Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Forth Banks Works

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of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

1817 Robert Hawthorn began business at the Forth Banks Works building marine and stationary steam engines.

1820 Installed the first engines used in Tyne tugboats.

1870 On the retirement of William Hawthorn, Benjamin Chapman Browne, Francis Carr Marshall, William Hawthorn, Junior and the manager J. Scott acquired the Forth Banks works of Messrs. R. and W. Hawthorn; the style of the firm was unchanged[1].

The Works continued to grow and develop until, finally, it was arranged that the whole of the Marine Department should be moved to St. Peter's (where the Boiler Yard already was), to a purpose-designed Marine Engine Works.

1885 Hawthorn's merged with Leslie's. Forth Banks became the works of Hawthorn Leslie

c.1902 Hawthorn Leslie took over part of the works of Robert Stephenson and Co at Forth Banks when that firm moved to Darlington.

1907 The firm acquired adjoining land for extensions

1937 The locomotive production of Hawthorn Leslie was bought by Robert Stephenson and Co, becoming Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns.

1960 Closed



From 'Short Histories of Famous Firms' by Ernest Leopold Ahrons[2].

R. and W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Co, Newcastle-On-Tyne.

The firm of R. and W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Co., Limited, is one of the oldest in the country, for its origin dates back more than a century ; but, unlike some of the famous firms whose histories have been recorded in these columns, it has constantly increased in size, and at the present day is one of the largest and foremost of British firms. Locomotive and marine engine construction and shipbuilding form the principal industries with which its name is connected. The original works were founded as an open shed in January, 1817, on the east side of Forth Banks, Newcastle, by Mr. Robert Hawthorn, who began the manufacture of stationary steam engines and millwork. There were only four workmen in addition to Mr. Hawthorn, who worked with them. All the machinery was driven by hand. In 1820 Mr. William Hawthorn became a partner with his brother, and from that date the firm was known as R. and W. Hawthorn. The two brothers were the sons of Robert Hawthorn, who for more than fifty years was engineer to the owners of Walbottle Colliery, near Newcastle, and a man of great mechanical ability.

In 1819 a small portion of the ground upon which the present works stand was purchased. Being on a hill-side, it had to be excavated and prepared for the first workshop by Mr. Hawthorn and his men during the evenings after work hours. About 1820 the firm made the first steam crane for hoisting ballast from ships. It was erected at St. Anthony's Quay, on the Tyne, and at the same period the marine engineering branch was started. In December, 1822, steam power was first supplied to the works for driving the lathes, which until that time had been driven by men turning a hand wheel."

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Jul 15, 1870
  2. The Engineer 1922/07/14