Simon Stanley, Abbots Langley Hertfordshire:Information about James Beaumont Neilson
Home Page |Surname List |Index of Individuals | |Sources
James Beaumont Neilson (b. 20 Jun 1792, d. 18 Jan 1865)
|Queens Hill Estate|
James Beaumont Neilson (son of Walter Neilson and Marion Smith) was born 20 Jun 1792 in Barony, Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland, and died 18 Jan 1865 in Queenshill, Tongland, Kirkcudbright, Scotland of Apoplexy - Three Hours.He married (1) Barbara Montgomerie on 03 Sep 1815.He married (2) Jane Gemmel on 18 Jan 1846 in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Notes for James Beaumont Neilson:
J B Nielson. 1792- 1865
B. 22 June 1792, Shettleston, Nr Glasgow
D. 18 Jan 1865, Queenshill, Kirkcudbrightshire
Etching of Hot Blast recieving Patent in Willows Landing
death regestered on 10th Jul 1889
Father Walter Nielson - originally a millwright but became an engine wright to govan Coal Works, Glasgow.
Mother, Maiden Name Marion Smith,
First Job was to drive a condensing engine which his father had set up, and on leaving school he was for two years a 'gig-boy' on a winding -engine at the Govan Colliery.
Apprenticed to elder brother John as engineman at Oakbank nr Glasgow, who drove a small engine, and acted as his brothers fireman.
Nielson later worked for his brother who designed and constructed the first iron steamer that went to sea.
Aged 22 he went to the Irvine Colliery as an engine wright. He also married Barbra Montgomerie who 'belonged to Irvine' which a dowery of 205L. Withthe failure f the Irvine works they moved to Glasgow where aged 25 he was apointed foreman of the Glasgow Gasworks, After 5 years he became manager and engineer and remaied connected until his retirement 30 years later.
He Introduced many important improvements, the employment of Clay Retorts, use of sulphite of Iron as a purifier and the Swallowtale jet. All this was aided by his knowledge of Physical and Chemical Science aquired at the Andersonian Iniversity, Glasgow.
He worked to better the education of the workmen creating with the directors of the Gas company a workmans Institution with Library, Lecture room, Laboritory and Workshop. The Insitute was so popular that it required extention in 1825.
It was about this time that he was led to the inquires which resulted in the discovery of the value of the 'Hot Blast' in Iron Manufacture. His technique was first fairly tested at the Clyde Ironworks. This was so successful that Charles Maccintosh (inventor of waterproof) Colin Dunlop and John Wilson of Dunclyvan entered into partnership with nielson for patenting the invention.
Patents taken out in England 11th Sept, Scot - Irish 1st Oct 1829.
1832 Nielson joined the Insitution of Civil Engineers in London, By 1835 the 'Hot Blast' installed in all the Ironworks save one, and there it was due to be installed. by 1840 his patent was threatened by the new Association of Scottish Iron Masters, who refused to acknoledge the validity of the Patent.
In scotland his patent was renewed April 1842 after Legal Challenges. May 1843 saw Nielson in Court again which he lost, and the House of Lords also rejected Nielsons claims to the Patent.
Patent expired Sept/Oct 1842, Nielson retired 1847 to property on the Isle of Bute, owned by Lord of Bute . In 1851 he moved to the estate in Kircudbright, Queenshil where he promoted local improvements and an started an institute similar to the one in Glasgow.
He was elected in 1846 to Fellowship of Royal Society.
Nielson was a man of very strict integrity and of somewat puritanical rigour.
