B. Hick and Sons

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Portrait c.1840 of Benjamin Hick, founder of B. Hick and Sons by George Patten ARA (1801–1865)

B. Hick and Sons, later known as Hick, Hargreaves & Co, was a British engineering company, based at the Soho Ironworks in Bolton, England.[1][2] Benjamin Hick had originally been a partner in Rothwell, Hick and Rothwell, later Rothwell, Hick & Co. and set up his company in partnership with two of his sons, John (1815–1894) and Benjamin (1818–1845) in 1833.

Benjamin Jr left B. Hick and Sons after a year for partnership of a firm in Liverpool believed to be George Forrester & Co, however in April 1841 he filed a patent governor for B. Hick and Son featured on the front page of Mechanics' Magazine using his father's Egyptian winged motif.[3]

Locomotives[edit]

The first B. Hick and Sons steam locomotive was built in 1833, including an unconventional gear driven four wheeled rail carriage for Bolton solicitor and banker Thomas Lever Rushton. Several more locomotives followed over the remainder of the decade, a number were built for export to America including a 2-2-0 Fulton for the Pontchartrain Railroad in 1834,[4] and New Orleans and Carrollton for the Saint Charles Avenue Line, New Orleans in 1835;[5] a second New Orleans for the same line in 1837.[6]

Between 1837 and 1840 the company became a subcontractor for Edward Bury and Company, supplying engines to the Midland Counties Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway, the North Union Railway, the Manchester and Leeds Railway and indirectly the Grand Crimean Central Railway via the London and North Western Railway about 1855. Engines were also built for the Cheshire, Lancashire and Birkenhead Railway, Chester and Birkenhead railway, Eastern Counties Railway, Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the Paris and Versailles Railway.

In 1841 the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway found some American Norris 4-2-0 locomotives very successful, especially on the notorious Lickey Incline, and Hick built three similar ones for the line. Between 1844 and 1846 the firm built a number of "long boiler" locomotives with haystack fireboxes, plus four 2-4-0s in 1848 for the North Staffordshire Railway.[7]

Hick, Hargreaves & Co[edit]

Benjamin Hick and Son 6 hp steam engine, mill-gear and ornamental column at the Great Exhibition. Photograph 1851 by Claude-Marie Ferrier (1811-1889) from the Reports of the Juries.

After the death of Benjamin the elder in 1842, the firm continued as Benjamin Hick & Son (also known as B. Hick & Son) under the management of Benjamin's eldest son, John Hick (1815–1894). In 1845 John took into partnership his brother-in-law John Hargreaves Jr (1800–1874) followed by his younger brother William Hargreaves (1821–1889) in 1847. John Hargreaves Jr JP left the firm in 1851. The same year the firm exhibited engineering models and machinery at The Great Exhibition in Class VI. Manufacturing Machines and Tools, including a 6 horse power engine and mill-gear driving Hibbert, Platt and Sons' cotton machinery. The firm received a Council Medal award for their Mill gearing, radial drill mandrils and portable forges. At the time the Benjamin Hick & Son London office was situated at 1 New Broad Street in the City of London.

One example of the Great Exhibition engineering models, a 1:10 scale 1840 double beam engine built in the Egyptian style by Benjamin Hick for John Marshall's Temple Works, Leeds[8] is displayed at the Science Museum, it is considered the ultimate development of a Watt engine.

Locomotive building continued until 1855, and in all some ninety to a hundred locomotives were produced; but they were a sideline for the company, which concentrated on marine and stationary engines, of which they made a large number including those for the paddle frigates Afonso and Amazonas built by Thomas Wilson, Birkenhead, builders of the Royal William; screw propelled Mediterranean steamers, Nile and Orontes and the SS Don Manuel built by Alexander Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton.[8] The Brazilian Navy's Afonso is notable for its role in the rescue of passengers from the Ocean Monarch 1848 and the Passage of the Tonelero 1851; the Amazonas for its participation in the Battle of Riachuelo 1865.

