Category Archives: Correspondence From Our Readers

News from information and items you’ve sent through to us…

Restoration Success in Tasmania

Marshall 2

Last year we were contacted by the St Helens Lions Club of Tasmania asking for advice on the restoration of a Marshall traction engine. With no ID number or clues to it’s original appearance, this engine being one of only two left in the Southern Hemisphere, became part of the Lions Centennial Project.

Marshall 1Originally used at a local sawmills – photo taken March 2017.

Marshall 3 Engine after undercoat and ready to be painted -  photo taken June 2017.

Marshall 4

Marshall Mayor


Now, and after a year’s hard work it sits proudly outside the local history room and information centre. On Friday 16th March the Mayor of St Helens cut the ribbon and uncovered the plaque that has been put in place to commemorate the fantastic work done to bring the engine back to it’s former glory.

Although some areas of it’s working life remains a mystery, it’s a lovely thought to know that a piece of Gainsborough industrial history has not only survived, but been lovingly restored on the other side of the world from where it originated.


Can you help us identify this family?

A  few years ago, we received an e-mail  with the attached photographs of this family supposedly relating to Beans Industries Ltd – Engineers and Ironfounders of Tipton in Staffordshire.

They are captioned ‘The Bean family’ in our records and the photographs are noted down as being between 1937-38, although we’re almost sure these dates can’t be accurate for both photographs.

If they are members of the Bean family, who are they? Can you help?

Please contact the editor if you have any information for us.





As a non-profit organisation, we rely wholly on the generosity of the people who appreciate and support the project. Without donations and sponsors, it wouldn’t be possible to publish the amount of historical content we do everyday.

Already this year we have received numerous e-mails with attached photographs, written work and links from you, to help further the content on our webpages. Some of you have also been donating  magazines, books, and company publications in the post, which we are always very grateful to receive.

Thank-you for your continued support. With your help we can continue to preserve and grow the project. And remember to keep checking back to the website as we add new information daily.

If you think you can help in anyway, we want to hear from you. Please see our Wanted page or send us an e-mail.

British Industrial History in Sculpture

Look out for these striking works of art around the UK, built by the English sculptor Robert Erskine. Combining a passion for engineering and industry with his talent for creative thinking, he has fabricated his own masterpieces around the country to represent our country’s great industrial achievements.

1. Dead Blow (2011) in Openshaw Manchester, UK. To represent the Nasmyth steam hammer first produced on this site.

Nasmyth Hammer 1Nasmyth Hammer 2

 James Nasmyth with the steam hammer he invented. Picture taken in 1856.

2.  Roll Down (1996) in Bilston, Midlands, UK.  Sited on the former Bilston Steel Works No. 1 Furnace. To represent the rolling process of a steel bloom and reflect the thriving steel industry of the Black Country.

British Steel 1

British Steel 2

Nile Street steel works, Birmingham. Picture taken c1905-20.

3. Gloria (1996) in Canley, Coventry, UK. Situated on the historic site of the Triumph cars facility. To mark the centenary of the British car industry and tribute the technique of the wheeling machine used to curve body panels.



An example of an advert for the Triumph Renown showing the signature curves of the wheel arches.

Visit the sculptor’s official website for his full portfolio.

Wartime woes captured in fascinating letters from December 1941

A company director pours his heart out about war time struggles in a dramatically touching letter we were lucky enough to receive from a reader of Grace’s Guide.

Sir Alan George Clark was born the son of a businessman in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1898. By the time of his death in 1962, he had helped and watched Plessey grow from a struggling company employing a handful if people, to a multi-million pound global organisation.

He wrote to a Mr C. J. Stewart of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in December 1941 in a dramatic state of despair:

Letter from A G Clarke

Mr Stewart’s reply:



Plessey contributed greatly for the war effort, producing many varieties of components and equipment from shell cases to radio receivers. Despite the bombing of its Ilford site, Plessey built a new factory at Swindon and opened several other shadow factories around the U.K. They even converted a tunnel, built as an extension of the London Underground Central Line, into a munitions factory, and their wartime workforce was doubled from 5,000 in 1939 to over 10,000 in the early 1940s.

These personal letters don’t only give us a rare and incredible insight into the terrible economical impacts companies faced in wartime Britain; they take you back to Christmas 1941 and one man’s desperate struggle for himself and his company’s future.

Visit Grace’s Guide to find more historical treasures from Britain’s industrial past.

