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British Industrial History

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John Kershaw (Machine Maker)

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A predecessor of J. and J. Kershaw?

John Kershaw of 3 Mason Street, Swan Street, Manchester (1825) and later of Newton Street, Manchester (1841). Note: it is currently assumed that the two addresses at different dates relate to the same person.

1826-1829 Notices relating to bankruptcy of John Kershaw, John Tomlinson, and Richard Ashworth Fuller, of Manchester, machine makers, dealers, chapmen and copartners.[1][2]

1841 John Kershaw listed as a machine maker, at 13 Newton Street, Dale Street. House: 103 Shudehill[3]

1843 Mention of John Kershaw, machine-maker, St. George's Road, as a witness to a riot when a group of soldiers attacked police stations at Oldham Road and Kirby Street, Manchester[4]

1843 Advert for the sale of plant on the premises lately occupied by Mr. Kershaw, machine-maker,Stevenson's Square, including 'and excellent condensing steam engine' of 14" bore, 3ft 6" stroke, boiler 22ft long, steam piping, shafting and mill geering.[5]

Incident at Kershaw's Machine Works

An inquest was held at the Hope and Anchor public house, Hilton-street, on Tuesday last, and (by adjournment) the following day, before Mr. Chapman, the borough coroner, on the body of William Wall, a little boy nine years and eleven months old, an apprentice to James Teale, chimney-sweeper, Berry-street, Manchester. Teale had been taken into custody by the police, and was present during the inquest. The following evidence was adduced:-
Michael Kerley stated that he was nine years old; he and the deceased were fellow-apprentices to the prisoner. The deceased had only been about two months with him, and had only swept three flues before; but witness had swept these and other flues before, having been with the prisoner nearly twelve months. Witness, deceased, and prisoner, went to Mr. John Kershaw's machine shop, in Newton-street, to sweep the boiler flues, a little before six o'clock on Sunday morning last. Three o'clock was the time fixed by the engineer, whom they expected to have met; but as they did not see him they got over the wall. Deceased went up the bed flue, which was the hottest, and proceeded from the flame bed immediately under the boiler, while witness went into the flue leading into the chimney. On former occasions the prisoner had broken a hole under the flues, but neglected to do so on this occasion, being prevented by the ash-pit being full of water. While witness was in his flue he heard the prisoner cry out "Bill," and shortly alter he heard a shriek, on which he got out of his flue to see what was amiss, and the prisoner said Billy was dead. The prisoner then went into the flue in which deceased was, and pulled him out, first breaking a hole under the bridge of the boiler. He then laid the body on a board in the yard. A woman and a policeman had then come, and the body was taken into the Hope and Anchor. The prisoner had not beaten them. There was no fire in the grate. When the deceased was in the flue, prisoner put witness into it to pull him out, but it was so hot that he could not bear, and he came out; the prisoner told him to come out. Deceased was at the far end where it was very hot; witness went up to the middle of the flue of his own accord. Did not hear deceased make a noise while in the flue.
Mr. T. W. Dyson, surgeon, stated that he had made a post imortem examination of the body of the deceased on Monday afternoon. The right leg was very severely burnt, and also the left foot. 'The back part of the legs and thighs, and a great part of the back, were scorched, so that the skin would peel off with the greatest ease. There was a slight burn on each hand; the right cheek, the right side of the upper lip, and the bridge of the nose, were also burned, and the skin had come off in washing. The stomach contained no food, and nothing but small portions of saliva mixed with soot. There was a very great accumulation of blood on the lungs; the right side of the heart was quite distended with blood, and the left quite empty; the windpipe contained a quantity of sput-a, and the epiglottis was permanently elevated; the tongue was swollen; the brain was gorged with blood; and the appearances altogether proved that the deceased had died of suffocation. The air, such as it would be in a hot chimney, being carbonized, was unfit for respiration. The burns did not cause the death, nor had they any connection with it. The deceased died of suffocation from a deficiency of oxygen, occasioned by the heat in the chimney.
