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British Industrial History

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James Lillie and Sons

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James Lillie and Sons, millwrights, engineers, iron and brass founders, located at the junction of Junction St and Store St, Ancoats, Manchester

1832 The partnership of Fairbairn and Lillie was dissolved as James Lillie wanted to continue in the existing line but Fairbairn wanted to diversify into new areas which interested him; Fairbairn continued his business as William Fairbairn and Sons; Lillie set up in business for himself as James Lillie and Sons.

1838 Made a large water wheel for George Andrews' Compstall Mills. It produced about 300 HP, weighed 104 tons, and was 50 ft diameter and 18 ft wide. The shaft weighed 8 tons [1]

1845 Giant cotton mill was to be constructed at Hull to the design of James Lillie and Sons; the resident engineer would be Joseph Lillie[2].

1849 'DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN STORE-STREET. On Sunday afternoon last, a fire of a most destructive character occurred at the works of Messrs. Joseph Lillie and Son, millwrights and engineers, in Store-street, London-road, which, ere its devastating course could be stopped, swept away property of the value of somewhere about £20,000. The fire was discovered about a quarter past one o'clock on Sunday afternoon by two persons, Mrs. Oalton, of the Junction Inn, close by, and Mr. John Holland, principal manager for Messrs. Kenworthy and Co., the extensive carriers. At the time mentioned, both parties observed smoke issuing from the attic story of the main building (which abuts on the Rochdale Canal and fronts into Mather-street), followed immediately by the bursting forth of flames. An alarm being given, a number of persons made their way into the yard in which the works are situated, reaching just in time to see the flames burst through several of the windows, and to find the slates flying from the roof all directions. Whilst some of the parties hastened off with the intelligence to the Pollard-street station and the police-yard in Clarence-street, for the fire brigade, others, acting with commendable prudence, prevented the breaking open of the lower doors of the building, inorder to prevent any rush of air that might serve to feed the flames. The first engine on the spot was that kept at the Pollard-street station, which was speedily followed by seven others from the police yard, accompanied by strong body of the fire-brigade. a very short space of time the whole of the engines were got into play, and were so distributed as to command the four sides of the building on fire, and in which tbe flames were then (about two o'clock) raging most fearfully. The building on fire (or rather was until reduced to a mere shell) a structure of four stories, 92 feet by 64 feet. The cellars or vaults were used as stores for oil, coals, and patterns, and one part as a grinding and polishing shop; the basement story was fitted up with planeing machines, lathes, and drilling machines: the second story contained similar machines and a 30-horse power engine; the third story was the pattern makers' room, or joiners' shop; and the attic, or fourth story, was filled with wood patterns. It was in the attic, or fourth story, that the fire originated, whence the flames descended, story by story, until the entire structure was gutted, the wood patterns, of which there were some thousands, the accumulation of years, burning with fearful rapidity. By the time the engines all got into play, the roof of the structure had fallen in, and the flames were fast progressing downwards through the building, and some idea of the intense heat may be gathered from a fact that, notwithstanding the immense volume of water poured on to the fire from eight engines, it seemed to have no effect. As we have before said, the engines were so placed as to play on all sides the building. Two of them were stationed at the end next Mather-street, two at the end next Store-street, two in front, and from on board a boat on the canal the branches of two others were played on another side. Burning with inconceivable rapidity, the flames soon reached the third story, and here, for the first time, the firemen seemed to obtain some mastery over them it was not until about four o'clock, however, that the progress of the destructive element could be said to be effectually arrested, and then the flames had reached part of the basement story, and done irreparable damage. Of the amount of damage, is, however, impossible to form anything like correct idea, but in round numbers it will approximate to something like £20,000. To the firm the most serious loss will be their stock of patterns, which includes patterns of almost every description of millwrights and engineers' work they have executed. They had many valuable patterns of water wheels, in the construction of which the elder Mr. Lillie stood pre-eminent. The whole of these, or the most valuable of them, have been destroyed,and can only be replaced at a very heavy cost. Messrs. Lillie are only insured to the extent of £8,300, in the West of England and Atlas offices, a sum insufficient to cover the loss on the building, machinery, &c , independent of the patterns; unfortunately, they were induced, twelve months ago, by a feeling of security (arising from the fact that, during their fifteen years' occupancy of their present premises, they never suffered any mischance by fire), to reduce their insurance by one-half, that is, from £16,600 to £8,300. Confident hopes are entertained that the salvage will prove much larger than was expected, as it thought that a valuable planeing machine, which cost £1,000, and other machines left standing in the ruins, will not be so greatly injured as they were first believed to be. Of the origin of the fire, no certain opinion can be formed. The place was closed entirely at p.m., on Saturday, at which hour the foreman went over the premises, and all appeared to be perfectly safe; and no suspicion is entertained that the fire has been the work of an incendiary. We regret to state that one of the firemen, named John Lowe, was seriously stunned by the falling of two bricks upon his head; but he was taken off to the Royal Infirmary, and has since been able to resume his duties. The exertions of the entire fire brigade are spoken of in the highest terms. Mr. Matthew Kennedy and Mr. Charles Clarke also rendered most valuable assistance in saving as many of the patterns, &c, from the flames, as possible, and in other valuable aid.'[3]