Died at Queenshill. 18th Jan 1865
NEILSON James Beaumont #6, born 20-06-1792 in Shettleston, Barony, Glasgow,occupation; Manager & Inventor, died 18-01-1865 in Queenshill, Kirkcudbrightshire, buried: Cir 1865 in Queenshill, Tongland.James Beaumont Neilson was born at Shettleston, a roadside village about three miles eastward of Glasgow, on the 20th of June, 1792. The boy's education was confined to the common elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, which he partly acquired at the parish school of Strathbungo near Glasgow, and partly at the Chapel School, as it was called, in the Gorbals at Glasgow. He had finally left school before he was fourteen. Some time before he left, he had been partially set to work, and earned four shillings a week by employing a part of each day in driving a small condensing engine which his father had put up in a neighboring quarry. After leaving school, he was employed for two years as a gig boy on one of the winding engines at the Govan colliery. His parents now considered him of fit age to be apprenticed to some special trade, and as Beaumont had much of his father's tastes for mechanical pursuits, it was determined to put him apprentice to a working engineer. His elder brother John was then acting as engineman at Oakbank near Glasgow, and Beaumont was apprenticed under him to learn the trade. John was a person of a studious and serious turn of mind, and had been strongly attracted to follow the example of the brothers Haldane, who were then exciting great interest by their preaching throughout the North; but his father set his face against his son's "preaching at the back o' dikes," as he called it; and so John quietly settled down to his work. The engine which the two brothers managed was a very small one, and the master and apprentice served for engineman and fireman. Here the youth worked for three years, employing his leisure hours in the evenings in remedying the defects of his early education, and endeavoring to acquire knowledge of English grammar, drawing, and mathematics.
On the expiry of his apprenticeship, Beaumont continued for a time to work under his brother as journeyman at a guinea a week; after which, in 1814, he entered the employment of William Taylor, coal-master at Irvine, and he was appointed engine-wright of the colliery at a salary of from £70 to £80 a year. One of the improvements which he introduced in the working of the colliery, while he held that office, was the laying down of an edge railway of cast-iron, in lengths of three feet, from the pit to the harbor of Irvine, a distance of three miles. At the age of 23 he married his first wife, Barbara Montgomerie, an Irvine lass, with a "tocher" of £250. This little provision was all the more serviceable to him, as his master, Taylor, becoming unfortunate in business, he was suddenly thrown out of employment, and the little fortune enabled the newly-married pair to hold their heads above water till better days came round. They took a humble tenement, consisting of a room and a kitchen, in the Cowcaddens, Glasgow, where their first child was born.
About this time a gas-work, the first in Glasgow, was projected, and the company having been formed, the directors advertised for a superintendent and foreman, to whom they offered a "liberal salary." Though Beaumont had never seen gaslight before, except at the illumination of his father's colliery office after the Peace of Amiens, which was accomplished in a very simple and original manner, without either condenser, purifier, or gas-holder, and though he knew nothing of the art of gas-making, he had the courage to apply for the situation. He was one of twenty candidates, and the fortunate one; and in August, 1817, we find him appointed foreman of the Glasgow Gasworks, for five years, at the salary of £90 a year.Before the expiry of his term, he was reappointed for six years more, at the advanced salary of £200, with the status of manager and engineer of the works. His salary was gradually increased to £400 a year, with a free dwelling-house, until 1847, when, after a faithful service of thirty years, during which he had largely extended the central works, and erected branch works in Tradeston and Partick, he finally resigned the management.
The situation of manager of the Glasgow Gas-works was in many respects well suited for the development of Mr. Neilson's peculiar abilities. In the first place it afforded him facilities for obtaining theoretical as well as practical knowledge in Chemical Science, of which he was a diligent student at the Andersonian University, as well as of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics in their higher branches.In the next place it gave free scope for his ingenuity in introducing improvements in the manufacture of gas, then in its infancy. He was the first to employ clay retorts; and he introduced sulphate of iron as a self-acting purifier, passing the gas through beds of charcoal to remove its oily and tarry elements. The swallow-tail or union jet was also his invention, and it has since come into general use.
