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W McKinnon & Co Barry Henry & Co Ferryhill Foundry Harper & Co

Iron Works & Founders

Iron Manufacture 1845 - The quantity of iron annually worked in Aberdeen is very considerable, and it is daily increasing, in consequence of the introduction of new branches of the manufacture, or of the extension of those formerly existing in the place. It is not many years since the making of. spinning machinery, and of steam-engines, was altogether unknown in the Town, and there are now 8 or 10 machine-makers, of whom 5 are engaged in the making of steam-engines; and 3, to a considerable extent, make both land and marine engines. Iron ship-building, too, has been introduced here within the last 2 years, and there is at present a vessel of this description on the stocks, of the burden of 550 tons by measurement, being, it is believed, the largest sailing vessel that has yet been constructed of iron.  There are in Aberdeen and its immediate vicinity 8 foundry's, at most of which the heaviest castings can be executed. One of the firms engaged in this trade has a forge hammer and a rolling mill; and there are 3 Establishments at which the heaviest anchor-work is performed. There are also 2 houses engaged to a considerable extent in chain-making; and 5 or 6 of the firms are employed in boiler-making. The number of men employed in this trade may be about 1000. It is difficult to state the average rate of wages with any degree of confidence; perhaps it may be from 18s. to £1, 5s. weekly; and the annual amount of wages paid is probably not under £50,000.

8 Iron Foundries and many Engineering Works employ 1000 men, and convert 6000 tons of iron a year into Marine and Land steam engines, Boilers, Corn Mills, Wood-preparing machinery, machinery to grind and prepare artificial manures, besides Sugar Mills, Structural Frames and Coffee Machinery for the Colonies.

Foundry Practice
Interior of Babcock and Wilcox, Renfrew works a film used for training purposes. Demonstration of the casting process from pattern design and mould to finished article by hand; pan over "castings"; pipe T-piece; machine drawing, wooden pattern hand moulder creates a mould from a pattern using "moulding sand", "parting sand" and mould boxes; core of baked sand used to form the interior of the mould pouring molten metal into the cast; breaking down the cast; finished casting demonstrating "complete solid pattern"; "2 half patterns"; "loose pieces"; preparing a "drawing board" selecting wood, and making wooden casts and cores using milling, planing sanding and templates; Shots of manufacture of cores for hollow castings; Shots hand moulder at work; Demonstration of machine moulding and casting; Diagram; Casting continued through pouring station to fettling shop where excess metal is smoothed off using sandblasting by man wearing full-body protection, and milling; Shots of completed castings;

At the end of the 18th century Aberdeen had a number of Iron Founders who were involved with Plantation Machinery for processing Coffee, Rice, Tea, Sugar Cane and Cacao as well as producing Cranes, Steam Engines and equipment for the emerging industries of Railways, Steam Shipbuilding, and Granite Quarrying.

Simpson & Co's York Place Iron Works
The 1st Locomotive for the Aberdeen Railway was built in Simpson & Co's York Place Iron Works in 1847, shortly before its closure in 1849. It housed a Moulding Shop, Boiler Shop, Fitting Shop, Turning Shop, Blacksmiths, Engine Room, Offices and weighing machine.

Thomas Hall Catto & Co - Aberdeen Iron Works, York Place, Footdee C.1860
In 1867 Hall Russell acquired the Aberdeen Iron Works in York Place, Footdee to build Steam Engines. The block building was bounded by York Place, St. Clements Street, Wellington Street and York Street became Hall Russell & Co's Engineering Shop.

Bowman, Vernon, & Co., Engineers, Founders, Millwrights, etc. Dee Iron Works, York Street,
Vernon, & Co, Engineers, Founders, Millwrights, Builders of Iron ships, &c. Dee Iron Works, York street
Vernon, & Co., brassfounders, coppersmiths, and plumbers, 57, Guestrow
Foundry located at 50 Castle Street Aberdeen 1890 (Circa)
Foundry located at 
114 King Street Aberdeen
 1900 (Circa)

The Torry Foundry, South Esplanade West
James and Co. founders and machine-makers, Ferryhill 
Clyne, Mitchell, & Co., Ltd.,  27 to 30 Commercial Quay; Foundry, South Esplanade West 
D.,King,  & Sons, Ltd., 114 King St 

There was an Iron foundry on Innes Street / 60 Loch Street c,1857 which may have been Barry Henry & Co adjacent to Soapy Ogstons Factory

Blackie Brothers

Iron Founders, Engineers, Millwrights, Boilermakers, and general Blacksmiths, Footdee Iron Works St. Clements Street.

