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British Industrial History

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Francis Lewis and Sons

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Extract from 1850 advert showing the works at Stanley St., Salford. River Irwell on right
F. Lewis's automatic feed arrangement for wall-mounted drilling machine. From 'The Engineer and Machinist's Assistant'. Published by Blackie and Son, 1863 edition
Lathe for Woolwich
Lathe for Woolwich

Francis Lewis & Sons, of Salford (Manchester)

Francis Lewis was one of a number of eminent engineers who established themselves in Manchester in the first half of the 19th century, after working for Henry Maudslay in London. The other notables were George Nasmyth and James Nasmyth, William Fairbairn, Richard Roberts, Joseph Whitworth and William Muir [1]. Lewis travelled to London with Richard Roberts and James Murgatroyd, and after working at Maudslay’s he returned to Manchester in 1816 to work for Roberts [2]

1825 Advertisement for 'Power to be let at Messrs Bateman’s Buildings, Blackfriars Bridge, and may be entered upon the 29th of September next. The rooms are commodious, and may be applied for any purpose where power is required. The engine is new, by Peel and Williams, and 40 HP.... Apply to Mr Francis Lewis, lathe maker, at Messrs Collier and Co's, Greengate, Salford'[3] (almost certainly W. Collier and Co)

1826 Francis Lewis was advertising as a manufacturer of slide and eccentric lathes, gear cutting machines, upright drills and slide rests. [4] Lewis’s address at that time was Bateman’s Buildings. The 1849 OS map [5] shows that 'Bateman's Buildings' were located next to the River Irwell and Blackfriars Bridge, immediately north of Blackfriars Street.

FRANCIS LEWIS, Manufacturer of Engraving Machines, Setting out Machines and Clams, Slide Lathes, Screwing Engines, Cutting Engines for Bevil Spur and Worm, Wheel, Slide rests, Eccentric and Oval Chucks, Upright drills, Roller covering Machines, &c.
N.B. — All kinds of screws made to any length not exceeding 24 feet long. Do. for presses, Rowling Mills, Sugar Mills, &c. Bevil spur and worm wheels cut in wrought Iron, Cast iron, and Brass-Rounding up Cutters for bevil and spur wheels made to order. Dividing plates accurately divided.
F.L. solicits the attention of Calico Printers to the Engraving Machinery, which may be seen at work in various branches, at his Manufactory, Bateman's Buildings, Blackfriars, Manchester

1830 A German magazine described Lewis's machine for cutting bevel gears in cast iron and wood, quoting times for cutting various gears. The machine could cut a gear 12 feet diameter, with teeth 2.5" deep, in 15 hours.[6]

1831 An advertisement in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of 1 November 1831 offered for sale 'A turning lathe with metal frame, polished metal sheers, double crank, made by F. Lewis, Manchester'.

c.1835 W. Steeds’ A History of Machine Tools 1700 - 1910 includes drawings of two machines made by Francis Lewis: (1) A gear cutting machine, c.1835, using a milling cutter on a horizontal spindle. Steeds states that Lewis built machines about that time able to cut wheels up to about 12 ft diameter, but suggests that only small face widths could be cut; (2) A slotting machine made by Francis Lewis before 1841.

1836 Supplied a gear cutting machine to Carl Theodor Vonpier in Aachen[7]

1841 In Practical Essays on Mill Work and other Machinery by Robertson Buchanan, 1841, the writer describes a large lathe built by Lewis that could turn up to 7 ft diameter. It had a tapered spindle bearing. He also describes other machines by Lewis - a vertical drilling and boring machine, a wheel cutting machine that could deal with spur, bevel, and worm wheels, and a foot-powered lathe whose tool post could be rotated by a worm and wheel arrangement for spherical turning.

The firm supplied a lathe to the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich for turning ships' propellers up to 18 ft dia. The faceplate was approx 7 ft dia., and a larger swing was accommodated by a gap between headstock and bed. The lathe was described in an 1858 book[8], but unfortunately the accompanying illustration seems not to relate to this lathe.

