THE HISTORY OF A.M. PERKINS & SON, LONDON

(For earlier history, see Origins of the Founders of Baker Perkins. For more details of some of the many inventions of the Perkins family, click here).

JACOB’S SON COMES TO THE RESCUE

Angier March Perkins, the second son of Jacob Perkins, was 21 when, in 1821, he sailed from America with the rest of his family to join his father, Jacob Perkins, in the large upper rooms at 69 Fleet Street, London. For some time he was associated with his father in developing both the engraving of banknotes and the use of high pressure steam. He was, however, determined not to continue his father's style of running a business. Jacob had poured money into his high-pressure steam engine business with little thought for profit and this had brought him into conflict with his partners in the engraving firm of Perkins, Bacon & Petch. It was particularly galling to Angier March that, after clearing his father's debt to the partners of the Fleet Street printing firm, the two printing businesses founded by Jacob Perkins in America and England were flourishing, while he lost all claim to their profits.

(See also History of Perkins, Bacon & Petch, History of Perkins & Fairman, London and History of Perkins, Fairman & Heath).

It was on 27th February 1821 that Jacob Perkins was elected as the 36th Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers having been proposed by Thomas Telford, Joshua Field and Thomas Mawsley. (NOTE: Jacob Perkins rubbed shoulders with some giants of British engineering - Thomas Telford built the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct over the River Dee and took control of the building of Caledonian Canal. Other works by Telford include the Menai Suspension Bridge (1819-1826) and the Katherine's Docks (1824-1828) in London. Telford was also an important road builder. He was responsible for rebuilding the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road and the North Wales coast road between Chester and Bangor. During his life, Telford built more than 1,000 miles of road, including the main road between London and Holyhead. Joshua Field (1786-1863) co-founded the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1817. Field was also a partner in the firm Maudslay, Sons & Field of Lambeth that constructed engines).

Central heating systems had begun to come into fashion in pre-Victorian Britain. Steam or hot air was the usual heating medium and hot water had not yet been considered. Space heating installations were an early development for the Company, Jacob Perkins himself having been involved on a fairly large scale in Boston, Massachusetts prior to his move to London in 1819, and had installed a hot air furnace of his own design in the Massachusetts Medical College in around 1817. Soon after his arrival in London, he was installing a hot-air central heating system for Hansard, the printers of Parliamentary debates. Systems were installed in many businesses – Heal's furniture factory in Tottenham Court Road for example – and in many of the largest houses in England – the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston, Sir Robert Peel, the Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of Jersey being just some of his many clients. Installations existed in the British Museum, the State Apartments of St. James's Palace, the Old Bailey, the Guildhall and in St. George's Chapel at Windsor (See Documentation). A Perkins Patented heating system was also installed to prevent freezing of the hydraulic system that opens and closes Tower Bridge in London.

Angier March Perkins

It was left to Angier March to make a commercial success of this line of business. He improved on some of his father's ideas and soon left his father's employment and, in 1830, set up business as a heating engineer in Harpur Street, off Theobalds Road, London, close to Southampton Row and High Holborn. Among his other interests, Jacob had experimented with compressed water and his son adapted these ideas for use in his 1832 heating apparatus that distributed 400°F water through pipes of very small diameter, made initially from surplus rifle barrels.

There is some confusion regarding the various premises used by Jacob Perkins and his son, Angier at this time. "Jacob Perkins, his Inventions, his Times and his Contemporaries" by Bathe, a limited edition (200 copies), produced by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in 1943, attempts to throw some light on this: (With acknowledgments)

It reproduces a letter, sent from 4, Harpur Street by Jacob Perkins in December 1828 and comments;- "It will be noted that this letter, written by Jacob Perkins, was sent from 4 Harpur Street, which was the business address of Angier March Perkins, who had that year left Fleet Street to start his own career as a heating and steam engineer".