1850 Partnership dissolved. '...the Partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, James Lillie, John Lillie, and Joseph Lillie, carrying on business at Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, as Millwrights, Engineers, and Ironfounders, under the firm of James Lillie and Sons, was this day dissolved by mutual consent...'[4]

1850 Advertisement: 'Important Sale of Engineers', Millwrights', and Iron Founders' Tools, Patterns, and Stock. By T. M. FISHER and SON, on Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, and Saturday, the 24th. 25th, 26th, and 27th days of April, 1850, on the Premises belonging to Messrs. James Lillie and Sons, engineers, millwrights, and ironfounders (in consequence of their declining business), situate in Store-street, Manchester; sale to commence each day punctually at eleven o'clock in the forenoon: THE whole of their highly-valuable STOCK, TOOLS, and PATTERNS, all of which are on the best modern principle, and in first rate condition, and include among others, large treble power break lathe, 35½ in. headstock; face plate, 6ft. 6in. with external gear, three rests; two strong boring heads and cross piece; treble power 2"in. slide lathe, for heavy work, bed 26ft.long, 2ft. 6in. broad, face plate, 3ft. 4in. diameter, with internal gear; two sliding carriages, with back motion, and 2 slide rests for carriages; 12in. raised to 18¼in. double geared slide lathe, bed 18ft. long by 1ft. 6½ in. wide, with three face plates, slide rest, common rest, boring carriage and spindle, and l0in, raised to 18½in. double geared lathe, fitted to same bed, with face plate and rests; 12in. double geared slide lathe, bed 36ft. 3in. long, 1ft. 5in. broad, with two face plates, sliding carriage, rest and stays; and 12in. double geared lathe, fitted to same bed, with face plates, sliding carriage, rests, and stays; three 12½ in. double geared slide lathes, beds 34ft. 7in. long, lft. 3¾in. wide, 33ft. long, lft. 3¾in. wide, and 16ft. 6in. long, lft. 3¼in. wide, each, with face plate, sliding carriage, rest, and stay, and one has boring carriage, with two large boring clips; two 10in. slide lathes, by Whitworth, beds 13ft. 2in. long, 1ft. 2½in. broad, and 16ft. 6in. long, 1ft. 3¼in. broad, each, with 2ft. face plates, slide rest, bell chucks, change wheels, and drill holder, and 9in. raised to 13½in. double-geared lathe fitted to one of the beds with face plates and rest; 10in. slide lathe, for screw cutting, bed 11ft. 10in, long, 1ft. 3½in. wide, with two face plates, sliding carriage, slide rest, boring carriage, and bell chuck ; twelve 8in., four 9in., three l0in., and four 12in. double-geared lathes, each with face plates, rest, and driving apparatus; 12in. raised to 18½in. double geared lathe, and 8in. raised to 12in. double-geared and 7in. single speed lathes, each with face plate and rest; strong wood bearers faced with iron, 64ft. 4in., 49ft., 43ft. lOin.. and 29ft. l0in, long, with cast-iron supports; planing machine, bed 18ft. 6in. long, will take in 6ft 3in. wide, 4ft. 8in. high, with two tool boxes; ditto ditto, bed 14ft. 1in. long, will take in 2ft. 7in. wide, and 2ft. 7in. high ; ditto ditto, bed 10ft. long, will take in 2ft. 2in. long, 2ft. 2in. high; ditto ditto, by Collier; bed 4ft. 6in. long, will take in 2ft. 1in. wide, lft. 6in. high, all with the angular, vertical, and horizontal cuts, and two have the self acting oiling motion; ditto ditto by Whitworth, bed 3ft. 8in. long, will take in lft. 6½in. wide, 12in. high; slotting machine, 20in. stroke, will take in 5ft. 5in. diam., with rack motion, and two grooving bars and stand for box; ditto ditto, by Sharp, Roberts, and Co., 7in. stroke, will take in 3ft. 1½in. diam., with crank motion; shaping machine, 11in. stroke, and ditto ditto, 8in. stroke, both by Nasmyth and Co., with driving gear; ditto ditto, 7in. stroke, by Shanks, with circular motion, patent vice and driving gear; treble power upright boring mill, spindle 3½in. diameter, with swing clips and plates for boring table, boxes and pedestal, four screwing machines, (one with taps and dies) each on bed 4ft. 6in. long and stands, to screw from 3/8 to 7/8 diameter; strong double power screwing machine, bed 7ft. Long, supported by 2 stands, with taps &c dies, to screw from 1 to 2¾in. diameter; pulley grinding machine; Two coupling forcing machines, by hand or power; two roller shaft carriers, in iron frames; compound slide rest, 12in. to the centre, bed 2ft. Long; ditto ditto, 17in. to the centre, bed 2ft. long; ditto ditto, 16in. to the centre, bed 6ft. 6in. long; sixteen anvils, three smithy cranes, very large quantity of hammers, swages, tongs, and other smiths' tools; brass furnaces, moulds and tools, three punching machines, rivetting machine, Fairbairn's patent; plate rolling mill, boiler-makers' tools, chains, punches' drifts, rivet-heating furnace, boiler shed and platform, with travelling crane, and powerful blocks and chain— tons pig iron; moulders' boxes, Four foundry cranes, with blocks and chains; geared and hand ladles, moulders' tools loam and blacking mill, five crab cranes, large hoisting crane, foundry and smithy fans, with pipes and valves; polishing and grinding apparatus, Wrought, cast, and scrap iron; brass steps, bored and fitted; grindstones and troughs, wrought-iron railway, shafting and mill-gearing, LAP MACHINE and DOUBLE-BEATER BLOWING MACHINE with Lap attached, both for 40-inch Cards; TWO CONE WILLOWS, all new; and a large stock of new fittings for lap and blowing machines and willows, ready for use. Also, their highly valuable assortment of PATTERNS for SPUR, BEVIL, and MITRE WHEELS, and PULLEYS, which are very nearly complete, as set out in their published list; and such of their patterns of water wheels, and sundry other work, as were saved from the late fire. May be viewed on Thursday, the 18th April, and following days, and catalogues had on the premises, or from the Auctioneers, 21, Princess-street, Manchester. [5]