1841 Lewis had moved his works to 17 Stanley Street, Salford. He lived at 63 Great Jackson Street, Hulme. It is perhaps worth noting the names of some of his neighbours, shown in the 1841 directory: John Glasgow at No. 53 (one of the early manufacturing engineers in the town); John Galloway next door at 55, Francis Lewis at 63, Mrs Mary Galloway at 65, and William Galloway at 69. [9] Francis Lewis, John Galloway and John Glasgow, near neighbours, all had products on display at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London. Lewis won an award for his gear cutting engine and for his ‘roving spindle’. He also exhibited a high pressure steam engine to Hodge and Batley’s patent. Note: Presumably the directory was prepared earlier (1840?) as in the 1841 census there is no Lewis at or around that address although the Galloway and Glasgow families are present.

1845 'A Railway Crane. — Messrs. Ellis and Co., iron founders, Stanley street, Salford, have just constructed a crane for the use of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, on an improved principle, occupying a very small space, as compared with the immense power it possesses. Its dimensions and capabilities, &c, are as follow :— lt has a large spur wheel, which is 7 feet 10 inches in diameter, with a 15-inch pinion ; the smaller spur wheel is 5 feet 9 inches in diameter ; the foundation plate is 11 feet in diameter, the height of the jib is 20 feet, with a radius of 20 feet ; the jib is of the best English oak ; the centre pillar is 23 feet in length, and 2 feet 6 inches in diameter ; the total weight of the crane is 25 cwt. It has been tested, and has borne 25 tons with the greatest ease. Indeed, Messrs. Ellis and Co. say, they have not the slightest doubt that it is quite strong enough to bear the enormous weight of 40 tons. On the whole, this machine has a most massive, substantial, and workmanlike appearance. Messrs. Ellis and Co. forwarded a crane, similar in every respect to this under notice, to Bir- mingham, a few days ago, whither the one just described will quickly follow it, to be put into active service.' [10]

1846 Fined for smoke nuisance. 'Francis Lewis, machinist, Stanley Street'[11]

1849 Surprisingly, given that they were makers of machine tools and textile machinery, the company produced a steam excavator to the patents of William S. Otis. '....the first ever made in this country is that which has just reached completion at the works of Messrs. F. Lewis and Sons, Stanley-street, Salford. The construction of the machine was commenced about four months ago, under an order from Mr. Jay, the eminent contractor in London..... . The cost of the machine just constructed by Messrs Lewis, will be somewhere about £1,000. It will be conveyed to London by water.' [12]

By 1850 ‘& Sons’ (Benjamin and Joseph) had joined the firm, listed as general machine tool makers, and makers of patent spindles to McLardy and Lewis’s patent.

1850 F. Lewis and Sons were producing lathes, planing, shaping, slotting, drilling machines, screwing machines, gear wheel cutting and dividing machines, plate punching, shearing and bending machines, and also spindle grinding machines (presumably what would later be called cylindrical grinders). It lists the occupants of Stanley Street. On the south side were the following businesses: No.5: Samuel Ellis and Co, Engineers; No. 7: John Millers and Company, Marble Masons; No. 15: Veteran Tavern; John & George Coldbeck, Silk Finishers; Francis Lewis & Sons, Tool Makers. [13] These premises can be clearly seen on the 1848 OS map. [14]. Lewis’s premises covered approx 150 ft x 90 ft, with building surrounding an open courtyard. This is consistent with the engraving illustrated in the 1850 advertisement from Slater’s Directory. The factory was immediately adjacent to the River Irwell.

1853 Listed as 'Lewis, Francis and Sons, general machine and tool makers, engineers and patentees of Messrs. M'Lardy and Lewis' patent spindles, Stanley Street Works, Stanley Street'[15]

1858 July 6th. The partnership dissolved between Joseph Lewis and Benjamin Lewis trading as engineers, machinists and tool makers under the name of Francis Lewis and Sons carried on at Stanley street.[16][17]