Later, it is suggested that - "There is no indication that the Perkins' manufactory at Regent's Park or the newer premises near Gray's Inn Road were provided with the necessary machine tools capable of making his (Jacob Perkins) steam engines and generators. Such details, already recorded, as flywheels of 25 feet in circumference, cylinders of 9 inches diameter and other component parts require very heavy lathes and other machinery to aid their finishing. All engineering establishments of that day did their own iron and brass casting, as well as the turning, shaping and fitting together of the parts. But no contemporary writer, not even Perkins, mentions at any time that this sort of work was undertaken, even at the Water Lane premises.

Everything seemed to point to the obvious conclusion that all the necessary work was farmed out or wholly made by some recognized engineering firm to Perkins' special order. From the few references to be found of this aspect of Perkins' steam engines, it is evident that his manufactory was a place given up to experimental work and demonstrations only.

The Fleet Street premises were almost always used by Perkins in matters of business, as apparently the clerical work attendant on his inventions was done form this address and hardly ever from his manufactory".

"During the three years that Angier March Perkins had been in business in Harpur Street, it is evident that he had done well and it was natural that he should wish to establish his own home. He was then 32 years old. Sometime during the year 1831 he married Miss Julia Georgina Brown in St. George the Martyr Church in Queens Square, Bloomsbury, and shortly thereafter the couple started housekeeping at 21 Great Coram Street, near Brunswick Square. This location was about half a mile north of Angier Perkins' office in Harpur Street and about equal distance south of the Gray's Inn Road premises which Jacob Perkins occupied about this time for the continuation of his steam engine Business. In 1832, according to the London directory, the name Perkins and Company, Engineers, disappeared from the Regent's Park location and it then appeared at 6, Francis Street, Gray's Inn Road, and thus continued until 1837, which was about the time that Jacob Perkins retired form active business. It might be inferred from this change of address that Jacob Perkins and his son, Angier, now shared the Francis Street premises, as by this period, Angier would have required manufacturing space for his own growing business. Angier, however, is not listed in the London Directory at all until 1838 when the following appears:Perkins- Angier March, engineer, Patent Hot-water Apparatus Manufactory, 6 Francis Street, Regent's Square, Gray's Inn Road". and thus continued long after Jacob's death in 1849".

Here there is a footnote: - "The several changes of business addresses mentioned here of Jacob Perkins and his son, Angier March, cannot be specifically pinned down to the exact year. There is such a complete lack of all letters and other documents from this period that only inferences can be drawn as to what kind of business and manufacturing was in progress at any given time".

Later, it is stated that - "After Jacob's retirement from active business, about 1836, Angier Perkins occupied all of the Francis Street works and used them entirely for fabricating the parts for his hot water heating plants".

It is understood that, at first, Angier rented only a portion of the new premises at 6 Francis Street (later named Seaford Street), to the north of Regent Square, near Gray's Inn Road. that had been purchased for his father with money provided by the Fleet Street stamp printers. However, the steam engine business was dwindling, a sleeping partner had defected and, by Michaelmas 1835, Jacob was now aged 69 and was glad to hand everything over to his son. Angier eventually bought the workshop, acquired further premises and, over the years, greatly enlarged the factory, Charles J. Hayward's description of which can be found in Before Westwood. These premises were to house the A.M. Perkins business for nearly three-quarters of a century.

The Perkins Heating System

Page from A. M. Perkins Ltd. sales brochure

Angier's attention to detail combined with his inherited inventive powers rendered a great service to the mechanical world. The left and right hand thread screwed joint which he patented, a both simple and effective method of joining two pipes together and forming a sealed joint capable of bearing the same pressure as the pipe itself, became essential for hydraulic work.

He adapted the high-pressure system in which hot water circulated in a small-bore pipe wound in a coil inside a brick or iron furnace with the fire burning in the centre. This pipe, tested up to a pressure of 4,000 psi, conveyed the hot water from the fire to the boiler. He said – "there is no certainty that the best made boiler of the ordinary kind may not become red hot and explode by a sudden generation of steam. But we have a boiler which cannot explode or wear out, for it is completely separate from the fire ….". This was an early version of the 'indirect' heating system to be found in many houses today.

In around 1846, A.M. Perkins proudly announced "A Novel Heating Installation - The Pulsial System - as installed at the New Premises of W.H. Smith & Son, Kingsway, London". A special sales brochure, reproduced below, describes the claimed advantages of this system in some detail.

