Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Woolstenhulme and Rye

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March 1888.
May 1888.

Woolstenhulme and Rye of Lower Moor Ironworks, Oldham

Makers of steam engines for textile mills

formerly Seville and Woolstenhulme.

1840 William Rye, an engineer from Manchester, entered the business and married the senior partner's daughter in 1842.

The business expanded and by 1846 they were employing 250 workers and were manufacturing self-acting mules and power looms.

1851 Employing 277 people.[1]

In 1854 they exhibited a 12 hp steam engine.

1855 Seville retired and Rye took the partnership. The firm became Woolstenhulme and Rye. About this time they closed the machine-making side of the business and concentrated on producing steam engines for the mills.

1861 Employing 224 men.[2]

1873 The company was incorporated.

1883 the name of the company was Woolstenhulmes, Rye and Co. They advertised as engineers, millwrights, iron & brass founders, makers of roller and mule spindles, steam engines of every type, up to 1500 HP, gear wheels and belt driving drums.[3]

Woolstenhulme and Rye engines are said to be conservative in design, and although Gurr & Hunt claim that there was no evidence that the company had ever used Corliss valves, in his Black Book engine list, Arthur Roberts documents their use in Parkfield Mill. This engine was a 1,200-hp cross-compound engine. It had a 20-inch-diameter (510 mm) HP (high pressure) cylinder, 40-inch-diameter (1,000 mm) LP (low pressure) cylinder, with a 6-foot (1.8 m) stroke. It was steamed at 140 psi. The 18-foot (5.5 m) flywheel ran at 52 rpm. Transmission was by a geared drive. There were Corliss valves on the HP cylinder and slide valves on the LP, in fact a classic Lancashire configuration. The air pump was driven by a bell crank from the LP tail rod.

Woolstenhulme and Rye produced mill engines in the 1860s, but their principal period of production was in the 1870s, when they produced 17 engines giving a total of 10,970 ihp, and in the 1880s, when they made 22 engines giving 11,000 ihp, before they fell into financial difficulties and were liquidated in 1888.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Census
  2. 1861 census
  3. Advert in The Textile Examiner