Fox of Derby
From Graces Guide
City Road Works, Derby.
James Fox, Sr. deserves to be better-known as one of the foremost pioneering designers and makers of machine tools in the early 19th century. His machines were widely used in the UK and Europe, but they appear to have attracted little attention from the technical press at home.
1787 Advertisement: 'James Fox, returns his sincere thanks to all those gentlemen whom he has had the honour to serve; and begs leave to acquaint them and the public that he is settled at Tatenhill Mill, near Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, where he makes all Kinds of Engine, Oval, and Common Lathes of all Sorts and Prices. Screw Stocks, Taps and Plates. Presses and Press Screws of any Sort or Size. Clock and Watch Engines. Fluting Engines for Cotton Rollers etc. Smoke and Dangle Jacks of all Kinds. Rolls for Metals of all Sizes. Glaziers Vices made to any Size and repaired. Turning and Edge Tools of all Kinds. Oval Dies made to any size, and turned to any Pattern. Machinery of any Kind, or Models, made from specifications at the shortest Notice. He also performs every Branch of Turning, on Wood, Ivory, and the different kinds of Metal, in Engine, Oval or Common Lathes.' 
1791 Advert for a regulator for water mills, particularly cotton mills: 'T. Swanswick with the assistance of James Fox of Derby executes these Machines and adapts them to Mills at a reasonable expense'. 
1795 Advert for two or three journeyman smiths to work on patent machinery 
1806: Simon Goodrich (of the Navy Board) wrote to Samuel Bentham (Admiralty) about machinery being exported to Russia. Some of the machinery was supplied by Fox of Derby, namely:
'10 HP condensing steam engine £480, boiler £96; large boring, turning and screw cutting lathe £296; a machine for cutting and dividing wheels from 6 in. to 9 or 10 ft. diameter, for £208; a slide lathe for cutting screws, for £86, and an extra boiler for the steam engine for £68 All, I have no doubt, very good machines, particularly the large lathe, and very cheap. I conceive that he has made altogether an excellent choice and a bargain.' The Paper says that an engine and boiler and heavy ironworking machinery were also ordered from Murray, Wood and Co. for the same destination.
1813 Advert 'Wanted immediately, Two Forgers; good hands will meet with constant employ, and wages according to merit, by applying to James Fox, Engineer.' 
1814 Fox is said to have made one of the first planing machines, according to a former employee, Samuel Hall, who gave a description of it to Samuel Smiles.
1828 Listed under Engineers as 'Fox, James, (and steam engine maker and steam apparatus of all kind), Chester road' 
1829 Listed as 'Fox, James and son, engineers, manufacturers of lathes and steam engine apparatus of all kinds, Chester road' and as 'Fox, Joseph. Engineer, Cherry Street' 
1829 Price list shows James Fox offering planing machines with bed lengths from 5 to 40 ft (capable of planing lengths from 3 ft to 20 ft 4"), and 'self traversing slide lathes' with bed lengths from 9 to 24 ft, able to turn up to 18 ft 6" diameter 
1851 Employing 15 men 
1852 Listed as 'Fox, James and Joseph, Ironfounders and fitters, city road', Derby 
1857 '...the Partnership heretofore existing between us the undersigned, Joseph Fox the elder and James Fox the elder, as Engineers and Tool takers, carrying on business at No. 55, Chester-road, in Derby, . . . on the 21st day of June, 1857, dissolved by mutual consent; and the said business was discontinued so far as we the undersigned, Joseph Fox the elder and James Fox the elder, are interested or concerned; the business of Engineers and Tool Makers, will henceforth be carried on upon the same premises; by us the undersigned, Joseph Fox the younger and James Fox the younger, sons of the said Joseph Fox the elder, under the firm or style of Fox, Brothers....' 
1859 Legal case against S. Barton and Sons of Sissal Lane, Derby, who had supplied two drilling machines, which were rejected as defective by Fox Bros. Samuel Barton Senior was called as a witness. He had been employed by the Fox for 42 years, until December 1858, and he agreed that 'they were not what he expected, and he could only account for it by his son being unwell.' 
