Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,126 pages of information and 245,598 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 Robinson and Son

From Graces Guide
Located at Engenho Lagoa Verde in the municipality of Alagoa Grande, State of Paraíba, Brazil (in 2020).
Located at Engenho Lagoa Verde in the municipality of Alagoa Grande, State of Paraíba, Brazil (in 2020). Detail.


January 1866.
1867 Hugon gas engine built by Robinson for Edward Casper, on display at Anson Engine Museum
Hugon engine
Hugon engine
Hugon engine
Hugon engine
April 1870.
June 1872.
June 1872.
January 1880.


June 1880.
1886. Sleeper preparing machine for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
January 1888.
December 1889.





1901. Mortising machine.
January 1906.
1909. Two-spindle saw bench.
1911. Universal Woodworker.
March 1911.
1915. Machinery at Cammell, Laird and Co's ship building yard.
August 1918.
January 1920.
January 1920.
1922.Band Re-Sawing Machine.
December 1929. Log Band Mill.
1930. Timber moulding, planning and matching machine.
1931. Motor driven tenoning machine.
1933. Band Sawing Machine.
1933. Railway Sleeper Adzing and Boring Machine.
1933. Two new Wood-Working Machines.
1934. Railway Coach Woodworking Machine.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Patternmaker's lathe at the Museum of the Great Western Railway
May 1938.
Saw bench.
Exhibit at the National Slate Museum.
Exhibit at the National Slate Museum.
Exhibit at the National Slate Museum.
Saw Bench, Brandon Park, (Suffolk).
Saw Bench, Brandon Park, (Suffolk).
Saw Bench, Brandon Park, (Suffolk).
Truck and rails.
Saw set.
Saw table.
Pulley and belt.
Electric motor and new belt.
Grain separator.
Grain separator (detail).

T. Robinson & Son of Railway Works, Rochdale.

1838 Company established by Thomas Robinson (1787-1859) in partnership with his son, Thomas junior, as timber merchants, joiners and carpenters, continuing a partnership with his brother, William, after his death; the firm became well known for woodworking and flour mill machinery.

1846 Thomas junior left the business. It started to produce woodworking machinery. Thomas's son John joined the business at a young age.

1859 Thomas died; John took over the business and rapidly developed it through engineering, developing novel cutting machinery.

1862 Prize winner at the 1862 London Exhibition. [1]

1865 Robinson's history, products, and factory were described in the Rochdale Observer.[2]

1867 Built the Hugon non-compression double-acting gas engine in five sizes (up to 4 nhp). A 1/2 HP example from 1867 is on display at the Anson Engine Museum. Edward Casper was the UK licensee (Pierre-Constant Hugon of Paris being the inventor). [3]. See photo.

1867 Prize-winner at the 1867 Paris Exhibition. [4]

1870 Exhibited wood-working machinery at Oxford. Their stand was full of machines driven by a 10 hp vertical engine and boiler.

1876 Roller feed planing machine is the largest ever made. Weighs forty tons and the frame is 30ft long. [5]

1877 John Robinson died.

1880 Private limited company incorporated with John's eldest son, James, as chairman with 2 brothers also involved in the business.

1881 Built their first steam locomotive.

1882 A consignment of flour milling machinery arrived in England in a poor and damaged condition. Robinson’s were hired to repair the machinery. Having previously concentrated on woodworking machinery, they now appreciated that flour milling machinery was an ideal opportunity for further expansion of the company. With existing pattern shops, foundries, fully equipped fitting and erection shops they had considerable advantages.

1883 Exhibited an improved combined vertical engine with boiler, designed especially for saw mills where small power is required.[6]

1884 Thomas Robinson and Sons announced that they could equip a complete flour mill with their own make of machinery.

1884 Second locomotive built.

1884 See The Engineer 1884/11/14 for description of a visit to the works.

1889 Paris Exhibition. Roller flour mill and wood-working machinery. [7]

1892 James died; his younger brother Thomas became chairman

1893 Public company. The company was registered on 5 May, to take over the engineering and machine-making business of a private limited company of the same name. [8]

1894 Antwerp Exhibition. Circular saws and other machinery. [9]

1894 Description of visit to their works in 'The Engineer' (p120). 7 acres and employ 1,200 men. [10]

1894 Grain elevating and distribution plant for Sun Flour Mills, Bromley.

1894 Antwerp Exhibition. Awarded Grand Prix Diploma for Machinery and Machine Tools and Gold Medal for Small Machinery. [11]

1900 The Paris Exhibition. Showed a dozen machines for wood-working. Article and Illustrations. [12]

1909 After Thomas's death, his younger brother Charles, became chairman

1911 Royal Agricultural Show. Four milling appliances and wood-working machinery. [13]

1914 Listed as wood-working and flour milling engineers. Specialities: wood-working machinery specially for shipbuilding yards, dockyards, engineers' pattern shops, railway carriage and wagon works; grain cleaning and flour milling machinery, band conveyors and elevators. Employees 1,300. [14]

WWI Produced war materials, including hand grenades, bombs up to 112 lb., 8 inch high explosive shells, parts for anti-aircraft guns, control gear for 6 inch guns, mine sinkers, mine firing mechanism and gear cases for tanks.

1920 Showed flour milling machinery at the Darlington Agricultural Show. [15]

1920 Large article about their Vertical Band saw and Rack bench in 'The Engineer' 31st December 1920 p658. [16]

1923 Wood-working engineers of Rochdale, moved their offices from 79, Queen Victoria-street E.C.4, to Abbey House, 2 Victoria-street, Westminster.[17]

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

1937 Charles Robinson retired from the chairmanship

WWII Produced munitions as well as repaired damaged milling machinery.

1950-55 Furnished the full set of machinery for 8 secret underground flour mills in Malta during the Cold War [18]

1961 Engineers and machine makers handling machine tools, woodworking and flour milling machinery. 1,050 employees. [19]

Both Henry Simon Ltd and Thomas Robinson and Son had expanded continuously for over a century, dedicating a high percentage of their production to the export of cereal milling machinery. Consequently their plant and equipment can be found in most countries.

1988 The two well-established cereal milling engineers, Henry Simon and Thomas Robinson and Son, merged in October to become Robinson Milling Systems

1991 The business was acquired by the Satake Corporation, to form Satake Robinson UK Ltd, later Satake UK Ltd.

1998 The UK Division was formed and the business was moved, together with ESM (UK), to newly acquired premises in Bredbury. The move, coincidentally, brought the UK company back to where it manufactured flour milling machinery 85 years previously.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1872 advert.
  2. Rochdale Observer, 4 March 1865
  3. 'Internal Fire' by Lyle Cummins (Carnot Press, 2000), referring back to Jour. Franklin Inst, v.83, 1867, as reprinted in Engineering, No. 62
  4. 1872 advert.
  5. The Engineer of 11th August 1876 p94 & p98
  6. The Engineer 1883/07/06
  7. The Engineer 1889/06/10 p395 & p490
  8. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  9. The Engineer of 1st June 1894 p476-8
  10. The Engineer of 10th August 1894 p118
  11. The Engineer of 1st June 1894 p469
  12. The Engineer of 5th October 1900 p338
  13. The Engineer of 7th July 1911 p26
  14. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  15. The Engineer of 9th July 1920
  16. The Engineer of 31st December 1920 p658
  17. The ENGINEER 1923/06/15
  18. Contributor Arch. Antoine Abdilla 27/01/2012
  19. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  • The Engineer of 6th July 1894 p16
  • The Engineer of 2nd November 1894 p387
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • [1] Mills Archive