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British Industrial History

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William Fawcett

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William Fawcett (1763-1844) of Fawcett, Preston and Co

1763 December 26th. Born in Liverpool the son of Peter Fawcett and his wife and Elizabeth Rathbone

1790 Will of Joseph Rathbone bequearthed him £2,500 and his Five Shares in Iron Bridge across the Severn. Fawcett is then granted a lease on Phoenix Foundry for seven years by the Darbys of Coalbrookdale.

1795 "IRON WORKS. TO be sold by Auction, at the House of John Jones, the Eagles, in Wrexham, Denbighshire, on Tuesday the 1st of December next, at Five o'Clock in the Afternoon, subject: to the Conditions then to be produced, That old established Iron Work, called BERSHAM FURNACE, comprizing the Machinery and Utensils thereto belonging, together with the Reversion of the sundry Leases of the Lands and Buildings; the Whole being well calculated for carrying on the Foundry Business on an extensive Scale. At the same Time will be sold the Stock of Metal, consisting of Cast and Wrought Iron, and Lead, together with various Castings, &c which will be disposed of in Lots agreeable to the Purchasers. The Whole to be seen at any Time previously to the Sale; and further Particulars may be had by applying to William Fawcett, Merchant, Liverpool."[1]

Supplied an engine (and other machinery?) to Sove's sugar mill in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Described in 1838 as 'Very old, being about the first in Lousiana'[2]

1810 William Fawcett, of Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, Merchant and Ironfounder, was declared a Bankrupt[3]

1820 Supplied a 15 HP stationary engine to Michel Aime's sugar mill in St. Charles, Louisiana.[4]

1820 Supplied a 16 HP stationary engine to S. Labranche's sugar mill in St. John the Baptist, Louisiana.[5]

1821 Supplied a 10 HP and a 12 HP stationary engine to Louis Labranche's sugar, grist and saw mills in St. Charles, Louisiana.[6]

1821 Supplied a 20 HP stationary engine to Fortier & Duplantier's sugar mill in St. James, Louisiana.[7]

1821 Dissolution of the Partnership "between William Fawcett, of Liverpool, Benjamin Whitehouse, of Dudley, and Charles Shand, of Liverpool, in the Vintry Hill Iron Works, in Monmouthshire ... as respects the said Charles Shand, who withdraws from the same" ... [8]

1825 "... the Partnership lately subsisting between the undersigned, William Fawcett, James Hunt, Henry Hunt, Archibald Kenrick and Joseph Priestley, as Iron and Coal-Masters, at Varteg, in the County of Monmouth, was dissolved on the 26th day of August last. "[9]

1825 "... the Partnership lately subsisting between the undersigned, William Fawcett, James Hunt, Henry Hunt, Joseph Priestley, and George Smith Kenrick, has been dissolved by mutual consent... "[10]

1841 William Fawcett, engineer, lived in Liverpool, age 77[11]

1843 Dissolution of the Partnership between Mark Philips, William Fawcett, William Needham, and George Smith Kenrick, as Iron Masters, at Varteg, in the county of Monmouth, under the firm of the Varteg Iron Company[12]

1844 December 28th. Died at his residence in Lydia Ann Street, Liverpool age 83.[13]


1944 Bio Note [14]

THE man who engined the first Mersey ferry steamer died 100 years ago next year— on January 2. He was William Fawcett, founder of the Merseyside engineering firm of Fawcett, Preston and Company, whose history reaches back nearly 200 years.

Noting the success of the little Clyde-built steamer "Comet," Fawcett turned his attention from gunmaking and general engineering to the construction of marine engines and boilers, and as early as 1816 fitted his first engine to a Mersey river steamer.

Besides engining the first Mersey ferry steamers and several coasting craft, he was soon exporting marine engines to such distant ports as Savannah, New Orleans, Charleston, and Montreal, at the same time supplying British shipbuilders with machinery and boilers of an improving type.

His works, the Coalbrookdale Iron Foundry, established by George Perry in the mid-18th century, were situated at York-street, and he lived at the adjacent Lydia Ann-street.

In 1811 Fawcett was declared bankrupt, but the Littledale family came into the business under the style of Fawcett and Littledale. The existing works were extended.

Twelve years later this partnership dissolved and, with the entry of Robert Preston, the firm became Fawcett, Preston and Co. Meanwhile, they had engined all types of steam vessels, including the wooden paddler Conde de Palmella, the first ocean-going steamer to leave this country. She made the voyage Liverpool to Lisbon in four days.

Although Fawcett’s name not publicly perpetuated locally, it is interesting to note that one of his earliest steamers was the pioneer steamer of the P. and O. Line, the wooden paddler "William Fawcett," 209 tons, built by C. and J. Smith at Liverpool in 1828 and fitted with engines of 130 horsepower. After serving for some years m the Irish trade, she was acquired by the P. and O. Company and inaugurated their sailings to the Mediterranean.

Another, though smaller William Fawcett, 48 tons, also named after the engineer, was built by Mottershead Liverpool in 1829, and fitted with engines of 30 h.p. For 20 years' she served on the Birkenhead-Liverpool ferry service. Fawcett was also responsible for the machinery and boilers of the Royal William and Liverpool, which pioneered the North Atlantic steamship run to New York in 1838. The Royal William later returned to the Irish trade and survived until broken in 1885. The Liverpool was taken over by the P. and O. Line. esteemed was William Fawcett that his fellow-townsmen, in 1841, had his portrait painted,'to be hung permanently in the Mechanics Institute, Liverpool.

He died on January 2, 1845, aged 83. At his funeral at the Necropolis, more than 250 his workmen attended.

The firm continued a very extensive general engineering business, and throughout last century supplied engines and boilers for many famous ships, ranging from large liners to steam tugs, from blockade-runners of the American Civil War to swift Mersey ferry steamers, in addition to executing orders for many parts of the world. As the shipbuilding firms developed their own engine-shops, the demand for independently-built machinery declined and this department of their business gradually passed , out and their energies were diverted to other engineering manufactures, etc.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London Gazette 7 November 1795
  2. [1] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.305
  3. [https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/16435/page/2013 The London Gazette Publication date:15 December 1810 Issue:16435 Page:2013
  4. [2] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.306
  5. [3] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.306
  6. [4] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.306
  7. [5] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.306
  8. London Gazette 6 January 1821
  9. London Gazette 4 June 1825
  10. London Gazette 4 June 1825
  11. 1841 census
  12. London Gazette 15 December 1843
  13. Morning Advertiser - Tuesday 31 December 1844
  14. Liverpool Evening Express - Monday 04 September 1944