B. Hick & Son supplied the principle machinery on a new and perfectly unique concept together with iron pillars, roofing and fittings for the paper and pulp steam mill at Woolwich Arsenal for in 1856, the manufacture of cartridge bags of which it could produce about 20,000 per hour, sufficient for the supply of the entire British army and navy. The intention was also to provide the manufacture of paper for the various departments of Her Majesty's service.

Steel boilers were first produced by the firm in 1863, mostly of the Lancashire type, however more than 200 locomotive boilers were made for torpedo boats into the 1890s.

B. Hick and Son were responsible for introducing highly efficient Corliss valve gear into the United Kingdom from the United States about 1864 and closely identified with it thereafter. About 1881 Hick, Hargreaves received orders for two Corliss engines of 3000hp, the largest cotton mill engines in the world. Mill gearing was a speciality including large flywheels for rope driving; turbines and hydraulic machinery were also manufactured. The works featured an 80ton hydraulic riveting machine.

John Hick JP retired from the business in 1868 when he became a member of parliament (MP), following the firm was renamed Hick, Hargreaves and Company. On the death of John Hick's nephew Benjamin Hick in 1883, active involvement of the Hick family ceased until 1893 when Benjamin Hick's great grandson, also Benjamin Hick started an apprenticeship with the firm, followed by his younger brother Geoffrey about 1900.

William Hargreaves JP died in 1889 and, under the directorship of his three sons,[9] John Henry, Frances and Percy the firm, known as Hick, Hargreaves and Company, acquired limited liability the same year.

For the ease of shipping and transportation, Soho Works were traversed by sidings of the London North Western Railway.

Diversification[edit]

William Hargreaves JP c.1880, from a Photograph by Alex Bassano 25 Old Bond St. W. "INK-PHOTO." SPRAGUE & Co. LONDON. Inscribed Mr Hargreaves Millbank Halliwell Bolton

About 1885 Hick Hargreaves & Co became associated with Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti during the reconstruction of the Grosvenor Gallery and began to manufacture steam engines for power generation including those of Ferranti's Deptford Power Station, largest power station in the world at the time.

From 1911 they began the manufacture of diesel engines, in World War I the firm did much war work, producing mines and shells as well as oil engines for submarines.

During the early hours 26 September 1916, Hick Hargreaves' works were targeted unsuccessfully by Zeppelin L 21, the bomb missed passing through the roof of nearby Holy Trinity Church.

The firm's recoil gear for the Vickers 18 pounder quick firing gun was so successful that by war's end a significant part of the factory was devoted to its production. Civil manufacture was not suspended entirely and in 1916 the firm began making high vacuum condensing plant used in power generation. This was greatly expanded in later years as centralised power generation was adopted in Great Britain.

In 1933 they acquired the records, drawings and patterns of three defunct steam engine manufacturers: J & E Wood, John Musgrave & Sons Limited and Galloways Limited. As a consequence the firm made a lucrative business out of repairs and supplying spare parts. Large stationary steam engines were still used by many textile manufacturers in the Bolton area until the collapse of the industry after World War II.

Post World War II the firm expanded its work in electricity generation, and branched out into food processing, oil refining, petrochemicals and offshore oil equipment production.

Soho Iron Works[edit]

Between the 1840s and 1870s, the firm had its own Brass Band, "John Hick's Esq, Band", known as the Soho Iron Works Band with a uniform of "...rich full braided coat, black trousers, with two-inch gold lace down the sides and blue cap with gold band," who would play airs through the streets of Bolton.[10]

Ownership changes[edit]

In 1968 the Hargreaves family sold the company to Electrical & Industrial Securities Ltd. In 2001 the firm was bought by the The BOC Group from Smiths Industries, and the historic records were deposited with Bolton library. Hick, Hargreaves was the most enduring engineering company in Bolton and Britain, surviving 170 years from the outset.[11]

Smiths had already sold the site to J Sainsbury plc and, despite being marked by a blue plaque, Soho Iron Works were closed and demolished entirely during 2002 in favour of a car park and Sainsbury's supermarket, opening 27 March 2003.[12]

Later The BOC Group plc was taken over by Linde A.G. of Germany who intended to return the combined group to a 'pure gas' business and so sold off the BOC Edwards engineering division[13] into which Hick Hargreaves of Bolton had been placed where it had been combined with the Edwards High Vacuum business of BOC Edwards based at Crawley, West Sussex. The business of the vacuum company was sold to private shareholders CCMP Capital and on 1 June 2007 was re-established as an independent UK private limited company "Edwards Limited".