Angier was elected as an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in May 1840.

The Perkins system did however have some problems in the early days. On 20th November 1841, a letter appeared in "The Times" listing 23 installations in 7 of which damage had been caused by fires caused by direct contact with the very high surface temperature of the pipes and, in the other 16 cases, the apparatus had burst. One of the buildings mentioned was the Guardian Fire Office and, in another letter to "The Times", it was declared – "It is a subject which alike concerns the fire insurance companies as well as individuals; and it is a well known fact that, since the commencement of the present year, in consequence of the fires which occurred in Manchester, as already stated, many insurance companies both in London and in the country have refused to insure at any premium whatever buildings heated by some of the plans which have been here described".

These problems must have been overcome as Perkins' systems were still being installed into the 1890s and beyond. It is noteworthy that, much closer to home, the whole of Westwood Works was heated by a Perkins stopped-end steam tube system from the time that the factory was first built in 1904 up until the installation of the new Boiler House in 1951 (See Site Facilities and Maintenance).

We have heard from William Savage that he has found in the basement of his house a very old boiler - "It has an oval name plate which reads Joseph Baker, Sons & Perkins.   The boiler is very rusty but still standing. The house was built around 1908 for Col Tredenham Fitzherbert Carlyon.  The basement has been bricked up for over 60 years and has just this week been opened up.  The building was his Manor House in Farnborough Hampshire. Some photographs are attached"

 

It is interesting to look at some relevant dates:

The house was built around 1908.

  • By 1918, final negotiations were in place for the merger with Joseph Baker & Sons Ltd. of Willesden – a company originated by the other co-founder of Baker Perkins, Joseph Baker- and in 1919, the two companies merged to become Joseph Baker Sons & Perkins, a name that the company retained until 1923 with the change to Baker Perkins Ltd.
  • This suggests that this Perkins heating system could have been installed sometime between 1919 and 1923 and it would perhaps not have been the first heating system installed in this house.

A number of these systems were installed in churches in the South of England and in South Wales. It is a tribute to the innovative design of their inventor that many of these systems, installed in the 19th century, are still in operation in the 21st century. Although originally designed to operate at high temperatures, with today's lower acceptable temperature limit requirements for exposed pipe work, and the introduction of pumped circulation and temperature controls, their flexibility of use has allowed them to remain in operation for over 160 years.

Angier Marsh Perkins had, by 1864, developed his Space Heating business to the point where he was introducing "Improvements" to his systems. We have a hand-written duplicate on vellum of one such Patent from 9th February 1864.

FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON THE PERKINS HEATING SYSTEM SEE THE WEBSITE OF THE CIBSE (The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers) HERITAGE GROUP.

Jacob Perkins went in 1848 to live with his son Angier and daughter-in-law Julia at their house in Regent Square. (Julia, nee Brown, whom Angier had married in 1831 in St George the Martyr Church, Queen Street, London, died in Hendon, Middlesex, only two years later in 1850). Jacob was by now enfeebled and housebound and he died on 30th July 1849, aged 83. He is buried at Kensal Green, London.

In 1852, Jacob Perkins was paid a great compliment by the author Charles Dickens who praised Jacob’s development of the engraving system used for the Penny Black postage stamp. Dickens related the story of his visit to Perkins, Bacon & Petch to witness the process. See History of Perkins, Bacon & Petch.

However, his work on the use of high-pressure steam was not ignored by his son who continued the attempts to persuade the Army of the merits of his father's Steam Gun (See Origins of the Founders – Jacob Perkins). Indeed, over 30 years later, in October 1856, Angier was writing to Colonel Pickering of the Ordnance Select Committee, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and still pleading the case for steam gunnery: It is not clear when these attempts ceased but soon, Angier's efforts, and those of his son Loftus, were increasingly being put towards perfecting the Perkins Heating System and the Perkins Steam Engine. However, it is understood that Loftus was still working with his father on the steam gun as late as 1862.

