Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 130,445 pages of information and 207,317 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Henry Robertson

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

Henry Robertson (1816-1888)


1888 Obituary [1]

HENRY ROBERTSON was born in Banff, on the 16th of January, 1816, and after having received his preliminary education in the schools of his native town, matriculated at King’s College, Aberdeen University, and graduated M.A.

He then commenced his active career as a railway contractor, securing some contracts at Port Glasgow, which he successfully and profitably carried out under the late Mr. Locke, M.P., Past President Inst. C.E.

Subsequently he migrated South, and became closely connected with the North Wales mineral district, which he did much to develop.

In 1842 an effort was made to resuscitate the Brymbo Ironworks, formerly belonging to John Wilkinson, but then lying in a moribund condition upon the hands of the owning company. The late Mr. Roy and the late Mr. W. H. Darby, with a few of the shareholders in the Company, decided to re-start the works, and Mr. Robertson was called in to advise what steps should be taken to place the concern upon a satisfactory basis. With a practical eye he examined the works and the district, and recommended the formation of a connection with the River Dee, which he believed would form the best outlet for the mineral riches of the district.

He projected a line or tramway from Brymbo to Connah‘s Quay for this purpose, and a new company by this time had been started to work the Brymbo Iron and Coal Works, and to afford increased facilities for transit.

Mr. Robertson projected the North Wales Mineral Line, which runs from Wrexham to Chester, with a branch to Brymbo. This line was afterwards extended to Ruabon, and later still to Shrewsbury, and has now become a portion of the Great Western main line to Birkenhead and Liverpool.

Mr. Robertson was mainly instrumental in carrying out the whole of the extensions of the Great Western Railway in the North Wales district, and he originated and completed the Shrewsbury and Hereford line for the Great Western Company; and for the London and North Western Railway, the Central Wales Railway from Craven Arms to Llandovery.

About 1850 he became Engineer of the Shrewsbury and Birmingham line, then worked in conjunction with the Shrewsbury and Chester. He also projected and constructed the branch line to Coalbrookdale, Horsehays, and other parts of the district in that locality. He started and successfully completed the railway from Ruabon to Dolgelly, and the recently constructed line from Bala to Blaenau Festiniog, which have done so much to bring North Wales nearer important markets.

Mr. Robertson designed and erected the fine viaducts which carry the Great Western Railway over the valleys at Cefn and Chirk. Few viaducts have been constructed which from an engineering point of view, no less than from an artistic standpoint, have been so universally admired.

Mr. Robertson also designed and erected the Kingsland Bridge over the Severn at Shrewsbury, which is one of the largest single-span iron bridges in the country. By the line he constructed from Shrewsbury to Hereford he formed a connection between South Wales and the markets at Birkenhead, Liverpool, and the North, and still more did he contribute to the development of the country by the projection of the Central Wales Line. To this victory of the narrow gauge in the classic 'Battle of the Gauges,' Mr. Robertson in no small way contributed at the time that he was projecting the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Line.

In later years Mr. Robertson’s energies were devoted to the further development of better communication between North Wales and the Dee and Mersey. He accordingly projected, and was at the time of his death carrying out, the Dee extension and the Wirral railways, which, when connected with the Wrexham, Mold, and Connah's Quay extension at Hawarden by means of the Dee bridge, will probably complete the scheme of development for the North Wales traffic, originally laid out by Mr. Robertson and the late Benjamin Piercy.

Mr. Robertson's connection with the Wrexham district was very intimate. He was the proprietor of the Brymbo Ironworks and estate, and four years ago transformed the former into steelworks, which are the largest in North Wales. On the estate are the well-known and successful Gatewen and Plas Power collieries. He owned the Minera Limeworks, and early in his connection with Denbighshire he became possessed of the Ruabon Old Brandy Colliery, which afterwards became the Ruabon Coal and Coke Co.

Mr. Robertson was one of the original partners in the well-known firm of locomotive builders, Beyer, Peacock and Co, of Gorton Foundry, Manchester, and took an active interest in the concern up to the time of his death. He was also a partner in the firm of Robertson and Mackintosh, civil engineers, London.

He was closely connected with a large number of railway and industrial undertakings, and was Chairman of the Llangollen and Corwen Railway Company, the Corwen and Bala Railway Company, the Vale of Llangollen Railway Company, the Minera Lime Company, the Broughton and Plas Power Coal Company, the Wirral Railways Company, the Brymbo Steel Co, and the Brymbo Water Company, as well as being a Director of the Wrexham, Mold, and Connah's Quay Railway.

Mr. Robertson was an active politician, and succeeded Mr. Slaney as the Liberal representative of Shrewsbury from May, 1862, to July, 1865, and from February, 1874, and again in 1880. In 1885 he was elected for Merionethshire, in the Liberal interest, and represented the county until the election in the following year, when he did not stand. He voted against Mr. Gladstone's Irish proposals, and subsequently rendered service to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, and other Conservative and Liberal Unionist candidates, by his presence at their meetings, as well as by his speeches. He was a Justice of the Peace for the counties of Merionethshire and Denbighshire, and was also a Deputy- Lieutenant of the former county.

He lived for several years at Croggin, near Llandderfel, and built himself a splendid mansion at Pale, which he occupied until the time of his death, which occurred on the 22nd of March, 1888. He was buried in Llandderfel churchyard, amid every demonstration of regret, an immense concourse attending the funeral, among them representatives from all the railway and industrial Companies in the Wrexham district. Mr. Robertson was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th of June, 1849.