1861 Employing 155 men 
1862 London Exhibition
1865 Death of Joseph Fox, Junior
1866 Advertisement: 'TO ENGINEERS, MANUFACTURERS OF IRONWORK, FOUNDERS. RAILWAY WHEEL MAKERS, AND OTHERS.
CHESTER ROAD WORKS, DERBY.
MESSRS. NEWBOLD and OLIVER beg to announce that they are favoured by instructions from Messrs. Fox, BROTHERS (the eminent Engineers and Tool Makers, of Chester-road, Derby, in consequence of the death of one of the firm), to SELL by AUCTION, on the Premises, on THURSDAY, the 14th day of June, 1866, a portion of their MANUFACTURED STOCK, including the following valuable and highly-finished ENGINEERS' TOOLS AND MACHINES, viz.:- A large and powerful self-acting double planing machine, to plane 24 feet long both ways, and 5 feet 3 inches wide by 4 feet high, with bed 46 feet long, four tool-holders, self-acting, in vertical, angular, and horizontal motions, moving table, and improved powerful gearing; total weight of the machine, 44 tons.
Two strong and powerful surfacing, or axle-box lathes, each fitted with double-power geared headstocks, 4 feet face-plates, 4 wrought-iron drivers, self-acting compound slide-rest, chucks to admit an article 5 feet diameter, overhead driving-gear, &c.; weight, 3½ tons each.
A strong and powerful self-acting lathe, for turning and boring simultaneously railway wheels up to 4 feet diameter, with self-acting compound slide-rest and boring apparatus, 12 feet bed, and overhead driving-gear, &c; weight, 6 tons 12 cwt.
A strong and powerful self-acting slotting and shaping machine, with variable stroke to 13 ins., longitudinal and transverse slides, revolving worm-table to admit 6 feet 3 inches diameter, overhead driving-gear, &c.; weight, 8 tons.
A strong and powerful self-acting traversing lathe, of 13¼ centres, 20 feet bed, compound slide-rest, centre head for conical turning, and overhead gear.
Two small size self-acting planing machines, with improved gearing, and vertical, horizontal, and angular motions, to plane 5 feet 6 inches long by 1 foot 10 inches by 1 foot 9 inches.
A strong double-speed hand jobbing lathe, 10 in. centres, 13 feet bed, two-face plates, compound slide, and hand-rests, overhead driving-apparatus.
A first-class amateur turning lathe, with a great variety of tools, including drills, chasers, turning in tools,. &c. &c., and fitted with drawers, and everything complete; belonging the lathe is a grind-stone and frame, with traddle motion complete.
Also, a lot of wrought-iron screws, of different lengths and diameters, &c. &c.
The whole of the above Tools are perfectly new, and are fitted up, both as regards material and workmanship, in the very best manner of this well-known and justly celebrated firm. All the necessary parts are case hardened.
Fuller particulars will be given in catalogues, to be had on application to the Works, Chester-road; or to the Auctioneers, Wardwick, Derby.' 
1866 November. Notice regarding claims against Fox Brothers 
1867 May. Notice regarding the sale of the Union Foundry occupied by Fox Brothers 
1869 December. Trustees of Fox Brothers advertise the freehold plant and fixed machinery for sale at the City Engineering Works, Derby 
1870 October. Under bankruptcy act a deed made by James Fox, Iron Founder, Engineer, Tool Maker and General Machinist and Sarah Fox, administrators of Joseph Fox, late of Derby, Iron Founder etc. and trading as Fox Brothers 
Union Iron Foundry, City Road. Originally established by William Peach and Edward Falconer in 1822, the site was located upstream from the Fox factory to the south. In 1844 the partnership was dissolved with Peach retaining the Union Foundry until 1858, when the Fox brothers bought him out. Fox lace machinery became celebrated, and it was supplied largely to the neighbouring town of Nottingham. Fox lathes also had a high reputation, and machinery was exported to France, Russia and Mauritus. In 1868 Alfred Searle Haslam bought the Union Foundry from the Fox estate and set up the Haslam Foundry and Engineering Company 
The early 19th century machine tools produced by Fox, together with those of Richard Roberts and Henry Maudslay, represent dramatic advances in engineering production technology. The importance of Fox's machines was once recognised by the Science Museums in London and Birmingham, but sadly their machines have disappeared from display. A lathe and planing machine attributed to Fox are in store in the Birmingham museums collection centre. Fortunately, two machines can still be seen on open display, one at Wortley Top Forge, and a larger one in Poland. A contemporary model of a large Fox lathe is (or was) displayed in Paris. More information below.
