Hathorn, Davey and Company, Limited

This week on the Secret Library we have an article from guest writer Dr Robert Vernon, who explores the Hunslet engineering company, Hathorn, Davey and Company, Limited. Robert will be releasing his new book, A history of Hathorn, Davey and Company, Limited (1872 to 1936)  which will be published later in 2020. 

Hathorn, Davey and Company, Limited was just one of a number of successful Hunslet engineering companies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their headquarters were at the Sun Foundry, located at the junction of Jack Lane and the Dewsbury Road.

Jack Lane, Hathorn Davey, Leodis

The company started life in 1872 as a means for a retired Scottish Army Captain, John Fletcher Hathorn, to give his half-brother a worthwhile career. A year later, a young engineer Henry Davey, joined the Partnership. Davey was to become probably one of the most innovative engineers in pumping technology of the period, and it was his patent of a new type of steam engine governor, the differential gear, together with its application to the two-cylinder compound engine, that gave the Company worldwide fame. Other innovations followed including a low-steam pressure Domestic motor that Davey used at his house at Headingley.

The Compound engine was the best seller in the 19th century, and a number survive in the United Kingdom, including one at Ebbw Vale, South Wales, Cheddars Lane Technology Museum, Cambridge and Mill Meece Pumping Station, Staffordshire.

In the 20th century, the triple expansion engine superseded the compound, and was exported to Uruguay and Australia. Examples of such engines survive in both countries. Working triple expansion engines in the United Kingdom can be found at Twyford, Hampshire and the Kew Museum of Water and Steam, London.

By 1900 the company had come under the control of the Lupton family of Leeds, and in 1901 the partnership converted to a private company. However, like many Companies, Hathorn Davey fell on hard times in the 1930s and it was taken over by Sulzer Brothers of Switzerland in 1936. They retained the name Hathorn Davey as a dormant company until a few years ago.

A history of Hathorn, Davey and Company, Limited (1872 to 1936) will shortly be published, probably November 2020. The author, Rob Vernon, worked as the Area Geologist for the National Coal Board (Deep Mines), based at Allerton Bywater, Castleford. His interest in Hathorn Davey started in 1975, when he purchased an 1899 Pumping Engine Catalogue at the Queens Hall Flea Market. This linked in with Rob’s other interest, mining history. Since then he has visited the sites of Hathorn Davey engines in Australia (Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria), Japan (Kyushu), and Spain where two significant engine houses for Hathorn Davey compound engines still survive on mine sites in Córdoba Province. He has also visited many sites in the United Kingdom.

Hathorn Davey Ltd; Jack Lane. Leodis

Much of the research material used for the book has come from the collection of Hathorn Davey Order Books held in the Leeds Archives, as well as contemporary engineering publications, some held at the library of the National Coal Mining Museum at Wakefield, and at other archival sources in the UK

Rob would still be interested in seeing other material about Hathorn Davey, perhaps held by the families of those who worked for the Company. He can be contacted by email:  HDRV1901@Outlook.com

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