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 Without donations and sponsors, it wouldn’t be possible to publish the amount of historical content we do everyday.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-youfor 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.
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.
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.
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.
Did you know more than two thirds of Christmas puddings sold in the UK come from one Derbyshire firm?
So when you sit down to your festive pud this season it’ll probably be one of the 26 million produced each year by Matthew Walker, the world’s oldest Christmas pudding maker.
Matthew Walker, a farmer’s son, started making preserves and Christmas puddings, from family recipes. After the Victorians adopted the pudding as a festive favourite for the family Christmas menu, Walker made enough sales to open a small factory in Derby’s Exeter Street in 1899. It was here where the firm began its extraordinary success story producing festive puds for the majority of the British market.
In 1967 Matthew Walker opened the factory in Heanor, where they still remain.
From here they use 1.3 million litres of alcohol and 300,000 tons of raisins to churn out around 7,500 tons of Christmas pudding each year. They sell to every supermarket, produce 280 varieties of pudding, and export as far as Australia.
The first Christmas pudding recipes date back to the Middles Ages when rabbits, pheasants and partridge made up the bulk of pudding portions. The Plantagenets continued the savoury trends and introduced beef and mutton to the mix during the 14th century. It was a highly effective method of preserving meat to last the winter months. Livestock was slaughtered in autumn, and the meat was mixed with dried fruit, sugar and spices to act as preservatives when the mixture was stored in its pastry casing. “Plum pottage” was a name for this mix of meat, fruit and spices and it became a favourite dish served before meals in the 1500s.
This seasonal treat was only enjoyed for a few decades before it was banned by the Puritans in 1664. But King George I (also known as The Pudding King) lifted this ban in the early 18th century. As meat preserving techniques bettered, the meaty ingredients were used less and less, and eventually they were replaced by breadcrumbs, fruit and spirits.
It wasn’t until the 1830’s that the fruity pudding we know, complete with holly sprig atop, came into fashion. They became a classic symbol of the Victorian Christmas menu encouraged more by Charles Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ and newly found ideas of a traditional family Christmas.
Sources of information: http://www.matthewwalkerchristmaspuddings.co.uk/ and From Her Majesty to HMP: The Christmas pudding factory that feeds the nation
By Daily Mail Reporter: 02:07, 23 December 2008
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.
Plesseycontributed 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.
In it’s heyday, the ‘Pudsey Roller’ would’ve been a magnificent steam roller, built at the Steam Plough Works, of Hunslet in Leeds, by John Fowler and Co Ltd in 1921.
It was to become the pleasure of generations of local children, when it was placed in the playground of Pudsey Park in 1959, remaining a popular attraction until 1990 when it was removed for safety reasons, inevitably left to stand many years of neglect.
The Friend’s of Pudsey Roller are a dedicated group, working to raise money for the affectionately named steam roller, and they are 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 autumn the Friends will be meeting on Thursday 12th November 2015 and all interested are welcome.
Since digitizing our publications of Who’s Who in Engineering (1921-22) and The Engineer’s Who’s Who (1939), we’re busy uploading up to one hundred more engineers a day, so it’s worth checking back now and then to follow our progress.
If you have any family records, memories, old photographs or accounts of any of our engineers or companies, we want to hear from you. Please get in touch with anything you’d like to contribute via our contact form here.
To date, we’ve collected and digitised proceedings of the IMechE from 1847 to the early 1970s detailing everything from new members and council members to visits of company works write-ups. Our digital archive also includes approximately 5,600 obituaries on past members of the institution, all of which we have created landing pages for.
The great Bruce Ward died on the 10th August 2015. He was renowned for his knowledge of the history of engineering and in particular to do with Cranes. From the early days he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Grace’s Guide project and his words of encouragement, introductions to others of a like mind and the publicity he gave us were greatly appreciated. Although some of his opinions in his writing could be controversial, his ability with words always made for interesting reading. He told me once that right from an early age he had an ambition to write and his talent for this always came through.
I had the great pleasure to meet with him earlier this year in his home town of Muroya, NSW, and although clearly not a well man, he was fascinating to talk with and I felt it would be easy to spend many hours in his company discussing engineering without any fear of tiring of him or the subject. As we were leaving he pulled up in his pick-up (Ute) which was stacked high with engineering books he was gifting to our project. There will never be another Bruce Ward. (Andrew Tweedie)
London’s beautiful skyline has changed dramatically over centuries of development and growth. The Great Tower of London, once the most imposing structure on London’s, skyline, now gives way to the height of The Shard and the striking wheel of the world famous London Eye, outshines it’s much forgotten predecessor – The Great Wheel.
