Go back to article: Engineering and the family in business: Blanche Coules Thornycroft, naval architecture and engineering design

The Thornycroft company

John Isaac Thornycroft founded the shipbuilding company of John I. Thornycroft and Company on the River Thames at Chiswick in 1866, though he is recorded as having built steam launches in the same yard as early as 1864. The company later diversified into road vehicles with an extra factory site at Basingstoke where steam, paraffin and, later, petrol lorries were constructed. Perhaps the most famous of these was the ‘J type’ lorry used extensively during the First World War, both at home and on the western front.

In the latter years of the nineteenth century the size of vessels required by the Navy grew to the point at which, if they were launched at Chiswick parts of the superstructure had to be removed in order to allow them to pass under the relatively low bridges on the Thames to sail on trials. Hence in 1904 the Thornycroft Company purchased a ship yard at Woolston, Southampton and its future shipbuilding was largely based here. It is interesting that at this point the testing tank was constructed at the family home rather than the works. It is perhaps indicative of where Thornycroft wanted to work on a day-to day basis, although it could also reflect site restrictions at Woolston; the lack of evidence here means that one can only speculate. To explore the role played by Blanche in the family business we need to understand the context within which ship testing was carried out both within the company and more widely at the time.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/1851009/002