1888 Obituary [2]

HENRY ROBERTSON was born in Banff on 16th January 1816, and after having received his preliminary education in the schools of his native town and at King's College, Aberdeen University, commenced his active career as a railway contractor, carrying out successfully and profitably contracts at Port Glasgow, under Mr. Locke.

Subsequently he became connected with the North Wales mineral district, which he did so much to develop. Forty-six years ago, when an effort was made to re-start the Brymbo Iron Works then lying idle, he projected a line or tramway from Brymbo to Connah's Quay for connecting the works with the river Dee.

He also projected the North Wales Mineral Line, which ran from Wrexham to Chester, with a branch to Brymbo, thereby affording increased facilities for transit; this line was afterwards extended to Ruabon and Shrewsbury, and forms now a portion of the Great Western main line to Birkenhead and Liverpool.

He was largely instrumental in carrying out the whole of the extensions of the Great Western Railway in North Wales, and he originated and completed the Shrewsbury and Hereford line, and also the Central Wales Railway from Craven Arms to Llandovery.

About 1850 he became engineer of the Shrewsbury and Birmingham line, then worked in conjunction with the Shrewsbury and Chester. He also projected and constructed the branch line to Coalbrookdale, Horsehays, and other places in the same district; as well as the lines from Ruabon to Dolgelly and from Bala to Blaenau Festiniog.

The fine viaducts on the Great Western Railway over the valleys at Cefn and Chirk were designed and erected by him, as was also the Kingsland Bridge over the Severn at Shrewsbury, which is one of the largest single-span iron bridges in the country.

In connection with the "battle of the gauges," he contributed in no small degree to the adoption of the narrow gauge in preference to the broad at the time he was projecting the Shrewsbury and Birmingham line.

In later years his energies were devoted to the further development of communication between North Wales and the rivers Dee and Mersey. He accordingly projected, and at the time of his death was carrying out, the Dee extension and the Wirral railways, which are intended to be connected with the Wrexham, Mold, and Connah's Quay extension at Hawarden by means of the Dee Bridge.

As proprietor of the Brymbo Iron Works and estate, he transformed the works four years ago into steel works, which are the largest in North Wales; on the estate are the Gatewen and Plaspower collieries, in which work has been carried on with singular regularity. He was the owner of the Minera Lime Works; and early owned the Ruabon Old Brandy Colliery, which afterwards belonged to the Ruabon Coal and Coke Company.

Up to the time of his death he was a partner in the locomotive works of Messrs. Beyer Peacock and Co., Gorton Foundry, Manchester, and also in the civil engineering firm of Messrs. Robertson and Mackintosh, London.

He was chairman of the Llangollen and Corwen, the Corwen and Bala, the Vale of Llangollen, and the Wirral Railways, the Minera Lime Company, the Broughton and Plaspower Coal Company, the Brymbo Steel Works, and the Brymbo Water Works.

He represented Shrewsbury in Parliament from 1862 to 1865, and from 1874, and again in 1880; in 1885 he was returned for Merionethshire. He was a justice of the peace for the counties of Merioneth and Denbigh, besides being a deputy-lieutenant of Merionethshire.

His death took place at his residence, Pale, Llandderfel, near Bala, on 22nd March 1888, at the age of seventy-two.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1848.


1888 Obituary [3]

HENRY ROBERTSON was born at Banff, in the north of Scotland, in 1816, and died at his residence, Paid Hall, Corwen, North Wales, on the 22d day of Marcia 1888.

Mr. Robertson became connected with the development of the railway system in the west of England at an early period of its history, first as engineer, and afterwards as the chief promoter and chairman of several lines. As an engineer, perhaps his most important undertaking was the viaduct of nineteen arches across the Dee, on the Chester and Shrewsbury Railway. It was largely due to his initiative that the new railway now in course of construction across the estuary of the Dee from Birkenhead to North Wales was undertaken.

Having taken up his residence at Corwen, in the beautiful Vale of Llangollen, Mr. Robertson lead his attention directed to the mineral and other resources of North Wales, and became a coal owner and ironmaster. His principal enterprise in the latter capacity was the blast furnace of Brymbo, where also he carried on a puddling forge. Some three or four years ago, he made up his mind to adopt the basic process of steel manufacture, and erected at Brymbo three open-hearth furnaces, which have since been carried on under the management of Mr. Darby. These were among the first, if not quite the first, works constructed in this country for the manufacture of basic steel on the open hearth.

Mr. Robertson was a keen politician, and for many years had a seat in Parliament. He represented Shrewsbury from 1862 to 1865, and again from 1874 to 1885, when 119 voluntarily gave up his seat to fight the Liberal battle in Merionethshire. He sat for that county until 1886. Although never taking a conspicuous positions in the House as a debater, Mr. Robertson wielded a good deal of parliamentary influence, and was identified with legislation affecting commerce and industry.

In 1875 Mr. Robertson was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and two years later, he became a member of Council. He never, however, took a prominent part in the proceedings of the Institute. The last meeting which he attended was that held in Chester in 1886.


1888 Obituary [4]



1888 Obituary [5]



See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information

  1. 1888 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1888 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1888 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  4. The Engineer 1888/04/06, p283.
  5. Engineering 1888 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index