Angier also applied the system of circulating water in a sealed system, heated up to a steam pressure of 2000 psi, to the heating of bakers' ovens. The involvement of Baker Perkins in the Baking industry can be traced back to this significant event. The reason behind this venture was a simple geographical one. A new bakery opened up next door to his premises in Francis Street, to the north of Regent Square, and the owner asked Angier, as an engineer, to install the necessary equipment. Angier expended nearly £700 in labour and materials, studied the problems of oven building, adapted some of his father's ideas and in 1851 took out a patent for a wrought-iron tubular system for circulating hot water in ovens.

Despite some difficulty in finding other customers, Angier Perkins decided to go ahead with this line of business and it paid its way without bringing in much profit. Most of the ovens were bought for baking bread for the army at home and overseas, more than seventy per cent of sales being to the military authorities. In these early days of oven manufacture, Perkins helped to feed more soldiers than civilians.

It is understood that a Patent was taken out in 1857 for another industrial use for the Perkins HPHW heating system - the making of paper from wood pulp - in which the wood pulp mixture had to be heated up to high temperatures and pressure inside a closed vessel and, for this, a Perkins pipe work system was installed. This resulted in a small wood pulp industry being set up in the Forest of Dean. The venture was written up in "The Engineer" in 1869. Unfortunately, the equipment exploded in 1873 and destroyed both the equipment and the premises - and that was the end of the industry.

Loftus Perkins

Around this time, Angier's son, Loftus Perkins (born on 8th May 1834 in Great Corham Street, Russell Square, London), joined his father's business. Clearly, Loftus Perkins had inherited the family's engineering ability and to gain further experience, he practised for a year as an engineer in New York in 1853/54 before returning to London to work with his father for a further 8 years. By the time that he reached the age of 25, he had taken out a patent for a high-pressure engine and boiler that used distilled water to prevent damage to the interior of the tubes. He was elected a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1861 and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1881. From 1862 to 1866, he was in business on his own in Hamburg and Berlin, designing and installing building heating systems. His fertile mind was still seeking to discover the ultimate in steam engine efficiency and, in a report in 'Engineering' dating from 1885, he wrote:

"I then (in 1864 or 1865) constructed a four horse-power engine worked by a boiler immersed in a bath of chloride of calcium, the exhaust steam being condensed in the salt and all the waste heat from the engine being entirely absorbed, thus making a perfect heat engine. Succeeding so far, the difficulty arose how to get rid of the water absorbed by the salt; this could only be done by distillation, and even if quintuple distillation* is used, the coal consumed could not be less than 1.25 lb per horsepower per hour, whilst a well-constructed high pressure compound condensing engine used less than 1 lb."

Loftus also has a Philadelphia connection, marrying Emily, the daughter of Reverend William Patton of Philadelphia in 1866. Emily was born in New York in 1838. They had two sons – Loftus Patton Perkins (born 1868, died 1940) and Ludlow Patton Perkins (born 1873, died 1928). Both entered their father's business but Loftus Patton did not have his father's interest in engineering, having more of an artistic flair. In 1883, Loftus Patton was advertising "Perkins' Celebrated Original Sketches" from an address in Kilburn. Examples of his work can be seen in Another Artist in the Family. The younger son, Ludlow Patton followed the engineering path of his father but, as will be seen in History of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd, fell out with the new management of the company that was formed after his father's death. Loftus Patton Perkins married Henrietta Sarah Large in 1887 and Ludlow Patton Perkins married in 1907. Neither is believed to have had any children.

Charles Jason Hayward

Charles Jason Hayward was born on 3rd December 1866 at Mountfield, Sussex. His first experience with a “Perkins” steam engine was when apprenticed “at a place where they had four locomotives and a stationary engine (the latter being of Perkins design). We did all repairs – pins in link motions, stays in fire boxes, retubing of boilers – anything that was required, which gave me much experience”. After spending some time in a brush factory – “to gain more experience” and after failing to be accepted by the CID section of the Metropolitan Police, he was approached to become Mechanical Engineer to the “Express” – a steamship powered by a Perkins engine and used for pleasure trips to Gravesend and Sheerness. It was here that he first met Loftus Perkins, beginning a close relationship that lasted until Loftus’s death. Charles continued his relationship with A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd/ Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd and retired in 1930 from the position of Oven Shop Foreman at the new factory in Peterborough after 44 years service.