John Dennin, of Hilton-street, messenger, stated that he lived opposite Mr. Kershaw's premises. On Sunday morning last the prisoner knocked at his window shutter, desiring witness to come to his assistance, saying that his poor boy was fast in the flue. Witness dressed himself instantly, and ran into the yard. He saw the body of the deceased on the ground. He put his hand on the body, and there being water upon it he swore at the prisoner, and asked him why he had been throwing water upon it. A woman who lived in the next cellar then came, and witness requested her to fetch some cold water to try if he could drink, and thus see if he was alive. She did so; but the deceased was quite dead Witness then examined the flue in which the deceased had been, and which was pointed out by the prisoner and the other boy. It was the one immediately proceeding from the oven. Witness put his arm up it as far as he could reach; but it was so hot that he could not bear it. He considered that it would cook a beef steak in twenty minutes, and he was sure that, if he had gone up, the heat would have suffocated him. The prisoner said the deceased was wet by pulling him through the ash-pit.
John Mosscrop, the engineer, stated that the prisoner agreed, on Saturday afternoon, to come and sweep the chimneys. The prisoner opened a hole at the end of each side flue in order to admit the sweepers, but did not open any other. The next morning, before the sweepers went up, he should have made a hole underneath the bridge to let the hot air out. Witness had known prisoner to sweep other chimneys, and he knew that such a hole was necessary. Witness should have opened this hole before the sweepers had gone into the flues; the deceased had to work up to this hole, where he would have met the prisoner, who began his work there, and had it been made before the deceased went into his flue, a current of cold air would have met him. From witness' knowledge of the experience of the prisoner, the prisoner must have known that it would be fatal to the deceased if he neglected to open the hole under the bridge. Prisoner could have opened this hole, notwithstanding the water in the ash-pit. Witness got there that morning about twenty minutes before seven o'clock. The prisoner ought to have stayed till he came, in order that he might have cleansed the boiler and filled it with cold water. This would have tended to cool the flues. He was prevented from going by being taken ill, and the prisoner said if witness was not there he would get over the wall. The work might as well have been done on a Mondav; it would have been better in all respects, and there would have been no danger. It had always been the rule to do it on Sunday to save time. The sweeping might have been finished and the steam got up in six hours. It was choked up with soot where the hole should have been made.
James Starkie, smallware weaver of Little Lever-street, stated that he went into the yard about half-past six o'clock on Sunday morning. The flue was very hot, and not fit for deceased to go up. Witness considered it fatal to go up. Was present when the chimney was finished sweeping, for which purpose witness brought fresh sweepers about three o'clock in the afternoon. The flue was still very hot; one of the sweepers swept the flues, and before he went into them another broke a hole under the bridge to admit air. It is the sweepers' duty to open the holes. Mr. Kershaw was now a bankrupt. He had a lease of the premises; and Messrs. Jackson, Royle, and Kent, were sub-tenants, and employed the engineer.
The jury returned a verdict that " The deceased died of suffocation, and of manslaughter against the prisoner, James Teale, for putting deceased into the flue;" and at the adjourned inquest on Wednesday last they accordingly signed the inquisition, and the prisoner was therefore committed to Kirkdale for trial at the next Liverpool assizes for the charge.
Before the Jury separated they passed the following resolution:-" The Jury has viewed with feelings of horror and indignation the melancholy case of cruel death brought before them, produced evidently by a want of care or feeling on the part of the person having charge of cleaning the flues. From the evidence produced it appears that the work might have been done, if commenced at one o'clock on Monday morning, without any loss of time to the owner of the mill, or risk of life to the unfortunate sufferer. That they learn with deep regret the practice of sweeping factory flues on the Sabbath prevails to an extent highly disreputable to many owners of such property, and to the general character of the town of Manchester, conspicuous as it has long been (through its Sunday-schools and other means) for anxiety to inculcate in the minds of its rising population a becoming regard for the sanctity of the Sabbath. That the conduct of the master sweeps, in working their apprentices on that duty (the only opportunity afforded the latter of early instruction), is viewed by the Jury as unjustifiable towards the unfortunate members of the community placed under their control. [Signed] William Wood, John Jones, John Twemlow, John Bowden, Richard Crawshaw, John Gyte, Peter Dey, Samuel Lowcock, John Wood, Hugh Lewis, Thomas Oley, Jeremiah Hanmer, Ralph Derbyshire, George Swallow." '[6]

