Grace’s Guide Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

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 This month we celebrate a decade of archiving Britain’s industrial heritage.

The team at Graces Guide has spent the past 10 years collecting fascinating extracts from The Engineer, The Engineering Times, Mechanics Magazines and The Autocar to name a few, preserving them digitally for many years to come.

See our archive page here.

Our online archive includes over 186,000 images and over 122,000 web pages, on Britain’s industrial achievements, companies and engineering pioneers. The project also boasts 40,000 pages of biographical notes and over 500 industrial categories for researchers, academics and enthusiasts alike, to explore.

Im20140416-AIT                                              Andrew Tweedie – Founder and Editor

Grace’s Guide originated in March 2007 when Andrew Tweedie, founder and editor-in-chief, directed his attention to a long-term passion – industrial history. Motivated by his belief in the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations he was inspired to begin an extensive collection of historical material and publications. This new venture launched within days of the birth of his grand-daughter Grace, seemed too providential not to name the project “Grace’s Guide”.

The Engineer began publishing engineering developments and achievements in 1856 and has continued to record engineering history ever since. Sourcing these rare and early Engineer volumes to photograph and digitalise soon became a core purpose of Grace’s guide.

In 2014, the project reached an important milestone when not only did it become a registered charity, but 100 years worth of Engineer volumes had been photographed, digitalised and published online and free of charge to view and download.

There is currently no other online archive offering an entire digital run of these volumes in such an accessible way.

Many Engineer volumes were sourced from Grace’s Guide’s private collection, but many were also kindly loaned from Bristol Reference Library, The Institute of Mechanical Engineers and The Engineer (Centaur Communications).

The website attracts some 4,000 visitors each day and around half a million page views a month. Our team of volunteers help contribute to the website daily, so there are constant updates and new information to uncover with every visit.

Thanks to a continued sponsorship from Applegate Marketplace, Grace’s Guide will continue to provide people worldwide, from every generation, a free online resource to explore Britain’s rich industrial past.

Andrew Tweedie comments:

“We would like to thank all of those who have contributed information and publications to Graces Guide during these past 10 years. Without sponsorship and donations, we would not have been able to build such a vast encyclopaedia of industrial history. It’s wonderful to know there are so many people out there who share our dedication to maintain Britain’s great industrial history. As we look forward to the next 10 years we hope to expand the project by including more digitised publications and welcoming more contributors.”

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From rags to riches: The story of a real life Dick Whittington

Benetfink and Co was a great London emporium in it’s time, and its impressive storehouse dominated curious passers-by in popular Cheapside. Describing themselves as “furnishing ironmongers” they offered shoppers everything from baths and stoves to tea-trays and cameras, and won over gentry with a variety of goods to stock any mansion. They successfully traded for the best part of 60 years from their establishment in the 1840s to 1908 when they were merged with A. M. Gamage of High Holborn – perhaps better known as Gamages, arguably one of the most successful and renowned toy stores in Britain.

The story of the founder started far from the fine commodities of his business. Samuel Alexander Benetfink was a foundling. He was discovered on the steps of the St Benetfink church, of which he was named after. Despite his uncertain start in life he strived for an education. When he reached 28 years old, after serving an apprenticeship to the ironmongery trade, had saved enough to enable him to start business.

Benetfink Advert

And so Benetfink and Jones were founded as furnishing ironmongers in Cheapside, and subsequently became Benetfink and Fox before Benetfink and Co in 1855. By 1860 the business had gained an international reputation and millions were attracted to visit notorious Cheapside.

After Mr Benetfink passed away in 1869, his legacy was continued by Mr George Evans for almost a quarter of a century. The store maintained its successful reputation and enjoyed being a pinnacle of London’s retail trade.

When Mr A. W. Gamage acquired the business in 1908 the business had already developed additional departments devoted to cycle and motor accessories, sports and athletics. He became governing director of Messrs Benetfink, and the company became Gamage’s City Depot.

The London City Press once compared Benetfink’s story to that of the literary legend Dick Whittington. It certainly is a powerful reminder and inspiring example that proves every child can achieve success in life, no matter how humble their origin.

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.



Kirkstall Forge with a “Pie and Pea Supper”

Kirkstall Forge talk, colour

From axle production for horse-drawn vehicles, to military vehicle component manufacture throughout the hardships of war, Kirkstall Forge has an incredible history. With iron production at its heart, Kirkstall Forge was to become one of Leeds’ most iconic engineering businesses starting a fascinating industrial journey hundreds of years ago in the company of monks at Kirkstall Abbey.

The Friend’s of Pudsey Roller are to present an illustrated talk this November by Joe Northrop, covering all aspects about Kirkstall Forge and the thousands of people who worked there through the ages.

