18 January 2018
Inventions and Inventors of Victorian Northamptonshire
Speaker: Jon Paul Carr
Jon Paul Carr gave a very interesting and informative talk on the subject of Inventions and Inventors of Victorian Northamptonshire, covering a diverse range of inventions. He began by outlining how the boot industry underwent a period of transformation at the beginning of the Victorian era with the invention of the Singer sewing machine, leading from people largely working in small, home-based workshops to working in factories set up in what had previously been warehousing. This brought in Health and Safety policies, and also saw a gender division of labour, with women sewing while men did the rest of the work. The industry was further revolutionised with the invention of cutters, stretchers and trimmers. A factory in Kettering was the first to have a steam engine to dive machines.
Northamptonshire also contributed to the development of the transport industry, with the invention of the Robinson car, The Whirlwind motor cycle, and The Kangeroo – similar to the Penny Farthing. J.Grose patented accessories for bikes including leather gear cases, and a non-slip type, Charles Wicksteed developed bicycles as well as playground equipment and a bread and buttering machine, and agricultural machinery was invented by Wellingborough engineer George Mather.
The aviation pioneer Percy Pilcher built some of his early gliders Stanford Hall in the 1890s; he also built a powered flying machine here that many historians believe was capable of flight, but he was killed nearby in an accident in 1899 before he could try it. An exact replica of Pilcher’s “The Hawk” glider is exhibited at the hall. Jon Paul finished the evening with an entertaining story about Joe Ingram, a colourful character who described himself as a brick maker and inventor. After devoting 40 years of his leisure time to studying aerial construction he patented a powered flying machine which he claimed was an improvement on all existing types. He intended to present it to the War Office once he had secured funding for it’s construction, but it never got off the ground and he died a pauper.