While managing the Gas-works, one of Mr.Neilson's labours of love was the establishment and direction by him of a Workmen's Institution for mutual improvement. Having been a workman himself, and experienced the disadvantages of an imperfect education in early life, as well as the benefits arising from improved culture in later years, he desired to impart some of these advantages to the workmen in his employment, who consisted chiefly of persons from remote parts of the Highlands or from Ireland. Most of them could not even read, and his principal difficulty consisted in persuading them that it was of any use to learn. For some time they resisted his persuasions to form a Workmen's Institution, with a view to the establishment of a library, classes, and lectures, urging as a sufficient plea for not joining it, that they could not read, and that books would be of no use to them. At last, Mr. Neilson succeeded, though with considerable difficulty, in inducing fourteen of the workmen to adopt his plan. Each member was to contribute a small sum monthly, to be laid out in books, the Gas Company providing the members with a comfortable room in which they might meet to read and converse in the evenings instead of going to the alehouse. The members were afterwards allowed to take the books home to read, and the room was used for the purpose of conversation on the subjects of the books read by them, and occasionally for lectures delivered by the members themselves on geography, arithmetic, chemistry, and mechanics. Their numbers increased so that the room in which they met became insufficient for their accommodation, when the Gas Company provided them with a new and larger place of meeting, together with a laboratory and workshop. In the former they studied practical chemistry, and in the latter they studied practical mechanics, making for themselves an air pump and an electrifying machine, as well as preparing the various models used in the course of the lectures. The effects on the workmen were eminently beneficial, and the institution came to be cited as among the most valuable of its kind in the kingdom.* [footnote... Article by Dugald Bannatyne in Glasgow Mechanic's Magazine, No. 53, Dec. 1824. ]
Mr. Neilson throughout watched carefully over its working, and exerted himself in all ways to promote its usefulness, in which he had the zealous co-operation of the leading workmen themselves, and the gratitude of all. On the opening of the new and enlarged rooms in 1825, we find him delivering an admirable address, which was thought worthy of republication, together with the reply of George Sutherland, one of the workmen, in which Mr. Neilson's exertions as its founder and chief supporter were gratefully and forcibly expressed.* [footnote... Glasgow Mechanic's Magazine, vol. iii. p. 159.]
It was during the period of his connection with the Glasgow Gas-works that Mr. Neilson directed his attention to the smelting of iron. His views in regard to the subject were at first somewhat crude, as appears from a paper read by him before the Glasgow Philosophical Society early in 1825. It appears that in the course of the preceding year his attention had been called to the subject by an iron-maker, who asked him if he thought it possible to purify the air blown into the blast furnaces, in like manner as carburetted hydrogen gas was purified. The ironmaster supposed that it was the presence of sulphur in the air that caused blast-furnaces to work irregularly, and to make bad iron in the summer months. Mr. Neilson was of opinion that this was not the true cause, and he was rather disposed to think it attributable to the want of a due proportion of oxygen in summer, when the air was more rarefied, besides containing more aqueous vapor than in winter. He therefore thought the true remedy was in some way or other to throw in a greater proportion of oxygen; and he suggested that, in order to dry the air, it should be passed, on its way to the furnace, through two long tunnels containing calcined lime. But further inquiry served to correct his views, and eventually led him to the true theory of blasting.
Shortly after, his attention was directed by Mr. James Ewing to a defect in one of the Muirkirk blast-furnaces, situated about half a mile distant from the blowing-engine, which was found not to work so well as others which were situated close to it. The circumstances of the case led Mr. Neilson to form the opinion that, as air increases in volume according to temperature, if he were to heat it by passing it through a red-hot vessel, its volume would be increased, according to the well-known law, and the blast might thus be enabled to do more duty in the distant furnace. He proceeded to make a series of experiments at the Gas-works, trying the effect of heated air on the illuminating power of gas, by bringing up a stream of it in a tube so as to surround the gas-burner. He found that by this means the combustion of the gas was rendered more intense, and its illuminating power greatly increased. He proceeded to try a similar experiment on a common smith's fire, by blowing the fire with heated air, and the effect was the same; the fire was much more brilliant, and accompanied by an unusually intense degree of heat.