The Oven Business

The late 1870s saw a concerted effort to increase oven sales with letters to potential customers all over the world, extolling the virtues of the design – "freedom from sulphur, gas and dirt of any kind; continuous baking and uniformity in the loaves; adaptability of the ovens for high-class confectionery since the heat could be so easily regulated; etc.".

In 1876, Angier exhibited his oven at the International Exhibition in Philadelphia where it was awarded a United States Centennial Commission Award. The original Award document is shown below, together with a transcript:

1876 Philadelphia Exhibition transcript

Letters were also sent to many engineering firms about the Perkins 'no lubrication' metal alloy for piston rings and the Perkins high-pressure steam engine and boiler were marketed to ship owners and the governments of many European countries. The heating system – the basis of the company's success – was not forgotten and was recommended to architects for use in houses, institutions, churches, public halls, theatres, hotels and passenger ships. In this early example of direct marketing, fifty personal letters recommending the equipment went out every week from Regent Square, some five pages long, in many cases being followed up by personal visits by Angier Perkins himself. Although sales of the high-pressure steam engine continued to disappoint, the metal alloy continued to earn profits for many years. However, the great success of this sales drive had the effect of highlighting the Perkins patent baking oven and it was widely accepted in ships, hotels and bakeries across the country. From this time, the manufacture of the Loftus Perkins oven was to overshadow the original heating and ventilating business.

Mr Beanes, who is thought to have joined A.M. Perkins & Son in 1878 and served the company for 60 years, (see History of Perkins Engineers and Characters from WPP 1917), wrote:

"On the 28th May, 1878, A.M. Perkins consisted of two parts - the Perkins Engine Company, Ltd and A.M. Perkins & Son. The former had three small offices at 19,Queen Victoria Street, with a staff consisting of Major G. Deane, secretary; Mr W.W. Harris, engineer; Mr H. Sheaf, draughtsman and Mr Beanes as Head Office Boy.

The parent firm at Seaford Street, Regent Square, where the works were siruated, had a staff consisting of W. Blose, Works Manager; J.D. Harris, Heating Engineer; H. Acason, Storekeeper and Clerk; G. Brunskill, Cashier and Clerk; J. Roebuck, Works Foreman; J. Nevil, Outdoor Foreman; W. Morris, Bank of England Clerk who paid occasional visits after bank hours to do the Accountant's work.

Therefore, at that date, the City Staff was four and the Works Staff seven - total, eleven all told!" (Source - "A Synopsis of the History of Baker Perkins and of the Company's activities during the period 1939-1945" by A.I. Baker).

The Stopped-end Steam Tube

It was in 1865 that Loftus Perkins took out a most important patent – for what he called the "stopped-end steam tube".

This invention transformed the baking of bread in ovens. Augustus Muir tells us:

"Over the long centuries, since mankind first began to bake bread in ovens, their basic design had changed very slowly. Bread baking had been largely domestic; and bakers' premises, where one could buy a loaf made from dough other than the customers' own, came surprisingly late on the scene. In the cities of Manchester and Glasgow, early last century, there was hardly a baker's shop to be found. The old brick oven, which baked the countryman's loaves, was heated by burning faggots inside it; the housewife then raked out the embers and 'scuffled' round a bundle of wet cloths on a pole before she pushed in her unbaked bread and clanged the metal door shut – glad, one may be sure, that the eye-smarting task was over. In the advances from this rustic simplicity, there seems to have been no satisfactory way of controlling the oven's temperature until the hot water method was devised".

Each tube was partially filled with distilled water and both its ends were hermetically sealed. Independent from one another, they traversed the whole length of the oven in two rows, one of which lay above the loaves and the other beneath the bread plate, all of them protruding slightly downward from the baking chamber into the furnace. Each tube was in effect an individual boiler, its upper part filled with high-pressure steam.

