Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 146,008 pages of information and 231,555 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Peter Spence

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Peter Spence (1806 - 1883), chemical manufacturer

Described as 'That ingenious and experienced manufacturing chemist' who intoduced some useful and important improvements in the metallurgical process of copper-smelting.[1]

1806 Born at Brechin; a younger brother, James, became a naval architect.

Apprentice grocer in Perth

1831 Married Agnes Mudie; 4 sons and 4 daughters

Worked at Dundee Gas Works

1834 Moved to London; started a small chemical works

Patent on using gas works lime wastes and liquors

Moved to Burgh, Cumberland where he set up a small chemical works; accidentally discovered alum process which made alum much cheaper - patented in 1845

Moved to Manchester to access cheaper supplies of fuel; established works at Pendleton which later became Peter Spence and Sons; further patent in 1850. Soon became the leading manufacturer of alum.

Established branch works in Birmingham and Goole. Developed various metallurgical processes, including an attempt to treat the wastes from the Parys mine; many patents.

Attempted to develop a process for treating aluminium phosphate from Redonda but the process was not a success. As a result of his losses, he converted the business into a limited company. Financially helped by a fellow member of his church, Richard Johnson, the iron master (perhaps of Richard Johnson and Nephew?).

1857 Lawsuit on nuisance caused by emissions resulted in moving the works to Miles Platting

1882 Took out patent on using manganese oxide to precipitate iron; this later attracted a lawsuit from A. G. Kurtz and Co

1883 His wife died in February and he on 5 July

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Spon's Dictionary of Engineering' Edited by Oliver Byrne, 1870
  • Some founders of the chemical industry, by J Fenwick Allen [1]