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British Industrial History

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W. G. Armstrong and Co

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1848. Condensing Locomotive
1856. Apparatus for Lifting and Hauling.
1866. Water Pressure Engine.
1868. Field Artillery.
1868. Hydraulic Machinery.
1870. Corn warehousing machinery at the Liverpool Docks.
1876. 120-ton sheer legs at Elswick.
Steam-driven hydraulic pumping engine at the National Waterways Museum.
1890. Gun. Exhibit at Queensland Maritime Museum.
1890. Gun. (Detail). Exhibit at Queensland Maritime Museum.


150-ton Hydraulic Luffing Crane. 1907.
W. G. Armstrong and Co steam pump which originally powered the Swing Bridge, Newcastle. Exhibit at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle
W. G. Armstrong and Co Gun at Tangeres. No. 1796.

Sir W. G. Armstrong of Elswick Works, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

1847 William Armstrong established W. G. Armstrong and Co at Elswick Engine Works with a capital of £19,500 plus Armstrong's patents valued at £3,000, to manufacture new hydraulic devices, cranes and bridges, soon to be followed by artillery, notably the Armstrong breech-loading gun, which re-equipped the British Army after the Crimean War. The founding partners were Armstrong, A. Donkin, the solicitor that he was articled to and George Cruddas, his life-long business partner. [1]

The company's first buildings were erected on a narrow strip of land, between the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway and the Tyne, at Elswick, just over a mile to the west of the town. Production commenced in the autumn, some twenty or thirty men being employed.

1847 George Hutchinson and Henry Thompson joined the company.[2]

1847 Built their first railway locomotive, an experimental condensing 2-2-2 type, that was deemed impractical and later broken up at Armstrong's works. [3]

1851 Percy Graham Buchanan Westmacott joins the company

1851 Manufacturing Engineers employing 400 men [4]

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

1852 Armstrong's Hydraulic Crane. Drawing. Mentions G. W. Armstrong.

1855 William George Armstrong and Co, steam engine manufacturers, of Elswick Engine Works[5]

1859 William Armstrong was appointed government engineer for rifled ordnance and superintendent of the royal gun factory at Woolwich but the factory was unable to produce the Armstrong design of guns so, whilst it was being reconstructed, the Elswick ordnance factory was established alongside the Elswick engine works, exclusively to supply the government with Armstrong guns.

Thomas Clark took charge of the foundry and subsequently the blast furnace at Elswick.

1862 Ten or twelve 'E' class 2-4-0 locomotives were built for the East Indian Railway. [6]

1864 Armstrong's Hydraulic Works were partnered with the nearby Elswick Ordnance factory, merging the two as Sir W. G. Armstrong and Co

1860-64 Around fifty railway locomotives built in this period, this number is somewhat speculative and includes those built for the East Indian Railway in 1862. [7]

1876 The 100-ton gun, the largest gun in the world [8]

1876 120-ton sheer legs at Elswick featured in The Engineer, 17th March 1876. See illustration. These featured a hydraulic ram for lifting the load, worked by water pressure at 900 psi from the works' hydraulic mains. The sheers were used in shipping 100-ton gun barrels to Italy.

1881 The Elswick Works were described in 'The Engineer', 22nd July 1881. Work in progress included a 45-ton crane for Valparaiso and a lighthouse for Brazil. Some special machine tools are mentioned, including a Whitworth lathe of 36" centre height and 44 ft 6" between centres, another by Fairbairn, Kennedy and Naylor, modified at Elswick, which could swing work 20 ft dia and 4 ft 6" long or 8 ft dia and 34 ft long

The manufacture of guns led in time to interest being taken in warships; numerous gunboats were built according to Elswick design and under Elswick supervision at the shipyard of Mr. Charles Mitchell at Walker.

1882 W. G. Armstrong and Co merged with Charles Mitchell and Co to form Armstrong, Mitchell and Co. The company was launched with a capital of £1.575M.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Tuesday, May 16, 1911
  2. William Armstrong – Magician of the North by Henrietta Heald. Published 2010. p67. ISBN 9780857160423
  3. Peter McKenzie; biography of W. G. Armstrong, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1983
  4. 1851 Census
  5. Slater's 1855 Directory of Northumberland, etc
  6. Hugh Hughes Indian Locomotives Part 1 - Broad Gauge CRC 1990
  7. [The Engineer 1864/01/08
  8. The Engineer of 11th August 1876 p102