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British Industrial History

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Hick, Hargreaves and Co

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c.1845 Beam engine at Armley Mill Museum.
The Corliss Engine exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1867.
1873. 50 hp Corliss Mill engine. No 303. Exhibit at Forncett Industrial Steam Museum.
1873. 50 hp Corliss Mill engine. No 303. Exhibit at the Forncett Industrial Steam Museum.
1873. 50 hp Corliss Mill engine. No 303. Exhibit at the Forncett Industrial Steam Museum.
1873. Corliss engine.
December 1887.
January 1888.
1895. Corliss compound engines for the Leicester Power Station.
1895. Corliss compound engines for the Leicester Power Station.
1896 Naihati engine
1897. Combined engine and alternator at Bolton.
Lancashire boiler front. Exhibit at Bolton Steam Museum.
1909. Vertical compound Corliss engine.
Barring engine. Exhibit at Bolton Steam Museum.
February 1921.
1922. Condensing Plant.
1922. Jet Condensers.
1926. Condensing Plant.
August 1928.
1934. Rotary strainer.
March 1957.
May 1969.

of the Soho Foundry, Bolton. Telephone: 1373. Telegraphic Address: "Hick, Bolton". (1937)

1845 John Hick took into partnership William Hargreaves and the company Benjamin Hick and Sons was renamed Hick, Hargreaves and Co

c.1845 Beam engine for the MS&LR warehouse at Manchester London Road station [1]. Now located at Armley Mill Museum in Leeds (see photo).

1847 Movable tool and fixed table. [2]

1853 Portable non-condensing engine. [3]

1855 Locomotive building continued until 1855 and they built around one hundred engines. Afterwards production was concentrated on marine engines of which they made a large number.

1864 Robert Luthy joined the company and worked on 'cold air machines'

1865 Description of the Soho Works and some of its products[4]. Notable machines included a heavy boring machine for boring, drilling and face grinding engine cylinders up to 95" dia and approx 10 ft high; a lathe with a 10 ft dia faceplate capable of boring up to 16 ft dia; a planing machine designed by Mr Hick 'many years ago', originally for planing large cast iron plates for casting glass. It was unusual for its time in having a stationary bed and moving columns, and could take plates up to 30 ft long and 12 ft wide.

1866 Details of experiments on the friction of leather collars. [5]

1866 Made a Corliss engine for Wallis and Pollock of Cork, the the design of William Inglis of Manchester[6]

1867 William Inglis joined the company and later became a partner. With John Frederick Spencer they patented a new design of trip gear.

1867 Corliss engine at the Paris Exhibition.

1868 John Hick retired from the business. William Hargreaves became sole owner.

1873 An article in the journal 'Iron', 7th June 1873, reported that in the last four years 24 horizontal engines of the Improved Corliss type, and 30 boilers, had been supplied to Freres de Wendel & Cie, Forges de Hayange. In the last two years they had also supplied two pairs of McNaught compound beam engines to Russia, indicating approx 1900 HP in total, and having flywheels 22 ft dia. They had also recently supplied two pairs of reversing rolling mill engines to Bolton Iron and Steel Co, and Corliss engines for Waterloo Flour Mills, London

1876 Had a Corliss engine running at Nettlefolds. [7]

1883 Engine built for the Howe Bridge Spinning Co, No. 2 Mill at Atherton.

1889 William Hargreaves died and the company took limited status and changed its name to Hick, Hargreaves and Co Ltd.

1891 Purchased the Phoenix Boiler Works; the boiler department at the Soho Works was moved to these works.

1892 Public company. The company was registered on 29 March, to acquire the business of the firm of the same name, engineers, millwrights and boiler makers. [8]

1894 Description of their works in 'The Engineer' (p121). Soho works erected in 1832. Now 7 acres and over 1,000 workmen. Over 1,100 Corliss engines produced. [9]

1896 Built a 2,000 IHP compound Mill Engine to the order of J. B. Barry and Co of London for the Gourapore Company's jute mills at Naihati, near Calcutta. Described in 'The Engineer' in 1900. See illustration. Cylinders 35" and 65" dia., 6 ft stroke. Flywheel 28 ft dia, 65.5 tons, grooved for 40 ropes. The steel crankshaft was made by the Bolton Iron and Steel Co. The article reported that the company had subsequently supplied three almost identical engines to mills in Calcutta and Bombay [10]

At the end of the nineteenth century they began the manufacture of steam engines for electricity generating power stations, and from 1911 began the manufacture of diesel engines.

1905 Supplied a 1000 HP tandem compound Corliss engine to Watchet Paper Mill. Flywheel 24ft. diameter, weighing upwards of 40 tons. Flywheel grooved for 17 1¾" cotton ropes. 58 rpm. HP cylinder 21½ inches diameter, LP 42 inches, stroke of five feet.[11]

1908 Obtained licence to build Uniflow engines

1910 Installed an engine at Partridge, Jones and John Paton.

1911 Began the manufacture of diesel engines.

1912 Supplied a steam engine to the Gorse Galvanising Co.

1914? Supplied engine to John Player and Co.

1914 Engineers, millwrights, manufacturers of diesel oil engines. Specialities: Corliss and drop valve engines up to 10,000 IHP, diesel oil engines, mill gearing, super-heaters. Employees 1,000. [12]

1915 2000 HP cross compound for Horrockses, Crewdson and Co. Preston [13]

WWI The firm did much war work, and began making high vacuum condensing plant, used in power generation. This was greatly expanded in later years as centralised power generation was adopted in Great Britain.