Fox of Derby 1829 
'I heard much from all the manufacturers of Derby, of the mechanical ingenuity of Mr. James Fox, of Chester Road, on the banks of the Derwent. I paid him a visit, and beheld his powerful iron lathes, twenty-four feet long; used by machine makers for planing iron. Here I saw iron cut in grooves or squared with great simplicity, by duly adjusting the velocity so as to generate no heat, for a velocity, which generates heat, destroys the tool. These lathes, Mr. Fox makes for machinists in all parts of the kingdom, and gets from £200 to £700 for them. The castings are made at Morley Park ; and I was sorry to learn that they are now delivered at £7. a ton instead of £30. the usual and legitimate price. In truth, the depression of the iron trade is as great or greater than that of the other staples of the kingdom.
'The number of cotton frames employed by the above, is from 3,000 to 4,000 dispersed over the town and country ; and the number of silk frames is about 1,000. The average earnings of the cotton hands are from 7s. to 10s. per week, but many frames are worked by young persons both male and female. The silk hands earn about 12s. or 15s.
Information from French and German Sources
The best descriptive information and drawings come from French and German sources.
In particular, the Musée des Arts et Métiers (in Paris) hold original drawings produced by César-Nicolas-Louis Leblanc (1787-1835) of a number of Fox's machines.. Unfortunately the museum are unable to give dates for the individual drawings. All we can say is that they were produced before 1835. The collection includes drawings of six types of lathes made by Fox.
1832 A German journal described, at length, a large Fox surfacing lathe which could machine a cylinder of 18 feet diameter.
1833 A Fox planing machine was described at length in a German journal.
1834 A Fox planing machine was described at length in a French journal.
1838 A German publication described a Fox lathe apparently sent to Berlin in 1831 or earlier. A bolt screwing machine by Fox was also described. In this machine the thread was cut by a split die held stationary in the machine, while the bolt head was held in a chuck. The chuck in turn was fixed to a rotating spindle with a hollow bore. The spindle, which was free to move axially, was turned at low speed by a large diameter gear wheel fixed to the spindle between the spindle bearings. The large gear was driven by a long pinion (actually assembled from a series of short pinions). Drive to pinion came through a reversing bevel gear system driven by a belt..
1830s: A French report concerning an important factory at Bialogon in Poland, loosely translated, includes the following equipment:
..... a large vertical boring machine, built by the famous mechanician Fox at Derby; this machine, which can be used to bore cylinders of a height of 14 pieds, and of the largest diameter, surpasses by its dimensions all the apparatus of this kind existing on the continent of Europe.
Three large lathes executed by the same master; one of these lathes has such a large area that one can place and shape the covers of the largest cylinders, and even wheels with a diameter of 15 pieds.