Having obtained such marked results by these small experiments, it naturally occurred to him that a similar increase in intensity of combustion and temperature would attend the application of the process to the blast-furnace on a large scale; but being only a gas-maker, he had the greatest difficulty in persuading any ironmaster to permit him to make the necessary experiment's with blast-furnaces actually at work. Besides, his theory was altogether at variance with the established practice, which was to supply air as cold as possible, the prevailing idea being that the coldness of the air in winter was the cause of the best iron being then produced. Acting on these views, the efforts of the ironmasters had always been directed to the cooling of the blast, and various expedients were devised for the purpose. Thus the regulator was painted white, as being the coolest colour; the air was passed over cold water, and in some cases the air pipes were even surrounded by ice, all with the object of keeping the blast cold. When, therefore, Mr. Neilson proposed entirely to reverse the process, and to employ hot instead of cold blast, the incredulity of the ironmasters may well be imagined. What! Neilson, a mere maker of gas, undertake to instruct practical men in the manufacture of iron! And to suppose that heated air can be used for the purpose! It was presumption in the extreme, or at best the mere visionary idea of a person altogether unacquainted with the subject!
At length, however, Mr. Neilson succeeded in inducing Mr. Charles Macintosh of Crossbasket, and Mr. Colin Dunlop of the Clyde Iron Works, to allow him to make a trial of the hot air process. In the first imperfect attempts the air was heated to little more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, yet the results were satisfactory, and the scoriae from the furnace evidently contained less iron. He was therefore desirous of trying his plan upon a more extensive scale, with the object, if possible, of thoroughly establishing the soundness of his principle. In this he was a good deal hampered even by those ironmasters who were his friends, and had promised him the requisite opportunities for making a fair trial of the new process. They strongly objected to his making the necessary alterations in the furnaces, and he seemed to be as far from a satisfactory experiment as ever. In one instance, where he had so far succeeded as to be allowed to heat the blast-main, he asked permission to introduce deflecting plates in the main or to put a bend in the pipe, so as to bring the blast more closely against the heated sides of the pipe, and also increase the area of heating surface, in order to raise the temperature to a higher point; but this was refused, and it was said that if even a bend were put in the pipe the furnace would stop working. These prejudices proved a serious difficulty in the way of our inventor, and several more years passed before he was allowed to put a bend in the blast-main. After many years of perseverance, he was, however, at length enabled to work out his plan into a definite shape at the Clyde Iron Works, and its practical value was at once admitted. At the meeting of the Mechanical Engineers' Society held in May, 1859, Mr. Neilson explained that his invention consisted solely in the principle of heating the blast between the engine and the furnace, and was not associated with any particular construction of the intermediate heating apparatus. This, he said, was the cause of its success; and in some respects it resembled the invention of his countryman, James Watt, who, in connection with the steam-engine, invented the plan of condensing the steam in a separate vessel, and was successful in maintaining his invention by not limiting it to any particular construction of the condenser. On the same occasion he took the opportunity of acknowledging the firmness with which the English ironmasters had stood by him when attempts were made to deprive him of the benefits of his invention; and to them he acknowledged he was mainly indebted for the successful issue of the severe contests he had to undergo. For there were, of course, certain of the ironmasters, both English and Scotch, supporters of the cause of free trade in others' inventions, who sought to resist the patent, after it had come into general use, and had been recognised as one of the most valuable improvements of modem times.* [footnote... Mr. Mushet described it as "a wonderful discovery," and one of the "most novel and beautiful improvements in his time." Professor Gregory of Aberdeen characterized it as "the greatest improvement with which he was acquainted." Mr. Jessop, an extensive English iron manufacturer, declared it to be "of as great advantage in the iron trade as Arkwright's machinery was in the cotton-spinning trade; and Mr. Fairbairn, in his contribution on "Iron" in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says that it "has effected an entire revolution in the iron industry of Great Britain, and forms the last era in the history of this material." ]
The patent was secured in 1828 for a term of fourteen years; but, as Mr. Neilson did not himself possess the requisite capital to enable him to perfect the invention, or to defend it if attacked, he found it necessary to invite other gentlemen, able to support him in these respects, to share its profits; retaining for himself only three-tenths of the whole. His partners were Mr. Charles Macintosh, Mr. Colin Dunlop, and Mr.John Wilson of Dundyvan. The charge made by them was only a shilling a ton for all iron produced by the new process; this low rate being fixed in order to ensure the introduction of the patent into general use, as well as to reduce to a minimum the temptations of the ironmasters to infringe it. etcHe died of Apoplexy.
