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British Industrial History

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William Horatio Harfield

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William Horatio Harfield (1832-1910) of Brown and Harfield and Harfield and Co

of Mansion House Buildings, Queen Victoria Street, London, E.C.

1832 Born in Poplar son of Joseph Harfield (Royal Navy).

1840 Thomas Brown married Sarah Harfield in London[1]

1851 Thomas Brown 56, patentee, lived in London City South East, with his step-daughter Katharine J Harfield 25 and his step-son, William H Harfield 18, assistant draughtsman[2]

c.1854 (presumably) William Horatio Harfield was taken into partnership by his step father Thomas Brown (1795- ), as Brown and Harfield

1855 Married Emma Eliza West in Teddington[3]

1856 Patent on "Improvements in machinery for cutting and smoothing the surfaces of metallic nuts"

1858 Patent on "Improvements in windlasses"

1859 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of Fenchurch-street, in the city of London, in respect of the invention of "improvements in ships' capstans and riding bits."[4]

1861 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of 2, Royal Exchange-buildings, in the city of London, in respect of the invention of "improvements in constructing and propelling ships and vessels"[5]

1867 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of Royal Exchange-buildings, in the city of London, in respect of the invention of " improvements in the construction of windlasses."[6]

1872 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of Mansion House-buildings, in the city of London, in respect of the invention of "improvements in apparatus for multiplying power, applicable to windlasses, cranes, hoists,and other machines."[7]

1874 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of the Mansion House-buildings, in the city of London, in respect of the invention of "improvements in capstans and windlasses."[8]

1875 Patent application by William Horatio Harfield, of the Mansion House-buildings, in the city of London, for the invention of "improvements in capstans, cable holders, and cable stoppers."[9]


1911 Obituary [10]

WILLIAM HORATIO HARFIELD was born in London on 13th May 1832, and was educated at King's College, London.

After serving his apprenticeship he entered the office of his stepfather, Thomas Brown, and was subsequently taken into partnership, which constituted the firm of Brown and Harfield, the original inventors of the modern system of working cables for anchors, now universally adopted both in war and in merchant vessels. As junior partner of Brown and Harfield he saw this system adopted for the "Great Eastern" in 1857, and, as principal of Harfield and Co., for the largest of modern warships, the Dreadnought cruisers "Lion" and "Princess Royal."

In 1889 the question of improving the system of steering gear engaged his attention, and he invented a simple and most effective type of compensating steering gear, consisting essentially of an eccentric pinion working in a corresponding rack connected to the rudder post, so arranged that increased leverage was obtained as the rudder strains increased, thus enabling the rudder to be moved rapidly when the strains were light, and to be put hard over with smaller engines and with less steam consumption than were required with the old type of gear. This compensating gear was adopted with great success in British and foreign war vessels of all classes.

Notwithstanding his business activities he greatly interested himself in the auxiliary forces, having been for several years lieutenant-colonel of the Middlesex Yeomanry, which he brought to a high state of efficiency before resigning.

He was D.L. and J.P. for the county of Middlesex.

He died at his residence, Sunbury Court, Middlesex, on 24th September 1910, at the age of seventy-eight.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1869.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1851 census
  3. BMD
  4. London Gazette 15 Nov 1859
  5. London Gazette 26 Nov 1861
  6. London Gazette 25 Jun 1867
  7. London Gazette 24 Sept 1872
  8. London Gazette 26 May 1874
  9. London Gazette 26 Mar 1875
  10. 1911 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries