Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,372 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Life of Sir William Fairbairn by William Pole: Chapter XVIII

From Graces Guide

Note: This is a sub-section of Life of Sir William Fairbairn by William Pole

CHAPTER XVIII.

ALTHOUGH it is the object of this biography to record the work of Mr. Fairbairn, during his long career, in many different capacities, as consulting engineer, as scientific investigator, as writer on mechanical subjects, and so on, it must not be forgotten that the principal occupation of his life was that of an engineering manufacturer. It was by this he earned his livelihood in his early years, and acquired his fortune at a later time; and it was by his mechanical constructive skill that his widest reputation was obtained.

For this reason it is desirable to give a somewhat more connected account of the Fairbairn manufacturing establishments, which have been occasionally referred to in various parts of this work.

There were two establishments of this kind, namely, the shops for general engineering work in Manchester, and the ship-building yard and marine engine factory at Millwall, on the Thames. These were so distinct in their character that they may occupy separate chapters in the description.

The account of the origin of Mr. Fairbairn's manufactory at Manchester is given by himself in Chap. VII. Having resolved to free himself, at the age of twenty- eight, from the bondage of employment as a hired workman, he succeeded in obtaining some small orders to be executed on his own responsibility, and this led to the formation of the firm of Fairbairn and Lillie, manufacturing engineers, in 1817.

The establishment at first consisted only of a ' miserable shed,' in High Street, containing a single lathe, which the two partners made with their own hands, and which was turned by their one workman, a muscular Irish labourer. With these small means, however, aided by willing hearts and clever hands, they contrived to execute their work so creditably as to obtain a much larger order, namely, the construction and erection of the driving machinery for a new cotton-mill of considerable size.

But the rough shed and the single lathe were not sufficient to carry out this work, and it was necessary to remove to a better building, to engage a few more workmen, and to add a few more tools; and so, with an improved establishment fixed in Mather Street, they succeeded in making a thoroughly good job of the new mill.

It was in this work that Mr. Fairbairn's true character began to appear. He stepped out of the ranks of the mere manufacturer, the workman carrying out the designs of others; he became really an engineer, studying the principles of mechanics, and applying those principles in original mechanical conceptions of his own.

In the execution of his first orders, small though they were, he had the acuteness to perceive important defects in the machinery used for driving the cotton spinning mills. This branch of industry was new, and the mechanical arrangements had been usually carried out by millwrights in a rough and clumsy way, without the application of anything like scientific design. Mr. Fairbairn perceived how the defects could be remedied; he predicted, with admirable foresight, the advantages that would arise from the change; and he carried out the improvements in the new mill with perfect success.

The advantages of the new system of driving machinery were so obvious that the author of it suddenly found himself famous as a mechanical engineer, and the character of the firm became established as manufacturers possessing more than ordinary skill and intelligence. The result as a large accession of orders, among which came, in the year 1824, that for the water-wheels at Catrine Bank, an account of which is given by Mr. Fairbairn in Chap. VIII.

This was of such magnitude and importance that the firm considered it justified them in making a further extension of their manufacturing means. With this view they took a small plot of land in Canal Street, Ancoats, purchased a steam-engine to drive their tools, and laid out a manufactory in a more complete and perfect form. This was the foundation of the Canal Street Works, which, subsequently much extended, were carried on under the name of Fairbairn for half a century.

The water-wheels and machinery were constructed and remodelled with the same ability and mechanical skill that had been shown in former cases; new improvements were introduced; the whole work was efficiently done, and the proprietors were thoroughly satisfied and pleased. 'Writing to Mr. Fairbairn in July 1828, Mr. Buchanan said:—

We are very sensible of your valuable assistance. What you have done for us equals every expectation, and the Muckle wheels continue the admiration of all who see them. Nout o' th' sort can do better.

Their satisfaction, however, was manifested in a way more to the purpose by another large order immediately following, from the same firm, for other works belonging to them at Deanston.

Mr. Fairbairn, speaking of these works some years afterwards, said:-

The constructions at the Deanston Works were commenced in the year following those at Catrine. They consisted of eight wheels of 100 horse power each. Two of these were completed in 1827 and two in 1832, the others subsequently. These are perhaps the largest hydraulic machines in existence.

