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John Calley

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John Calley (1663-1717) (also known as John Cawley), the partner of Thomas Newcomen

John Calley was born on the 9th of December 1663 at Saint Savior, Dartmouth, Devon.

He was a glazier in Dartmouth

Some sources state that he became ill and was buried on the 29th December 1717 while undertaking the installation of an engine at Moor Hall, Austhorpe, Leeds. Another source claimed that this may have been another John Calley, quite possibly connected with Thomas Newcomen's business, and that the John Calley who was closely associated with Newcomen in the development of the atmospheric engine, died in Holland in March 1725. Newcomen wrote to Chief Justice King regarding the death of his partner, John Calley, in Holland.[1]. Further information, of various degrees of reliability, is presented below.

To tbe Editor of the Dartmouth and South Hams Chronicle ....... John Cawley — which should be spelt Calley — was an ancestor of mine, and I possess a Grandfather’s clock which was made by him, engraved with his name and address. He lived at Galmpton, near Churston, and was a man of some substance, living on his own land, and following the occupation of a grazier [glazier!]. Early in the eighteenth century he went to Holland to superintend the erection of steam engine on the dykes, and is supposed to have been murdered there, as he never returned England, nor was he ever again heard of.
Stapledon House, Dartmouth.'[2]

There was a follow-up letter in 1903:-

NEWCOMEN AND THE STEAM ENGINE. ....In the fifth volume of work published at St. Paul’s Churchyard in 1803, of public characters 1802—1803, .... after giving a description of how the principle of the steam engine was undoubtedly discovered by a certain marquis about the year 1663, is stated in the said marquis’ own words, what he had accomplished, and it was nearly forty years after this was made public in the so-called “Century of Inventions" that Capt. Savary made a machine on this marquis' published principle, for raising water. For this he, Savary, obtained a patent, and in a work entitled "A Miner's Friend." he described the nature and principles of the steam engine. Savary applied his machine to the draining of tin mines in Cornwall, and in most instances where the depth was not considerable, he succeeded in his attempts. He states how a limited degree of success excited the attention of several ingenious mechanics, among whom were Newcomen, an Ironmonger, and Mr Crawley, a glazier, of Dartmouth, Devonshire, the former being a man of considerable reading and well acquainted with a certain Dr. Hooke and his writings.
'After many ingenious experiments and speculations, by which be greatly improved on Savary’s machine, he (Newcomen), Captain Savary, and Crawley were contented to share the profits, and for that purpose became associated and procured a patent in 1705 for that particular machine, and which was ever after known as "The Newcomen Engine." A description is given of these both machines, and it describes how Watt and another named came to improve on Newcomen's engine, and what they did to improve on it.
'It is evident that both Newcomen and Crawley were fellow tradesmen of Dartmouth, as has been mentioned in the Chronicle, and the latter’s name spelt "Crawley," as in the work these short notes are written from, and not Cawley or Calley; neither was he a grazier of Galmpton, as your correspondent puts it. The publishers of this work must have had these and other correct particulars of this district, as Mr Holdsworthy, of Dartmouth, and the Newfoundland storehouses, and the places of Brixham, Totnes, Torbay, Plymouth, Ashburton, Exeter. &c., are mentioned in other subjects written of.

John Farey, writing in 1827 about the Newcomen engine at Austhorpe, stated that it was supposed to be the fourth engine made by Newcomen, and that Mr. Calley, his partner, attended the building of it, and died at Austhorpe in 1717.[4]. James Greener, writing in 2017, described Calley as 'possibly the technical genius behind the atmospheric engine, and records that John Calley died at the age of 54 and was buried at St Mary's Whitkirk on 29 December 1717. Shortly before, he had been working to drain an undersea coalmine at Whitehaven with his son.

In another 2017 Paper, James Greener identifies Calley's son as John Calley (c.1695-1725). He was businees partner of Swedish engineer Marten Triewald.

From James Greener's information, there can be little doubt that there were two John Calleys, father and son, and that Newcomen's partner in the development of the engine was John Calley Sr. (1663-1717)[5].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'John Calley, the partner of Thomas Newcomen' by J J Bootsgezel, 1930. Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 11(1), 135–137.
  2. Dartmouth & South Hams chronicle - Friday 4 December 1903
  3. Dartmouth & South Hams chronicle - Friday 11 December 1903
  4. 'The 'Fourth' engine: Austhorpe, 1714?' by James Greener, International Journal for the History of Engineeering & Technology, Vol 87, No. 2, 2017, pp.226-235
  5. 'Stourbridge and Steam' by James Greener, International Journal for the History of Engineeering & Technology, Vol 87, No. 2, 2017, pp.236-258