Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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William Hale (1797-1870)

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1797 Born in Colchester, the son of Robert Hale, baker, and his wife, Elizabeth.

1827 Hale's first patent for 'Improvements to propelling vessels' for a steam-powered Archimedean screw used to suck in water then quickly discharge at the stern/

1832 Richard Penn read a paper before the Royal Society about Hale's proposed internal-screw vessel. A clockwork model was demonstrated to the King and Queen at Virginia Water.

At about the same time he took out various patents, including for an improved windmill and for 'aerated liquors', and joined in a partnership to develop ideas for improving gunpowder.

c1828 Hale married Elizabeth Rouse of Colchester. They had two sons and two daughters.

c1835 he moved to Greenwich, enabling him to connect with the Navy.

1839 he returned to Woolwich where rockets, developed by Sir William Congreve, were a focus of interest. Developed and patented improvements in design to achieve spinning in flight to stabilise their trajectory. His rocket factory was at Lower Deptford Road, Rotherhithe. His rockets were tested (and probably used) by the Army.

1846 The USA bought manufacturing rights and used the rockets in the Mexican war.

Legal problems due to his manufacturing with explosives close to London.

1854 Sold the British army in Bulgaria rockets and launchers, then returned to England and manufactured rockets for the British forces.

1867 Hale married Mary Wells of Bath.

1867 the British government finally purchased Hale's invention for £8000. Hale's rockets, though increasingly marginalized by improved artillery, were used by British forces in Abyssinia (1868) and various colonial wars. They were probably last used in Sierra Leone in 1899, and were finally declared obsolete in 1919.

1870 Died of typhoid in West Brompton, Middlesex, and was buried in the Old Brompton cemetery.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of William Hale, ODNB