Sir Thomas Blaikie was MD of Blaikie Brothers an Engineering Company specialising in Iron Work. A notable piece of work they carried out was the renovation of Crathie Suspension Bridge near Balmoral Castle in 1885. This work was contracted by Queen Victoria.

Devanha House was later owned by the Shipbuilder, John Blaikie, who, with 2 of his 5 brothers, founded the Footdee firm of Blaikie Bros., Engineers & Iron Founders.

Sir Thomas Blaikie was both the Managing Partner of Blaikie Brothers, Iron Founders in Aberdeen, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Aberdeen Railway Company.  While he was acting as Chairman, Blaikie "entered into a contract on behalf of the Company with his own firm, for the purchase of a large quantity of Iron Chairs at a certain stipulated price."  In Scotland and England at that time, statutes applicable to companies incorporated by special act of Parliament provided that no person interested in a contract with the Company would be qualified to be a Director, and any Director who entered into such a contract was deemed to have vacated his office.  The contract was deemed unenforceable.

John Duffus & Co

1872 Directory Entry
John Duffus & Co., Manufacturers of steam engines, chain cables, anchors, locks, hinges; millwrights, machinists, and shipbuilders, Footdee Iron Works,  St. Clement Street

Works entrance was off St. Clement Street to the left of the St. Clements Church Graveyard.  There was a large Iron Works behind the church bordering the Links and Garvocks Wynd.  The nigh square Foundry site housed a Crane, Pattern Shop, Boiler Shop, Chain Shop, Turning Shop, Fitting Shop, Moulding Shop and Store.  Satanic Fires juxtaposed to Saintly desires.

John Duffus Born (1794), Shipbuilder & Mechanical Engineer. The Duffus Shipyard was officially known as John Duffus & Company. In addition to shipbuilding, Duffus manufactured engines for steam vessels; and, trading as the Aberdeen and London Steam Navigation Company, had his own ships plying their trade between Aberdeen and London. Inter alia the "Royal Tar" (the nickname of King William IV) was built by John Duffus, Aberdeen in 1832.

Castlehill Bridge - In early times the hollow between the Castlehill and the Heading Hill was but slight, and no Bridge was necessary to connect the 2 hills for transit. By lowering the south end of what was 1st named Justice Street, Park Street/Lane, then Commerce Street, the depth of the gap between the hills was greatly increased, and in 1839 the street was widened and improved and a Cast Iron Bridge was built over it connecting the 2 Hills. From the Bridge, stone stairs at both ends lead down to the street below on its West side, which is finally called Commerce Street a main and shallower incline artery to the Harbour.  The original name was historically the more appropriate because the Bridge is probably on or near the spot where the Justiciar of the North of Scotland held his Courts. They were usually held in the open air near a small hill or artificial hillock. A Court was held near the Castle in 1299 (" Book of Bon-accord," p. 375). It is from being near the site where the Justiciar's Courts were held that Justice Street derived its name and it continued down between Castlehill and Heading Hilll.   The Footbridge itself rested upon 4 cast-iron ribs, segments of a circle which spanned the entire street and 2 pavements, from which slender bars rose vertically, supporting a horizontal roadway leading to the old Military Hospital that stood nearby. The ribs rested upon cornices in the Granite piers at the ends. A substantial casting and photo image would prove that as a major Foundry Casting and Engineering feat.  On both sides was the following proud inscription :- John Duffus & Co., Founders, Aberdeen, 1839.   Alas - Knocket Doon and not re-sited as the magnificent industrial relic that it was - surely a use could have been found for it if not merely re-erected in the Duthie Park the repository for all things that got in the way of misguided progress.  A more fitting tribute than a mere 8oz troy weight for such a pivotal Industry.

