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British Industrial History

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John Oldham

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John Oldham (1779 - 1840)

Born in Dublin

1837 John Oldham of the Bank of England, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1841 Obituary [2]

John Oldham, the Engineer of the Banks of England and Ireland, was born in Dublin, where he served an apprenticeship to the business of an engraver, which he practised for some time, but subsequently quitted to become a miniature painter, wherein he acquired some reputation.

He pursued this branch of the arts for many years, but having a strong bias towards mechanical pursuits, he devoted much of his leisure time to the acquisition of that knowledge which was to prove the foundation of his future celebrity.

In the year 1812, he proposed to the Bank of Ireland his system of mechanical numbering and dating the notes, and on this being accepted, he became the chief Engraver and Engineer to that Establishment. The period of twenty-two years, during which he held this appointment, was marked by continually progressive steps of artistical and mechanical ingenuity. The various arrangements which he projected and carried out attracted great attention, and conferred considerable celebrity on the establishment with which he was connected.

The late Governor of the Bank of England, Mr. T. A. Curtis, had his attention directed to these important improvements, and under his influence the whole system of engraving and printing as pursued in the Bank of Ireland was introduced into the national establishment of this country, under the superintendence of its author, who continued in the service of the Bank until his death.

The ingenuity of Mr. Oldham was directed to other objects, especially to a system of ventilation, of which an account was given by the author during the session of 1837.

Great versatility of inventive faculty, persevering industry, and social qualities of the highest order, were the prominent features in his character, and the success which attended his exertions is one of the many gratifying instances to be found in the history of this country, of talents and industry destitute of patronage attaining to eminence in the professions to which they are devoted.


Additional Information

Oldham developed a machine for serial numbering of bank notes, adopted by the Bank of Ireland in 1812. In 1817 and 1820, he patented designs for paddle steamer propulsion systems. He became a member of the Royal Dublin Society, for whom he designed a water supply system for their botanic garden. He died at his residence in Montagu Street, London, on 14 February 1840. [3]

He was the inventor of the Oldham Coupling.

His second son, John Richard Oldham, was Engineer in Chief to the Bank of Austria, (married Sarah Bolter, of Childwick Burry, Herts).[4]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1837 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. 1841 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. [1] Royal Dublin Society, John Oldham webpage
  4. Oxford Journal, 28 November 1840