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British Industrial History

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R. and W. Hawthorn

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c1830s. 0-4-2 Steam Dryer Locomotive.
c1830s. Hawthorn Type 2-2-2 Engine.
January 1851. Early Hawthorn Model Locomotive built by Mr T. James and finished in 1851.
1852. Locomotive for Great Northern Railway.
1852. Locomotive for the Great Northern Railway.
1859. Coal burning furnaces.
1862. The Ellesmere built at Leith. Exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
1862. The Ellesmere built at Leith. Exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
1867. Coupled passenger locomotive.
1867. Coupled passenger locomotive.
1867. Inverted cylinder marine engine.
1869.Multi Flue Boilers as fitted on Board HMS Mercury.
1869. Boilers fitted on the ISS Mercury.
April 1870.
1880. Brown's system.
1881. Compound Engines with Marshalls Valve Gear for the SS Inchrhona.
1886. Compound yacht engines.
1913. Engine for the South Indian Railway.

R. and W. Hawthorn Ltd of Forth Banks Works in Newcastle was a locomotive manufacturer and maker of marine and other engines.


1817 Robert Hawthorn first began business at the Forth Banks in Newcastle, building steam-engines, mill-work, and other machinery with 4 workers.

1818 his brother William joined the works as an assistant and working foreman.

1819 A piece of ground on a sloping bank side was purchased to allow for expansion of the business; the ground was levelled.

1820 His brother William Hawthorn joined him and the firm became R. and W. Hawthorn at Forth Bank Works.

1829 Possibly after having attended the Rainhill Trials, they became interested in locomotives, and sold their first engine, a 2-2-2 named Modling, to a railway in Vienna.

There followed a number of orders for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. They were great innovators - not always successfully - and their locos had many original features.

1831 Built a compact 80 hp engine designed by Timothy Hackworth for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. [1]

1832 Fire at the works. Loss of machinery, including two very valuable self-acting lathes, a planing machine and a drilling machine, and valuable foundry patterns. [2]

In 1838 two were built for the broad gauge Great Western Railway to the patent of T. E. Harrison, who later became the chief engineer for the North Eastern Railway. These could be viewed as the forerunners of the Garratt, with the boiler carried on a separate carriage to the cylinders and valve gear. This allowed the boiler to be large and low down, being carried on smaller wheels, while the driving wheels could be up to ten feet in diameter. With little weight on the drivers, adhesion was poor, but they ran very smoothly up to sixty miles per hour. However, the flexible steam coupling gave a great deal of trouble and they were withdrawn. They continued to build more conventional engines, possibly under sub-contract, among them, three for the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway.

1846 They bought the Leith Engine Works in Leith, Scotland, for the assembly of locomotives prepared in Newcastle - see Hawthorns and Co.

1847 Locomotive for the North British Railway in 1845. Illustrated.

1849 Two Cornish engines for Derby Waterworks (Little Eaton Station), and also one for Nottingham (Ropewalk Pumping Station) with combined bucket (lift) and force pumps.

1850 The Leith works were sold to another company also called Hawthorns and Co, which produced some four hundred locomotives on its own account until 1872.

1851 Award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

In the 1850s, they built a number of Crampton type locomotives, and in the quest for a low centre of gravity, four 0-4-0s with the drivers spaced at twelve feet apart connected to the cylinders by a dummy crankshaft. These were soon withdrawn, but the Cramptons were more successful, particularly on the continent.

1850s onwards, the company placed more emphasis on marine engines. In the next 20 years, they constructed 200 sets of marine engines[3].

1858 Beam engine for the Nottingham Waterworks Co (Basford Station) and worked for 107 years. Exhibit at Nottingham Industrial Museum.

1870 William Hawthorn retired; Benjamin Chapman Browne, Francis Carr Marshall, William Hawthorn, Junior and the late manager J. Scott acquired the Forth Banks works of Messrs. R. and W. Hawthorn; the style of the firm was unchanged[4]. The firm soon also acquired St. Peter's works, which had been the property of Messrs. T. and W. Smith, and there the construction of marine boilers was undertaken, in addition to the existing manufacture of locomotives.

1882 The works were enlarged to meet the growing business from many foreign navies.

1885 Amalgamated with the shipbuilder A. Leslie and Co, to become R. and W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Co.

Railway Locomotives

Broad gauge locomotives built for the Great Western Railway[5]:


  • Sun
  • Sunbeam
  • Meridian
  • Comet
  • Aurora
  • Eclipse
  • Meteor
  • Hesperus


  • Elephant
  • Buffalo
  • Dromedary

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive by Robert Young. Published 1923.
  2. Newcastle Courant - Saturday 17 March 1832
  3. The Times, 5 January 1910
  4. The Times, Jul 15, 1870
  5. The Engineer 1910/12/16 Supplement
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • Engineer and Machinist's Assistant 1847. plate LXVII, LXVIII, LXX, LXXII, LXXIII
  • The Steam Engine in Industry by George Watkins in two volumes. Moorland Publishing. 1978. ISBN 0-903485-65-6