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British Industrial History

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Joseph Bennett Howell

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March 1872.

Joseph Bennett Howell (1818-1904) of Shortridge, Howell and Jessop, Shortridge, Howell and Co and later Howell and Co

1818 February 19th. Born in Swansea the son of Thomas Howell and his wife Mary

1841 Married in York to Annie Earnshaw

1853 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of Sheffield, in the county of York, steel manufacturer, and William Jamieson, of Ashton-under-Lyne, in the county of Lancaster, machinist, have given the like notice in respect of the invention of "an improvement or improvements in the manufacture of saws"'[1]

1855 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of Sheffield, steel manufacturer, for a new or improved mode or modes of consuming more effectually the gas and gaseous products evolved during the combustion of fuel'[2]

1856 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of Sheffield, steel manufacturer - improvements in the manufacture of cast steel tubes.'[3]

1858 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell and John Shortridge, of Sheffield, for improved mode of rolling steel for springs.'[4]

1859 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of Sheffield, steel manufacturer, John Hick, of Great Bolton, ironfounder, and William Hargreaves, of the same place, ironfounder, for improvements or apparatus for applying heat to steam or other boilers and vessels, and for facilitating the combustion of gases and smoke.'[5]

1861 Listed. Joseph Bennett Howell, Hartford Steel Works, Sheffield[6]

1861 Living at West Bank House, Ecclesall Bierlow, Yks: Joseph B. Howell (age 43 born Swansea), Merchant and Steel Manufacturer. With his wife Annie Howell (age 45 born Sheffield) and their five children; Samuel E. Howell (age 14 born Sheffield); Joseph Arthur Howell (age 12 born Sheffield); Annie Earnshaw Howell (age 9 born Sheffield); Mary Bennet Howell (age - born Sheffield); and Catherine Yates S. Howell (age 4 born Sheffield). Also his sister Jane Howell (age 40). Two servants.[7]

1862 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, steel manufacturer, of Sheffield, for improvements in the manufacture of chains and chain cables'[8]

1864 Patent. 'John Shortridge and Joseph Bennett Howell, both of Sheffield, for improvements in the manufacture of guns, cylinders, and other articles of cast steel and homogeneous iron, either separately or in combination.'[9]

1865 Patent. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of Sheffield, steel manufacturer, for improvements in apparatus for wringing and mangling; partly his own invention, and partly a communication from abroad.'[10]

1868 Bankrupt. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of 12, Oxford road, Kilburn, in the county of Middlesex, out of business, and formerly carrying on business as a steel manufacturer at Sheffield, in the county of York, in partnership with John Shortridge and William Shortridge, adjudicated bankrupt...'

1896 Death of his wife Anne age 80.[11]

1901 Living at 17 Newbold Terrace, Leamington Priors, Warks: Joseph Bennett Howell (age 83 born Swansea), Retired Steel Manufacturer - Widower. Also his grandson Eric Howell (age 14 born Sheffield). Also a nurse, a visitor and four servants.[12]

1904 June 4th. Died.

1904 Will. 'Joseph Bennett Howell, of The Tower, Hathersage. Derby, and Newark House, Leamington, and of The Grange. Bow, Devon, the arm of Howell and Co...son Samuel Earnshaw Howell... daughter Catherine Yates Swindon Knight-Bruce...daughter Mary Bennett Moon...son Joseph Arthur Howell...'[13]


1904 Obituary [14]

JOSEPH BENNETT HOWELL was born in Swansea on 19th February 1818.

When a young man he went to Sheffield, and was in the employ of more than one firm now extinct. Subsequently he became associated with Messrs. Naylor, Vickers and Co. (now Messrs. Vickers Sons and Maxim), whom he represented with much success for a number of years.

Relinquishing that position, he commenced business on his own account, as steel and file manufacturer. By his inventive genius and special knowledge of steel making, he speedily gained a wide reputation for improvements in the manufacture of steel, and attained a prominent position in the steel trade. At the Exhibition of 1862 he received the only medal awarded for excellent quality of cast steel, and for rolls made of cast steel.

Before the days of the Bessemer and the Siemens-Martin processes, he manufactured crucible mild cast-steel, and was the first to make steel ingots of heavy weights. He originated the application of such steel for constructive purposes. This new steel was called "Homogeneous Metal," and the first boiler made of steel, and the first steel boat made, were constructed of this metal. This boat, the "Ma Robert," was built by Messrs. Lairds, of Birkenhead, for the use of Dr. Livingstone on the Zambesi River, Central Africa.

He constructed and erected in 1867 the steel chains of the Suspension Bridge over the Moldan at Prague, these being the first steel chains used for a bridge of this kind.

His inventions were both numerous and varied, and he was the first to apply mild steel to the manufacture of locomotive boiler tubes.

In 1868 he founded the Brook Steel and File Works, Sheffield. The success attendant upon the invention of mild steel for boiler tubes ultimately led to the establishment of a separate department for the manufacture of steel tubes, and in conjunction with his son Mr. S. Earnshaw Howell (also a Member of the Institution), he established the Sheffield Tube Works at Wincobank, near Sheffield.

They were subsequently amalgamated with the Brook Steel and File Works, and formed into a private company, of which he was the chairman until his death, which took place at his residence in Leamington on 4th June 1904, at the age of eighty-six.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1861; and was also a Member of the Society of Arts, and of the Institution of Naval Architects.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London Daily News - Saturday 24 September 1853
  2. Blackburn Standard - Wednesday 14 November 1855
  3. Morning Chronicle - Saturday 11 October 1856
  4. Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 13 March 1858
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 17 December 1859
  6. 1861 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  7. 1861 Census
  8. Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 02 April 1862
  9. Leeds Mercury - Wednesday 31 August 1864
  10. Leeds Mercury - Wednesday 11 January 1865
  11. Sheffield Independent - Monday 09 March 1896
  12. 1901 Census
  13. Leamington Spa Courier - Friday 21 October 1904
  14. 1904 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries