A Tribute to

Daniel Adamson

(1820 - 1890)

Daniel AdamsonEarly Beginnings

Daniel Adamson was born in Shildon, County Durham on April 30th 1820. He was the thirteenth child of fifteen to Daniel Adamson senior and Ann Gibson. His father was the landlord of the Grey Horse, now named the Surtees Arms at Shildon. From this Public House, his father operated a horse drawn passenger coach called The Perseverance on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Young Daniel attended a local Quaker school in Old Shildon, where he received an education in mathematics.

On his 13th birthday, he became an apprentice to Timothy Hackworth, an engineer for the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

In 1841, after completing his apprenticeship, Daniel Adamson qualified as both an engineer and draughtsman, and took up the post of Managing Draughtsman and Superintendent Engineer to the same company. He also claimed the rare distinction of having created a complete locomotive, as part of his training, at the age of nineteen.

Engineer Pioneer

In 1850, Adamson became manager of Heaton Foundry in Stockport, where he planned and built a cotton mill. In 1851 he moved to Newton Moor on the border between Newton and Dukinfield, to establish his own iron works, Daniel Adamson and Co, specialising in engine and boiler making.

The original complex was quite small, incorporating a single boiler and a few furnaces. However, the business rapidly prospered and in the following year a new foundry was constructed on Muslin Street.

Photograph of a BoilerIt was from these works that Manchester Boilers, pioneered by Hackworth but built by Adamson, were exported all over the world. The success was largely due to Adamson's policy of constant experimentation and improvement. Between 1852 and 1888 he had nineteen patents, mostly for improving the design and manufacture of the boilers.

His first major achievement in this area was in 1852 with the development of economical high pressure boilers using an anti-collapse flange seam as a ring joint, which subsequently became renowned as the Adamson Flange Seam. This was the first of his designs that became patented and evolved into a notable feature of the Lancashire boiler. Ten years later he patented the technique of drilling, instead of punching, rivet holes in boiler plates.

Adamson was a pioneer in the use of steel for boilers, which he first applied in the construction of a locomotive for Messrs Talabot of Paris around 1857. He succeeded in persuading John Platt of Oldham, the well known machinery manufacturer, to buy 6 Bessemer steel boilers made at the Newton Works in 1860. This led Adamson to dominate in this field as many other engineers were reluctant to use steel, which they regarded as being too unreliable. It was his outstanding knowledge and experience that overcame these technical difficulties.

The success of his ever expanding company meant that by the early 1870's larger premises were needed. In 1872/3 new engineering works were built to Adamson's own plans at the nearby Hyde junction, between Dewsnap Lane and Johnson Brook Road on the southern edge of Dukinfield.

At the time of his death in 1890, this site covered four acres with a local workforce of 600.

Other Business Interests and the Manchester Ship Canal

Before moving to his palatial house called The Towers in Didsbury, Adamson and his family lived at various residents in Tameside, including Goodier House in Newton and it is locally known that he and his family worshipped at St Mary's Church in Dukinfield.

Daniel Adamson had many other business interests. He set up the first mill-building company in the Hyde area. The Newton Moor Spinning Company in 1861, and oversaw the construction of a second mill block in 1874.

He also instituted the Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works at Penistone in 1863 and in 1864/5 established the Northern Lincolnshire Iron Company at Frodingham, along with other large share holdings in iron working firms located in Cumberland and South Wales.

Daniel Adamson's greatest impact outside his chosen area was his interest in promoting the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. In the early 1880s Adamson rescued the scheme from collapse in the face of opposition from rival canal companies and railways, with his outspoken support in campaigning in favour for the Parliamentary Bill authorising its construction.

An inaugural meeting of the campaign to build the canal was held at Adamson's home, the Towers, Didsbury on 27th June 1882. It was during this meeting that he was elected chairman of the Provisional Committee for the Manchester Ship Canal, a position he held until the Act was finally passed on its third attempt in August 1885.

After this period, Adamson became the first chairman of the board of directors of the Manchester Ship Canal Company. In February 1887 Adamson resigned due to his disagreement with the financial restructuring of the company, although he still ardently maintained his support for the project throughout the rest of his life. In 1887 he was elected President of the Iron and Steel Institute.

Daniel's Departure

Daniel Adamson died at his home, the Towers, Didsbury, on the 13th January 1890. He left his wife Mary and two daughters, Alice Ann and Lavinia.

His lasting legacy to Tameside was the Newton Moor Iron Works, which were passed to his daughter Lavinia who had married William Parkyn, an engineer, in April 1873. The works were one of the biggest sources of employment to the people of Dukinfield and Newton.

Daniel Adamson and Co remained a family business until it was sold in 1964 to Acrow Engineers Ltd. One of the last chairmen of the independent company was Mr R W Parkyn, Daniel Adamson's great grandson.


Tameside History Forum, Mr Bateman