In this way, by perseverance and industry, the partners continued to thrive, gradually increasing their shops and plant by the profits they made, until, by the year 1830, they had amassed property to the amount of 30,0001., and were masters of an establishment employing 300 hands.

Soon after this the circumstances took place (detailed in Chap. IX.) which led to the dissolution of the partnership, and the lapse of the Canal Street Works into Mr. Fairbairn's sole hands. This change was effected in the year 1832.

During the partnership the work undertaken had consisted almost entirely of mill machinery, including waterwheels; such work in fact as the old millwrights used to undertake, but done in much better style, both as to design and manufacture. The firm had never made steam- engines, which are generally looked upon in the trade as a specialty, requiring a superior class of workmanship, and more extensive tool arrangements.

But no sooner did Mr. Fairbairn find himself free from the obligation to consult a partner in his proceedings, than he began to give more scope to his natural ambition by launching out into new branches of manufacture. The object of this was not merely to extend his transactions and increase his profits. Nothing could be more remunerative than the kind of business he was already doing, and he could obtain as much of it as he liked; but he wished to get more exercise for his skill in the art of mechanical design.

Probably also he may have been influenced, in some measure, by the fact of his late partner setting up business in competition with him, close in the same neighbourhood. Lillie was a good mechanic; he had done his fair share in the manufacturing business, and was no doubt quite competent to continue successfully the construction of such work as that the firm had been engaged iu; but Mr. Fairbairn felt his own superiority in the higher gifts of design and invention, and generally in the true qualifications of an engineer, and he anticipated that by applying these to new subjects he would soon raise himself above all rivalry.

He accordingly directed his attention to two new branches of manufacture, in which he hoped to distinguish himself as an engineer as well as a manufacturer, namely, iron ship-building and the construction of steam-engines.

The iron ship-building business arose, as explained in Chap. X., out of the professional investigation made by him on the Forth and Clyde Canal. The little iron steamer he had built, the Lord Dundas,' although she did not enable the canals to compete with the railways in speed, did him much credit, and excited much attention, and he at once received an order to build another, the Manchester,' of a larger size, 100 tons. She was also successful, and in the two succeeding years several more were built, when the prospects of the trade appeared so promising that Mr. Fairbairn decided to remove this branch altogether to a more convenient place, as will be described in the next chapter.

The Canal Street Works were much enlarged and improved, with considerable increase of plant and tools; and here the manufacture of the other new description of work, namely, steam-engines, was taken up energetically. Mr. Fairbairn did not immediately introduce any striking novelties, for the general design of the machine had been well thought out by Watt and his successors, and there were already many good firms engaged in its manufacture; but he paid great attention to the details and to the quality of workmanship, and the engines erected by him were noted for efficiency and for economy of fuel.

He also made his own boilers. Boiler-making is usually considered a separate trade, and many manufacturers of steam-engines are content to order their boilers from others, rather than introduce into their factories a rough branch of the business, requiring great room, and causing a great deal of inconvenience. But Mr. Fairbairn entertained a strong opinion of the importance of this fundamental part of the steam-engine, and would not trust either its design or its manufacture out of his own hands. He had, in fact, a great partiality for boiler-engineering all through his life, as has been sufficiently explained in Chapter XVI.

Boiler-making therefore formed, after 1832, a large and important branch of the manufacture carried on at the Canal Street Works; and it was on the occasion of a strike among the workmen employed in this department in 1837, that Mr. Fairbairn introduced, with the help of his foreman, Robert Smith, the ingenious and useful invention of the riveting machine.

About 1837 or 1838 Mr. Fairbairn further extended his business to the construction of locomotive engines. The London and Birmingham railway was just completed, and many more lines were in progress in various parts of the country. The locomotive was a new invention, and there were, down to that time, only two or three firms who had paid attention to its peculiarities. Mr. Fairbairn saw that there was an opening, not only for a large business in the manufacture, but for engineering skill in the design, and he seized the opportunity promptly and successfully. He became a large and celebrated locomotive maker. More than 600 locomotives were built at his shops, and this branch of the business furnished much occupation for them for many years. It is believed that he was the first designer of the tank engine, in which the fuel and water are carried on the engine itself, dispensing with the separate tender;—a form now become perhaps the most useful known.

