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British Industrial History

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Robert Davison

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Robert Davison (1804-1885).

1834 Robert Davison of Trumans Brewery, London, a Civil Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1851 Robert Davison 46, civil engineer, lived in Hackney with Stewart Davison 39 Elizabeth Davison 23, Jane Davison 17, William Davison 15, George Davison 13, James Davison 11, John Davison 7, Ann Davison 2, Robert Davison 5 Months[2]

1861 of London-street, City, exhibited a refrigerating or surface condensing apparatus at the Society of Arts exhibition.[3]

1881 Mr. Davison, Senior practically retired from the business owing to advancing years and failing health.

1886 Obituary [4]

ROBERT DAVISON was born at Belford, Northumberland, on the 10th of May, 1804, and when five years old he with his parents came to London, where he received his education, and in 1818 was apprenticed to Mr. Moorman, of Old Street, then a wellknown ironfounder and millwright.

In time Mr. Davison became manager to Mr. Moorman, and remained in that position until 1831, when he was appointed resident engineer at Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, and Co.'s brewery, which he to a great extent remodelled, and where many of his improvements in the mechanical arrangements are still in operation.

In 1845 Mr. Davison left the brewery and started in practice as a civil engineer, acting also as engineer to the Patent Desiccating Company, which was formed to work his patent process for drying wood and other vegetable and animal substances by currents of hot air, - a process which was largely adopted and is still in use, and for the invention of which Mr. Davison received, from the hands of the Prince Consort, the gold medal of the Society of Arts.

Shortly after this he remodelled several breweries, and new ones were erected from his designs; among others one of large size for Messrs. Findlater, of Dublin, his design being chosen out of a number sent in competition in 1852.

A few years later he designed and arranged the new brewery for Messrs. Allsopp, of Burton-on- Trent, in which work he was associated with Sir Henry A. Hunt, Assoc.Inst. C.E., this being probably the largest brewery ever erected complete from a pre-arranged plan.

In addition to the brewery-work which he had in hand, he in 1858 designed and superintended the erection of a new jetty at the British and Foreign Steam Wharf, and sometime afterwards he designed and superintended the erection of an iron pier at Kirkwall.

In 1864 Mr. Davison entered into a partnership for six years with Mr. George Scamell, F.R.I.B.A. ; and on the expiration of this partnership, Mr. Davison practised singly till 1875, when he took into partnership his youngest son, Mr. Robert Davison, Assoc. M. Inst. C.E., and Mr. John Mackenzie, M. Inst. C.E., who had been associated with him for some twenty years previously. This partnership continued till 1881, when Mr. Davison, jun., accepted an appointment abroad, and the firm was joined by Mr. George Inskipp, A.R.I.B.A. ; Mr. Davison, Sen., owing to advancing years and failing health, practically retiring from the business. About this time he went to reside at Finchley, where he expired on the 14th of March, 1886.

As may be gathered from the above, Mr. Davison turned his attention chiefly to the design of breweries, being the first who made a speciality of this branch of engineering. He designed a considerable number of such establishments (in addition to those mentioned), some of them of large size, and superintended the extension and remodelling of many more. From his experience at Messrs. Truman’s he was intimately acquainted with every detail of the business, as well as cost of plant and production, and he was in much request for valuing such establishments, and for giving evidence on arbitrations. He also paid much attention to the details of the mechanism of breweries, and introduced many novelties and improvements in the various machines ; among them machinery for raising and conveying malt, and raising and lowering casks, and other labour-saving appliances. He invented and patented several ingenious machines for cleansing casks, the principle being to give the cask a double rotatory motion, the effect being to thoroughly scrub its interior surface : these machines are largely in use in this country and on the Continent.

Mr. Davison was extremely honourable, almost punctilious, in dealing with his clients; and though he had strong objections to treating contractors with unfair harshness, he was strict in enforcing the terms of contracts, which he was very careful in arranging, and he carried on his long term of practice with an almost entire absence of litigation between clients and contractors, and with very few serious disputes. He was a man of great firmness and force of character, and was a good manager of men, having the art of maintaining a somewhat severe discipline, and at the same time conciliating his subordinates.

Mr. Davison was an enthusiastic citizen of London, being a member of the Blacksmiths’ Company, which he entered as an apprentice in 1818, was admitted to the Livery in 1835, and, after going through the preliminary offices, he served as Prime Warden (equivalent to Master) in 1857-58.

Mr. Davison was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1834, and was transferred to the rank of Member in 1840. At one time he took a considerable interest in the affairs of the Institution, contributing Papers on 'A Refrigerator or Machine for Cooling Brewers’ Wort;' 'Remarks on the Ravages of the Worm (Teredo navalis) in Timber; ' and a 'Description of the Mode adopted for Sinking a Well at Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, and Co.’s Brewery.”

Mr. Davison also acted as Auditor of Accounts of the Institution for the years 1849 and 1850.

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