The Bolton site of Edwards Limited is now a design shop with outsourced UK and foreign manufacture and has moved to new office premises in Lostock, where it continues to sell some steam ejector, feed heater and de-aeration technology of the old Hick Hargreaves business as a Process Vacuum part of Edwards Limited.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ P. W. Pilling, Hick Hargreaves and Co., The History of an Engineering Firm c. 1833 – 1939, a Study with Special Reference to Technological Change and Markets (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Liverpool, 1985), p. 20
  2. ^ Short Histories of Famous Firms, Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves and Co., Reprint from The Engineer, June 25th and July 30th 1920
  3. ^ Hick, Benjamin Jr; Edited, Printed and Published by J. C. Robertson, No. 166 Fleet-Street. (15 May 1841). "HICK'S PATENT GOVERNOR FOR STEAM-ENGINES AND WATER WHEELS.". The Mechanics' Magazine, MUSEUM, REGISTER, JOURNAL, AND GAZETTE. 34 (927): 369–372. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Guilbeau, James (2011). St. Charles Streetcar, The: Or, the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Louisiana Landmarks (illustrated ed.). Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. p. 18. ISBN 1879714027. 
  5. ^ Guilbeau, James (2011). St. Charles Streetcar, The: Or, the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Louisiana Landmarks (illustrated ed.). Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. p. 12. ISBN 1879714027. 
  6. ^ American Society of Mechanical Engineers Regional Transit Authority. "St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line, 1835". Adapted from the book The St. Charles Street Car or The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad, by J. L. Guilbeau, revised and reprinted 1977. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers 345 East 47th Street New York, N.Y. 10017. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Christiansen & Miller p. 309.
  8. ^ a b A.W.M (16 April 1936). "Models of a Beam Engine and Steam Turbine". Model Engineer 74 (1823): p. 80. 
  9. ^ A.W.M (16 April 1936). "Models of a Beam Engine and Steam Turbine". Model Engineer 74 (1823): p. 79. 
  10. ^ Holman, Gavin. "Extinct Brass Bands (S-Z)". ibew (Internet Bandsman's Everything Within). Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Halton, Maurice J. (14 November 2002). "Firm is moving after 170 years". The Bolton News. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "New store opens in a flash". The Bolton News. 26 March 2003. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Linde sells BOC Edwards
  14. ^ "Goo Wikipedia". Benjamin Hick and Sons. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ashmore, Owen, Industrial Archaeology of Lancashire, (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1969)
  • Christiansen, Rex & Miller, Robert William (1971). The North Staffordshire Railway. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-5121-4. 
  • Halton, Maurice J., The Impact of Conflict and Political Change on Northern Industrial Towns, 1890 to 1990, MA Dissertation, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, Manchester Metropolitan University September 2001 MA Dissertation
  • Lowe, J.W., (1989) British Steam Locomotive Builders, Guild Publishing
  • Mathias, Peter, The First Industrial Nation, An Economic History of Britain 1700–1914, Third Edition, (London: Methuen, 1983)
  • Pilling, P W (1985) Hick Hargreaves and Co., The History of an Engineering Firm c. 1833 – 1939, a Study with Special Reference to Technological Change and Markets (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Liverpool, 1985)
  • Saul, S. B., The Mechanical Engineering Industries in Britain, 1860 – 1914 in Barry Supple (ed.), Essays in British Business History, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977)
  • Singer, Charles, (ed.), A History of Technology, Volume 5, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958)
  • Singleton, John, Lancashire on the Scrapheap, The Cotton Industry 1945–1970, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991)
  • Timmins, Geoffrey, Made in Lancashire, A History of Regional Industrialisation, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998)
  • University of Manchester, An Industrial Survey of the Lancashire Area (Excluding Merseyside), (London: HMSO, 1932)
  • Wilson, John F., Ferranti: A History, Building a Family Business, 1882–1975, (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2001)

External links[edit]