John Grimshaw, Rope-Making

Genius at Sunderland, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne

(Note: Webpage in preparation)

John Grimshaw was a turner and joiner who apparently became involved with ropemaking when acting as excecutor for the


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Skempton Encyclopedia Entries on John Grimshaw



Victoria County History Record of Ropemaking at Sunderland

Extensive reference to John Grimshaw… 


Sunderland in the 19th century became almost self-sufficient in ropes and cables, which were in heavy demand for shipping, ship-building and coal-mining. The industry is recorded on Wearside as 1636, when Ralph Bee, roper, was admitted as a Sunderland freeman. Baltic hemp imports, presumably for rope-making, were noted that same year. 1 Among the 17th-century rope-makers were John Thompson, whose modest legacy in 1685 included 6 cwt of old ropes worth £1 10s, work hooks and tar pot, and wheels of iron and wood. 2

Before 1800, all rope was hand-made on rope walks, a practice continuing into the 20th century. Ropewalks were wide enough to allow four men to spin abreast of each other and long enough to make a standard 120-fathom marine rope, and incorporated a ropehouse at one end and a machine adding tension at the other, while up to 20 workers on each rope, male and female, helped the twisting process. The industry developed at the edge of town, on flat sites with space for ancillary buildings. In Bishopwearmouth, c. 1820, a walk for fine ropes stood beside another for cables and rigging, complete with tar houses, flockling lofts and counting house.3 In Sunderland parish, roperies grew up on the perimeter of the town moor, one noted in 1737 having its ropehouse near Holy Trinity church. By 1800, roperies almost encircled the moor. 4 North of the Wear were rope-walks extending along the river bank, as early as 1714,5 and close to shipyards on the north sands, in 1776.6

Webster & Co.s plant at Deptford was the first on Wearside to be driven by steam. It was also the worlds first factory producing machine-made rope. Richard Fothergill, a Sunderland schoolmaster, had patented a machine to spin hemp in 1793, possibly working with Ralph Hills, clockmaker, shipowner and freeman of Sunderland. On Fothergills death shortly afterwards, his executor, the Quaker joiner and turner John Grimshaw, took up the rights in partnership with Webster, Hills and Scarth. Rowland Webster (1751-1809), magistrate, one-time mayor of Stockton, and relative of the Wearmouth bridge-builder Rowland Burdon, financed the venture and gave it his name. Michael Scarth, like Grimshaw, was closely associated with the Wearmouth bridge. 7

Fothergills methods were not immediately successful, until further refined by Grimshaw, who registered new patents in 1795-6. Grimshaw continued as the most active partner and innovator. His principle of forming rope from spiral threads, almost doubling its strength over traditional rope, still formed the basis of rope-making 150 years later, although with horizontal machines in place of Grimshaws vertical prototype.8 This revolutionary process required a factory on a scale not previously seen in the town. The plain and functional building, on the Deptford riverside, stands four stories high and measures roughly 100 feet by 30. It is one of a very few 18thcentury industrial buildings to survive in Sunderland. Boulton & Watt installed a 16 hp steam engine in 1795, and designed engine and boiler houses, engine-framing and chimneys. The works capacity was 500 tons of rope a year, double that with a night shift, though normal output was 300 to 400 tons, about half of local production. Websters success led five of the ports nine other roperies to adopt machinery, though driven by horse- rather than steam-power. Thus modernized, the town, previously a considerable importer of rope, fulfilled most of its own needs, and the industry thrived through the 19th and 20th centuries. 9

War brought greatly increased demand. As a Quaker, Grimshaw may have declined to supply the navy; whatever the reason, he gradually withdrew from Websters. He later built his own patent ropery, in Princes Street, Bishopwearmouth, with improved and simplified machinery and 14 hp engine. He took out a further patent for a machine to make flat ropes, supplied haulage ropes for inclined planes on the Stockton and Darlington, and later for other railways, and the business continued in his name after he died in 1840. 10

By about 1817 the Deptford factory was solely owned by Websters. After recovering from insolvency in c. 1822, the family joined the industrial aristocracy through marriages into the Maling and Laing shipbuilding dynasties. Websters developed strong markets in railway and colliery haulage, and experimented during the 1830s with iron wire ropes which went into production in 1842 or 1843. Though not the first manufacturers of wire rope, Websters were the longest lived, and were among the first to make steel ropes. In 1892, the Sunderland Echo reported a sensation – the progress of a giant among ropes from Deptford. Made of steel wire, a rope six miles long and weighing over 25 tons, destined for a Whitehaven colliery, required 35 horses to draw it to the goods station at Monkwearmouth.11 Websters ceased making fibre ropes in 1917. They lost their independence in 1967, absorbed, like much of the Wearside industry, by British Ropes, and closed in 1968. 12

