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British Industrial History

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Richard Moreland

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Richard Moreland (1805-1891)

1836 Richard Moreland of 194 Old Street, a millwright engineer, became an Associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers

1891 Obituary [1]

RICHARD MORELAND, the eldest son of John Moreland, a builder of chimney-shafts of 18, Old Street, St. Luke’s, London, was born in Wilderness Row, Clerkenwell, on the 16th of February, 1805.

After receiving an ordinary school education, he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to Thomas Cooper, of 149, Old Street, London, for a term of seven years.

In June, 1828, he started in business on his own account as a millwight in a neighbouring workshop in Teanby’s Buildings, Old Street.

Mr. Moreland was of a very practical turn of mind; he was ingenious in designing work and accurate and rapid in the execution of it, and was looked upon by his fellow-workmen as a leading man. He took the opportunity of attending such evening classes as were then in existence for general improvement on those things which pertained to his business.

The millwrights of that period were a most intelligent and useful body of men. The greater part of their knowledge was derived from experience. They were equally handy at the anvil, the vice, the pattern makers’ and carpenters’ bench, and were masters in erecting work. When engaged away from the works they were then thrown completely on their own resources as regarded the carrying out of the work - the art of working from detail drawings not being then invented.

In March, 1831, he entered into partnership with Mr. Thomas Cooper, and the firm soon became celebrated for their mill gearing, which had lately superseded the old wooden lantern-wheels and pinions. They executed tread-wheel machinery for the various prisons, with grinding-apparatus, mustard- and drug-mills, &C., and had all the principal London and country breweries and distilleries on their books.

In 1832 Barclay’s Brewery was burnt down, from an explosion of malt dust in an elevator, and Messrs. Cooper and Moreland were called in to reinstate it. Mr. Moreland made the designs, working night and day, and executed the work in six months from the date of the fire.

In 1834 Mr. Cooper died, and Mr. Moreland purchased the business of his executors for £10,000, bringing into it his father, uncle, and brother-in-law, the two former as sleeping partners, and the latter as office-manager and book-keeper.

The appliances of the workshop were crude and primitive up to about 1850. There were only half a dozen lathes of a very old type, and the turning was done exclusively with hand tools. For long work a bar of iron with a groove in it was fixed parallel to the axis of the lathe, and one edge of the tool, which was in the form of a T, rested in the groove while the other cut the metal. The boring was effected principally with boring bars, the feed being given with a leading screw.

The modern workshop-tools - introduced by Whitworth and other makers about the year 1840 - were sparingly purchased, and it was not till 1856 that the necessity of adopting them was recognized. The traditions of the workshop were antagonistic to them. None of the wheels or couplings were bored to fit on the shafts or spindles. Key-ways were all cut with a chisel, and the shafts made with key-beds, so that under the circumstances the workmen were independent of machine tools.

In 1857 his son, Richard Moreland, became a member of the firm, the name of which was changed on the death of his brother-in- law to Richard Moreland and Son. Mr. Moreland retired from business altogether in 1886.

He took an active interest in charitable work. About 1852 the affairs of the Finsbury Dispensary, which had been established in the neighbourhood since 1780, were in a critical condition, and it was feared that it would have to be closed. This institution provided medical relief and attendance to the working classes in Clerkenwell and St. Luke’s and the neighbourhood. Mr. Moreland at this juncture took the matter in hand, and, through his exertions and liberality, sufficient money was collected to put it in working condition. He held the office of honorary secretary for forty years, and a testimonial, in the shape of his portrait painted by Mr. John Pettie, R.A., was presented to him by the subscribers in the year 1886. He was a member of the Hospital Sunday Fund since its commencement.

He was appointed by Her Majesty’s Commissioners for the Great Exhibition of 1851 one of the Local Commissioners for engineering and machinery. He was elected an Associate on March 8th, 1836. He died on the 18th March, 1891, of cystitis, after an illness of three months, in his eighty-seventh year.

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