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British Industrial History

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Peter Keir

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Peter Keir (c1760-1832) of the Engine Manufactory, College Street, St. Pancras (Camden Town).

Early 19th century civil engineer

1787 Patent No. 1585 concerned with a new way of raising oil for a patent lamp.[1]

1788 Advert. 'P. Keir's Patent Lamps' and 'New-Invented Carpet Sliders by Peter Keir and Thomas Thomson' and appear to be based in Edinburgh.[2]

1794 'Coach Axle-Tree and Box Manufactory, near the Veterinary College, Pancras' by Peter Keir

1801 Mention of Peter Keir's Manufactory, Pancras.[3]

1807 Advert mentions 'Peter Keir's Engine Axletree and Gun carriage Manufactory, St. Pancras.[4]

1812 Signs letter as Peter Keir, Engineer.[5]

1815 Ruthven's Patent Printing Presses are 'manufactured by Mr. Keir, Engineer, Camden Town, St. Pancras, London, whose are abilities are already well known to printers'.[6]

1821 Mention of Peter Keir of London in connection with the Suspension Iron Wheel designed by Theodore Jones[7]

1827 Letter on draining water from the Thames Tunnel.[8]

1832 Died. 'On Friday morning, about 11 o’clock, the neighbourhood of Camden town was thrown info a great state of alarm in consequence of a report that Mr. Peter Keir, engineer, of College-street, had terminated his existence by shooting himself through the head, the particulars of which are as follows:— The unfortunate gentleman, who was 72 years of age, has been heard to say that when his property was all gone he would shoot himself. Friday morning, at breakfast time, his wife remarked to him that the gloominess of the day was enough to make any one destroy themselves; of that he took no notice, but at 10 o'clock retired to his dressing-room, about half hour after which his wife heard a very heavy fall, and going stairs to see the cause, discovered the deceased lying at full length at the entrance of the bed room, his head literally shattered to pieces; in his right hand he held an air pistol, which had been discharged, and on the floor the fellow one lay, loaded, both of which were immediately taken possession by the parish beadle. The body now awaits a coroner' inquest.'[9]

1832 December 13th. Buried at St. Pancras Parish Chapel. Age 73 years and of College Street.

1832 Inquest. 'Monday afternoon an inquest was held at the Bell and Crown, King’s, road, Camden-town, before Mr. Stirling and a highly respectable jury, on view of the body of Mr. Peter Keir, engineer, of College-street, who terminated bis existence on Friday last shooting himself through the head. It appeared from the evidence now adduced that the deceased had been formerly in very good circumstances, but from various untoward misfortunes had latterly been reduced to the greatest state of exigency, which preyed heavily on his mind, and it is supposed caused him to commit the above-mentioned and dreadful act. The jury after viewing the body returned a verdict of "Temporary insanity."'[10]

1883 House and Manufactory to let. 'LONDON AND BIRMINGHAM RAILWAY.— To Engineers and Others. —To be LET on Lease all those desirable MANUFACTORIES, with a DWELLING-HOUSE attached, situate in the King’s-road leading from Old Pancras Church to Kentish Town, within a short distance from the proposed commencement of the above national undertaking, and for many years in the occupation of the late Mr. Peter Keir, Engineer. For cards apply to Mr. C. Wilkinson, No. 4, Barge-yard, Bucklersbury.'[11]


Description of a steam engine that Peter Keir of Camden Town developed and is claimed to be an improvement on Savery's and pre-dates Newcomen.[12]

Improvements to the construction of the Stanhope press by Peter Keir of Camden Town.[13]

Tool for cutting diamond by Peter Keir of Camden Town.[14]

Using chilled cast iron for making nail-holes in the wheel-tire of artillery carriages by Peter Kerr, engineer of St. Pancras.[15]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Collected Letters of Erasmus Darwin by Erasmus Darwin, Desmond King-Hele
  2. Caledonian Mercury - Saturday 12 January 1788
  3. Morning Chronicle - Saturday 28 February 1801
  4. Morning Advertiser - Thursday 10 September 1807
  5. London Courier and Evening Gazette - Saturday 25 January 1812
  6. The Scots Magazine - Wednesday 01 February 1815
  7. Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 28 April 1832
  8. Gill's scientific, technological and microscopic repository,
  9. Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 12 December 1832
  10. Bell's New Weekly Messenger - Sunday 16 December 1832
  11. Morning Advertiser - Friday 26 April 1833
  12. The steam engine theoretically and practically displayed by George Birkbeck, Henry Adcock
  13. Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editons of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Volume 6. With Preliminary Dissertations on the History of the Sciences. Illustrated by Engravings. 1824
  14. Gill's scientific, technological & microscopic repository; or, Discoveries and improvements in the useful arts, a continuation of his Technical repository, by T. Gill. 1827
  15. The Mechanic's Register by Duff Green. 1838.