In contrast, Dawson and Usher evolved on the site of an old ropewalk in Hendon Road, a business established as Fletchers in 1820. It was later taken over by the steamship-owners Taylor and Sanderson, and focused on hemp ropes for maritime uses, at times making sails and nets also. The company was run by John Sandersons sons-in-law and nephews, the accountant Alfred Edward Usher, Charles Ranken, William Sanderson Dawson and John Edward Dawson. On Sandersons death in 1899, these managers took control and formed a limited company. Making wire rope was first attempted on the companys ropewalk at about this time. Dawson and Usher continued to make a wide range of hemp and iron ropes into the late 20th century. 13

Craven and Speeding was established at Monkwearmouth in 1860 by Hiram Craven, son of the contractor who built the South Dock, with his brothers-in-law James and Edward Speeding. They made fibre and wire ropes, and a well-known sisal binder twine, at the Red Star Twine Works, supplied from their own sisal plantations in east Africa. Like Dawson and Usher, they maintained covered rope walks into the 20th century. 14 The eccentric Hiram Craven jun., whose extravagant garden featured bananas grown under glass, was a leader in establishing the conglomerate British Ropes, of which his firm was a founding member. 15 The Roker Avenue factory had 1,000 employees during the Second World War, of whom 850 were women. 16

Founded in 1857 and incorporated in 1899, Glaholm and Robson built the Hendon Patent Wire Rope Works. Thomas Glaholm (d. 1894) and his brother-in-law Samuel Sinclair Robson moved from Tyneside, Robson having left Haggie Bros. of Gateshead to establish his own company. 17 David Haggie (b. 1850) intended to join them but his family denied him finance. Instead he set up, with his brother George, D.H. and G. Haggie in Hays former ropery at Sheepfolds, Monkwearmouth, in 1879, moving in 1906 to Fulwell. This company was among the founders of British Ropes. The Fulwell works closed in 1927 and became the corporation tramworks. 18 R. Hood Haggie and Sons Ltd of Willington acquired Glaholm and Robson in 1946, and the group became part of British Ropes in 1959. 19

Craven and Speeding was the only British Ropes company still producing fibre ropes in northern England, by the mid 1940s. 20 Both Glaholm and Robson and Webster and Co. closed in 1968. 21

1 DULASC, Add. Ms. 515, ff. 33r-39r; TNA, E190/190/12, ff. 23r-25r; E190/194/2, ff. 65v -61v; E190/194/1, ff. 14r-v; E190/199/9.

2 Durham RO, D/Lo/F 390/15; DPRI/1/1685/T8/1; Sund. Lib., Corder 36, p. 87.

3 Taylor Potts 237-8; Lambton estate office, letter from Thomas Thompson to Henry Morton, 4 Jan. 1883; Rain (Miller & Milburn), 44-5

4 Burleigh & T; 1826 Wood; Sund. Lib., Corder 36, p. 87; 1st ed OS VIII/15; TWCMS, B8176, B8181, B8182; eye plan; Guildhall Lib., RE 7253/1 65602.

5 1737 B & T; TWAS DX882/1.

6 TWAS, DX882/2; TWAS, 209/103; for Monkwearmouth roperies see also Tyne Mercury, 16 Oct. 1810; John Thompson, Recollections of Old MWM Men of Mark in Olden Times (Sund., c. 1890), 4-10.

7 TWAS, 569/137; R.W. Rennison & J.G. James, John Grimshaw (1763-1840), in A.W. Skempton, M.M. Chrimes et al (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, i, 1500-1830 (2002), 275-6; Patent 1946/1793; Institution of Mechanical Engineers, END/20/1/1-13; TWAS, 569/136-7; DF.PEM1/57; Barfoot & Wilkes, 513; cross ref WM bridge

8 TWAS, 569/136-7; Patents 2089/1796, 2335/1799, 2651/1802; E.R. Forestier-Walker, A History of the Wire Rope Industry of Great Britain (1952), 32; Rennison and James, John Grimshaw, 275-6; Garbutt pp. 409-11; Sund. Chamber of Commerce Journal, 184 (1948), 1679-80

9 Institution of Mechanical Engineers, END/20/1/1-13; Garbutt pp. 409-11; Surtees Sund vol., 14; S. Smith, ‘Wire-Rope Making, Sund.’ Ind. Archaeo Soc for NE 7 (Nov/Dec 1968), 9; Roberton, Wearside at Work, 149-56; RTP, 29-30.

10 Surtees Sund vol., 14; TWAS, 569/136, patent 4669/1822; 569/138; Garbutt pp. 409-11; Rennison and James, John Grimshaw, 275-6; Milligan, 214.

