Hackworth, John Wesley (b 1820 – d 1891) 1891

Hackworth, John Wesley (b 1820 – d 1891) was born at 6.30 pm on 08/05/1820 at Warbottle, Northumberland. His father was Hackworth, Timothy, Railway Engineer, (b 1786 – d 1850) and his mother was Hackworth, Jane (b 1785 - d 1852) (nee Golightly). The family moved to Shildon in 1825 as his father had taken up work with the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company. John Wesley was involved with his father’s work from an early age and accompanied his father’s locomotive to Russia in 1837 when he was just 16 years old. He married Ann Turner, this was after he had proposed to Jane Dunton, who turned him down. Ann herself appears to have been betrothed to someone else. They had nine children, the youngest three died at an early age. One his children was Albert Hackworth whose papers are listed in series HACK 6/1. Ann died in a Coxlodge Asylum, Northumberland 28/07/1872.

John Wesley Hackworth was works manager at Soho and continued to there after his father’s death until the works were sold in 1855. He then set up business at Preistgate Engine Works in Darlington and made stationary engines and machinery. John Wesley patented a number of inventions including the horizontal steam engines and a type of valve gear known as the ‘dynamic valve gear’ or ‘Hackworth radial valve gear’. In the mid 1860’s he began manufacturing cotton machinery for Egypt and built a works at Bank Top, Darlington, however this business was affected by the fall of the Khedive in Egypt and the works failed. After his wife’s death he visited Canada and the United Stares in an attempt to introduce his valve gear, which appears to have been relatively unsuccessful. He returned to England and began work as a consulting engineer in Darlington, moving to Sunderland and then London. He also worked to devise better ways to ventilate mines.

John Wesley Hackworth campaigned throughout his life for recognition of his father. He sent a public letter challenging Robert Stephenson to a locomotive competition in 1849 (HACK 3/1/15) presumably with an aim to bring Hackworth to more prominence. After his father’s death his campaign became much more pronounced. He reacted to what he felt were inaccurate and unjust claims on the behalf of people involved in the early days of railways, particularly claims that Stephenson was responsible for the success of the locomotive. He was particularly angered by the claims made by Samuel Smiles in his published works. John Wesley Hackworth played out his anger in public, writing letters to newspapers and personally to railway writers such as Zerah Colburn. According to his nephew Robert Young Pickering he also gave talks supporting his father that made wild claims, he was a supporter of the theory that the Sanspareil was sabotaged in Forth Street Works, therefore causing his father to lose the Rainhill trials. Robert Young, his nephew writes in his book Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive (London: Locomotive Publishing Company, 1923)

‘He wrote vigorously, and pounded his opponents in sledge-hammer style. Sometimes he did harm to his case by his downright methods, and on more than one occasion quarrelled with those not ill-disposed to himself or his cause, and his impetuous and abrupt disposition told against him’

John Wesley appears to have had money difficulties towards the end of his life. In 1887 his sister Prudence Nightingale (nee Hackworth) writes to Thomas Greener to ask him for help to lobby members of parliament, apparently the family could not support him and they were concerned he may end up in the workhouse. John Wesley died of cancer in Sunderland on 13/07/1891.