What do a medieval alchemist, a top-class Formula One engineer and a Victorian clockmaker all have in common? They are all part of Tameside’s scientific and engineering heritage, a heritage that we’re celebrating from 10-19th
March as part of British Science Week 2017.
An annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, British Science Week features a range of fascinating, entertaining and engaging national, regional and local events across the UK. Tameside is no different. On Sunday 19th
March between 11am-3pm, we’re sending the week off in style as Portland Basin Museum in Ashton plays host to three mad scientists, who will be inviting all and sundry to get involved in all sorts of exciting experiments at their fun stations.
The theme of mad scientists is particularly appropriate for Tameside. A lot of people assume that Tameside’s long and proud history of engineering and science begins in the Industrial Revolution, but they’re off by more than a few centuries. In the 1400s, one Sir Thomas de Assheton received a special order from King Henry VI to pursue his experiments in alchemy, the art of turning base metals into gold. It might sound strange to us, but enough people thought this possible at the time for the King’s order to forbid any person from interfering with de Assheton’s work. The details of his experiments are unknown, but it appears that he did not succeed (Ironically enough, we now know that it is technically possible to turn lead into gold, although the energy required far outweighs any possible benefit).
Almost 500 years later, a Tameside clockmaker, Albert E. Richardson designed the first practical Teasmade, a machine for making tea or coffee automatically. Richardson’s design was based on an alarm clock, a spirit lamp and a dipping kettle. He sold the design to a Birmingham gunsmith, Franke Clark, who patented it in 1902. Considered to be nothing more than a curiosity at the time, the advent of mass production made electric versions of Teasmades a common sight in British homes in the 60s and 70s. Back in the 21st
century, Ross Brawn, the motorsport engineer, technical director and owner of multiple championship winning Formula 1 teams, was born and spent the majority of his childhood in Ashton-under-Lyne. He credits visiting Belle Vue Stadium to watch various forms of motorsport with kindling his interest in motor engineering from a young age.
That’s a legacy that Tameside Council wants to add to. Over the past few months we have put on a variety of events to encourage people to get involved in science and engineering. We’ve worked with MadLab to put on a series of “Make Stuff” days – a series of free coding, making and tech events. Our two Tameside Hack competitions – one held last summer, the other last month – encouraged yo
ung people to team up and take on a series of digital challenges, having fun and developing their skills and creativity in the process. For some this kind of science and engineering will remain a hobby or a pastime. For others who want to try and make a job or a career out of such skills the new facilities that are going up as part of the Vision Tameside project will allow them to do so with cutting edge facilities and resources.
From making trinkets and gadgets to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and achievement, Tameside has done it all. So as we celebrate British Science Week, let us remember both that proud history and the glowing possibilities for our future.