In 1839 came the large Turkish orders for woollen- mills, silk and cotton-mills, engineering workshops, iron- making establishments and machinery, iron houses, and mechanical work, in great variety. These occupied him in the designs, and the manufactory in the execution, for some years, and were very profitable.

About this time, however, he began to get into difficulty with the management of the Millwall establishment; and this led, as will be explained in the next chapter, to the introduction into the business of his son Thomas, who joined him as a partner about 1841. A few years later, in 1846, another son, William Andrew, joined, and the business was thenceforward carried on under the name of William Fairbairn and Sons.

Both sons actively exerted themselves in aid of their father, and this accession of strength led to the further extension of the manufactory, and to increased energy in the prosecution of the Manchester business, which from that date forward became highly prosperous. The work done was so large in its quantity, and so multifarious and varied in its character, that it would be impossible, as indeed it is unnecessary, here to give any account of it at all approaching completeness. It must suffice to mention a few of the most important things that were done.

In 1846 the firm made, in conjunction with Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Cubitt, the iron arrangements for the large landing stage at St. George's Pier, Liverpool. This was by far the largest thing of the kind that had been projected; the two movable girder bridges, for connecting the floating stage to the shore, were each 150 feet long; they had to rise and fall with the tide, and the general arrangements, to give stability and strength combined with convenience, were laid out with great skill.

In 1846 Mr. Fairbairn took out the Tubular Bridge Patent, mentioned at the end of Chapter XIII., and soon afterwards began the manufacture of wrought-iron bridges on that plan.

That was about the time of the great railway mania, when, although numbers of railway schemes were abortions, yet the actual construction of bond fade lines was pushed energetically. These lines required bridges in large numbers, and Mr. Fairbairn's invention was most opportune, as the kind of bridge it introduced was strong, convenient, reasonable in cost, and easy and expeditious in erection.

He was at that time the person who best understood its design, and, consequently, as soon as the merits of the invention became known, he was inundated with orders; he had, in fact, a complete monopoly at high and remunerative prices; and the manufacture of these alone realised a fortune. Before 1851, he had erected more than a hundred of them, from 40 to 180 feet span, and subsequently the number was augmented tenfold, extending to much larger sizes. It is estimated that the total quantity of this work executed cannot have been less than 100,000 tons.

In the course of his large practice in steam-engine construction, he made, as already stated, many improvements in detail; but he seldom gave to the world any special description of them. In the middle of 1849, however, he communicated to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, at Birmingham, a paper On the Expansive Action of Steam, and a new Construction of Expansion Valves for Condensing Steam Engines.' He had seen the advantage of the well-known principle of expanding the steam, introduced by Watt and Hornblower in the last century, and with his usual skill and practical judgment, he introduced modifications in the form and arrangement of the valve apparatus, by which this principle might be more effectually carried out; and these novelties it was the chief object of the paper to describe.

About 1850 Mr. Fairbairn was engaged in a large work at Keyham Dockyard, near Plymouth, namely, the construction of a huge wrought-iron caisson for closing the entrance to one of the docks.

The Keyham docks extend for some distance along the Eastern shore of the Hamoaze, and early in 1844 it was determined by the Admiralty to form an establishment there, of sufficient capacity and extent to admit simultaneously, to the basins and docks, the largest ships and steamers of the navy. For this purpose, two large basins, communicating with each other, but having separate entrances from the sea, were laid out. In one of these entrances it was resolved to adopt a modification of the ordinary floating caisson, and as it involved a structure of great size, and subject to peculiar strains, Mr. Fairbairn (who had shortly before built a caisson for Portsmouth, of a smaller kind) was requested to consider the subject and to undertake the construction of the caisson. It was 80 feet long and 43 feet high, and its total weight was 290 tons. It was finished in 1850, and was tested by careful experiment in July of that year. A description of the work was presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers on May 9, 1854, and was published in their Minutes of Proceedings for that year.