Hinkley Point in Pencil

Plant OverviewAS

Nuclear power stations aren’t generally considered as places of beauty, or sites of inspiration with many environmentalists opposing their existence at all in light of renewable energy trends. But last week we received an e-mail regarding Hinkley Point A Nuclear Power Station in Somerset, UK, that shed a different light on industrial power plants, with a refreshing story alongside.

Alan Sorrell was a well-known member of the Royal Watercolour Society, and built a strong reputation for himself painting archaeological illustrations, which he produced for the Ministry of Works, books, museums and the Illustrated London News. He was employed as an artist to record the construction of Hinkley Point A, from it’s beginnings , right through to its completion – a job that included climbing the great Goliath crane 250ft high to gain the best views across the site.

We’ve been very lucky to view some of these sketches, a few of which were published in ‘The Sphere‘ during the 1960’s. Unlike the many technical drawings and dark photographs printed in The Engineer,  they certainly offer a different perspective of the power plant, which has now shut down and been decommissioned.

ColourInterior AL

His family have been in touch, and are eager to locate the original sketches of his work, so please do get in touch with Grace’s Guide, if you have any more information on their whereabouts. 

Exciting Historic Volumes in time for Christmas

The team at Grace’s Guide are working on a few lovely additions to the site at the moment – the early volumes of ‘The Engineering Times and Mechanics Magazine and the first volume of ‘The Autocar’.

The Autocar Title

Malcom Jeal – an established member of The Society of Automotive Historians in Britain (SAHB) kindly got in touch with us quite recently introducing a collection of very rare and immaculate bound volumes of historic reference books.

We were kindly loaned ‘The Autocar’ volume 1, ‘The Engineering Times’ volumes 1 and 2, and a couple of early volumes of ‘Mechanics’ Magazine’, which we are currently processing.

As always, we are so grateful for contributions like these and the people behind them who kindly loan precious books for our digital archives.  Rare volumes, perhaps never publicly available before, are then preserved in our digital archive and reproduced online for your pleasure and convenience.

So please do get in touch if you feel you can contribute to Grace’s Guide and we will always strive to reply to you.

We are still processing Mechanics’ Magazine journals at the moment but have a look at the volumes now available to read online below:

The Autocar 1895-1896 Volume 1

The Engineering Times 1898-1899 Dec-Jun Volume 1
The Engineering Times 1899-1900 Jul-Jan Volume 2



Interesting Telegraph Equipment – Solved!

We’ve had an interesting enquiry regarding this lovely old piece of telegraphy equipment and as our research continues we’ve uncovered some interesting answers!

We often receive e-mails from people wanting to know more about their hidden treasures or mystery antiques. Most items and any related information finds a place on the Grace’s Guide history pages and we’re often able to look up more details for our reader straight away. Sometimes however, we need to do a bit of extra research and with items like this, we’ll ask museums, collections, enthusiasts and experts to help us find the answers.

In this case we got in touch with Porthcurno Museum in Cornwall, The Central Archive of The British Museum and The Siemens organisation itself. All proposed excellent information, but the most certain came from Professor Emeritus Tom Perera of the Montclair State University. Take a look at his online telegraph museum.

He expertly identified the object as a Siemens Code Transmitter designed to send a specific message in Morse code when activated. The message in this case being “S” and “I”. Adding to this he tells us it was most likely an alarm device that sent those characters to alert the main station that an event had occurred at the site, identified by ‘I’ ‘S’ and dated it between 1890 and 1930.

Do you know anything more? If you think you can add to the story of this fascinating piece of equipment– please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you.


Domestic Appliance

Recent correspondence

We receive an abundance of different inquiries and e-mails of interest from right across the Domestic Applianceworld here at Grace’s Guide. From queries over motorcycles, chainmaille and antique glass jars to beautifully printed adverts and antique manuals, the variety of subjects we hear about or receive in the post certainly justify people’s fascination over little pieces of industrial history.

An advert for the “Magnet” Electric Machine made by the GEC, was perhaps the most peculiar addition of this week claiming to not only be a device to make ice-cream, but “wash, wring, iron clothes, mince meat and fill sausages, clean and sharpen knives” as well!

We also had a fascinating photograph of a silver pair of scissor serving tongs, quite unique in their design, made by the renowned Cooper Brothers and Sons of Sheffield.

With certain British companies from the 19th and early 20th century, it’s remarkable to see traces of them so widely found across the world. One particularly good example of this would be the J. Stone and Company from London. Established in 1842, their brand name has been spotted on railway undercarriages in Uruguay and railings in Barbados. A photograph of a drain cover in Brazil, sent in recently, fits in nicely with the other examples we’ve collected on their page.