1918 Advert in New Zealand for redundant plant at the Wahii-Paeroa Gold Extraction Co (in liquidation) included 'HICK HARGREAVES COMPOUND HORIZONTAL CROSS-COUPLED JET-CONDENSING STEAM ENGINE, cylinders 21 and 40in, stroke 3ft 6in, revolutions 80; rated by makers at 630 b.h.p.; complete with 16 cotton ropes and rope pulleys.'[14]

1920 Produced two 400 bhp diesel engines for South America. They were four cylinder units coupled to generators / alternators.

1922 Mr W. D'Arcy Madden general manager of the company, was appointed managing director.[15]

c1925 Supplied an engine to Abercarn Works.

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

1933 they acquired the records, drawings and patterns of three defunct steam engine manufacturers and did a lucrative business in making repairs and supplying spare parts. Large stationary steam engines were still used by many textile manufacturers in the Bolton area until the collapse of the industry after World War II.

1935 See Hick, Hargreaves and Co:1935 Review

1937 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Rotary Air Compressors and Vacuum Pumps. Also Component Parts. (Stand No. D.423) [16]

After World War II the firm expanded its work in electricity generation, and branched out into food processing, oil refining, petrochemicals and offshore oil production.

1961 Manufacturers of power station equipment, including condensing plant, feed heating systems, de-aerators, evaporators, rotary water strainers, steam turbines, rotary compressors and vacuum pumps, jet condensers, steam jet ejectors, vacuum augmentors, and thermo compressors. 600 employees. [17]

1968 the firm was acquired by Electrical and Industrial Securities Ltd.

By 2002 the firm was part of the BOC Group, and the historic records were deposited with Bolton library.

Soho Works - Location

Soho Iron Works was close to Bolton Trinity Street Station. It had its own railway system, and was connected to the main line serving Great Moor Street station. The works was bounded on the west by the railway, to the north by Crook Street, and elsewhere by Bridgeman Street and Burns Street.

1900 Works Photographs

A number of excellent works photographs taken in 1900 are available online[18]. Some examples:-

Crankshaft. Needs Must - an improvised lathe for carrying out some machining on a built-up crankshaft for a large steam engine.

Grooved flywheel A minimalist lathe for a big job. The photo shows a typical flywheel for a large textile mill engine, having the rope grooves machined. The set-up allowed a number of grooves to be machined at the same time. The wheel is rotated by two pinions driving via the cast-in barring gear teeth in the flywheel rim. It is by no means certain that the wheel is mounted on its own shaft - the shaft may well be a mandrel used solely for the turning operation.
A slow and no doubt noisy process, to be followed by shovelling a large accumulation of iron cuttings out of the pit.

Rolling mill flywheel The heavy rim is cast in four sections, shown bolted together at the rim. The empty slots in the faces of the rim will have 'dog bones' made to suit, and these will be heated and shrink fitted to hold the rim sections together. The bolted lugs might then be cut off.

Another rolling mill flywheel

Another flywheel. This has the hub and spokes cast in two halves and bolted at the hub, with the rim assembled from ten castings. These are bolted to the spokes, and also held together by shrinking rings in the grooves seen in the photo.

Corliss-type engine

Tower for riveting boilers. The top of two hydraulic riveting machines can be seen. Their frames would have continued for some distance below the floor.

From 'Short Histories of Famous Firms' by Ernest Leopold Ahrons [19]

The Period 1830-50 was one of singular importance for the engineering industry of this country, and in its history Lancashire engineers played a very great part. Situated as it is in the midst of coal mines and cotton mills, it is not surprising that the town of Bolton became a centre of mechanical engineering. The name of “Hick” was probably as famous in Bolton as “Whitworth” in Manchester, “Maudslay” in Lambeth, or “Tangye” in Birmingham. It was Benjamin Hick who started the Soho Ironworks at Bolton in 1832. He had previously been in partnership in the firm of Hick and Rothwell, who owned the Union Foundry in the same town – a firm which is no longer in existence, having been absorbed many years ago by the Bolton Iron and Steel Company, which in turn was taken over by Henry Bessemer and Co in 1906.

Benjamin Hick with his two sons John and Benjamin, began business as general engineers at the Soho Works with the title of B. Hick and Sons....[more]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'Development of Power in the Textile Industry fro 1700 - 1930' by Rev Dr Richard L Hills: Landmark Publishing Ltd, 2008
  2. Engineer and Machinist's Assistant 1847. p195
  3. The Imperial Journal 1853 Volume III. p554
  4. The Engineer 1865/10/20
  5. The Engineer of 1st June 1866 p393-4
  6. [1] Engineering, 10 Aug 1866, p.92ff.
  7. The Engineer of 28th July 1876 p60
  8. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  9. The Engineer of 10th August 1894 p121
  10. 'The Engineer' 12th August 1900, p.35
  11. Western Times, 25 October 1905
  12. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  13. [2] Photo of engine in Preston Digital Archive - "A Lancashire Cotton Scrapbook"
  14. [3]
  15. The Engineer 1922/07/14.
  16. 1937 British Industries Fair Page 374
  17. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  18. [4] Hick Hargreaves & Co. Ltd. photos from the personal Collection of David Devine, Wigan
  19. The Engineer 1920/06/25
  • [5] Wikipedia
  • Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain by George Watkins. Vol 10
  • 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. 1978/9. ISBN 0-903485-65-6
  • The Engineer of 30th July 1920 p102
  • The Engineer of 27th August 1920 p210