Maudslay, Henry 1771 - 1831

English; British

(1771-1831) Engineer

Henry Maudslay, mechanical engineer was born on the 22nd August 1771, at Woolwich, his father was a workman at the Woolwich Arsenal. Maudslay joined Joseph Bramah in 1789 at the age of eighteen, Bramah was struggling to develop a new type of lock, and it was Maudslay who devised and constructed the machines capable of producing the precisely designed parts for this apparatus. After nine years with Bramah, there was a dispute about Maudslay's wages so he left to set up business on his own in 1798, acquiring premises first in Wells Road, off Oxford Street, and then in Margaret Street, Marylebone.

He was brought to the attention of Marc Isambard Brunel (1769–1849), who employed him to build the series of forty-four machines which Brunel had been commissioned to construct at Portsmouth Dockyard. He had taken out many patents, for machinery to print patterns on cotton fabrics, for a differential motion for raising weights, which could be used for driving lathes and in 1807 he patented an arrangement of a steam engine, which became known as a ‘table engine’. Maudslay also patented (in 1812, in conjunction with Robert Dickinson) a method of purifying sea water by blowing air through it, for use in marine engines.

With the expansion of his business, Maudslay sought larger premises and in 1810 he moved to Westminster Bridge Road, where the firm remained until the end of his life. He traded under the title of Henry Maudslay & Co. until he took into partnership Joshua Field and the firm became known as Maudslay, Field & Co. With the inclusion of Maudslay's sons it subsequently became Maudslay, Sons, and Field. Maudslay's outstanding contribution to mechanical engineering, however, derives less from the goods that he produced than from the machine tools that he devised and the workmen he trained. Joseph Clements, Richard Roberts, James Nasmyth, Samuel Seaward, William Muir, and Joseph Whitworth all served some years with Maudslay and absorbed his passion for accuracy and high quality.

In 1790 Maudslay married Sarah Tindale (1761/2–1828), who had been Bramah's housekeeper; and they had four sons and three daughters. Sarah Maudslay died on 29 March 1828, aged sixty-six, and Maudslay himself died, of complications following a chill, on 15 February 1831 at Lambeth and was buried in Woolwich churchyard. His sons continued the business and two of them (Thomas Henry Maudslay and Joseph Maudslay) made their mark on its development.