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British Industrial History

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William Brock

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William Brock (1836-1907)

1907 Obituary [1]

WALTER BROCK was born in Glasgow on 21st January 1836, and was educated in that city.

His apprenticeship was served with Messrs. Robert Napier and Sons from 1852 to 1857, after which he was employed for a further period of two years in the drawing-office.

He then became head draughtsman at the works of Messrs. Simpson and Co., Pimlico, Loudon. There he remained for over five years, being assistant manager for the last two years.

In 1861 he returned to the engine works of Messrs. Robert Napier and Sons, of Glasgow, becoming manager of the department, and there he continued for seven years superintending the construction of the machinery during years of very considerable advance in the power of merchant steamers.

In 1871 he joined the late Mr. Peter Denny, LL.D., at Dumbarton. The two firms — Messrs. William Denny and Brothers, shipbuilders, and Messrs. Denny and Co., engineers — have been distinct organizations, although the partners in each are practically the same. He first joined the latter as managing partner, but two years later he became a partner in the shipbuilding firm also.

With the late Dr. Kirk his name was associated with the triple-expansion engine, and he developed the quadruple type in such a manner as to make it readily applicable to the existing machinery of steamers originally constructed on the compound system. A long succession of new quadruple engines were also built by Messrs. Denny and Co. on this system, the economy with the increased steam-pressures available being marked. Ultimately, however, it was found that the four-crank system gave a better turning movement even than the triple-expansion engine.

The firm took a prominent part in the development of high-speed paddle and screw steamers for Channel service, and here also his ingenuity was displayed, as he introduced a system of valve-gear which enabled mere powerful engines to be adopted within the limits in width of the paddle-steamer engine room.

On the death of Dr. Peter Denny in 1895 he became the managing partner of the shipbuilding yard, in addition to having full control of the engine works.

When the success of the Parsons turbine had been demonstrated on board light torpedo craft, he, with his partners, became associated with the Hon. C. A. Parsons and Captain Williamson in the building of the first commercial steamer to be driven by turbines, namely the "King Edward." From this point onward he advocated the turbine system, and was among the most extensive builders of it. He took hardly any part in public affairs, having no liking for publicity, the sole exception being his membership of the Dumbarton Harbour Board.

For some time past he had been in failing health, which terminated in his death at his residence in Dumbarton on 25th April 1907, at the age of seventy-one.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1865; he was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the Institution of Naval Architects, and of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.

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