The same year, an attempt was made to quicken the speed of the express passenger trains on some of the great railways of the country. The recent battle of the gauges had brought out the claims of the broad gauge for superiority of speed and power, and the narrow gauge companies desired to show that they could also do great things in this way if they pleased. Messrs. Fairbairn accordingly built, for Mr. MacConnell, the locomotive engineer of the North Western, a locomotive of hitherto unparalleled power, intended to run from London to Birmingham (112 miles) in two hours. It was a fine specimen of design and construction, and it was no doubt capable of performing a large duty; but the company found that such high speed might be bought too dearly, and the time of the transit between the two places has remained at three hours.

In November 1850, Mr. Fairbairn took out a patent for an invention which was very successful, namely an improvement in the instrument called a crane, for hoisting and lifting purposes. Ordinary cranes are usually constructed on one of the plans shown in the two first of the following figures:—

In these the inclined strut, called the jib, is placed at an angle of about 40 or 45 degrees with the vertical, so as to obtain the greatest strength. But if the article to be raised be at all bulky, this position of the jib will interfere with the height to which it may be raised.

Mr. Fairbairn's improvement consisted in making the projecting arm of the crane of iron plates riveted together so as to form a hollow tubular girder of curved form, as shown in the third figure. It allowed the article to be raised to a greater height, and at the same time offered greater strength and security.

Six large cranes were soon afterwards made on this plan by Messrs. Fairbairn and Sons for Keyham Dockyard. A description of them was given by Mr. Fairbairn to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was published in their Proceedings for 1857. Each crane was calculated to lift 12 tons to a height of 30 feet from the ground, and to sweep a circle 65 feet in diameter. These answered so well that a few years afterwards a still larger one was ordered for the same place to lift 60 tons 60 feet high, with a circle of 106 feet diameter. Cranes of this kind were soon appreciated by the public for their convenience and strength, and became largely used.

The following figure represents a crane of this description erected at one of the Royal Dock Yards, and worked by steam power.

In 1851-2 occurred the great strike of the engineering workmen. It originated in Lancashire, and was the first of those contests between capital and labour which commanded the marked attention of the general public, and have since spread with such rapidity and fierceness that not only all trades, but all countries have been embraced in the struggle.

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, through its Council, made demands upon some of the mechanical firms in Manchester and Oldham, which appeared to the employers incompatible with freedom of action in the control of their affairs. After protracted but vain efforts to adjust the differences, on December 17, 1851, the leading engineering and machinist firms in Lancashire gave notice that they would simultaneously close all their establishments at the close of the year, if a threatened turn-out ' of the workpeople of one of their number should be persisted in. No compromise was listened to, and the first week of the new year 1852 saw the gates closed against 10,000 skilled workmen, involving the forced idleness of at least 40,000 persons. Immediately the Metropolitan and other employers, seeing the dangers involved, followed the example of the Lancashire masters, and during the bitter fight of four months, not less than 100,000 hands went without wages. Of course there could be but one result to such a contest; but it may be well to observe that public opinion at a very early period sided with the masters and against the men. It was seen almost instinctively, and expressed unhesitatingly, that a movement, to dictate to employers what men they should employ, how long they should work, and in what way they should work, was not to be encouraged. But when an exposure of the secret workings and intentions of the Executive Council' of the Amalgamated Society was made public; when it became known that this irresponsible body had proclaimed that If our recommendations be adhered to, and our members are active and energetic in their trade proceedings, we shall soon still further improve our condition, and make our Society the real ruler of the destinies of our trades'—a general indignation was aroused, and it was felt that the masters could not yield without permitting an entire social revolution.