A planing machine, 24 pieds long. Some of them were used to machine the flat surfaces of the cast iron monument, erected near Warsaw in the memory of the Emperor Alexander.. Noteon dimensions: 'pieds' - French feet - were slightly larger than English feet.
c.1844 A French account appears to imply that Fox supplied a large lathe to the works of François Cavé in Saint-Denis, Paris. The lathe was described as 'one of the largest in existence'. Its faceplate was 3m diameter and it could turn workpieces up to 7m long. It was described in the Bulletin of Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie in 1842, and again in 1844.. However, a German source describes the same lathe, but examination of the associated drawings shows no consistency with details of features on Fox's lathes. What the translated text does say is: 'Finally, there is a fourth type of lathe, the so-called parallel lathes or slide lathes, whereupon the piece to be machined turns or bores itself when it is clamped and the tool is properly placed. These last kinds of lathes, which we owe to Mr. Fox, a clever Englishman, are now most frequently used; when carried out with due diligence, and if their dimensions appropriate to the pieces to be worked, they perform the most important services in the workshops in which one deals with the building of large machines.'. In fact the 1844 French text says 'Ce tour, dû à M. Fox, habile mécanicien anglais....' which translates as 'This lathe, due to M. Fox, skilled English mechanician...', so perhaps they are crediting this generic type of lathe to Fox.
1842 Translation from a French article: 'M. Thiébaut the elder, who was for a long time one of our best tool builders, introduced the first in our country the first Fox slide lathes and screwcutting lathes, which still retain a just reputation. One of these lathes was, a few years ago, notable for its large size, with its bed, cast in one piece, of more than 7 meters in length, and a width of at least 70 cm . The 1/5 scale model of this lathe is exhibited in the galleries of the Conservatoire. Later, around 1835, Messrs. Debergue and Spréafico brought from England a large parallel lathe, of a similar size to that described, and which daily rendered them great service.'
1842 Fox lathe (of approx 13" centre height and 6 ft between centres) described and illustrated in the French Bulletin de la Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale
1852 A French report referred to a planing machine made by James Fox in 1821 which could plane components up to 3m 2cm long and 55cm wide. It had features seen on later machines, with the cross slide raised by a pair of leadscrews, table traversed by a rack and pinion, driven by normal and crossed belts via fast and loose pulleys and a clutch, the tool being fed either manually or automatically by a ratchet and pawl system. It seems that Fox planing machines appeared in workshops in Paris, Berlin and Belgium on 1831 or 1832.
Surviving Machine Tools
c. 1820 lathe at Wortley Top Forge
See Fox of Derby: Lathe at Wortley Top Forge. This is described as 'c.1820', and it came from an 1817 machine shop at Milford Mill, Derbyshire. It has the main features which Fox was apparently using by 1818, but with the addition of a leadscrew and a more sophisticated headstock. If it does date from c.1820, it is a remarkable indication of the advanced state of the art at that time.
c.1820 Planing Machine in Birmingham
This also came from Milford Mill, and was formerly on display at the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry. It is currently (2013) dismantled in store in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Collections Centre. See Fox of Derby: Planing Machine at Birmingham.
1817 - 1827 Lathe in Birmingham
See photo. W Steeds' 'A History of Machine Tools 1700 - 1910' includes photographs and information on the former Birmingham Science Museum's Fox lathe (now in store in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Collections Centre). This is larger than the Wortley lathe, having a much longer bed, but the design is very similar, except for the lack of a leadscrew. The lathe was 'officially' dated at 1817, although Steeds was 'inclined to put it five to ten years later'. The lathe also features in L T C Rolt's 'Tools for the Job', and it is interesting to note that, like the Wortley lathe and the Birmingham’s planer and London Science Museum's slotter, it came from Milford Mill. Rolt says: '… they were used in the construction and maintenance of textile machinery. They were driven by waterwheel and as the date 1817 appears on the cast-iron beams and line-shafting brackets of the building that was evidently built to house them, it is reasonable to ascribe them to this year. The machines have been attributed to William Strutt, but while Strutt was a most ingenious engineer and was undoubtedly responsible for the Milford building, the advanced and masterly design of the tools clearly reveals the hand of Fox'.
