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British Industrial History

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James Shears and Sons

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of Fleet Market, London, Engineers, Coppersmiths and Millwrights

of 27 Bankside, Southwark.

James Shears and Sons was a firm of London coppersmiths and braziers who were active from c1785 to 1891.

c1785 The firm was founded by James Shears (c1750-1820) and continued by his two sons Daniel Towers Shears (1784-1860) and James Henry Shears (1788-1855) and subsequently by William Shears.

Much of the company's business at this period appears to have been as suppliers to the brewing trade, especially of the copper vats used in beer-making process. They also manufactured boilers for steam engines and so established close and enduring links with the Birmingham firm of Boulton and Watt, the leading manufacturers of steam engines. Several instances are known of Boulton & Watt recommending Shears to customers who had purchased an engine and required a suitable boiler. Later the company also had connections with the sugar refining industry as evidenced by the patent granted to Daniel Towers Shears in 1850 (see below) and his subsequent connection with the Glucose Sugar and Colouring Co

The company's original premises were taken over from William Gore at 67 Fleet Market - see Gore and Shears. The company was still at this address in 1822 (when a fire broke out at the premises described as extending "from the west side of the Market to Shoe-lane"). By this time Fleet Market was becoming increasingly dilapidated and by 1834 at the very latest Shears and Co had acquired freehold property at 27 Bankside on the Southwark bank of the Thames. This remained their main base for the rest of the company's existence. However, the evidence of contemporary directories and newspaper items shows that during its existence the company occupied other sites in and around London at one time or another including 22-24 Fleet Market (in 1811 where they had a lease on property that was due to expire in 1813); 25 Fleet Market (in 1815); 60 Lower Shadwell (also in 1815). They had copper rolling mills at Merton, Surrey (where they were in possession by 1815 and continued there until 1867): in 1819 they obtained a steam engine to power these mills from Boulton and Watt.

By 1810 Daniel Towers Shears appears to have been responsible for the day-to-day running of the company.

1860 Following the death of Daniel Towers Shears a dispute concerning his estate arose between Frances Shears (probably his daughter) and his wife's family, the reasons for which are not clear. His assets were ordered to be sold by the Court of Chancery and a series of sales took place in 1867 of the premises of the company and its stock, stores and equipment.

In 1867 the company's property included the copperworks, two wharves, an engineering works and other adjacent premises at Bankside, the copper mills at Merton and manufacturing premises at New Park Street, Southwark.

Whatever the outcome of these sales the company continued to trade under its original name and was controlled by Daniel's son William Shears. It remained at 17 and 27 Bankside, described as coppersmiths, engineers and millwrights, until 1891 when a sale of its assets by order of the mortgagees took place. No subsequent reference to the company has been found.

Daniel Towers Shears

During Daniel's career he took out a number of patents, all clearly related to the business of copper and brass manufacture or to industries which used utensils made of these materials:

1817 Machine to cool liquids, e.g. in the process of distillation or brewing. (This has been described as the first true heat-exchanger)

1824 Manufacture of zinc (with his brother James Henry Shears and Frederick Benecke)

1830 Apparatus for distilling (subsequently described as "a bad imitation of the Pistorius still")

1845 Production of ingots of zinc from ores

1847 Treatment of zinc ores to produce ingots

1850 Manufacture and refining of sugar

1853 Improvements in brewing

See Also


Sources of Information