But like The Tower of London, (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), there are many precious landmarks throughout London that have survived the sands of time. From St Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, London’s architectural wonders make outstanding visitor attractions, as well as enriching examples of our British heritage.
Although lacking the lasting imprint of the St Paul’s and grandeur of Buckingham Palace, London’s bridges are steeped in history and should be credited for the spectacular feats of civil engineering they represent. The River Thames has, in total, 34 bridges crossing it and many were built and opened during the 1800s, in the height of the industrial revolution.
Below is a quick look at how the magnificent structures of London’s most famous bridges were constructed, and how they look today.
London Bridge: (AD 70, 10th century, 1209, 1831, 1972)
Remarkably there has been a bridge at this site for almost 2000 years. The Romans first crossed the Thames here, and timber bridges were built then and through to the medieval ages until Henry VIII commissioned a stone structure in place of the old. The present London Bridge was constructed during the late 60’s and opened in 1973.
The new Waterloo Bridge we see today is nicknamed the “Ladies Bridge”, because during the Second World War the structure was mainly constructed by women. The original bridge was designed by John Rennie and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge, although reinforcements and repairs led to it being demolished in place for the current structure opened in 1945.
Built as a toll bridge, the two toll booths still stand at each end of the Albert Bridge designed by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873. Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated elements of a suspension bridge in the late 1880s when the bridge became structurally unsound, and in 1973 two concrete piers were added.
Stretching 800ft long, and soaring 213ft high, the Tower Bridge is crossed by 40,000 people a day. It’s prominent towers support two lanes of road traffic and two low level pedestrian walkways. The entire hydraulic system along with the gas lighting system of the bridge was installed by William Sugg & Co.
“In 1865 the old Blackfriars Bridge across the Thames, a fine Portland stone structure began in 1760 and completed ten years later, was being demolished and a new bridge, the ornamented wrought iron, cast iron, granite, Portland stone “Venetian Gothic” structure, designed by Mr Joseph Cubitt, which we have with us today, was being erected.”From The Engineer 1925/02/27
The original bridge was completed in 1770, but the foundations were not substantial enough and the bridge we see today constructed by P. A. Thom and Co was completed in 1869.
We’ve all heard of the Wright Brothers – the Americans from Ohio credited for designing and building the first aircraft. They made the first heavier-than-air human flight in December 1903 and together paved the way for the development of modern aeroplanes. This day back in 1910, however, belongs to the young boy who lived next door to Orville and Wilbur Wright; who’d known the brothers since he was four and who grew up dreaming of the day Orville Wright would build him his very own aircraft to fly…
Walter Brookins was fascinated by the Wright Brothers. As a boy, he would venture next door to watch them work away on whirring motors and spluttering propellers. His fearless attitude and fierce curiosity at such a young age won the brothers over and it wasn’t long before Orville decided Walter would be the first person he’d train to fly in one of his machines.
Walter or “Brookie” as the Wright family called him, learned to fly in 1909 at the Wright Flying School when he was 20 years old. After only two and a half hours of instruction, he achieved his first solo flight. He used his natural aviation talents teaching others to fly when Orville wasn’t around, and eventually he became an aviation pioneer in his own right. In fact Brookins became the most daring member of the Wright Flyers team in several exhibition flights and meets.
"The Wright flyers put on three thrillers. Walter Brookins, whose name is now written in aviation history, added to his fame by making one of the most sensational short turns ever successfully accomplished. In a short turn exhibition he brought his machine up to such an angle that from the stands it looked like it was standing in end and he would be pitched to the ground one hundred feet below. The game youngster righted his craft with all ease, however and established a record for short turns that it is believed will stand for many a day. It is not believed by Brookins himself that he could ever tilt a biplane to such an angle again and get away with it. The trick made hearts stand still, and even the Wrights were amazed at the young fellow's daring." From The Indianaopolis News June 17th 1910.
On 14th June 1910 he made a world record flight, flying 1,335m high (4,380ft), and later set world records for both altitude and endurance. He smashed his own world record for flying at the highest altitude on July 10th 1910 in New Jersey, when he broke through the clouds 1,882m (6,175ft) high in his Wright biplane.
One hundred and five years ago today, he became the first person in history to fly at an altitude of one mile.