Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,406 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Hick, Hargreaves and Co

From Graces Guide
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.
1890. Tandem compound engine for Pike Mill, Bolton (Cross and Winkworth)
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, and Phoenix Works (from 1891), Bolton. (1937)

1845 John Hick took into partnership William Hargreaves and the company Benjamin Hick and Sons became Hick, Hargreaves and Co. The name Benjamin Hick and Sons continued to be used for many years.

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 Description of a planing machine with moving tool and fixed table. [2]

1851 Advert: 'Notice is hereby Given, THAT the PARTNERSHIP formerly subsisting between the undersigned JOHN HICK, JOHN HARGREAVES the Younger, and WILLIAM HARGREAVES, as Engineers, Millwrights, and Brass and Iron Founders, at Bolton-le-moors, in the County of Lancaster, under the firm of "Benjamin Hick and Son," was DISSOLVED and determined on the first day of April, 1850, so far as respects the said John Hargreaves the Younger. As witness our hands the 24th day of March, .....'

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.

1863 Started making steel boilers at the Soho works.

1864 Robert Lüthy 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]

1881 'TERRIBLE CRANE ACCIDENT. A shocking accident occurred on Monday noon at Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves, & Co.’s Soho Ironworks, Bolton. A number of men were engaged in the removal from the boiler department of a large iron casting weighing about fifteen tons. Eight of them were upon the top of a travelling crane at elevation of nearly thirty feet, and they had scarcely lifted the ponderous mass of metal eighteen inches from the ground when one of the beams upon which the crane travelled suddenly snapped near the wall upon which it rested, and the whole of the men, together with the crane, were precipitated to the ground. The crane fall across the body of man named Joshua Hughes, aged 26, nearly cutting him in two, and he was picked up dead. Another man, named Michael Shearn, aged 55, was fearfully crushed about the chest and legs, one foot having to be amputated. He is not expected to recover. William Evans, aged 26, sustained a fracture of the pelvis; and William Rostron, aged 46,received scalp wound and serious injury to his back. These three were removed to the infirmary, where they now lie. Four other men were also injured, but not seriously.'[8]

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

1888 'SIX NEW TORPEDO BOATS. Messrs Hick, Hargreaves, and Co., Bolton, have received orders from the Government to construct boilers and machinery for six new torpedo boats of the latest approved style.'[9]

1888 'DRY-COLD AIR MACHINES. The Architect of last week has an engraving of a portion of the machine-rooms at the celebrated Queen Bacon Factory, Waterford, from a drawing by Mr. R. Walker, jun. The extensive works just completed have been carried out from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Walker, A.M.I.C.E., architect, of Cork. The wall between the engine and machine rooms is omitted for the purpose of showing the two together. There are two engines and two machines, similar to the ones shown in the drawing, made by Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves, & Co., Soho Ironworks, Bolton. They supply dry-cold air to four chambers. These machines deliver about 30,000 cubic feet each of cold air per hour into the chambers, and operate on the principle of first compressing the air to a pressure of three or four atmospheres, cooling it while being compressed by direct mixing with cooling water, which is injected into the compressing cylinder by a pump. The compressed air is then passed through coolers or heat exchangers, and expanded in the expansion cylinder. The air-compressing cylinders in these machines are 21 1/2 inches diameter, and the expanding cylinders 18 inches diameter. Both are in line, tandem fashion, have 2-feet stroke, and drive on the crank shaft direct at 82 revolutions per minute.
The steam engine portion of the machine has a cylinder 18 inches diameter and 2 feet stroke and is connected direct at the other end of the crank shaft. A wall separates the steam engine from the other portion of the machine. On its passage from the compressing cylinder, and before it enters the expansion cylinder, the air is freed from water and further cooled in a heat exchanging apparatus of tubular construction. By its expansion in the expander cylinder the air is cooled down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, or more, depending on the temperature of the cooling water and return air temperature. The cooled air in its course to the chambers is passed through Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves & Co.'s snow-box, where the ice particles are effectually intercepted, and the air thus thoroughly dried for use in the chamber. Similar dry-cold air machines have been erected by Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves & Co., under the superintendence of the same architect, at Hamburg for Messrs. Thompson & Co., and at Cork for Messrs. Lunham Brothers, and are giving splendid results. Both these large bacon-curing factories were designed by, and carried out under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Walker.'[10]