Next Generation in South Africa - Duffus Bros: John Duffus was born in Aberdeen, in 1864 ii. His brother, William Duffus was the elder being born in 1858.  Originally apprenticed to the Engineering Trade in the local Shipyards, John was later to join his brother who, having shown an artistic talent, embraced the embryonic profession of Photography.  John ("Jack") and William ("Willie") Duffus (Duffus Bros.) appear to have arrived in Southern Africa in 1889.  A successful claim for compensation following the demolition of a Commercial Property they were leasing resulted in an award sufficiently large for them to purchase their own premises - formerly Cuthbert's Corner in Joubert Street, Johannesburg - plus a substantial house in Parktown. Later, they had studios at Burlington House (later known as Duffus Buildings), 1672 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg circa 1891 to 1921; in Adderley Street, Cape Town and are reported to have traded in Potchefstroom circa 1893.  On 20 July 1899, in Cape Town, before notary public James Bruce Cleghorne,  William Duffus raised a bond of £200 on behalf of Duffus Bros. from the estate of George St. Vincent Cripps.  The reason for taking the Bond is unknown but one presumes it was to re-establish the Business or buy Residential property following their move from the Transvaal. As collateral he offered the entire contents of his Photographic Business. Fred(erick James) Centlivres together with William Arthur Daniel Cherrington signed as witnesses to the deal.

Indicative of the professional esteem in which they were held is the fact that at some point Jack Duffus was appointed an agent for the London Sphere; and that Duffus Bros. held a Royal Warrant and was appointed official photographer to the His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson, Governor of the Cape Colony and British High Commissioner to South Africa.

305 King Street, Thompson & Stewart - Iron Foundry
William J Thomson  Iron Founder (Thomson & Stewart), 303 King Street (a former Sawmill)

The Cupola Furnace
For many years, the cupola was the primary method of melting used in iron foundries. The cupola furnace has several unique characteristics which are responsible for its widespread use as a melting unit for cast iron.  The cupolas is one of the only methods of melting which is continuous in its operation.
High melt rates.
Relatively low operating costs
Ease of operation

The construction of a conventional cupola consists of a vertical steel shell which is lined with a refractory brick. The charge is introduced into the furnace body by means of an opening approximately half way up the vertical shaft.  The charge consists of alternate layers of the metal to be melted, coke fuel and limestone flux. The fuel is burnt in air which is introduced through tuyeres positioned above the hearth. The hot gases generated in the lower part of the shaft ascend and preheat the descending charge.  Most cupolas are of the drop bottom type with hinged doors under the hearth, which allows the bottom to drop away at the end of melting to aid cleaning and repairs.  At the bottom front is a taphole for the molten iron at the rear, positioned above the taphole is a slaghole. The top of the stack is capped with a spark/fume arrester hood. 

Typical internal diameters of cupolas are 450 mm to 2000mm diameter which can be operated on different fuel to metal ratios, giving melt rates of approximately 1 to 30 tonnes per hour.  A typical operation cycle for a cupola would consist of closing and propping the bottom hinged doors and preparing a hearth bottom. The bottom is usually made from low strength moulding sand and slopes towards a tapping hole. A fire is started in the hearth using light weight timber, coke is charged on top of the fire and is burnt by increasing the air draught from the tuyeres. Once the coke bed is ignited and of the required height, alternate layers of metal, flux and coke are added until the level reaches the charge doors. The metal charge would typically consist of pig iron, scrap steel and domestic returns.  An air blast is introduced through the wind box and tuyeres located near the bottom of the cupola. The air reacts chemically with the carbonaceous fuel thus producing heat of combustion. Soon after the blast is turned on, molten metal collects on the hearth bottom where it is eventually tapped out into a waiting ladle or receiver. As the metal is melted and fuel consumed, additional charges are added to maintain a level at the charging door and provide a continuous supply of molten iron.  At the end of the melting campaign, charging is stopped but the air blast is maintained until all of the metal is melted and tapped off. The air is then turned off and the bottom doors opened allowing the residual charge material to be dumped.

Preparing Moulds for Firegrate parts and Mould Sand

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Last modified: 01/09/2013