11 TWAS, 569/135-8, /144-5, /149, /62; DF.PEM1/57; Histories of Famous Firms: Sunderland, British Bull. of Commerce (Sept. 1954), 9 (Sund. Lib., L942.81B); Sund. Echo, 22 Dec. 1892; Forestier-Walker, Wire Rope Industry, 32-5, 59-60.

12 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI/30; Smith, ‘Wire-rope making, 9.

13 Histories of Famous Firms: Sunderland, British Bull. of Commerce (Sept. 1954), 10; Forestier-Walker, Wire Rope Industry, 118.

14 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI/9; Oxon. RO, Kitto/V/1; W. Tyson, Rope: a History of the Hard Fibre Cordage Industry in the U.K. (1966), 84-5; Cordage, Canvas and Jute World (Apr. 1961), 21-4; RTP, 29; Histories of Famous Firms: Sunderland, British Bull. of Commerce (Sept. 1954), 10.

15 Forestier-Walker, Wire Rope Industry, 78-80; Cordage, Canvas and Jute World (Apr. 1961), 23-4.

16 K. Price, The Ropery Women of Sunderland in World War Two, North East Labour Hist. Bull., 24 (1990), 35-9.

17 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI/17; Industrial Wearside (Sund. Echo, 1931); Histories of Famous Firms: Sunderland, British Bull. of Commerce (Sept. 1954), 12; M. Haggie, Haggie: Ropemakers of Tyne and Wear (unpub. ms., Sund. Lib., L929.2 HAG); Newc. And Gateshead Chamber of Commerce Jnl Supp. (1929), 103; Forestier-Walker, Wire Rope Industry, 91.

18 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI/19; Forestier-Walker, Wire Rope Industry, 90; Haggie, Haggie: Ropemakers of Tyne and Wear, 55.

19 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI/20.

20 Doncaster Archives Department, DY/BRI, administrative history.

21 Sund. Echo, 26 July 1968; Smith, ‘Wire-Rope Making, 9.

Image of Ropemaking Machine

Fig.2 Heritage Gallery – Rope Works

Built in 1797 by John Grimshaw and Rowland Webster, the original rope-works was designed to exploit the new technology of its day – a machine for spinning cordage which had been invented by a local man, Richard Fothergill. This invention had a revolutionary impact on rope haulage.

 ©Sunderland City Council, Heritage Gallery

John Grimshaw’s Patents

1. Patent 2089: Vegetable Substances to Bleach Cloths and Other Material, February 17, 1796.

Author Unknown, 1859, Patents for Inventions – Abridgements of Specifications Relating to Bleaching, Dyeing, and Printing Calico and Other Fabrics and Yarns; Including the Manufacture of Rollers, Engraving, the Preparation of Drugs, and Other Processes: London, Printed By Order of the Commissioners of Patents. Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, Printers to the Queens Most Excellent Majexty, p. 64.

2. Patent 2335: Manufacture of Ropes and Cordage, August, 1799.

3. Patent 2651: Machinery for Laying Ropes, October 5, 1802.

4. Patent 4669: Stitching, Lacing or Manufacturing Flat Ropes, April 16, 1822.

5. Specification of a Patent Granted to John Grimshaw for an Improved Method of Making Flat Ropes, Bishopwearmouth, 1822 (reprinted 1826).

Click here for PDF of Patent Description

Figures 1 to 6 of Patent…

Huddart vs. Grimshaw Lawsuit

Click here for PDF of case description…

Webster, Thomas, 1844, Reports and Notes of Cases on Letters Patents for Inventions: London, Thomas Blenkarn Law Bookseller, p. 85-95.

1973 Photos of Webster Ropery from “Structural Images of the North East”

University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne…

Welcome! Structural Images of the North East is a comprehensive collection of images celebrating the structural heritage of North East England.

Covering Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Teesside there are photographs, slides, sketches, paintings, etchings and drawings showing structures great and small. The images date from around 1715 to 2004 and the majority of them have never been publicly available until now. From lampposts to lighthouses and collieries to castles our extensive collection depicts the region’s structural heritage in all its glory. 

Landscape photo showing the west gable of the oldest part of Webster’s Ropery towards the centre of the image, with other, mainly later buildings in front of it. (Image from February 1973)

Structures identified: Deptford Patent Ropery ( [EXTANT], Deptford, SUNDERLAND) – OFFICE, RESTAURANT, ROPERY, WORKERS COTTAGE, WORKSHOP

Image details: Stafford Linsley Collection, Collection Reference Number: 7481


Landscape photo showing some workers cottages opposite the main ropery building, clearly disused at the time. View from the northeast. (Image from February 1973)

Notes about the Image: These cottages would have been ‘only a few seconds walk from the place of work.’ [Stafford Linsley’s annotation]

Structures identified: Deptford Patent Ropery ( [EXTANT], Deptford, SUNDERLAND) – OFFICE, RESTAURANT, ROPERY, WORKERS COTTAGE, WORKSHOP

Image details: Stafford Linsley Collection, Collection Reference Number: 7480


Landscape photo showing what can be fairly safely assumed to be the original works building of Webster’s Ropery. View from the southwest. (Image from February 1973)

Structures identified: Deptford Patent Ropery ( [EXTANT], Deptford, SUNDERLAND) – OFFICE, RESTAURANT, ROPERY, WORKERS COTTAGE, WORKSHOP

Image details: Stafford Linsley Collection, Collection Reference Number: 7478


Landscape photo of Webster’s Ropery, with Monkwearmouth Colliery visible in the background. View from the southwest. (Image from February 1973)

Notes about the Image: ‘I am somewhat uncertain about this view, except to say that it was part of the ropery.’ [Stafford Linsley’s annotation]


Image details: Stafford Linsley Collection, Collection Reference Number: 7479


Landscape Engraving of Grimshaw’s (Webster’s) Ropery, Sunderland. (Image from 1 January 1815 – 31 December 1825)

Notes about the Image: Robson Sculpt. [BOTTOM] [Caption on Illustration]

Structures identified: Deptford Patent Ropery ( [EXTANT], Deptford, SUNDERLAND) – OFFICE, RESTAURANT, ROPERY, WORKERS COTTAGE, WORKSHOP

Image details: Robinson Library – Special Collections Department , Collection Reference Number: C181


Square Engraving of Webster’s Ropery, Sunderland. View from the north. (Image from 1 January 1815 – 31 December 1825)

Notes about the Image:

Robson delin. et Sculp. [BOTTOM] [Caption on Illustration]

Structures identified: Deptford Patent Ropery ( [EXTANT], Deptford, SUNDERLAND) – OFFICE, RESTAURANT, ROPERY, WORKERS COTTAGE, WORKSHOP

Image details: Robinson Library – Special Collections Department , Collection Reference Number: C179


Recent Pictures of the Webster and Grimshaw Ropery

Restored between 1985 and 1987…

Plaque on Websters Property

Borough of Sunderland. Websters Ropery (originally built in 1793). After a long and eventful history this, the worlds first patent ropeworks, became derelict and remained so for many years. Restored between 1985 and 1987, the Ropery now provides commercial and leisure facilities. Urban Programme.

Boulton and Watt Steam Engine for the Webster and Grimshaw Patent Ropemaking Mill

General view of the engine

On the drawing

“General View of the Engine, Webs(?) Grimshaw Co(?)”

“1/3 (?) Inch to the Front. June 25, 1795.”


(Another drawing also references the planetary gear.)

Front view of the engine

On the drawing

“Front View of the Engine”

“Webs Grimshaw Co”

“1/3 Inch to the Foot. 25 June 1795.”


Maps Showing Webster and Grimshaw Mill in Sunderland

John Grimshaw Rescued Wearmouth Bridge


After the bridges opening Wilson was appointed surveyor, or resident engineer, retaining a salary of £100. He lived in one of two large houses at the Bishopwearmouth end of the bridge – the other was that of the toll-keeper – from the garden of which visitors could view the structure below the deck. The evident success at Wearmouth brought many requests to Wilson and Burdon to build bridges elsewhere, including a replacement for London bridge. Wilson was responsible for a number of iron bridges in the first decade of the 19th century, including one at Staines which sank and cracked soon after opening, and another at Yarm which collapsed before it could be opened. 

Rumours abounded that the Wearmouth bridge too was in poor condition.  At the time of construction, according to Bowdler, the main concern was to protect the iron from the corrosive effects of the sea air filled with saline particles. Coal varnish was applied during manufacture, and this would be renewed, or the structure painted, as necessary. In principle any part of the ironwork could be removed and replaced without damaging the bridge. The only worry Bowdler expressed about the new bridge was that it may be vulnerable to a lightning strike.

It was neither lightning nor corrosion which endangered the bridge, however, but those same structural failings which plagued Wilsons other works. By 1804 a bulge on the eastern line of the arch was visible to the eye, to a degree which made the public fear for their safety. Michael Scarth, then treasurer of the commissioners, enlisted John Grimshaw (1763-1840), a Quaker and partner in the Deptford ropeworks, to investigate. Grimshaw quickly saw an obvious and immediate danger which vibration from horses and carriages was making worse – the side way equilibrium was upon the point of being completely lost, a circumstance which must have speedily brought the whole fabric into the river. Wilson, having failed to acknowledge the problem, had no idea how to solve it.  By Grimshaws reckoning, the flood during construction had washed away the river bed to leave the arch 12-13 in. out of true, a discrepancy which had become almost 20 in. by 1804. About a fifth of the supporting tubes had broken or fallen into the river, some of them soon after the bridge was completed, for Wilson had replaced several of them. All that held the bridge together at the time of Grimshaws survey was its overarching timber frame.