Mr. Fairbairn did not take any active part in the proceedings of the Committee of Associated Employers; but his son and partner (the present Sir Thomas Fair- bairn) was one of the most prominent figures in the contest. Under the well-known signature of Amicus,' he contributed to the Times ' a long series of letters, which excited great interest and curiosity. The social and political consequences of the labour question were argued at great length, and these letters created a discussion of the strike by the press, so comprehensive and exhaustive that a reproduction of the newspaper articles would fill volumes. Lords Shaftesbury and Ashburton, and other well-known friends of the working classes,' used all their influence to wean the workmen from their folly. Lord Ashburton sought the arbitration of the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Cranworth, who replied in a long letter of admirable temper and argument. Writing to Lord Ashburton, he said

I have been thinking more and more of the unfortunate matter to which our conversation referred. I confess it is one which gives me great pain, and the more so because I cannot but come to the conclusion that these men are in the wrong. The masters have greater wealth, and perhaps therefore, greater instruction, if not greater intelligence, on their sides. I wish therefore, not unnaturally, that, in talking over the matter with you, I could take the part of the weaker body; but I really cannot The masters ought, surely, to be at liberty to employ whomsoever they may please, for each and every portion of the work. If it is work only to be done well by skilled workmen, they must employ skilled workmen; and unless they do so, the work will be badly done, and the masters will be the sufferers. If it is not work requiring skilled workmen, on what possible principle can the masters be called on to employ them ? The master ought to be at liberty to employ whom he may choose. Of course the workman would equally be left at liberty to accept the terms offered by the master, and work, or to reject those terms, and abstain from working. Both parties ought to be left at liberty to do what they think most for their own interest. So as to piece-work or overtime—all the relations between employer and employed are, or ought to be, those of contract between perfectly free agents. The master may propose whatever terms he chooses; the workman may accept or reject those terms I cannot wonder that the masters refuse to agree to any arbitration that is to impose on them any restriction whatever as to the terms on which they are to contract with their men I should have been very glad if we could have seen our way to suggest any sort of arbitration which would solve the difficulty; but I really cannot.

Lord Cranworth's kindly expressed, but decided opinion, the arguments of the press, and the entreaty of friends were all in vain. The blood was up; and the fight went on until all available funds were exhausted, and the savings of years and household treasures were parted with. Then the inevitable conclusion took place, after much misery had been endured on the one side, and heavy losses sustained on the other.

The authorship of the Amiens ' letters was hotly disputed; they had been attributed to Mr. W. J. Fox, M.P. for Oldham, who in seeking his re-election had to challenge the direct avowal of the Times,' to protect him, as he said, from a persevering report which had been made to damage his chances at the poll. For many years afterwards Amicus ' was a constant contributor to the columns of the leading journal on many topics of social and political interest.

The following letters on this subject have beep found among Mr. Fairbairn's papers:—

December 29, 1851.

My dear Mr. Fairhairn,—You have taken, I see, the bold, manly, and righteous course of resistance to this Louis Blanc conspiracy of the mechanics and engineers.

It is very sad; all was looking so well, and, were it not for some evil-disposed men, would continue to look so well! But we are fallen on troublous times; and I much fear that, in the language of Scripture, ' there will be wrath' on this our country.

God forgive us, for we are a very thankless people!

I rejoice that none of my operatives, as I regard them, are connected with this movement of wickedness and folly.

Now let me thank you and Mrs. Fairbairn for your agreeable hospitality during my manufacturing tour. I am very happy that I have been introduced into the interior of your family.

May God prosper you all.

Yours truly,

SHAFTESBURY.

W. FAIRBAIRN, Esq.

Manchester, December 31, 1851.

My dear Lord Shaftesbury,— I needed not the assurance contained in your note to satisfy me that your lordship could never approve the arbitrary demands made by the Amalgamated Society upon their employers, and that you would yourself emphatically condemn the agitation got up by a few dangerous demagogues who form the Executive Council. The whole course of your public life, and your unwearied and most disinterested labours for the amelioration of the moral and physical condition of helpless children, women, and all the working class, were to my mind a sure guarantee that the promulgation of socialist doctrines would receive your resistance, from whatever quarter they might spring. From your conversations I have further gathered that it was never your lordship's intention to interfere with adult labour.

It appears, however, that the leaders of the Amalgamated Society drag in your lordship's name to give colouring or a kind of sanction to their dangerous proceedings, and such a remark as the following is by no means uncommon in this district, from unthinking but perhaps well-meaning persons: Oh ! you see what Lord Shaftesbury has brought upon you!'

