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British Industrial History

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Robert Applegarth

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Robert Applegarth (1834-1924), carpenter, trade union organiser, submarine engineer and proponent of electric lighting.

1834 January 26th. Born in Hull the son of Robert Applegarth, a master mariner, and his wife Diana Brigham

1852 Moved with his mother to Sheffield

1855 Married Mary Longmore[1]. Soon after they married, he went to America on his own, to improve himself

On his return after 3 years in the USA he joined the local carpenters' union.

1861 he persuaded the union in Sheffield to become part of the newly established General Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners.

1861 Robert Applegarth 27, cabinet maker and joiner, lived in Ecclesall Bierlow with Mary Applegarth 23, Sampson D Applegarth 5, Kate E Applegarth 1[2]

1862 Became general secretary of the union

1868 Elected chairman of the International Working Men's Association. He was involved in many of the major political and industrial issues of the time.

He was the first trade unionist to present evidence to the Royal Commission on the legal status of trade unions.

1870 He was war correspondent on the Franco-Prussian war for various newspapers.

1870 His wife, Mary, died[3]

1871 Appointed to the Royal Commission on contagious diseases but as a result he was forced to resign from the trade union's executive

1871 Robert Applegarth 40, secretary to a public company, widower, lived in Lambeth with Sampson D Applegarth 15, Albert L Applegarth 4, Lillian S Applegarth 1[4]

He was soon appointed the British representative for a firm of French mining and submarine engineers. He risked his life many times in demonstrating the breathing apparatus used for rescues in mines.

1875 Dived the wreck of HMS Vanguard off the coast of Ireland. [5]

1875 Applegarth, with the French firm Denayrouze and Co, sold and demonstrated equipment for breathing in poisonous atmospheres.[6]

1876 Applegarth took out a British patent for Denayrouze and Co, who had acquired the rights for an electric lighting system invented by Paul Jablochkoff of Russia,[7] and conducted the first trials in Britain.

He later became proprietor of the English branch of the business.

Applegarth brought a Giffard cold air machine to England and sent it to J. and E. Hall who worked on the design to remedy its problems and produced a compact refrigeration unit for use in cargo ships.[8]

By 1878 he was one of the honorary secretaries of the Free Bridges Association, campaiging to remove tolls from bridges[9]

1878 Rapieff's system of Electric Lighting was introduced into England by E. J. Reed, under the direction of Applegarth.[10]. An early installation was in the newsroom of the Times Newspaper

1880 Applegarth suggested to the Crystal Palace Co that they should host an electrical exhibition; they accepted the idea and asked him to organise it the following year - see 1882 Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition. As assistant engineer he conducted Mr Gladstone round the exhibition

1881 Robert Applegarth 46, civil engineer, lived in Lewisham with Lillian S. Applegarth 11[11]

1883 Alfred Edwin Stove joined Robert Applegarth in partnership at 11 Queen Victoria Street as submarine engineers during 1883. Stove retired from the firm in 1886.[12]

1888 Recorded as an engineer on the marriage of his daughter Lilian[13]

1891 An electrical engineer, married, an employer, staying in a hotel in Brighton[14]

1892 and 1893: Again was engineer for exhibitions at Crystal Palace

1895 Advertised as Robert Applegarth (late A. Denayrouze), improved diving apparatus & submarme lamps, of 11 Queen Victoria St[15]

1897 April.H. J. Dowsing and R. Applegarth were apppointed to organise an exhibition at Crystal Palace.[16]

1901 Living at 78 North Cray Road, Bexley, Kent: Robert Applegarth (age 67 born Hull), Submarine Electrical Engineer - Employer. With his housekeeper and three visitors.[17]

He continued to support the improvement of elementary and technical education, particularly through the National Industrial Education League which he started.

1911 Electrical engineer, retired, a widower, visiting Croydon[18]

1911 A public appeal was launched to provide him with support, as well as a testimonial to his work in trade unions, education and general social progress[19]

1917 Declined the invitation to become a Companion of Honour.

1924 of Thornton Heath when he died[20]

See Also

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  • [2] R. Applegarth and Epsom
  • [3] Robert Applegarth, Trade Unionist, Educationist, Reformer, by A. W. Humphrey, The National Labour Press, c.1913

Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1861 census
  3. BMD
  4. 1871 census
  5. The Engineer 1890/12/05
  6. Popular Science Monthly,Volume 7, June 1875
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yablochkov_candle
  8. Dartford Archive [1]
  9. The Times, October 8, 1878
  10. Telegraphic Journal of the 1st November, 1878
  11. 1881 census
  12. http://www.divingheritage.com/stovekern.htm
  13. parish records
  14. 1891 census
  15. Post Office Directory
  16. The Autocar 1897/04/10
  17. 1901 Census
  18. 1911 census
  19. The Times, July 24, 1911
  20. National probate calendar
  • Biography of Robert Applegarth, ODNB
  • The Times July 14, 1924