Grimshaw received no reward and little acknowledgement, but is credited by later engineers, including Marc Brunel and Robert Stephenson, with saving the bridge from collapse. He proposed modifications which cost £2,003 and involved inserting diagonal braces between the arch ribs. As well as strengthening the structure, by using screws and wedges it was drawn back into a straight line, and Grimshaw harnessed the vibration of heavy traffic – carriages and droves of oxen – to assist this process. Gaps in the roadway and paving were repaired and did not reopen.  Twelve years later, Grimshaw believed that the whole strain formerly on the arch in an eastern direction, is totally relieved; and, in my opinion, the bridge is now in perfect safety.  Burdon drew reassurance from this success: As the braces, which I at first applied between the ribs, were found insufficient, and a very considerable repair and improvement has been made in that part of the bridge by Mr Grimshaw. The mode of repair, with its success, has satisfied me as much as the bridge itself that under certain circumstances it is wise to substitute iron for stone in the construction of bridges. 

Grimshaw succeeded Scarth as treasurer in 1805, later becoming a coal-fitter and part owner of a colliery where he experimented on railway traction and gained renown as the strongest intellectual force at the back of the railway movement. He was a significant backer of the Stockton and Darlington railway, to which he also supplied haulage ropes.  When in 1814 he was accused by one of the Wearmouth bridge commissioners that I had not straightened it anything he declared himself much mortified and set out to record in words and drawings his bold and arduous undertaking.  His account was published in a pamphlet in 1818, at a time he sought remuneration from the commissioners for his work on the bridge, though it does not appear that he was ever paid.

Despite his questionable ability as a structural engineer, Thomas Wilson retained his position until 1820, when he died at Bridge House. He had been a member of the Phoenix Lodge of Freemasons since 1790, serving as Worshipful Master, 1796-1803, 1809-12 and 1816, and was buried amidst great Masonic ceremonial.  His successor as surveyor was one Nixon, until 1833 when Thomas Moore (1796-1869), a carpenter and later a noted Sunderland architect responsible for Monkwearmouth station, was appointed. After 1836, while Moore remained the local contact, Robert Stephenson was employed as consultant engineer. 

Moore checked the structure thoroughly, and devised a tar-based cement to protect the timbers. A total of £3,310 was spent on modifications and repairs in 1841. When Stephenson inspected in 1846, he found the bridge sound. However, overenthusiastic blasting of the limestone bluff on the south bank in 1853, for extensions to the nearby bottle works, caused significant damage. During repairs, attention focussed on how to strengthen the bridge to cope with greatly increased traffic, and a Newcastle architect, Archibald M. Dunn, suggested improvements which would reduce the gradient of the road. The commissioners, though, went with Stephensons advice for a major reconstruction, which in view of the engineers poor health was delegated to his assistant George Henry Phipps (1807-88). 

The necessary Act of Parliament passed in 1857 and work proceeded rapidly, helped by unusually good weather during the following winter.  Robert Stephenson had been at the forefront of a new wave of iron bridges associated with railway developments from the 1830s, and his experience with a box-girder bridge at Gateshead led him to adopt the same system for the Wearmouth reconstruction.  Phipps dismantled the 1796 bridge, leaving standing only the six original ribs, which were found to be as much as 16 in. out of line. Grimshaws remedial work had evidently not succeeded as well as he thought. Phipps widened and raised the abutments, adding three wrought-iron tubular arches between the ribs, and increasing the width of the road to 26 ft 6 in. and of the footpaths to 7 ft 6 in. The new design meant that the gradient on the north side fell to 1 in 47, and on the south to zero.  Essentially the Stephenson bridge was a new structure, retaining elements of the old which were ornamental rather than useful, for they add nothing to the stability of the work.  The construction was sufficiently robust that it could take trams, for which rails were laid in 1879, without further modification.

The Wearmouth bridge re-opened in March 1859, when the manager for B C Lawton, the masonry contractor, drove on from the north, while the manager for Hawks, Crawshay & Sons, ironwork contractors, approached from the south with a silver service of three cups and a tankard. They met in the middle and drank Success to the bridge, to three cheers from the workmen. The structure weighed in total 1,216 tons, 900 of which were iron, and cost about £36,000. It is gratifying to think, said the Sunderland Herald, that during the progress of the work not more than one fatal accident took place. The work, it proclaimed, was a really noble bridge in the spirit of what used to be, and what is still to be, the crowning glory of Wearmouth bridge – Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo. The only note of discord was a revival of the old argument about how much credit Thomas Paine deserved for designing the first bridge, in which matter Rowland Burdons son wrote convincingly in his fathers defence.