The Friends of Pudsey Roller are a dedicated group, united in the passion to see the famed steam roller restored back to working condition again. The organisation meets twice a year to continue the successful fundraising ‘Pie and Pea Suppers’ for the project to a “Transport and Steam” theme.

This traditional “Pie and Pea Supper” will commence on Thursday 3rd November at 7.45pm and tickets are £6. Money raised from ticket sales will go towards the cost of food, and the rest to the Pudsey Roller funding.

For more information on the local area of Pudsey with articles on its heritage, read the latest “Squeaker” stories. See the poster above for details about the talk.

Don’t miss another “Pie and Pea Supper” fundraiser…

Pudsey Roller 2016


In 1921 John Fowler and Co, renowned agricultural engineers of Leeds, built a magnificent steam roller. When its working life came to an end in 1959, it was placed in the playground of Pudsey Park for generations of children to enjoy and it became affectionately known as The Pudsey Roller.

In 1990, it was removed from the park for safety precautions, and inevitably was left to face years of neglect.

The Friends of Pudsey Roller are a dedicated group, united in the passion to see it restored back to working condition again. The organisation meets twice a year to continue the successful fundraising ‘Pie and Pea Suppers’ for the project to a “Transport and Steam” theme.

Money raised from ticket sales will go towards the cost of food, and the rest to the Pudsey Roller. This Spring the Friends will be meeting on 26th May 2016 and all are gratefully welcome to the event which is of local interest to people who live Stanningley and Farsley.

Read more about the project:


RMS Titanic – 104 year anniversary

The magnificent Titanic is perhaps the most famed ship in history and its tragic story still stirs emotions and imaginations today. She was one of the three Olympic Class liners of the White Star Line, built by Harland and Wolff at their shipyard in Belfast, and deemed “unsinkable”; an industrial sensation destined for America and one of the fastest liners yet.


…The Titanic was 1799 miles from Queenstown and 1191 miles from New York, speeding for a maiden voyage record. The night was starlight, the sea glassy. Lights were out in most of the staterooms and only two or three congenial groups remained in the public rooms. In the crow’s nest or lookout, on on the bridge, officers and members of the crew were at their places, awaiting relied at midnight from their to hours’ watch. At 11.45 came the sudden sound of two gongs, a warning of immediate danger.
The crash against the iceberg, which had been sighted at only a quarter of a mile, came almost simultaneously with the clink of the lever operated by those on the bridge, which stopped the engine and closed the watertight doors…

The maiden trip of the newest and greatest of the modern ocean liners in the world ended in the most appalling marine disasters in history when she struck an iceberg and sank 2 miles below the icy Atlantic .  Although, she was carrying 2,223 people on board, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178.

The tragedy resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the most heart-rending maritime disasters ever recorded.

Visit our page on Grace’s Guide to read more and view photographs of the Titanic.

Rachel Parsons – A woman ahead of her time

Rachel Mary Parsons was an extraordinary woman, born ahead of her time into an illustrious family. She had a remarkable impact on women’s rights in the engineering world,  founding societies and well-known in the highest of social circles for her glittering parties and grand houses in London and Suffolk. Sadly, wartime sorrow and estrangement haunted her life until she met her tragic end.

She inherited the talents of her father, Charles Algernon Parsons, and shared his interest in the world of engineering, accompanying him aboard the Turbinia during trials and sailing with him aboard the Mauretania in 1909.  She was the first woman to read Mechanical Sciences at Cambridge University in 1910.

During the hardships of World War I, women were called to work in the munitions factories, replacing the men fighting on the front line. Taking on the role of director of the family’s Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, Rachel trained thousands of women assembling aeroplane components and making searchlight equipment to scan the skies for aircraft. As the supply of war materials became more and more urgent, Rachel trained more and more women to excel at intricate, physically demanding and highly important tasks, from installing electrical wiring on battleships, to working hydraulic presses.

See our previous blog on Women in Engineering

Parsons Women Labourers during WWI (ref: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums)

Rachel had no intention of following the conventional path expected of a young lady. Inspired by her experiences and determined to prove her worth she, with the help of her mother, founded the Women’s Engineering Society and became its first president. She was a keen member of the Royal Institute of Great Britain, and in 1922 joined the London County Council standing as a candidate for the Conservatives the year after during a time when only two female MPs were in office.

Later life hampered her political ambitions and faded her career aspirations. She found renewed lifestyle and enjoyed her parent’s inheritance, throwing grand parties and attending horse races.

She eventually moved to Newmarket and bought a stud farm in the surrounding Suffolk countryside.

It was here she met a brutal end when she was struck down and murdered by a stable worker and ex-employee of hers. He escaped the death penalty when he was found guilty of man-slaughter in the face of unendurable provocation.

Her story, though with a terribly tragic end, tells one of a lady’s determination to succeed and prove herself in times of great challenge.

Read more about Rachel Parsons here:




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.