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British Industrial History

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Advertising sign.
January 1888.
February 1888.
June 1888. Ariete.
1897. H.M. Torpedo-Boat Destroyer "Fame".
1897. Twin-Screw Shallow-Draught Gunboat "Melik".


1902. Thornycroft Motor Wagon Works.
1906 Q4.
Motor Tractor.‎‎ 1906.
Motor Tractor 40 H.p. 1906.
Engine and transmission of Thornycroft steam wagon at Milestones Museum
Shallow Draught Steamer Paso De Martin Garcia. 1909.
Shallow Draught Steamer Paso De Martin Garcia. 1909.
November 1910. 10-18 h.p. chassis.
November 1910. 10-18 h.p. chassis.
1919. The Basingstoke Works.
1919. The Basingstoke Works.
V-12 petrol engine at Milestones Museum
1921. Oil fuel pumping installation.
1922.Three Ton Suction Gas Lorry.
May 1930.
May 1930.
1933. 100 B.H.P. 6 Cylinder Oil Engine.
Aug 1935.
January 1944.
January 1947.
1947. Six-cylinder diesel engine.
March 1947.
March 1949.
February 1959. Oil Fuel Burning Equipment.
18th March 1961.

J. I. Thornycroft and Co, of Smith Square, London, Chiswick, Basingstoke and Southampton, boat builders, engine makers, vehicle builders.

See also -

1864 John Isaac Thornycroft, naval engineer, commenced building steam driven launches at Chiswick.

1866 John I. Thornycroft and Co founded.

1894 Read a review of the Works in The Engineer 1894/02/23.

1894 Details of a Rapid Rock Drill made by them for Richard Schram and Co

1896 John Isaac Thornycroft built his first steam lorry. The company was a manufacturer of commercial vehicles at Basingstoke from 1896 to 1960 - see Thornycroft: Commercial Vehicles

1899 Thornycroft's partner, John Donaldson, died.

By late 1899 William Beardmore had joined a syndicate that bought the torpedo boat builders J. I. Thornycroft and Co of Chiswick; Beardmore was subsequently appointed chairman.

1901 Public company. The company was registered on 22 May, to acquire the business of builders of torpedo boats, of the firm of the same name.

1901 Became a public company John I. Thornycroft and Co. Ltd, to bring in extra capital. The funds were chiefly provided by William Beardmore who hoped to make the shipbuilding firm a tied customer for his iron and steel and to expand the infant Scottish motor industry but these hopes were not fulfilled.

1901 Joint venture: Thornycroft-Marshall Boiler

1902 Built their first petrol-engine vehicle.

By 1904 Beardmore had lost interest in Thornycroft's company and from then on the firm was largely run by Thornycroft's eldest son, John Edward, who oversaw the removal of the shipyard from Chiswick to Woolston in Southampton, a move made necessary by the increasing size of torpedo boats and destroyers.

1904 The business was extended by the acquisition of Mordey Carney (Southampton) and the Thornycroft Steam Wagon Co. [1]

1905 'LARGE PLANING MACHINE. Messrs. George Richards and Co., Limited, Broadheath, are at present engaged in constructing a large double planing machine for dealing with turbine frames, to the order of Messrs. J. I. Thornycroft and Co. (Limited). The machine is made specially for use in planing the large plates necessary for turbine construction, but is suitable for work a general character also. It will plane work up to 25ft. long. lOft. wide (across the surface of the work), and 8ft. deep. It consists of two parallel beds on ten legs supported by a solid base plate. There is a cross-arm from bed to bed fitted with two tool rams, having an automatic down feed of 30 inches. The cross head is driven by two large screws, has a quick return of 65ft. per minute, and three cutting speeds of 20ft., 27ft., and 35ft. per minute. The machine is 31ft. 6in. long and weighs 50 tons, the base bed being four sections of 7ft. and one of 3ft. 6in.'[2]

