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British Industrial History

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Taylor and Millington

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of Hammersmith, London

See also John Millington

1812 'The immense cast iron cylinder which we lately observed fixing behind Drury-lane Theatre, were cast near London ; we had no idea any foundry in this neighbourhood could undertake work of such magnitude, but learn they were actually done at Hammersmith, at the works of Messrs. Taylor and Millington, engineers.-
The cylinder is above 31 feet long and 10 feet internal diameter, and consists of six rings and two ends, weighing altogether forty tons. The water from this is kept constantly ready to be driven to all parts of the house, through iron pipes by means of condensed {compressed} air, and is the contrivance of the ingenious and well-known Colonel Congreve, upon which it reflects the greatest credit, as well as upon the Drury-lane Committee for adopting it.'[1]

Mr Millington had been Engineer to the West Middlesex Water Works. Taylor & Millington's works was 'opposite Webb's Lane'. The source of this information also includes a description of the Drury Lane fire protection system taken from The Times, 21st November 1812 [2]. We learn that the cast iron vessel was located underground, and fed by a 10 inch pipe from York Buildings Water Works in the Adelphi. It was 'Furnished with a powerful condensing air pump'. The vessel was kept half full of water. The air pressure over the water was about 6 atmospheres. The Water Works 'has contracted to set their engine into full work in less than 20 minutes.'
There was a Network of pipes around all parts of the theatre, some of the deluge pipes having a series of ½-inch holes. Various valves and hoses were included.
'The spectatory is further guarded by a singular contrivance, which is concealed by the Apollo's head in the centre of the pit ceiling; it consists of a four inch pipe, eight feet long, with a rose at each end, and with large holes in its sides, from which, the water rushes with great force, causes the pipe to revolve on its centre, upon the same principle of action, as the fire-work called the Catharine-wheel, and thus, by it rotatory motion to throw the various streams rushing from it to a great distance in every direction ; …. The whole of this apparatus may be worked, and the water dispersed by it, laid on, or taken off at pleasure, by a single person, acting of the different valves, by means of a series of levers contained in a small engine-house on the outside of the building, where he is in perfect security…… the levers commanding the valves or cocks of the different branches, being inscribed with the names of the different parts of the house which they have the power of inundating….'

More on the Drury Lane installation:-

1813 'Wednesday Colonel Congreve attended at the Theatre Royal, Drury-lane, (accompanied by Mr. Braithwaite), put the whole of his wonderful apparatus into motion, for the conveyance of water in every direction through the edifice —the grand cylinder being filled, which contains full 180 tons of water, supplied by the York-street Water-works, which is set on to the main, and kept constantly full, and his ingenious contrivance, has the force of six atmospheres, and can convey a ton of water a minute to any part of the theatre; the valves being opened, the water in an instant was forced into three different centrifugals, and their vertical motion spread the water with great force to the extent full 60 feet diameter each, and the one designed to be over the centre of the pit will completely cover the same like a shower bath. Lord Holland, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Dent, and several other Gentlemen of the committee, were present, and highly approved of its utility. Mr. Harry Harris, proprietor of the Theatre-Royal, being present, with Mr. Fawcett, and Mr. Brandon, were so satisfied with the effect of the machine, that Colonel Congreve and the Gentlemen were invited to visit their Theatre, as they intend having the same invention placed there.'[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Liverpool Mercury, 11th December 1812
  2. [1]'An Historical and Topographical Account of Fulham: Including the Hamlet of Hammersmith' by Thomas Faulkner, 1813
  3. Northampton Mercury, Saturday 10th April 1813