1830 Model of Large Lathe
The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers has a model built c.1830 of a Fox lathe, which had a swing of 27" and a 22 ft bed. This is illustrated in Steeds' book. The full size lathe was owned by M. Thiébaut Sr.
c.1833 Planing Machine
The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers has a small planing machine built c.1833. This is illustrated in Steeds' book 
1842 Planing Machine
A planer and several other machine tools were ordered from James & Joseph Fox by Næs Iron Works of Norway, arriving in 1842. The planer was still in use when the ironworks closed in 1959, and is believed to have been used after this. It eventually went to the Norwegian Technical Museum, who loaned it to Næs when the works was established as a museum (the Næs Iron Works Museum, 4900 Tvedestrand, Norway). See photos.
Wheel Lathe in Poland
Remarkably, a large Fox lathe has survived in Poland, and can be seen at the museum in Sielpia Wielka
Sources of Information
- Derby Mercury - Thursday 18 January 1787
- Derby Mercury - Thursday 08 December 1791
- Thu 05 Mar 1795, Derby Mercury, Derbyshire, England
- Paper presented to the Newcomen Society by E A Forward in 1937, entitled 'Simon Goodrich and his Work as an Engineer - Compiled from his Journals and Memoranda'.
- Derby Mercury - Thursday 12 August 1813
- 1828-9 Pigot and Co.'s Directory of Ches, Cumb etc.
- 1829 Directory of Derbyshire
- Price list reproduced in 'Building the Steam Navy' by David Evans, Conway Maritime Press, 2004.
- 1851 Census for James Fox
- 1852 Freebody's Directory of Derby etc.
- Gazette Issue 22021 published on the 14 July 1857. Page 14 of 32
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 27 January 1858
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 20 July 1859
- 1861 Census for Joseph Fox
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 23 May 1866
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 21 November 1866
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 22 May 1867
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 08 December 1869
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 19 October 1870
-  Heritage Gateway
- The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction, Vol. XIII. 1829. Page 248: Belper
-  Thumbnails of drawings and notes relating to Fox machines at the Musée. Click on code number for larger illustrations (albeit low resolution).
-  Verhandlungen des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gewerbfleißes ..... 1832. Drawings not accessible
-  Sitzungsberichte des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gewerbfleisses, Volume 12, published by Verein zur Beförderung des Gewerbfleisses in Preußen. Unfortunately the drawings were not unfolded for scanning in this online version, but snippets indicate that it the same type of planer illustrated in French drawings published in 1834.
-  Bulletin de la Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale, Volume 33, 1834, pp.153-9
-  Encyklopädisches Handbuch des Maschinen- und Fabrikenwesens, Carl Friedrich Alexander Hartmann, 1838. Unfortunately not all of the drawings can be examined in this online version
-  Parliamentary Accounts & Papers, Volume 52, 2 Feb – 24 Aug 1843, : Communication from the Marquis of Clanricarde to Viscount Palmerston: St Petersburg 30 April 1839, concerning the mines and factories of the Kingdom of Poland
-  Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale 1844 p.349ff.
-  Textdigitalisate des Polytechnischen Journals - 1845, Band 95, Nr. XLVIII. (S. 170–174) - Beschreibung einer Paralleldrehbank mit Vorgelege zum Bearbeiten von sehr großen Stüken, welche in den Werkstätten des Hrn. Cavé zu Paris angewandt wird. From the Bulletin de la Société d'Encouragement, August 1844, S. 349
-  'Publication Industrielle des Machines, Outils et Appareils les plus Perfectionnés et les plus Récents.' by M. Armengaud Sr., 1842
-  Bulletin de la Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale, 1842. 41e année. N. 451-462 pl.862 - ima.235
- 'Exposition universelle de 1851. : Travaux de la Commission Française sur l'industrie des Nations': Charles Dupin
- Plate 49b, 'A History of Machine Tools 1700 - 1810' by W Steeds. Oxford U.P. 1969
-  Naes Museum website, and information supplied by Mr Stan Reed, Curator/Consultant at Næs Iron Works Museum
-  Website with photos of lathe at the museum: Sielpia Wielka. Muzeum Staropolskiego Zaglebia Przemyslowego