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A Very Brief History of Turner, Ogden & Co

The inappropriately named "Providence Foundry"

Turner, Ogden & Co of Hunslet Lane, Leeds seem to have been a bit of a flash in the pan as far as engine makers are concerned and their brief story is an unfortunate tale of what might have been.

James Lowe's definitive directory of British Steam Locomotive Builders records that "This firm were probably agents only, getting the locomotives built by nearby locomotive builders. Locomotives purported to have been built by Turner and Ogden were: York and North Midland Railway - One four coupled locomotive (no further details have been discovered); Great North of England Railway - One four coupled locomotive with 13''x18'' cylinders and 5ft diameter coupled wheels. The latter became North Eastern Railway No.11 and was replaced in 1848. Both were built about 1840."[1]

Back in 1975 when Lowe's book was written he didn't have the wonderful searchable online British Library newspapers available for research and we have managed to elaborate a little on this obscure engine maker and find evidence that they did indeed build the locomotives attributed to them with these. The earliest records seem to be legal notices showing the company breaking off from a larger partnership in February 1839 "Edwin Turner, John Ogden, Thomas Bell and Levi Worsnop of Leeds Engineers" are shown as dissolved "(so far as regards the said Thomas Bell)", or in other words Thomas Bell left the firm.[2]

The most newsworthy event in the firms short history was first recorded on 23rd November 1839, though I'll repeat an account from York Herald on the 30th of November 1839 that gives a little more detail.

"DESTRUCTIVE FIRE._ On Friday morning last, one of the most destructive conflagrations which has occurred in Leeds for some time, broke out in the premises known as the Providence Foundry, situated in Hunslet Lane and occupied by Messrs. Turner, Ogden and Co., machine makers and iron-founders. The fire was first discovered about four o'clock in the morning by a person who was passing, and an alarm was promptly spread by the watchman. Some time necessarily elapsed before the arrival of the fire engines, and the flames consequently made very considerable progress, the floors of the building being very dry and saturated with oil, and there being also a very large stock of models, the whole of which are consumed. The building to which the fire was confined is about thirty-seven yards long by twelve yards wide, is three stories high, and was almost wholly occupied by the necessary machinery for carrying on the extensive business of the firm. The model room, occupying a space at the end furthest from the engine house is supposed to have been the place where the fire first originated but this is mere conjecture. Some difficulty was experienced in procuring a supply of water; a pipe, however, was at length laid to the well of the steam engine, and the Sun engine got to play. It was soon afterwards joined by the Leeds and Yorkshire and Norwich engines, which were supplied from a stream which runs outside the wall of the yard." At the time fire fighting was provided by the insurance companies and the names of the fire engines, likely to have been horse drawn hand pumps at the time, are the names of the insurance companies to which they would have belong. "These efforts to save the building were, however, unsuccessful and at daylight, only the bare and blackened walls were standing. The other buildings in the yard, together with the engine house and engine, remain uninjured: nor is the damage done to the machinery generally so serious as might have been imagined: there was a new locomotive engine in the building, nearly finished, the frame work of which is destroyed, but the iron work is all safe. On the whole the loss will not be so great as was first anticipated; the whole will fall upon the proprietors, Messrs. Turner and Co., being entirely uninsured. The fire is supposed to have been accidental."[3]

Another article covering the fire records that the works employed about seventy hands who "will be necessarily, for some time, be thrown out of employment"[4]

Judging by subsequent newspaper reports the firm never recovered from the un insured losses caused by the fire. Warsnop is shown as leaving the partnership in various legal notices from February 18th 1840. By May 30th 1840 classified adverts were appearing offering what sounds like the works' machinery for sale.

"To Be Sold, One Second-hand Four Horse Boiler in good Condition, Also one Fluting Machine, new, for Box Rollers. For Price and Particulars apply to Turner, Ogden and Co., Providence Foundry, Hunslet Lane"[5]

On 12th December 1840 notices appeared announcing the Bankruptcy of "E.Turner & J.Ogden, Leeds, iron and brass-founders, and engine makers."[6]

However the firm somehow survived as in April 1841 another misfortune is shown as befalling them.

"An Inquest was held before Mr E.C.Hopps, deputy coroner, at the Boy and Barrel, Hunslet Lane, on the body of Charles Atha, a man in the employ of Messrs Turner, Odgen and Co, locomotive engine makers. It appears that Atha, who died upon the premises of his employers about half past two o'clock on Wednesday, only entered their service on Monday last."..."A conversation had passed the day previous in which he said to one of the workmen that he had nearly fallen down, owing to his head being so dizzy. There was every reason to suppose he had had a similar attack from the position in which he was found."..."The jury returned a verdict of 'Died by the visitation of God'".

The firm were however soon reported again as bankrupt and another sale of "Machinery and other Effects in and about the Providence Foundry, Hunslet Lane, Leeds, lately belonging to Turner, Ogden and Co., Bankrupts" was for some reason postponed by the auctioneer on 17th May 1841.

In February 1843 a break in was recorded at the premises by a Mr A.Titley who claimed to be a tenant of a room of the works. Turner's charges were dismissed as it was concluded that Titley had a right to access the room. The report notes that the works had been locked up since the previous October.[7]

Aside from a number of entries regarding dividend announcements, which seems strange for a firm shown as bankrupt, there are no further reports to suggest that the firm continued again.

Maps from the time the works was in use lack the detail to pinpoint the works, however maps from 1847 onward show the 'Providence Works' on the corner of Black Bull Street and Hunslet Lane as a chemical works. Features such as the adjacent stream and the Boy and Barrel Inn suggest that this is likely to be the former Providence Foundry rather than just a coincidence with the names. The works went on to become part of the Yorkshire Chemicals works, the site was completely rebuilt at some point and demolished in recent years.

As well as the locomotives mentioned by Lowe we know of one stationary engine built by the firm at some point, a 9 horse power condensing engine 16''x3'4'', as this was advertised for sale on December 4th 1852. [8]

Following the demise of the Providence Works Edwin Turner was shunned by the Quaker movement for being a bankrupt, however he found greater luck at Bradford where he became a manager at the Bowling Ironworks. His son, also called Edwin, ran an iron foundry in Keighley and some of their cast iron street lights can still be found around the district.[9]

Bibliography

James Lowe - British Steam Locomotive Builders,1975[1]

Manchester Times and Gazette on 17th February 1839[2]

York Herald 30th November 1839[3]

Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser - 23rd November 1839 [4]

Leeds Mercury - 30th May 1840 [5]

London Gazette - 20th December 1840[6]

Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser - 4th February 1843[7]

Leeds Mercury - 4th December 1852[8]

Family research by J.P.Turner, great great great grandson of Edwin Turner.[9]

* These buttons are provided to help readers search for often rare books on the subject and to promote any books available, we are under no commercial incentives for this

Acknowledgements

This article was written by Kris Ward with thanks for information provided by Derek Rayner. Thanks also to J.P.Turner for completing the tale with his family research.


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