Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 143,733 pages of information and 230,103 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Willans and Robinson

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1884.Three Cylinder Compound Engine.
1894. Engines and alternator at Bristol Electric Light Station.
1900. 2,400 HP engine shown at Paris Exhibition
February 1901. 2,400 HP engine.
1904. View of the Queensferry works, established to produce boilers under licence from J. and A. Niclausse
1904. Ground plan of the Queensferry Works.
1905. 1000 KW steam turbine.
Engines, generators and crane at Rathmines Power Station.


1909. 1100 hp impulse steam turbine.
1909. Electrically driven turbine pump.
1912. Willans and Robinson Drawing Office staff. Caption on reverse states that E. R. Briggs, Chief Draughtsman, is in the centre.
November 1912. Diesel engines.

Willans and Robinson, Ltd., of Victoria Works, Rugby; and (briefly) of Queensferry, near Chester.

1880 The company was founded as a partnership by Peter William Willans and Mark Robinson to manufacture a small high-speed marine steam engine at Thames Ditton, Surrey.

1884 A single-acting central valve engine was developed specifically to drive dynamos, which ultimately became famous.

1888 became a private limited liability company

1888 Took limited status with £200,000 capital. Described as mechanical and electrical engineers, boilermakers, iron and steel founders, launch and ship builders. [1]

1888 H. Farmer, Thames Ditton was the Secretary. [2]

1893 Reconstituted as a public company.

1894 Supplied equipment to Bristol Electric Light Station with Siemens Brothers. Illustration. [3]

1894 The company was registered on 8 March, to take over the business of engine builders of the private limited company of the same name. [4]

1895 Three engines for electricity generation for the Herrison Mental Hospital, Charminster.

1897 Moved to Willans Works, Rugby to satisfy the need for expansion and better railway facilities.

1900 Engine displayed at Paris Exhibition. Normal rating 2400 HP at 200 rpm, 3000 HP maximum.[5]

c.1900 Supplied two engines driving Mather and Platt dynamos for Rathmines Power Station, Dublin (see photo)[6]

1901 Comprehensive article in the American Machinist describing aspects of production [7]

c.1900 A modern boiler works, the Ferry Works, were built on the banks of the Dee at Queensferry near Chester[8]. This was equipped to produce water tube boilers under licence from J. and A. Niclausse of France. Facilities included plant for producing vanadium steel. Described at some length in 'The Engineer'. See 1904 illustrations [9].

1901-1916 of Victoria Works, Rugby. Annual reports held at Coventry Archives[10]

1902 Engine for electricity generation for Avonbank power station.

1902 Made engines for the Duryea car

By 1902 the company had facilities in Rugby and Queensferry[11]

1904 Engine for electricity generation for the Herrison Mental Hospital, Charminster.

1904 Started production of high-power diesel engines [12]

1907 Installation at Islington Electricity Works[13]

1908 After unsuccessful attempts to dispose of the Queensferry Works, it was decided that they should be closed because they did not make enough profit[14]

1911 335 bhp Diesel engine. [15]

1914 Installed several large steam turbines for various municipal corporations; increased orders for diesel engines; licensed the Muller-Jones condensing plant[16]

1916 Part of Dick, Kerr and Co.

1919 They became part of the English Electric Co.

Became the steam turbine department of English Electric.

Licensees for the Salmson engines with Dudbridge Iron Works. These were fitted to the Henry Farman F.27.

1968 English Electric became part of GEC, initially trading as English Electric-AEI.

1990s Became GEC-Alstom. Inevitably capacity at Rugby was reduced in favour of plants in France.

2014 Willans Works, Rugby, continued to undertake land and marine turbine work as part of ALSTOM Power.

Willans Works, Rugb, is now part of GE Power of the USA.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • The Steam Engine in Industry by George Watkins in two volumes. Moorland Publishing. 1978. ISBN 0-903485-65-6
  • AA. [3] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  1. The Engineer of 27th January 1888 p69
  2. The Engineer 1888/12/28
  3. The Engineer of 24th August 1894 p169 & p172
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. Engineering 27th April 1900
  6. 'The Engineer' 7th Sept 1900
  7. [1] American Machinist, June 6, 1901, pp.613-623
  8. The Times, Sep 17, 1908
  9. [2] The Engineer, 1 July 1904]]
  10. National Archives
  11. The Times, Apr 19, 1902
  12. A-Z of British Stationary Engines by Patrick Knight. Published 1999. ISBN 1 873098 50 2
  13. The Engineer 1907/06/07
  14. The Times, Oct 7, 1908
  15. The Engineer of 20th October 1911 p430
  16. The Times, Jan 28, 1914