch of Liverpool, a partner in the firm Finch and Willey. After the bridge had been completed, Finch remained in Chepstow, and developed a major engineering and, later, a shipbuilding business on the site beside the river - Finch and Co.

1853 Advertisement: 'WINDSOR FOUNDRY, Liverpool.—
TO BE SOLD OR LET BY PRIVATE TREATY, and immediate possession had, the WINDSOR FOUNDRY, together with an extensive and valuable PLANT of MACHINERY. The Foundry was built by Messrs. Finch and Willey, is of modern erection and the arrangements of it are, by competent authorities, considered to be perfect. Outside of the west end are one very large and two smaller cupolas, with chimneys, built with fire bricks, cased with iron, and a suitable iron crane on a strong cast-iron framing. Nearly adjoining are two fine storerooms, with iron doors raised by pulleys, which open into the foundry, with an excellent room above, flagged. In the foundry are erected, in connection with the cupolas and stoves, &c., a very powerful and excellent 10-tons iron crane, with machinery work by steam, with blocks, pulleys, chains &c.; an excellent wood crane, with chains, pulleys, &c., to lift two 2 tons : and also two powerful travelling cranes to raise 20 tons each, with crab winch, blocks, pulleys, chains, &c. The uprights, bearers, and range of railway for both cranes are complete, running the whole length of the foundry.
The Foundry itself is very lofty, well-ventilated, and measures 80 feet by 100, which, together with the land, is covered by slated sheds, workshops, yards, &c., occupies 4,240 square yards. More land may be had, if required, at a moderate price, or at a rental.
There is an excellent fitting-shop, 90 by 21½ half feet, and two rooms above, of same dimensions, well-lighted all round. These rooms are admirably adapted for heavy work, being very substantially built, and were used by Messrs. Finch and Willey for constructing railway carriages, waggons, trucks, and other works. Adjoining the end of the fitting-shop is an office, with two rooms.
There is on the premises a valuable ten-horse power high-pressure portable Beam Engine, with boiler 26 feet long and 5 feet diameter, stop-valves, safety-valves, steam piping, &c., with large wrought-iron cistern above the engine-house. Shafting is attached throughout the premises to work the various machines, &c. All the machinery is as left by the former occupiers, and, with a little outlay, can be made ready for work. .
There are also outside the Foundry two other large powerful Travelling-cranes, to lift seven and eight tons. The former is 35, and the latter 40 feet wide, with crab-winches, chains, pulleys, bearers, uprights, &c.
There are other valuable Machines, &c„ on the premises, of which the following is a general description;— Double upright drilling machine, excellent punching machine, valuable machine for pressing railway chairs, used in connection with the punching machine; valuable double-wheel lathe, excellent testing machine, for proving 36-inch pipes ; small ditto, for pipes from 2 to 12 inch diameter ; large cast-iron framed furnace, for heating boiler plates; powerful loam mill, with cast-iron pan ; Fairbanks patent weighing machine, to weigh seven tons - machine for planing the edges of plates, together with iron framed furnaces, stoves, smiths’ hearths, &c., &c.
A portion of the north yard is over the tunnel of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and, by an outlay in sinking a shaft, it is thought a communication therewith might be obtained ; but rails in connection with the company’s are on the premises adjoining, so that by an arrangement, no doubt, they might be extended to these works, if desirable, so that goods can be carried up the tunnels from the north and south docks, or down from almost any part of the country to the foundry. The London and North-Western coal station is within about 300 yards, so that fuel is had a very low cost.
The conveniences and size of the foundry, the large extent of land adjoining, the extensive workshops, the valuable modern machinery, the low cost of coal, and the near London and North-Western Railway, admirably adapt it for large works. The Chepstow bridges were constructed at this foundry.
A plan of the premises may be seen and further information obtained from Messrs. Yates, Cox, and Co., Iron Merchants, Brunswick-street; or at the Office of Williams and Jones, 28, St. James’s-road, Liverpool.'[8]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Letter from William Pare to J. M. Grant of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada 29th Jan 1861
  2. London Standard, 15 December 1849
  3. The London Gazette Publication date:14 December 1849 Issue:21049 Page:3835
  4. Staffordshire Advertiser, 30 March 1850
  5. Greenock Advertiser, 9 May 1851
  6. Durham County Advertiser, 20 June 1851
  7. Liverpool Mercury, 30 December 1851
  8. Staffordshire Advertiser, 7 May 1853