Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 150,171 pages of information and 235,402 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.

Isaac Watt Boulton

From Graces Guide
1899. Boulton's Motor Carriage.
1875. 28 hp semi-portable engine and locomotive boiler.

Isaac Watt Boulton (1823–1899) was a British engineer and founder of Boulton's Siding, the locomotive hire business

1823 Born at Stockport the son of John Boulton of Glossop

In 1841 Boulton began an apprenticeship with the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway under Richard Peacock.

1841 Living at Katherine Street, Ashton (age 17), Bookkeeper. With parents and sister Sarah (age 14). [1]

Joined his father's canal boat business and remained there until 1845.

1845 Agent for the Royal Exchange Assurance Co [2]

After this he set up an engineering business but little is known about it except that he built at least one steam carriage (probably similar to those built by Richard Trevithick and Goldsworthy Gurney) and at least one steamboat.

1847 January. Convicted with his father John of stealing a boat and sentenced to three months imprisonment [3]

1851 Living at Katherine Street. Ashton-under-Lyne (age 27 born Stockport), Agent. With wife Ann (age 27 born Ashton) and sons Thomas (age 6) and William (age 1). One servant. [4]

1853 Partnership dissolved between Isaac Watt Boulton and William Wheatley of Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, engineers [5]

1854 Two persons convicted of robbing him with violence of a gold watch [6]

In 1854 he joined the locomotive department of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway at Gorton.

He left in 1856 and set up another engineering business at Portland Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, where he built and repaired steam engines of various kinds.

In 1858–1859 he bought three second-hand railway locomotives (2-2-0 tender engines built by Bury) and started to hire them out for temporary jobs. The locomotive-hire side of the business grew and so a connection to the nearest railway line was needed. This led, in 1864, to the construction of Boulton's Siding, alongside the Oldham branch of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway.

1861 Living at Moss Street, Ashton-under-Lyne: Isaac W. Boulton (age 36 born Stockport), Mechanical Engineer. With his wife Ann Boulton (age 36 born Preston Brook) and their five children; Thomas Boulton (age 16 born Manchester), William Boulton (age 11 born Ashton), Helena Boulton (age 7 born Ashton), Percy H. Boulton (age 5 born Ashton) and James Boulton (age 3 born Ashton). One servant. [7]

1867 Report of various journeys in a steam car he built [8]

1867 The first recorded race of two self powered road vehicles over a prescribed route was between Ashton-under-Lyne and Old Trafford, a distance of eight miles. It was won by Isaac Watt Boulton against Daniel Adamson, each in steam cars of their own manufacture.

1869 He inherits mills, factories, warehouses and cottages in Ashton-under-Lyne from William Wright Platt of Kirkennen, Kirkcudbright. [9] Note: In 1861 William W. Platt of Kirkennen is aged 29 and described as a Fundholder.

1869 Built a steam carriage. Details and image from his son JWB in 1905.[10]

1871 Patent for improvements in steam boilers. [11]

1873 Image of a steam car built at Ashton-under-Lyne.[12]

1880 A memorial as a stone boulder in Ashton. The inscription reads "This bowlder was placed here by Alderman Isaac Watt Boulton J.P. of Stamford House Ashton under Lyne in affectionate remembrance of his eldest son Thomas Boulton who was for 9 years a warden of this church born November 5th 1844 and died at sea February 5th 1880 on board the H.M.S.S. Kinfauns Castle whilst on a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope to recruit his health. His remains were committed to the deep in Lat 11° 30' south Long 2° 30' west February 6th 1880.

1880 Listed as an Alderman and a magistrate [13] [14]

1881 Living at Stamford House, Manchester Road, Ashton-under-Lyne: Isaac Watt Boulton (age 57 born Stockport), Mechanical Engineer, Widower. Living with son James W. Boulton (age 22), Mechanical Engineer; daughter-in-law Helena B. (age 18); son John J. (age 16); son Harold W. (age 14); sister-in-law Sarah Rassbottom (age 47), Unmarried. One servant. [15]

1888 One person convicted of breaking on to his warehouse [16]

1896 Complaint against him as a magistrate. [17]

1899 Obituary. Inventor of patent block wheels for traction engines. One time large locomotive manufacturer of of Portland Street, Ashton. He built and ran the first traction engine driving it from Ashton to Old Trafford, and fitted the first steam launch used of Hollingsworth Lake. Native of Littleborough but lived all his life at Ashton and Fairfield. [18]

Obituary 1899 [19]

"...record the death of Isaac Watt Boulton, J.P., of Ashton-under-Lyne, on the 20th inst, in his seventy fifth year, who for many years carried on an extensive engineering business chiefly amongst colliery and railway contractors, and was closely connected with some of the largest works in the country. It is claimed for him that he was the pioneer of narrow-gauge railways, having designed and constructed the first engine 2ft. gauge for a short line near Wigan, and at the time the commercial value of such a small engine was much criticised. Its success is fully described in the work of A. Clarke..."More.

Extract from Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.

Thomas Boulton, in August, 1867, says: "I ran a small road locomotive constructed by Mr. Isaac W. Boulton, of Ashton-under-Lyne, from here through Manchester, Eccles, Warrington, Preston Brook, to Chester, paraded the principal streets of Chester, and returned home, the distance being over ninety miles in one day without a stoppage except for water. I believe this to be the longest continuous run on record ever accomplished by any road locomotive within twenty-four hours."

But in this Mr. Boulton was mistaken. We have stated in a previous article that Hill ran from London to Hastings and back in one day, a distance of one hundred and twenty-eight miles.

Boulton's engine had one cylinder 4.5in. diameter, and 9in. stroke. The boiler was worked at one hundred and thirty pounds pressure per square inch. The driving wheels were 5ft. in diameter. The driving and the single steering wheels were provided with springs.

Two speeds were obtained by means of two trains of spur gearing between the crank shaft and the counter shaft, the motion of the counter shaft was transmitted to the axle by a pitch chain; the ratios of the gearing were 6.5 to i, and 11 to 1. During the trip recorded above, six persons were carried all the distance, and sometimes there were eight and ten passengers. This is the little engine which ran a race with Mr. Adamson's locomotive, recorded in a previous chapter.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. The Manchester Times and Gazette, Saturday, October 4, 1845;
  3. The Manchester Times and Gazette, Friday, January 15, 1847
  4. 1851 Census
  5. The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, July 2, 1853
  6. Daily News, Saturday, August 12, 1854
  7. 1861 Census
  8. Cheshire Observer, Saturday, March 13, 1897
  9. The Morning Post, Saturday, May 22, 1869
  10. The Autocar 1905/04/08
  11. The Preston Guardian, Saturday, October 14, 1871
  12. The Autocar 1904/10/15
  13. Liverpool Mercury, Wednesday, March 10, 1880
  14. The Preston Guardian, Saturday, March 13, 1880
  15. 1881 Census
  16. Manchester Times, Saturday, July 14, 1888
  17. The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, Friday, August 14, 1896
  18. The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Thursday, June 22, 1899
  19. The Engineer 1899/06/23, p620.