Report following the 1841 Spring Assizes:-

James Teale, 20 (could neither read nor write), was indicted for causing the death of William Wall, a boy of ten years of age, a sweep, and in the employ of the prisoner. Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Hulton prosecuted, Mr. Wilkins defended. The prisoner is a master sweep, and the deceased had been in his service as climbing boy only about two months. The present case was one of those instances of neglect so common in the present cruel and unnatural practice of sweeping chimneys, and from which the unfortunate children employed so often suffer. The prisoner and two of his boys went early on the morning of Sunday (a common practice in Manchester), the 29th November, to sweep the boiler flues and chimney belonging to Mr. James Kershaw's machine shop, in Newton street, Manchester. The engineer had promised to meet the prisoner at the premises at four o'clock, and should have been there at one o'clock, in order to clean out the boiler, and put cold water into it to cool it. Another precaution which should always be taken when flues of this description have to be swept is to open a hole under the bridge a sufficient time beforehand to let in the cold air over the flame-bed to cool the flue, and drive out the heated vapour. This precaution the sweep is generally expected to attend to. On the morning in question the engineer was taken ill, and did not go to the works till seven, but the sweep went at six. On going there they found the premises locked, but they jumped over the wall, and the prisoner put the two boys into the flues to sweep them, not taking any of the precautions. Deceased was directed to sweep that part of the flue which leads from the flame-bed, immediately under the boiler, and much the hotter of the two. In about ten minutes, according to the prisoner's statement, on his making a hole in the bridge to clean out his part of the flue, he scraped deceased's arm, who was still insensible. Prisoner then pulled deceased out of the flue, through the ash-pit, first attempting to make the other boy go into the flue, the heat of which, however, the latter found it impossible to bear. The witness afterwards got over the bridge on to the flame-bed, and found deceased at the far end of the flame-bed, apparently lifeless, with his jacket under his head. Deceased was taken out quite dead. He had several burns on his face and on different parts of his body.- The little boy, and one or two other witnesses, detailed the facts of the case. -Thomas Wilson Dyson, surgeon, stated that from the whole appearances, he was of opinion that deceased had died from suffocation. The air, such as would be in a hot chimney, being carbonized, was unfit for respiration. Deceased died of suffocation from a deficiency of oxygen, and the presence of carbonic acid gas. His Lordship asked the surgeon if it were not possible to clear such flues without boys, if they went to a little more expense in the construction of them? The surgeon was of opinion that they could. -Mr. Wilkins addressed the jury, maintaining that the men who ought to have cleared out the boiler were much more culpable than the prisoner at the bar. His Lordship summed up, and the jury found the prisoner guilty, strongly recommending him to mercy, on the ground that they thought the man who ought to have cleared out the flue was equally to blame.- He was sentenced to four months' imprisonment.'[7]

Location of Kershaw's Works

Reference to the 1849 O.S. map [8] shows Newton Street Iron Works (Mechanical Engineering) occupying about half the ground area of a block of buildings bounded at the front by Newton Street, and by Hilton Street, Port Street and Friday Street, close to Stevenson's Square. The block measured about 140 ft (along Newton Street) by 100 ft. The other half of the block was made up of houses or shops or offices and by the Crown & Anchor pub.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 16 September 1826
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 12 September 1829
  3. Pigot & Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1841
  4. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 24 June 1843
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 24 June 1843
  6. Manchester Times - Saturday 5 December 1840
  7. Manchester Times - Saturday 3 April 1841
  8. 'The Godfrey Edition Old Ordnance Survey Maps: Manchester Sheet 29: Manchester (Piccadilly) 1849' [1] Alan Godfrey Maps website