I had intended writing to your lordship on this very important subject, and suggesting that it might have a desirable effect were your lordship to address a letter embodying your views on the subject, either to myself or direct to the Times.'

Your lordship's faithful servant,

WM. FAIRBAIRN.

Exactly a year after this date Mr. Fairbairn says, in a letter to General Morin:--

We have at last got over our troubles and effected a settlement in the establishment with our workmen. It has taken us nearly twelve months to restore matters to their regular routine state, but we are now all right again, and I make no doubt we shall continue to be so for many years to come.

About 1852 the Government called in Mr. Fairbairn's aid in the establishment of the now well-known Small Arms Factory at Enfield. In conjunction with the officials of the Ordnance Department, he laid out the works, arranged the general design of the mechanical provisions, and constructed most of the machinery and ironwork, with the exception of the wood-working machines. This order was a large and important one; it occupied much of his careful attention, and the successful working of the establishment has proved how well he fulfilled the trust reposed in him.

About 1852 or 1853 he finished the largest work he had undertaken in mill construction, the great woollen works of Mr. (afterwards Sir Titus) Salt, at Saltaire, near Bradford, Yorkshire.

This kind of work was peculiarly his own; it was by it that he first acquired his fame; his practice in it was exceedingly large, and be kept up his interest in it during the whole of his manufacturing career. In addition to the improvements originally introduced by him in the rearrangement of the driving machinery, he had continued to add other beneficial changes from time to time; and among others he was the first to take the driving power from the rim of the fly-wheel of the steam-engine, by providing it with teeth working into an adjoining pinion of smaller size, which he considered had much advantage in the directness of the action and the convenience of the mechanical arrangements.

But it was not only the machinery of mills that he improved; at a later period he devoted considerable attention to the design and construction of the buildings in which the machinery was placed, more particularly as to their strength and the preservation of them from fire. Many accidents from malconstruction had come under his notice, and he had turned every opportunity of this kind to account in the improvement of his designs. Iron was largely used in these structures, and he made it his business to perfect the experimental knowledge of the strength of the material in its different forms, and of the best modes of applying it to the purposes in question.

The Saltaire mill was remarkable not only for its great extent, but for the perfection of its design. It was entirely planned by him, except the architectural features. A description of it, with plates, is given in Mr. Fairbairn's book "On the application of cast and wrought iron to building purposes," published in 1854.

The mills and dependencies extend over 61 acres of ground. The main range of buildings, or the mill proper, is 550 feet in length, 50 feet in width, and about 72 feet (6 storeys) in height. The loom-shed, one storey high, is nearly 300 feet long by 200 feet wide; and another, the combing shed, is a little smaller.

The engines are 1,250 horse-power, and the length of shafting is very nearly 2 miles, weighing upwards of 60 tons, and making from 60 to 250 revolutions per minute. The mills contain within themselves every means of preparing from the raw material the supply for 1,200 power looms, the yield of which is 30,000 yards of alpaca per day, or upwards of 5,000 miles per annum.

From the commencement of the new partnership in 1846, for many years onward, the Manchester business enjoyed very great prosperity. The managers were able and energetic, and the circumstances of the time were eminently favourable.

During the railway mania immense orders were given for railway work of various kinds, at very high prices, yielding large profits; and large contracts were undertaken for locomotives, the execution of which extended over many years. But these formed only a portion of the work done. Mr. Fairbairn's reputation was so great that he was consulted from all parts of the world, and the consultation almost always led to large orders for works, which were professionally designed in the offices and executed in the manufactory. He was the person, par excellence, applied to when any great mechanical works of novel or unusual character had to be undertaken, and his scientific investigations, which were so frequently before the world, drew attention to his position in a manufacturing capacity. The firm, w ith him at their head, undertook all sorts of engineering work, and in the manufacture of bridges, girders, cranes, caissons, &c., and in fact all the novel applications of wrought iron to structural and mechanical purposes, they had absolutely their own way.

Between 1848 and 1860, the large loss at Millwall (100,000L) was not only all made good by the Manchester works, but considerable fortunes were amassed by all the partners.

