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British Industrial History

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Birmingham Patent Disc Engine Co

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of Berkeley Street, Birmingham

Henry Davies was the first to build a disc engine.

1840 the partners in a salt works near Droitwich bought out the manufacturing rights for the disc engine and established the Birmingham Patent Disc Engine Co. Henry Davies was appointed superintendent.

After 18 months the company had sold 26 engines for factories mills and a coal mine.

However the running costs of the disc engine was high to the company soon went out of business.

1844 Advertisement: 'TO ENGINEERS, MACHINISTS, AND OTHERS. IMPORTANT AND EXTENSIVE SALE OF VALUABLE LATHES & MACHINERY BY WHITWORTH AND Co., COLLIER, AND GLASGOW AND Co.; ALSO STEAM ENGINES AND OTHER EFFECTS, AT THE PATENT DISC ENGINE WORKS, BERKELEY-STREET, BROAD-STREET, BIRMINGHAM. TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr. GIMBLETT, on Monday the 28th, Tuesday the 29th, and Wednesday the 30th of October instant, and Friday the Ist of November, also on Monday the 4th, Tuesday the 5th Wednesday the 6th, and Friday the 8th of November next, on the premises as above-all the valuable STOCK, and MACHINERY of the Disc Engine Company, which is of the best description, and nearly new ; consisting of six superior powerful Screw cutting BED LATHES, or the following dimensions, by Whitworth and Co., Manchester, with their latest improvements, viz. two Lathes, 8½ inch centres, nine and ten feet long; three Lathes, 10-inch centres, eight, ten, and eighteen feet long; one Lathe 15-inch centre, sixteen feet long; with double-geared Headstocks, Compound Slide-rests, Trains of Wheels for Screw-cutting, and with Self-acting Apparatus for Surfacing ; a very superior 10-inch Slide Lathe.eighteen feet long, with Compound Slide-rest, &c.; a Horizontal Lathe, with Revolving Face-plate, Driving Apparatus. &c. complete, by Whitworth and Co.; four valuable Self-acting PLANING MACHINES by Whitworth and Co., of their very best make, with Reversing Apparatus, and all their latest improvements, of the following dimensions:- One each six feet, nine feet, twelve feet, and fifteen feet Bed ; two HORIZONTAL LATHES, similar to the above, by Collier; three very powerful Self-acting Double-geared LATHES by Glasgow and Co , each with seventeen feet six-inch Bed, Compound Slide-rests, two with 30-inch and one with 42-inch Head-stocks, Face-plates, &c; one nine inch Geared LATHE by Glasgow and Co., twelve feet Bed, with Compound Slide-rest, Driving Apparatus, &c; two ten inch Geared LATHES by Glasgow and Co., ten and twelve feet long; a superior Face-plate LATHE, ten feet, with Cross Slide; a Dead-centre LATHE, to turn ten feet diameter ; two powerful Radial DRILLING MACHINES by Whitworth and Co.; a Patent NUT and BOLT MACHINE by Haley ; numerous Cutters, Drills, Screw Chucks, Tools, Bevel and Spur Wheels, about 40 dozen Cold Chisels, and 220 dozen of new Files and Smooths.

'TWO DISC ENGINES of thirty horse power, THREE of twenty-horse power, TEN of twelve horse power, TWO of ten horse power, THREE of eight-horse power, SEVEN of five-horse power, and TWO of two horse power, besides several Frames, two Water-heating Apparatus with Copper Tubes, several Wrought Iron BOILERS, for ten, five, two, and twenty five-horse Engines: large BLOWING CYLINDERS for Cupolas; an excellent Five ton CRANE by Bramah and Fox, and smaller Cranes; also a powerful HYDRAULIC PRESS by Ormerod and Son ; Blowing Apparatus, powerful bright Shafting, with Pulleys, Brackets, &c. ; a large quantity of Moulders' Boxes, with other Foundry Tools; three Cupolas and Air Furnace; Smiths' Top and Bottom Tools, Tongs, 40-inch Bellows. Anvils and Vices, a quantity of Patterns, and other Effects ; also an IRON BOAT, fitted with a five-feet Disc Pump, Engine, and Boiler, for canal drainage; particulars of which will appear in the catalogues, to be had one week before the sale at the Works ; at the Guardian Office, Manchester ; or at the Auctioneer's office, Birmingham. The Auctioneer can confidently state there is no Machinery surpassing the above within fifty miles of the place, every part being of first-rate quality, and made by Manchester Manufacturers regardless of expense. The above PREMISES, which are most complete, and well arranged, will be ready for LETTING immediately after the sale. Also a small FOUNDRY, well lighted, and fitted with every convenience.'[1]

1845 George Bishopp, formerly employed as build superintendent at the company, patented his "improved" disc engine. Amongst other things it featured replaceable parts and machined surfaces. He first achieved prominence when he supplied an engine to drive the printing presses at The Times printworks - the world's first mechanised presses (see Joseph Whitworth and Co).

1845 "NOTICE is hereby given, that the Company heretofore subsisting under the name or title of the Birmingham Patent Disc Engine Company, and carrying on business at Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, and of which Company we, the undersigned, are the Directors, was dissolved, on the 1st day of July now last past, under and by virtue of the provisions for that purpose contained in the deed of settlement of the said Company. All debts due to and owing by the said Company, or to or by us on behalf of such Company, will be received and paid by us, as such Directors: As witness our hands this 5th day of June 1845."
Henry Edward Seville.
Thos. Goodman.
Geo. Nelson.
[2]




NOTE: An excellent account of the development of disc engines by various companies, including the Birmingham Patent Disc Engine Company, is available online[3]. The website includes an animation which clarifies the difficult-to-grasp operating principle of the disc engine.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Birmingham Gazette - Monday 14 October 1844
  2. London Gazette 20 June 1845
  3. [1]'The Dakeyne Disc Engine' website, by Phil Wigfull