The Stephenson bridge was showing signs of inadequacy by 1913, when a report was commissioned into its condition, followed by an Act of Parliament in 1915 authorising replacement.  It was estimated that in 1875, before trams, traffic had amounted to 1,892 tons a day; with horse trams in 1899 the total was 7,480 tons; per 16-hour period in 1924, the weight of traffic measured 26,592 tons, of which 14,954 was trams. By then the abutments had deteriorated so severely that action was urgent. The new structure, three-pinned steel through an arch, with 375-ft. span, a rise of 105 ft., and 48ft. wide, was built around the old one, which was then dismantled, though Stephenson’s balustrading was used as far as possible. The engineer was G.L. Groves for Messrs Mott Hay & Anderson, the contractors Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd., and the cost £231,943. The official opening by the duke of York took place in October 1929.

T&WA, IC/WBR/1, passim. James, Cast Iron Bridge, 29-31.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 32-3, 36-7; J.G. James, Thomas Wilsons cast-iron bridges, 1800-10, Trans. Newcomen Soc., 50 (1978), 55-72.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 32-3.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 55.

BL, 8777 cc.2: J. Grimshaw, A Report of the Repairs given to WM Bridge in the Year 1805 (1818), 5-6; . R.W. Rennison & J.G. James, John Grimshaw (1763-1840) in Skempton, Chrimes et al (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers, i, 275-6.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 34-5.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 36.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 34; BL, 8777 cc.2, pp. 4-22; Rennison, Influence of William Fairbairn, 45.

BL, 8777 cc.2, p. 24.

Sir John Soanes Museum, Private Corres. III.B.2/5, 2 Feb. 1814; Bolton (ed.), Portrait of Sir John Soane, 147.

Rennison and James, John Grimshaw; James, Cast Iron Bridge, 34-5; Sir John Soanes Museum, Private Corres. III.B.2/6, 18 May 1814; Bolton (ed.), Portrait of Sir John Soane, 202.

Sir John Soanes Museum, Private Corres. III.B.2/31, 27 July[?] 1814.

BL, 8777 cc.2, p. 3.

Lib. and Museum of Freemasonry, membership list, p. 2; Todd pp.23-6; James and Rennison, Thomas Wilson.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 41-2; T&WA, IC/WBR/1; Rennison, Influence of William Fairbairn, 45.

Inst. Civil Eng., OCS/ 554 .

Rennison, Influence of William Fairbairn, 45; James, Cast Iron Bridge, 41.

Local Act, 20 & 21 Victoria I, c. xxxix; Sund. Herald, 11 Mar. 1859.

Rennison, Influence of William Fairbairn, 37.

Rennison, Influence of William Fairbairn, 45; G.H. Phipps, Lectures on Practical Engineering (1874), 6-8; James, Cast Iron Bridge, 41-2.

Sund. Herald, 11 Mar. 1859.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 42-3.

Sund. Herald, 11 Mar. 1859; James, Cast Iron Bridge, 41-2.

J. Burdon, Letter to the Wearmouth Bridge Committee (1859);  Inst. Civil Eng., Sunderland bridge folder (material collected by J.G. James).

Sunderland Lib., Scrapbook 32; Local, Personal and Private Acts, 5 & 6 George V, Sunderland Corporation (Wearmouth Bridge) Act, c. xlvii.

Sunderland Lib., Scrapbook 32.

James, Cast Iron Bridge, 42-3; G.L. Groves, The new Wearmouth bridge, Sunderland, Proc. Inst. Civil Eng., 230 (1930), 144-66; Engineering 8 Feb 1929, 156-7; Sunderland Lib., Scrapbook 32.

Wearmouth Bridge Photo

Bridge Number One

The first Wearmouth Bridge opened in 1796, with the foundation stone having been laid in September 1793. It was sponsored by Rowland Burdon, the MP, and designed by Thomas Paine following a model for a bridge over Schyulkill river in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the plaque on the current bridge, its construction “proved to be a catalyst for the growth of Sunderland,” since access between Monkwearmouth and Bishopwearmouth had previously only been by ferry, with the nearest bridge at Chester-le-Street. There was originally a toll for traffic and pedestrians, although tolls for pedestrians were abolished in

It was the second iron bridge built after the famous span at Ironbridge, but was over twice as long with a nominal span of 240 feet, and only three-quarters the weight. Indeed, at the time of building, it was the biggest single span bridge in the world (72 m), matching the collapsed Trezzo Bridge. It opened to traffic on 9 August 1796, having cost a total of about £28,000.