In December 1853, Mr. Fairbairn having realised a competency, resolved to give up his more active part in the business, which was thenceforward conducted by his two sons.

He did not however on that account relinquish his engineering occupations; for he was afterwards constantly engaged in giving advice on engineering and mechanical matters, and he afforded active assistance to the manufacturing firm whenever he found it would be useful to them.

During the siege of Sebastopol it was determined to supply the troops daily with new bread and fresh flour from the grain of the surrounding country, by providing the means of converting the wheat into flour, and baking it upon the spot.

Mr. Fairbairn was consulted as to the best means of carrying out this proposal, and he at once prepared designs for a floating flour mill and bakery. Two iron screw steamers were purchased by Government and placed in his hands for adaptation to the purpose; the firm prepared the machinery with all expedition, and the whole apparatus was fitted and completed in less than three months.

An interesting description of this arrangement was communicated by Mr. Fairbairn to the meeting of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers at Newcastle-on-Tyne, August 24 and 25, 1858, and is published in their Transactions for that year.

The flour mill machinery was similar to that ordinarily used on shore, with such modifications only as were necessary to adapt it to its novel position, and fit it to sustain the constant and varying motion of a ship at sea. These difficulties were overcome, and the mill was found to answer admirably, grinding in almost all weathers at the rate of 20 bushels, or 1,120 lbs. of flour per hour, and that at a time when the vessel was steaming at seven and a half knots; both the mill machinery and the ship being propelled by the same engines. From the official reports sent home, it appeared that important advantages were gained by the introduction of this machinery, and it is calculated that great numbers of lives were saved by the abundant supply of wholesome bread and flour furnished to the camp during the latter part of the siege.

In 1859 William Fairbairn, Junior, retired, leaving Thomas the sole proprietor, after which the works were carried on under the title of Fairbairn and Company.

About 1860 the firm undertook, under Mr. Fairbairn's direction, a work of considerable difficulty, namely, the rebuilding of two large viaducts on the Manchester and Sheffield Railway. These had been originally built about 1844, of wood, each was some hundreds of feet long and 100 to 120 feet high above the valley below. After a few years the wooden ribs became distorted, and the entire structure of one of them was so unsafe, that it had to be trussed with iron rods to keep it in form. Within ten or twelve years after erection the timber in both became so much decayed as to endanger their security, and Mr. Fairbairn was consulted as to the best mode of reconstructing them in iron. The difficulty and expense, however, frightened the directors, and temporary repairs were resorted to. But these did not last long, and in 1858 the viaducts were again in such a state as to alarm the passengers and the people in the neighbourhood, who drove and travelled several miles to avoid crossing either bridge. Under these circumstances it was finally resolved to renew them with iron, and Mr. Fairbairn being again referred to, designs were made and carried out.

The timber arches had to be removed and iron girders substituted, under however a stringent condition by the directors that the railway traffic on the viaducts should not be interrupted during the progress of the works. This was agreed to, and Mr. Fairbairn states that in carrying it out he incurred heavy responsibilities, and much anxiety; but the works were completed without accident; and although there were about seventy trains per day passing over the bridges, no stoppage, even of a single minute, occurred with any one of them.

The mode of executing this difficult work is too technical to be stated here; it was fully described by Mr. Fairbairn in a paper read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, February 24, 1863, and published it their Proceedings for that year.

About 1864 the business was transferred to a Limited Liability Company, who thenceforth traded under the title of The Fairbairn Engineering Company. Mr. Fairbairn and his family retained, however, a considerable pecuniary interest in the concern, and Mr. Fairbairn himself still kept an office on the works, and gave much personal attention to them. The firm undertook several large contracts, among which was the construction of some forts for the Government to be erected at Spithead; the roof of the Royal Albert Hall; many large bridges and roofs for railways, &c., &c. But about the time of Sir William's death, the tide of a long continued prosperity seemed to have turned, and in the face of a serious depression in the iron trade, which was obviously coming on, it was considered expedient not to risk further losses, but to wind up the concern. The shops were accordingly dismantled, the plant was sold, and probably by the time this biography reaches the public, the Canal Street Engineering Works will have altogether disappeared.

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