1907 Beardmore resigned as chairman of J. I. Thornycroft and Co.

1907 The vehicle company completed its move into internal combustion engine power.

1908 February. Details of their paraffin engines for the Italian navy.[3][4][5]

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of Marine Motors see the 1917 Red Book

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of Petrol Motor Commercial Vehicles see the 1917 Red Book

1914 Engineers, shipbuilders and motor manufacturers. Specialities: marine and mechanical engineering; torpedo craft and launches for river or sea service, propelled by either steam or oil engines; motor boats, motors, motor cars and wagons for heavy transport. Employees 4,000 to 5,000. [6]

Post-WWI: Awarded £4000 by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors for the depth charges and bomb throwers[7]

1926 Received an order for twenty-three of their 'A1' type six-wheeled vehicles and a 'Hathi' tractor for use in the Sudan. Eighteen of the vehicles are to be fitted with platform bodies and to have two-wheeled trailer attachments to carry 20-cwt loads. The 'Hathi' tractor is to be capable of crossing gullies with vertical banks 3ft. in height, of exerting a steady draw-bar pull of 9000lb. of hauling a 10-ton trailer load up a gradient of 1 in 10 at 7 miles per hour, and of travelling through soft sand.[8]

1926 Thornycroft Donaldson director of Thornycroft, who has been for a number of years in charge of the engineering side of the firm's Southampton works, has now been appointed general manager.[9]

1948 The vehicle making side of the company was put into a wholly-owned subsidiary Transport Equipment (Thornycroft) to prevent confusion with the shipbuilding side of the Thornycroft company (later to become Vosper Thornycroft).

1961 Works at Woolston Works, Southampton. Parent of eight subsidiaries. Employ 7,000 persons. The yard focused on making passenger/car ferries during the 60s along with tugs, motor launches and ferries. The Woolston yard then entered a period of modernisation with new equipment and buildings being built.

1961 Ship and boat building, ship and boat repairs, marine and industrial engineering. Shipbuilding includes: destroyers, frigates, minesweepers and all types of special service craft, also passenger and merchant vessels to 6,500 gross tons, tugs, ferries, shallow draft craft, motor and auxiliary yachts, fast and medium speed commercial and pleasure launches of wood, steel and glass fibre construction. 7,000 employees. [10]

1966 the company was taken over by Vosper and Co. The combined warship building facilities were renamed Vosper Thornycroft in 1970.

1972 the new company purchased the Southampton repair yard of Harland and Wolff and continued making destroyers.

1977 The Woolston yard was nationalised in July 1977 and started making glass-reinforced plastic mine-hunters of the "Brecon" class.

1980s The yard continued winning orders for mine-hunters (for Saudi Arabia) and fast strike craft for Oman. The Vosper-Thornycroft yards returned to private ownership in 1986.

1990s The Omani Government made a further order for two corvettes armed with Exocet missiles. The yard continues to supply military hardware today under the VT Group name.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Thursday 24 August 1905
  3. Automotor Journal 1908/02/22
  4. Automotor Journal 1908/02/29
  5. Automotor Journal 1908/03/07
  6. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  7. The Times, Jan 13, 1925
  8. The Engineer 1926/07/16
  9. The Engineer 1926/08/06
  10. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  • British Lorries 1900-1992 by S. W. Stevens-Stratten. Pub. Ian Allen Publishing
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • Buses and Trolleybuses before 1919 by David Kaye. Published 1972
  • The Engineer of 22nd October 1920 p400
  • The Engineer of 13th July 1900 p31
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • The Engineer of 23rd February 1894 p162
  • The Engineer of 31st August 1894 p191
  • The Engineer of 28th December 1894 p568
  • The Engineer of 2nd April 1920 p345
  • 1924 Naval Annual Advert page xix
  • The Modern Diesel edited by Geoffrey Smith. Published by Iliffe & Sons 1944
  • 1891 Post Office London Trades Directory
  • Ian Allan - British Buses Since 1900 - Aldridge and Morris
  • Biography of John Isaac Thornycroft by Alan G. Jamieson, ODNB [4]