1850 Advertisement: 'BE SOLD or LET, the WORKS situate in Store-street, belonging to Mr. James Lillie, lately carried on under the firm of James Lillie and Sons, as millwrights, engineers, iron and brass founders. Any party wishing to commence in the above business will find this a most advantageous opportunity, the same being ready for early occupation. The works are situated on the junction of the Rochdale and Ashton Canals, which communicate to all parts. There are two excellent streets leading to the works, the one known as Junction-street, bounding the higher portion of the the works; the other Store-street, extending along the lower part. The London and North- Western Railway, and the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire warehouses, are closely adjoining these premises, securing important advantages. In the whole plot there are 7,250 square yards, or thereabouts, and further buildings will be erected to suit tenants ; or the land will be sold upon chief rent.- The premises may be viewed and any further information given, on applying at Store-street Works; at Mr. JOSEPH LILLIE'S offices, 54, John Dalton-street, from ten in the morning until four o'clock the afternoon.'[6]

Lillie's Ironworks and its Environs

Adshead's 1851 Maps of Manchester show 'Lillie's Foundry' on the north side of Store Street, between Junction Street and the 'Corporation Water Works Pipe Yard'. The foundry covered an area 210 ft by 230 ft and backed onto a basin of the Manchester Ashton-under-Lyne & Stockport Canal. The 1849 O.S. map identifies the premises as Store Street Iron Works. The foundry was on the eastern side of the works. Street access was through a gateway and over a weighbridge at the southern corner. This 1966 photograph shows Jutland Street (formerly Junction Street) viewed from Store Street, rising to cross the Manchester Ashton-under-Lyne & Stockport Canal. The buildings on the left were built as warehouses by the GCR on the site of the Store Street Iron Works. The Lillies' foundry was located at this junction of the two streets.

It is thought that the site was subsequently occupied by Joseph Stubbs, before the construction of a large group of goods warehouses by the GCR. East of the foundry was Junction Street and then Lark Street and then the impressive seven storey Store Street Mill, Manchester on a triangular plot adjacent to the Store Street Aqueduct. All the buildings have since been demolished and the site redeveloped.

Odd Snippets

1848 'FORGERY.- Benjamin Anderson, a blacksmith, who who had been in the employ of Messrs. Lilly and Sons, millwrights, of Store-street, was yesterday placed at the bar of the Borough Court, charged with having uttered a forged order for the delivery of goods. On Monday week, the prisoner went to the shop of Messrs. Tomlinson and Leigh, ironmongers, Market-street, and delivered a written order, signed by Messrs. Lilly and Sons, for two pairs of compasses and a rule. The shopman, James White, delivered the goods to the prisoner, and he took them away. On the following day, he brought a second order, signed as before, for four pair of compasses and two sliding rules. In reply to a question, he said that he was the foreman of Messr's. Lilly's establishment. He was then asked to append his name to the order, and he wrote thereon, " John Grimson." - Mr Lilly proved that the orders had not been sent form the firm of Messrs. Lilly and Sons, and that the prisoner had left their employ in January last.- Mr. J. Grimson, the foreman, proved that he had never authorised the prisoner to use his name.- Anderson positively asserted that he knew nothing about the matter, and never went with any order.- Inspector M'Mullin: "I apprehended him. When I got into his room, which was only after some difficulty, he said that he knew what I wanted him for." The prisoner was committed to the assizes for trial.'[7]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Coventry Herald - Friday 6th July 1838
  2. Lloyd's Weekly, 16 November 1845
  3. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 15 December 1849
  4. The London Gazette Publication date:2 August 1850 Issue:21123 Page:2148
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 20 April 1850
  6. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 19 October 1850
  7. Manchester Times - Tuesday 27 June 1848