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 163,365 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.

Thomas Dunn

From Graces Guide

Thomas Dunn (1813-1871)

1854 of Windsor Bridge Iron Works, Manchester - Thomas Dunn and Co

1873 Obituary [1]

MR. THOMAS DUNN was born on the 11th of July, 1813, at Leftwich Green, which was then an open common near Northwich, and was sent to school at Whitley, Cheshire, boarding with his grandfather, Mr. Thomas Burgess, a small farmer, who lived on the edge of Bartington Heath.

At fifteen years of age he went to Northwich, but could not settle to anything. With one master he wasted the paint by operating with it on the boys ; with another, who was a joiner, he cut the tenons off the rails and styles set out for re-pewing the Methodist chapel. Then he tried his hand at sail-making, and again as a stone-mason, and in the intervals he was with his father. He was afterwards turned over to assist his mother as a grocer and general dealer, but treated her customers so that she had nothing but complaints, and she strongly advised him to try again at some mechanical trade. He therefore turned out one night to see if he could find anything in the dark, as all he had tried in daylight had been ineffectual. He went through the town of Northwich, and out by Baron’s Quay, where he saw a strong light, and heard a great noise at the old foundry, and obtained a first-rate view of the casting process and general uproar of a foundry. He then and there determined, if he could only get a situation in this line, that nothing should induce him to leave it.

He got it, and acted on the principle of making himself as useful as possible. He ran and fetched anything for the men, waited on the apprentices older than himself, struck for the smiths, rammed up sand for the moulders, slurred up for the loam men, and waited on everybody, so that he was considered the handiest lad on the works. Whether belonging to their branch or not, all wanted him - millwrights, fitters, turners, and erectors.

About that time a dispute arose amongst the partners, which threw him out of position, and he engaged to go to Middlewich, a small salt town 6 miles south of Northwich. He remained there three months, and was sent to erect an engine and bark-mill at Warrington, 12 miles east of Northwich. He was next engaged to go back to his old foundry, at a much improved salary ; but, finding no scope for improvement, he went to Manchester.

He was articled to Mr. Ormerod, of the George Foundry, where he began to make designs of machinery, to perfect himself in which he embraced the facilities offered by the Manchester Mechanics’ Institution, and, having done so, started on his travels through different parts of the country, then on to Ireland, and back again to Lancashire, whore he obtained a situation at Messrs. Jones and Potts’ works, Warrington Junction, on the Manchester and Liverpool railway.

From there he went to the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway locomotive works, to superintend the construction of some tipping machines at Widnes dock.

Being now twenty-two years of age, his father built a small foundry for him at Leftwich, where he had a partner, to whom he ultimately sold his share of the business, and proceeded to London, at the time railways were coming into vogue. After looking about for some time, Mr. Dunn met with Mr. Cardus, an old contractor of his acquaintance from Lancashire, who got him engaged at once as a foreman. He was now twenty-three years of age, and had three hundred men under him. He found that the discipline he had willingly undertaken at the Baron’s Quay Foundry was not thrown away ; and he secured the friendship of the late Mr. J. H. Beattie, M. Inst. C.E.

After finishing the works on which he was engaged in London, Mr. Dunn went to Holland for a short time, but returned on account of his health.

In the year 1838 he took the management of the St. George’s Foundry, where he was promised a small share in the profits; but, being disappointed, he started the Windsor Bridge Iron Works at Pendleton, near Manchester, in 1847; but they did not prove successful.

Between March 1845, and November 1871, Mr. Dunn took out twenty-three patents, principally for improvements in machinery. One of them, dated the 18th of March, 1862, for 'Improvements in the construction of bridges, roofs, houses, and other structures,' cost £662 10s. for printing and paper, and the price of the specification was £2 13s. per copy.

He was a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of the Institution of Naval Architects, and of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers; and was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 4th of April, 1854.

He died on the 15th of December, 1871, and was buried on the 20th of the same month in Davenham churchyard, Cheshire.

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