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British Industrial History

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John Hosking

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John Hosking (1808-1871)

Had son John Hosking (1839-1874)

1858 of Gateshead Iron Works.[1]

1872 Obituary [2]

JOHN HOSKING was born on 8th May 1808 at Gwythian, a small village near Hayle, Cornwall, his father being a farm-labourer, and on leaving the village school he was sent to work in the fields; but having a strong love of books and a great desire for knowledge, he prevailed upon his parents to let him attend a better school at Copperhouse, near Hayle.

At about the age of thirteen he himself began to teach in his native village, teaching the children during the day, and having a class for adults in the evening.

When about sixteen years of age he was engaged by Mr. Gray, engineer of Wheal Prosper Mine, as general assistant and draughtsman at the mine, to keep up the underground plan of the workings; but this mine being stopped very shortly afterwards, he then became engaged by Mr. Arthur Woolf, with whom he continued during the working of Wheal Alfred Mine, where Mr. Woolf erected the largest of his double-cylinder engines, of which an elaborate set of drawings was made by Mr. Hosking.

In 1828 he went for a short time to Messrs. Sandys Vivian and Carne, at the Copperhouse Foundry, near Hayle; after which ho obtained employment in the works of Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson in London, and was with them when they competed for the prize in the locomotive trial on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829.

After remaining there four or five years, during which he acquired a very high reputation as a mechanical draughtsman, he occupied for some time the position of engineer at the Park Gate Iron Works near Rotherham, but ultimately returned to London, and was employed by Mr. Thomas Wicksteed in getting out the designs for the Cornish pumping engines for the different waterworks in London of which Mr. Wicksteed was the engineer.

He was then appointed by Mr. Robert Stephenson to carry out for him and superintend the erection of the High Level Bridge at Newcastle-on-Tyne; and in order to select the most suitable mixture of cast iron for the ribs of this bridge, he carried out for Mr. Stephenson an elaborate series of experiments upon the strength of cast iron, which were published in the Commissioners' Report upon Railway Structures; numerous experiments upon the transverse strength of tubes of different sectional shapes were also made by him about the same time for Mr. Stephenson, and were published in Mr. Edwin Clark's work upon the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges.

Upon the completion of the High Level Bridge in 1850, he became the engineer to Messrs. Hawks Crawshay and Sons of Gateshead, who had been the contractors for the ironwork of the bridge; and with them he remained till his death, a period of more than twenty-one years.

Amongst the numerous works of great magnitude executed by the firm during that time may be mentioned the renovation in 1858 of the remarkable cast-iron arch over the river Wear at Sunderland, under Mr. Robert Stephenson. Mr. Hosking was the inventor of an improved construction of valve for pumping engines, composed of a nest of india-rubber rings or balls, and he read a paper upon this subject at the meeting of the Institution held in Newcastle in 1858 (see Proceedings Inst. M. E. 1858 page 249); these valves are in regular use at several of the metropolitan waterworks, as well as in the provinces, and have proved completely successful.

He also invented the wooden pavement adopted for the lower roadway of the High Level Bridge and also for the Sunderland Bridge and elsewhere, consisting of wooden blocks placed on end, with the separating interstices filled up with pitch and hard stone broken small.

After an illness of less than a week, Mr. Hosking's death took place at Gateshead on 23rd December 1871 at the age of sixty-three.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1858.

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