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Monday, 1 August 2011

Obituary of Charles Wye Williams, 1866

The obituary of Charles Wye Williams, transcribed from the Journal of the Society of the Arts, published April 13th 1866:

"Mr. Charles Wye Williams died Monday, April 2nd, aged 87.  When a young man he practised as a barrister-at-law on the northern circuit, but he speedily abandoned this profession.  At the beginning of the present century, Mr. Williams was the acting partner in a large bleach works in the north of Ireland, and he there had the occasion to make himself familiar with the principles and practical application of chemistry. He listened to the first enunciation of the atomic theory by William Higgins, and attended the first lectures which Davy gave in Dublin, as well as those also of the late Dr. Andrew Ure, between whom and Mr. Williams, a strong friendship sprung up , to end only with the death of the former.
When Mr.Williams's book on the combustion of coal was first put to press in 1839, Dr. Ure corrected every proof-sheet with his own hands.

In 1806 -7 Mr. Williams erected a large linen mill in Ireland, and introduced into it, for the first time in that country, iron spur gearing, cast by Edwards, of Belfast. In 1822, Mr. Williams went to the cost of patenting and introducing the feathering wheel, invented by his friend Mr. Oldham, and known as the Oldham Wheel, and which, under some modifications, became known as the Morgan wheel.

In the next year the present City of Dublin Steam Packet Company was formed, under the style of Charles Wye Williams and Co. Six steamers were progressively built and the present style of the company was at last acquired under the provisions of a charter granted in 1828, Mr. Williams continuing, until within the last few years, to be the managing director.

The company's Act was obtained, more especially to enable them to place steam vessels upon the river Shannon, upon which half-a-million of money was some time after expended in improving its navigation.  The company obtained further Acts, one so late as 1860, to enable them to raise the capital to construct the four magnificent steam vessels which now maintain the service between Holyhead and Kingstown, and in the construction of which Mr.Williams, at the ripe age of 80, took a warm interest, journeying up to London to witness the casting of the cylinders of the Leinster at Messrs. Ravenhill, Salkeld & Co's.

Very shortly after the CDSPCo was formed, Mr.Williams and his co-manager, the lateMr. Francis Carleton, undertook the formation of a transatlantic steam service, and they built the Royal William and bought the Great Liverpool, both of which vessels made several voyages to New York shortly after the first trips of the Sirius and Great Western.  The Atlantic company did not succeed, however, and Mr.Carleton and the directors of the then Peninsular Steam Company formed the present Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which took over the steamship Great Liverpool for their Indian service.

Mr.Williams, at a very early date, applied water-tight bulkheads to divide a ship into separate compartments; and this improvement formed the subject of a paper which he presented to the British Association in 1837.

The first edition of Mr.William's treatise on the combustion of coal was printed in 1839, the CDSPCo, by the desire of the directors, assuming the whole cost of the publication.

In the course of an experience in the building and equipping of ships, he had perceived that, 'notwithstanding the improved state to which the construction and appointments of the hull and general machinery of steam-vessels had arrived, great uncertainty and risk of failure still prevailed in the use of fuel and the generation of steam.'  He found that the cause of this uncertainty and risk of failure lay 'in the absence of any well-found principle in the construction of the boiler' and 'that the part on which most depended appeared least understood and least attended to, namely, the furnace' which 'was too often left to the skill (or want of it) of working boiler-makers or bricklayers.' In his laboratory he sought for the remedy by practical experiments, and succeeded in inventing a model boiler and furnace, with which he entered the lists in the great competition of makers of marine steam-boilers at Newcastle for the £500 prize. The professional umpires on that occasion were Sir William Armstrong, Dr. Richardson and Mr. Longridge, who decided in favour of Mr.Williams's system,  which they pronounced to be 'applicable to all descriptions of marine-boilers' while 'its extreme simplicity is a strong point in its favour.'  Mr.Williams presented the £500 to a popular institution.

For an essay on 'The Prevention of the Smoke Nuisance', Mr.Williams received, in 1856, the Society of Arts' £25 Gold Medal,  the value of the prize being enhanced by its presentation by the late Prince Consort.

Mr.Williams published an able paper 'On the Construction of Marine Steam Boilers' which he read at the Institution of  Naval Architects;  a pamphlet on 'The Steam-generating Power of Marine and Locomotive Boilers'; and in 1860 appeared Mr.Williams's last work, the results of experiments upon which he was still engaged when in his eighty-first year.  This was upon 'Heat and Steam'. It advanced the curious view that water, as water, could have no other temperature than 32 degrees, and that any greater apparent warmth was due to the presence of steam diffused among it.

Mr.Williams was an associate of the Institute of Naval Architects and of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a member of the Society of Arts, having been elected in 1854.

The remains of the lamented gentleman were interred at St.James Cemetery, Liverpool. The pallbearers were Messrs. J.C.Ewart (late M.P. for Liverpool), W.Watson,  P.Howell*,  J.J.Hance, J.K. Rounthwaite, and E.J.Reed (chief constructor of the navy).  Upwards of 100 of the employees of the City of Dublin Company followed the remains to the grave. "

*P. Howell was Phineas Howell, the secretary of the CDSPCo who lived at 17 Eden Quay in 1846.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Allison, my mother's maiden name is williams. we are desperately trying to find out about my mother's great grandfather. any help would be much appreciated.