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

On Tuesday a serious explosion occurred at Deptford by the bursting of large steam pipe on the premises of the London Supply Corporation storage wharf which has resulted in the death of Joseph Selway, a London man, and serious injuries to three Bolton engineers. For the last three months three employes of Messrs Hick, Hargreaves, and Co., Soho Ironworks, Bolton, hare been engaged the erection of large engine of 3,000 indicated horse power, which the firm have been commissioned to place in the works Deptford. They were engaged in that occupation at noon on Tuesday, when a copper steam pipe connected with the engine, but not the manufacture of the firm, suddenly burst, the man named was killed on the spot and the three Bolton men were seriously scalded about the legs and body. One of these, James Shorrocks who was superintending the job, was the most injured, being frightfully scalded about the lower part of the body. The other men were James Atherton and Joseph Owen but these were less seriously hurt. All of them were seriously hurt. All of them were conveyed to the Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich. Information was conveyed to the Soho Ironworks at Bolton and Mrs Shorrocks at once left to be in attendance upon her husband. Mr W. Inglis general manager, also left for Deptford. It has since transpired that the copper pipe was being used for the first time, and the horse power force proved too great for the strength of the pipe, which although 19 inches diameter was ouly 3-16ths of an inch thick. Shorrocks has a wife and seven children depending upon him and he is an old and valued servant of the firm, having travelled in many foreign countries on their behalf, superintending the erection of engines.'[11]

1890 1200 IHP tandem compound engine for Pike Mill, Bolton (Cross and Winkworth). Cylinders 32" & 54" dia, 6 ft stroke. Flywheel 32 ft diameter, 80 tons, grooved for 35 ropes.[12]

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. [13]

1892 Description and illustrations of a 1600 IHP engine for the Nevsky Thread Manufacturing Co of St Petersburg, Russia. It was a large engine, with cylinders of 38" and 60" diameter, 6 ft stroke, running at just 50 rpm. The flywheel, grooved for 30 ropes, was 32 ft diameter and weighed 84 tons. They also supplied a 1600 IHP engine for the same company's Nevka mill [14]

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. [15]

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 [16]

1896 'Messrs. Hick, Hargeaves, and Company supply some interesting particulars about the largest mill engines they have sent out to India. They have engines at the "Jacob Sassoon Mill," in Paree, Bombay, which daily show 3,400 inlicated horse power, and it is assumed that, owing to their peculiar type, they are probably the largest mill engines in the world. They have also constructed a pair of horizonal compound engines of 4,000 indicated horse power for the "Manockjee Petit Manutacturing Company," Bombay.'[17]

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. Overall length 55 ft. Steam at 160 psi, 500-600 degF[18]

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 1200 HP sheet rolling mill compound engine to the Gorse Galvanising Co. Corliss valves, cylinders 33" and 64" bore, 6 ft stroke. 30 rpm. The 33ft diameter flywheel weighed 130 tons. Operated until 1959.[19]

A c.1914 250 HP rolling mill engine was installed by John Player and Co. The engine was secondhand when installed, probably in the 1920s. It was a Tabourin-type uniflow engine.[20]

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. [21]

1915 2000 HP cross compound for Horrockses, Crewdson and Co. Preston [22]

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 Waihi-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.'[23]

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.[24]

c.1925 Supplied a 500 HP uniflow rolling mill engine to Abercarn Works.[25]

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) [26]

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.

1957 Acquired Foster, Yates and Thom.[27]

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. [28]

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.

Marine Engines

c.1850 engines were built for paddle steamer frigates Alphonse (Dom Afonso (Frigate, 1847)) and Amazonas, having two cylinders, of 68" bore and 60" stroke, piston rods guided by parallel motion. The engines for Mediterranean screw steamers Nile and Orontes (47.5" bore, 54"stroke) had a compact crosshead arrangement with double piston rods, and an interesting thrust bearing, which had tapered rollers between a pair of tapered discs. They also made the geared oscillating engine for the screw steamship Don Manuel, built by William Denny and Brothers in 1852, cylinders 24" bore, 30" stroke, with a mortice wheel of 6ft 3" diameter driving a 22" pinion.[29]. Note: Some sources name the maker as Benjamin Hick and Sons, although the name changed in 1845.

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[30]. 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 [31]

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. Driffield Times - Saturday 15 January 1881
  9. South Wales Echo - 1 December 1888
  10. Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 29 February 1888
  11. Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 13 April 1889
  12. The Engineer, 25 July 1890, pp.64 & 82
  13. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  14. Engineering, 25 Nov 1892, pp.662
  15. The Engineer of 10th August 1894 p121
  16. 'The Engineer' 12th August 1900, p.35
  17. Cotton Factory Times - Friday 7 February 1896
  18. Western Times, 25 October 1905
  19. The Steam Engine in Industry - Mining and the Metal Trades by George Watkins, Moorland Publishing. 1978/9, 1994, Plate 91
  20. The Steam Engine in Industry - Mining and the Metal Trades by George Watkins, Moorland Publishing. 1978/9, 1994, Plate 104
  21. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  22. [2] Photo of engine in Preston Digital Archive - "A Lancashire Cotton Scrapbook"
  23. [3]
  24. The Engineer 1922/07/14.
  25. The Steam Engine in Industry - Mining and the Metal Trades by George Watkins, Moorland Publishing. 1978/9, 1994, Plate 103
  26. 1937 British Industries Fair Page 374
  27. Newcastle Evening Chronicle - 30 May 1957
  28. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  29. [4] The Engineer, 25 June 1920, pp.644-5, with illustrations
  30. [5] Hick Hargreaves & Co. Ltd. photos from the personal Collection of David Devine, Wigan
  31. The Engineer 1920/06/25
  • [6] 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