John Grimshaw Was the First to Apply the Boulton and Watt Steam Engine to Dredging

Author Unknown, 1843, “History of the Dredging Machine (from Part I of Weales Quarterly Papers on Engineering)” in J.C. Robertson, Editor, The Mechanics Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, July 1st – December 30th, 1843: v. 33, p. 308-309.

(p. 308, 2nd column)

In the year 1796, Mr. Grimshaw of Sunderland applied to Messrs. Boulton and Watt for a steam engine to work a dredging machine, for the purpose of cleansing the harbour of Sunderland; the result was, the erection, by that firm, of a four-horse engine in a flat-bottom vessel, 60 feet in length, 20 feet in width, and 6 feet in depth, 4 feet in draught; the engine and machinery weighed 23 tons, and was calculate to work four spoon dredges, each one containing one ton of soil, to the height of 10 feet per minute.

This machine was seen by the present Mr. Watt, about the year 1797, and the experiments on its capabilities were made by the late Mr. Southern, whose able assistance and services Messrs. Boulton and Watt were always ready to acknowledge.

The following is a copy of Messr. Boulton and Watt’s memorandum book, dated 17th June, 1796.

 “Mr. Pickernell asked for the following information for a dredging machine for Sunderland Harbor.

“An engine is wanted to work the spoons which are at present worked by men, for cleansing the harbour; these spoons are in form of a truncated cone, the narrow end of which is closed, and to the other, or open end is fixed a spade-bit; these spoons are made of a hide of leather, having an iron rim.

“The engine is to be fixed in a boat 20 or 22 feet wide, 60 feet long, and depth at pleasure; is to work four rollers, each for a spoon.

“These rollers are to go 10 feet per minute, and to be 12 feet above the waters surface; to work in winter never deeper than 10 feet, suppose a 3 feet stroke engine; the spoons at present contain only about 15 cwt., but they may be made to contain (?) ton; suppose all working together, say 6 tons 10 feet per minute, 134,400 lbs. one foot high per minute: but Mr. Pickernell said if they contained one ton they would be large enough. Say a four-horse engine, as it will hardly ever happen that they will be lifting them all vertically at once, 12½ cylinder, 3 feet stroke, 30 strokes per minute, bell crank engine.”

It is clear, therefore, that Messrs. Boulton and Watt are entitled to the first claim of having applied the steam-engine to dredging.

In the year 1802, the late Mr. Rennie, in his Report to the Hull Dock Company on the best mode of improving’ the Docks, proposed applying the six-horse engine, then employed for driving the piles of the coffer-dam of the entrance,* to the old dredging machine of Grimshaw. The machine, which was made by a Dutch millwright, and the only one in England, consisted of an endless chain, to which eleven wooden buckets, fastened and edged with iron, were attached, and revolved over rollers placed at the upper and lower extremities of a wooden frame, or ladder, the upper roller being worked by wheels which communicated with a horse wheel. The machinery was fixed in a barge 61 feet 6 inches in length, and 22 feet 6 inches in width, and draught of water 4 feet; it worked in a depth of 14 feet until the year 1814, when various alterations were made in it under the direction of the late Mr. Rennie, who caused the engine to be erected in it in the year 1804, – after which it raised from 20,000 to 23,000 tons of mud per annum, at a cost of about three pence per cubic yard, from a depth of 22 feet. This machine was replaced by a new and more powerful one in the year 1807.

*The piles (600 in number) for the cofferdam of the Wapping entrance of the London Docks, constructed by Mr. Rennie, were driven by one of Boulton and Watts eight-horse engines, in the year 1801.


John Grimshaw Was Descended from the Edward and Dorothy (Raner) Grimshaw Line

Information provided in Skempton allows identification of John Grimshaw as a 5th generation descendant of Edward and Dorothy (Raner) Grimshaw (companion webpage) as shown below. Some information also from Family Search and Quaker Records webpage:


Edward Grimshaw (About 1559 – 22 Jun 1635) & Dorotye Raner
|–1 Abraham Grimshaw (1603 – 1670) & Sarah ( – 21 Sep 1695)
|–|–2 Abraham Grimshaw* (About 1651 – 6 Dec 1707) & Rachel Bond (1672 – 23 May 1696)
|–|–|–3 Joseph Grimshaw (3 Mar 1686/1687 – )
|–|–|–3 Benjamin Grimshaw (3 Mar 1686/1687 – 30 Jun 1724)
|–|–|–3 Elizabeth Grimshaw (8 May 1691 – )
|–|–2 Abraham Grimshaw* (About 1651 – 6 Dec 1707) & Elizabeth Bond ( – 1744)
|–|–|–3 Jeremiah Grimshaw (30 Jan 1700/1701 – )
|–|–2 JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Mary Stockton ( – 6 Jan 1692/1693)
|–|–|–3 Joshua Grimshaw (12 Apr 1687 – 8 Jan 1764) & Jane Oddy (1686 – 1771)
|–|–|–3 Caleb Grimshaw (20 May 1688 – 1751) & Esther Hudson
|–|–2JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Sarah Overend ( – 16 May 1699)
|–|–2JeremyJeremiah Grimshaw* (21 Jul 1653 – 12 Aug 1721) & Rebecca Jowett ( – 12 Dec 1736)
|–|–2 Josias Grimshaw (25 Apr 1658 – 15 Dec 1722) & Sarah Ibbitson (25 Dec 1647 – 15 Feb 1741/1742)
|–|–|–3 Abraham Grimshaw (24 Feb 1691/1692 – ) & Elizabeth Sandall (5 Dec 1701 – 13 Apr 1787)
|–|–|–3 Sarah Grimshaw (1691 – 1726)
|–|–|–3 Isaac Grimshaw (25 Sep 1692 – 1764) & Deborah Jepson ( – 1768)
|–|–2 John Grimshaw* (23 Nov 1664 – 20 Jun 1749) & Grace Ibbotson (15 Nov 1671 – 29 Nov 1700)
|–|–|–3 Hannah Grimshaw (9 Jan 1697/1698 – ) & John Lister
|–|–|–3 John Grimshaw (26 Nov 1700 – 28 Nov 1700)
|–|–2 John Grimshaw* (23 Nov 1664 – 20 Jun 1749) & Phoebe Cockshaw (About 1678 – 21 Feb 1747/1748)
|–|–|–3 John Grimshaw (26 Apr 1703 – ) & Sarah Cooper
|–|–|–|–4 John Grimshaw (6 Apr 1728 – 17 Jan 1790) & Hannah Firth (1729 – 6 Mar 1801)
|–|–|–|–|–5 Sarah Grimshaw
|–|–|–|–|–5 Mary Grimshaw (12 Oct 1761 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 John Grimshaw (3 May 1764 – 24 Nov 1836) & Margaret Hartley (21 Aug 1768 – 16 Oct 1835)
|–|–|–|–|–5 William Grimshaw (13 Aug 1766 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Samuel Grimshaw* (15 Jul 1769 – 18 Jan 1844) & Mary Bentley (1769 – 3 Jan 1799)
|–|–|–|–|–5 Samuel Grimshaw* (15 Jul 1769 – 18 Jan 1844) & Mary Shackleton (?)
|–|–|–|–|–5 Hannah Grimshaw (25 Jun 1772 – )
|–|–|–|–4 Sarah Grimshaw (28 Jan 1729/1730 – )
|–|–|–|–4 William Grimshaw (13 Oct 1731 – ) & Hannah Adamson (1743 – ?)
|–|–|–|–|–5 John Grimshaw (18 Aug 1763, Rawden or Knaresborough – 22 May 1840, Sunderland) & Elizabeth Miller (1767 – 1841). Married 1795. No
|–|–|–|–|–5 Hannah Grimshaw – 253 (25 Mar 1765, Thirsk – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Elizabeth Grimshaw – 254 (27 Feb 1767, Thirsk – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Lydia Grimshaw – 171 (21 Sep 1768, Thirsk – ) & George Broadhead – 172 (About 1770 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 William Grimshaw – 175 (2 Apr 1771 – ) & Jane Wood – 176 (About 1785 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Benjamin Grimshaw – 252 (15 Mar 1775 – ) & Ann Pickard – 169 (About 1775 – )
|–|–|–|–4 Mary Grimshaw (31 Oct 1733 – )
|–|–|–|–4 Hannah Grimshaw (13 Apr 1736 – )
|–|–|–|–4 Tabitha Grimshaw (5 Mar 1738/1739 – )
|–|–|–|–4 Benjamin Grimshaw (29 Jul 1741 – 16 Sep 1804) & Catharine Whaley ( – 19 Mar 1827)
|–|–|–|–|–5 Sarah Grimshaw (7 Nov 1781 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Ann Grimshaw (11 Sep 1783 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Benjamin Grimshaw (21 May 1785 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Ruth Grimshaw (26 May 1788 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Hannah Grimshaw (19 Nov 1790 – )
|–|–|–|–|–5 Samuel Grimshaw (26 Aug 1793 – ) & Hannah

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Webpage posted March 2012.