Part of an account 'Industrial Biography' by Samuel Smiles (Cir 1863) Chapter 9;
He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chemical Society and the Royal Society of London (1846).In 1842 both the English and Scottish patents expired and James, now in easy circumstances, retired in 1847.Firstly to property on the Isle of Bute, belonging to the Marqui of Bute, whose friendship he enjoyed.Then in 1851 James purchased the mansion and estate of Queenshill, near the Bridge-of-Dee just West of Castle Douglas, Dumfrieshire.The estate consisted of a 27 roomed mansion, with various housed and cottages and some eight farms.James was said to be a man of strict integrity and of somewhat puritanical rigor.He left the established church of Scotland and joined the free church.
In a complex Will & Trust James left Thirty Thousand Pounds each to his daughters Elizabeth, Janet and Mary but the bulk of the estate was split between his sons Walter, Matthew and George.
He married (1) MONTGOMERIE Barbara #7, 03-09-1815 in Irvine, Ayrshire, she was born 25-09-1796 in Irvine, Ayrshire, (daughter of MONTGOMERIE John #590 and CRAWFORD Janet #591) died 1843 in Queenshill, Tongland, buried: Cir 1843 in Queenshill, Tongland.Barbara was said to be the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Eglington, she brought with her a dowry of £250 !!
He married (2) GEMMILL Jean #105, 18-01-1846 in Irvine, Ayrshire, died Bef 1865.The correct spelling of this name comes from the will of Walter Baine,(information from Kevin Neilson.)
More About James Beaumont Neilson and Barbara Montgomerie:
Marriage: 03 Sep 1815
More About James Beaumont Neilson and Jane Gemmel:
Marriage: 18 Jan 1846, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Marriage Notes for James Beaumont Neilson and Jane Gemmel:
In traditional Scots fashion, the couple had the Banns read in two parishes Irvine, where they were married, and Glasgow as well on 26 January 1846.
Children of James Beaumont Neilson and Barbara Montgomerie are:
- +Walter Montgomerie Neilson, b. 28 Nov 1819, Glasgow, d. 08 Jul 1890, Vila Landor, Florence, Italy.
- +John Montgonerie Neilson, b. 29 Sep 1821, Glasgow, d. 16 Aug 1853, Trinidad.
- +James Beaumont Neilson, b. 31 Jul 1824, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, d. 23 Mar 1869, Monkwearmouthshire, Sutherland.
- Marion Montgomerie Neilson, b. 01 May 1826, Glasgow, d. Bef. 1865.
- Barbara Montgomerie Neilson, b. 07 Jul 1828, Barony, Glasgow, d. Bef. 1865.
- +Mathew Montgomerie Neilson, b. 20 Sep 1830, Shettleston, Glasgow, d. 31 Oct 1910, Gurnsey, channel Islands.
- George McIntosh Neilson, b. 10 Aug 1832, Barony, Glasgow, d. date unknown.
- Margaret Neilson, b. 05 Aug 1834, Barony, Glasgow, d. Bef. 1865.
- Elizabeth Montgomerie Neilson, b. 24 Feb 1836, Glasgow, d. 09 Sep 1902, Ringford, Kircudbright.
- +Janet Montgomerie Neilson, b. 29 Sep 1838, Bothwell, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, d. 14 Jan 1910, Mollance, Crossmichael, Kirkudbright, Scotland or Pancreatic Cancer.
- Mary Montgomerie Neilson, b. 1841, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, d. 30 Dec 1888, The Grand Hotel Glasgow.