1858 Advertisement placed by Francis Wrigley for sale by auction, to be held on 31st March, 1858, at the works of Messrs Francis Lewis & Sons, Stanley Street, Salford. New first class tools and other instruments, all made by the above eminent firm, amongst which will be found - to plane 10 ft long by 3 ft 6" square, self acting in the vertical, angular and horizontal cuts; one ditto to plane 10 ft long by 5 ft 6" wide and 3 ft 6" deep; one ditto to plain 1 ft long by 2 ft 6" square; two ditto to plane 5 ft long by 2 ft 6" wide and 1 ft 10" deep; one ditto to plane 5 ft long by 2 ft wide and 1 ft 6" deep; one ditto to plane 3 ft long by 2 ft 6" wide and 1 ft 10" deep; one universal planing and shaping machine 12" stroke, will plane 4 ft 6" long, has two tables to rise and fall, has large parallel vice, and is self-acting in the vertical, angular, longitudinal, internal and external curvilinear cuts, quick return motion, and top driving apparatus complete; two ditto, ditto, second size with 8-inch stroke, will plane 2 ft 6" long, have tables to rise and fall, and parallel vices, self-acting in the longitudinal, slide, and circular cuts, quick return motions and top driving apparatus; one powerful self-acting nut shaping machine, one strong bolt screwing machine, to screw bolts and tap nuts up to 2 inches diameter, complete with taps and dies; one 12 inch slide and screw cutting lathe, bed 25 ft long, with break, fitted up with both screw and rack traverse motion, a complete set of change wheels and top driving apparatus; one 7½ inch slide and screw cutting lathe, bed 8 ft long, complete with change wheels and top driving apparatus; a number of 7½ , 9, 10 and 12 inch double geared headstocks; one large treble-geared face lathe, with faceplate 6 ft diameter, with sliding bed &c; one strong 15 inch centre lathe, fitted on cast metal bed 15 ft long, with slide rests, face plates, top driving motion, &c., complete; one strong drilling and boring machine; various small items [18]

1859 Further to the above, we find another advertisement for a sale to be held in March 1859. The advert, placed by John Holmes, refers to the premises lately used by Francis Lewis & Sons. The items included: 'planing machine bed, 45 feet long, will plane 30 feet by 7ft. 6in : one ditto bed 13ft 6in - will plane 10ft 6in. by 5ft. 9in. wide by 3ft. 3in high; one ditto, bed 13ft. 6in. will plane 10ft. 6in. by 3ft. 6in. wide by 3ft 3in high; one ditto, bed 7 feet, will plane 5 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet; large wheel lathe, with treble gearing, will take in a wheel 7 feet diameter;...' various slide and screw cutting lathes .... 'drilling machines, wheel-cutting engines, with cutters and cutter-making machine; nut-cutting machine; boring lathe... vertical high-pressure steam engine, 6 inches diameter, 20 inches stroke, governor and throstle valve...' [19]

1889 Goad's Insurance Plans Carriers Warehouse Map 204 dated 1889 shows that at that time the site was occupied by F J Abbott as a warehouse for foodstuff. The adjacent buildings, formerly Irwell Mill (silk) appear to have remained more or less as they were in 1848, with the 120 ft chimney, but the northern wing was used as a warehouse while the southern wing was a flour mill

Other Examples of Lewis & Sons' Products

1863 Sale of effects of the Sandon Works, Sefton Street, Toxteth, Liverpool included 'a costly planing machine, 15 feet long, by Lewis and Sons' [20]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Henry Maudslay & the Pioneers of the Machine Age by John Cantrell & Gillian Cookson: Tempus, 2002
  2. 'Life and Inventions of Richard Roberts 1789 - 1964' by Richard Hills, Landmark Publishing, 2002
  3. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 27th August 1825
  4. 'James Nasmyth and the Bridgewater Foundry' by J. A. Cantrell, published for the Chetham Society, 1984. ISBN 0 7190 1339 9
  5. The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Town Plans: Manchester Sheet 23: Manchester Victoria 1849 [1]
  6. [2] Dinglers Polytechnisches Journal, Volume 37, 1830, based on an article in the Register of Arts
  7. [3] 'Die belgische Beeinflussung der Frühindustrialisierung im Aachener Raum, ca. 1820-1860' (The Belgian influence on early industrialization in the Aachen area, c. 1820-1860), Ph.D. thesis submitted by Hartmut Schainberg, University of Trier, p.309. NB: Large PDF
  8. [4] 'Elements of Mechanism' by T. Baker, second edition, 1858-9
  9. 1841 Pigot and Slater's Directory of Manchester and Salford
  10. Sheffield Independent, 4 October 1845
  11. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 07 October 1846
  12. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 28th April 1849
  13. Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1850
  14. The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Town Plans: Manchester & Salford Sheet 27: New Bailey & Ordsall Lane [5]
  15. 1853 Directory of Manchester and Salford
  16. 16 October 1858, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
  17. [6] Gazette Issue 22191 published on the 15 October 1858. Page 21 of 38
  18. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 27th March 1858
  19. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 26th February 1859
  20. Liverpool Mercury - Monday 24th August 1863