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British Industrial History

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William Spence

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William Spence (1837-1907), of William Spence and Son, of Cork Street Foundry and Engineering Works, Dublin.


1907 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM SPENCE was born in Dublin on 28th June 1837, of Scottish parents.

At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to Mr. James Haigh, engineer and millwright, Ardee Street Foundry, Dublin, and in 1856 he started, in conjunction with three of his brothers, in business in Cork Street, Dublin, as general engineers, millwrights, iron and brass founders, and specialising in brewery, distillery, and corn and flour mill machinery.

After a few years they found it necessary, owing to the growth of the business, to remove to more extensive premises, also in Cork Street, where the present works are situated.

During this partnership several very important contracts were carried out, notably plant for Messrs. A. Guinness, Son and Co., Dublin, Messrs. J. J. Murphy and Co., Cork, Red Lion Brewery, London, and Messrs. Jameson and Co., Dublin, in whose distillery they made and erected the largest mash tuns in the world.

In 1872 the partnership was dissolved; he then acquired the works, and commenced on his own account, maintaining this business up to his death. During the last twenty years the works have been doubled in extent, as all classes of engineering work were undertaken.

In 1875 he made, for the present Earl of Rosse, the celebrated 3-foot equatorial telescope, and in later years he made and erected very large brewery plants throughout the country, also steel-framed light-houses, air-compressors and syrens for the Irish Lights Board, bridges, roofs, screw-pile work and railway plant, engines, boilers, locomotives, and the first road locomotive in Ireland, and brought out several inventions.

His death took place from heart failure at his residence in Rathgar, Co. Dublin, on 25th July 1907, at the age of seventy.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1887; he was also a Member of the Royal Dublin Society, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland, the Rathmines Town Council, and a governor and one of the founders of St. Andrew's College, Dublin.


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