Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Priestman Brothers

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1881. Keable's Boiler.
1881. Keable's vertical Boiler.
1883. Grab bucket dredger.
1886. Double dredger for Brazil.
Crab Oil Pump, used for starting up Priestman Engines. Found in S. Africa.
Crab oil pump detail -Kayes.
Crab oil pump detail.
Remains of a steam dredger stored at the Swansea Museum Collection Centre
Steam dredger at Swansea
Steam dredger at Swansea
April 1888. Petroleum Engine.
1890. Steam Dredger.
1891. Petrol Engines at the Doncaster Show.
Priestman Brothers grab crane on dredger barge at Wick Harbour. 'Badger' - late 50s. Image courtesy of Chris Capewell Queens Park London.
1892. Oil Engine.
1893. One of two cranes supplied to Cockatoo Island Shipyard, Sydney. Image courtesy of Bob McKillop.
1893. One of two cranes supplied to Cockatoo Island Shipyard, Sydney. Image courtesy of Bob McKillop.
August 1899.
February 1901.
1921. Land excavator. Exhibit at the Hull Street Life Museum
1931. Half cubic yard excavator.
1961. Truck-mounted crane.
Exhibit in grounds of Strumpshaw Steam Museum.
Exhibit in grounds of Strumpshaw Steam Museum.
Priestman Poster from the 1960s-1970s.
February 2018. '1883 Crane Number 001' currently undergoing restoration.
February 2018. '1883 Crane Number 002' after being restored.
February 2018. '1883 Crane Number 002' after being restored.
February 2018. '1883 Crane Number 002' after being restored.

Priestman Brothers of Holderness Foundry, Hull.

Priestman Brothers was an engineering company based in Kingston upon Hull, that manufactured diggers, dredgers, cranes and other industrial machinery. In the late 1800s the company also produced the Priestman Oil Engine an early design of oil-fuelled internal combustion engine.

1870 Samuel Priestman, a corn-miller from Leeds, bought the Holderness Foundry on behalf of his son, William Dent Priestman.

1872 By the time of Samuel's death, the business was in financial trouble.

1873 William went into partnership with his brother Samuel.

1876 The company's entry into the construction of dredging equipment began when they were asked to construct machinery to recover lost gold from the sea, west of the coast of Spain. No gold was found but the company's equipment proved useful for dredging of harbours and docks.

1883 Supplied two dockside steam cranes to Cockatoo Island Shipyard, Sydney. Following 5 years of work by restoration volunteers, Priestman crane number 002 has been operational since late 2017. The crane stands adjacent to Fitzroy Dock and demonstrations of the crane were performed for visitors in January and February 2018. Restoration of Priestman crane number 001 commenced January 2018.[1]

From 1888 to 1904 the company produced various versions of the Priestman Oil Engine, an early example of an internal combustion engine. Models were produced with engine power from 2 hp up to 60 hp for a double cylindered version.

1888 They were early developers of oil engines when they took the Eteve patent and with their own additions produced a practical motor 1885-92. It was exhibited at the Royal Agricultural Show at Nottingham in 1888.

1889 Formed limited company to take on the business of engineers, ironfounders, and engine builders in Hull and London. Shareholders were W. D. Priestman, S. Priestman, J, Priestman, Thomas Priestman, Edmund Priestman, A Priestman and Edgar Priestman. [2]

1889 June. Petroleum engines at the Windsor Show with electrical equipment by Lea, Sons and Co. [3]

1890 Built the steam dredger of the Rio Tinto Co. They have made around 500 of these dredgers. Illustration and article in 'The Engineer'. [4]

1892 The company opened a factory in Philadelphia (USA) in 1892, also producing engines.

1894 21 hp Oil Engine and Winding gear. Illustration and article. [5]

1894 Smithfield Club Show. Showed two engines. [6]

1894 Introduced a range of double-acting oil engines ranging from 30 to 65 hp [7]

1895 Bad debts and a decline in sales made the company insolvent, the business was reformed but William and Samuel lost their seats on the board. The business concentrated on cranes and grabs.

1900 Paris Exhibition. Description of the marine oil engines shown. [8]

1900 Company made public.

Post WWI: its products were used in the rebuilding of French villages, in 1921 a machine for digging field drainage drains was produced and the company received investment from the Ministry of Agriculture.

1928 production of excavators named after animals began; models named "Lion", "Tiger" and "Panther" were produced.

1950 The company constructed a factory in Marfleet, Hull, which eventually covered 63 acres

1961 Excavator, dredger and grab manufacturers. 1,000 employees. [9]

1968 Excavating machines. [10]

1969 The company was taken over by the Steel Group and merged with Coles Cranes of Sunderland.

In the 1970s they developed a range of hydraulic excavators. The VC range of dredging machine with long reach booms to replace draglines. This had an innovative sliding counter weight to balance the boom at long reach. These were popular with small sand and gravel pits and with the drainage board and water companies in Lincolnshire for cleaning dykes. They also built special versions on tall pedestals for dock side unloading duties.

1972 the Steel Group, Priestman's parent company, was taken over by the expanding Acrow Group. The Steel Group also owned Coles Cranes, Neal and Co and Taylor and Sons crane companies.

1984 Acrows was put into receivership[11]. The Priestman division was sold off to the nearby firm of Sanderson of Skegness in Lincolnshire.

The Sanderson Group then got into trouble in the early 1990s and the Priestman operations were sold to another local company, RB Cranes, following the break up of the Ruston-Bucyrus group.

They were then taken over by NEI Group and merged with Coles Cranes of Sunderland, and began building offshore cranes for North Sea oil rig platforms.

Today, what is left of the company trades in Bradford under new owner, Gardner Denver, the American based compressor and blower manufacturer. It no longer manufactures cranes or excavators.

Steam Dredgers

The remains of a Priestman Bros steam dredger are stored at Swansea Museum Collection Centre (see photos). It is one of only three known survivors. The ingenious design has a minimum of moving parts. The drive from the crankshaft to the hoisting drum is by friction wheels. A large hand lever acts on the bearing supporting the wheel end of the drum shaft, so as to move the friction wheels into hard contact in one direction, and in the other direction to a non-driving position, and thence into contact with a fixed brake shoe below the large friction wheel - a fail-safe position. There is no provision for reversing the engine - the weight of the bucket and disengagement of the friction wheels obviate that need. A conventional arrangement of friction cones and bevel gears is used for slewing.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Jeffrey Thompson - SHFT Restoration Volunteer Team Member
  2. The Engineer of 15th March 1889 p235
  3. The Engineer of 21st June 1889 p522
  4. The Engineer of 20th June 1890 p496
  5. The Engineer of 14th December 1894 p524
  6. The Engineer of 6th July 1894 p5 & p9
  7. A-Z of British Stationary Engines by Patrick Knight. Published 1996. ISBN 1 873098 37 5
  8. The Engineer 1900/11/16 p487
  9. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  10. The Engineer of 12th January 1968 p70
  11. The Times, Sep 05, 1984