As Augustus Muir puts it:

"These ovens, with their steady heat that could bake batch after batch of loaves, cakes and pastries, were sold to some of the most important bakeries in the country – Nevill, the London Cake Company, the Golden Grain Bakeries, Huntley & Palmers, and to a large number of other customers. The Army installed them in barracks at home and overseas. Medals were won at exhibitions in London, Manchester, Paris and Philadelphia. In the years that followed, bakers' ovens based on the stopped-end steam tube principle were developed with the finest ingenuity and skill that could be brought to bear on them, and were to be among the chief products which in later years became the mainstay of Baker Perkins".

One shorter term result was that the manufacture of this oven gradually gained greater importance for A. M. Perkins & Son than the heating and ventilating business, although space heating continued as part of the company's business until late 1961 (See also The Heating and Ventilation Department).

We have unearthed a likeness of Loftus Perkins but not, so far, one of his father, Angier March. We also have a description of Loftus from his devoted assistant Charles J. Hayward who worked with him on many of his experiments and this seems to confirm that our image is, in fact, of Loftus:

"He was a man with a beautiful brown eye, well proportioned in build and a great chemist and engineer. He had a large moustache and Dundreary whiskers, and always wore a double-breasted blue suit and, in the Works, a peaked cap with silk oak leaves around. In the winter, he used to wear a Canadian fur cap. He came into the Works one Sunday morning dressed in white flannels with a white peaked yachting cap, and I thought what a handsome man he was. He smoked 13 ounces of tobacco a week – he always carried a pouch with 4 ounces of tobacco in it. His type of tobacco was "Branksome's Light Virginia".

Loftus Perkins mostly had his lunch in the Works. An old sailor set a white scrubbed table by the Engine Room every day – if required or not. If used, there were placed on it a basket, tray cloth, soda siphon, knife and fork and a chop, two potatoes, a piece of cheese, a small Bass, two glasses and some whisky. He then smoked a big cigar and had a walk around his jobs. When a man worked overtime on any experiment that he had in hand, he would give them 1/6d. extra on top of their time and a quarter.

When he became ill, he had a chair made in which he could balance himself in any position without effort."

Feeding the Troops - The Polly Perkins Oven

Engraving of Perkins' Portable oven shown at the 1867 Paris Exhibition

“An army marches on its stomach” is a saying that has been attributed to both Napoleon and Frederick the Great. Following the difficulties of feeding British troops in the Crimea, the British Authorities investigated the introduction of a mobile bread oven and it is understood that experimental trials were held c1858, but for various reasons the Army did not approve this unit. It is thought that the first approved British pattern was a dry heat unit mounted on a four-wheel carriage (wagon), probably in 1862. With the great success of his stopped-end steam tubes and his father’s history of selling baking ovens to the military it is not surprising that in 1866, Loftus Perkins used this technology to produce a horse-drawn steam oven to feed troops on the march which was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1867. It was described as "an improvement on the hot water ovens long manufactured by the well-known firm of which he is a member". The oven had already been approved and adopted by the UK War Department and "the attention of the French Commissariat Department is now directed to them by the Emperor himself". The Deputy Commissary-General of the War Department remarked on the fuel economy of these ovens – "whilst the common oven for a given quantity of bread required 224 lbs of coke to heat it, Mr. Perkins' oven only used 56lb for the same quantity".

These portable ovens had a double casing of sheet iron – “and the filling material is vegetable black, of which only 40 lbs are required to fill the space of 3 inches thick encircling the entire oven, and so completely intercepting the heat that when the temperature is 450 degrees inside the oven, the outer surface of the oven is absolutely cold”. Vegetable black was also used in those portable ovens produced at Westwood during and after WW2.

By 1874, fifty-six of these ovens, known to the British Tommy as the 'Polly Perkins', had been supplied to the British Army, others being purchased by the Prussian and Spanish governments. They served in the Ashanti Wars, the Sudan campaign and the Boer War. As will be seen later, improved models, employing the same method of baking, were still being produced in WW2.

It is clear, however, that the military mobile or travelling oven was not a Perkins invention. It is believed that the concept was initially developed by the Austrians and the Russians at about the same time - just prior to the Crimea War 1854-56. The first Russian oven, for transport over soft or rough ground was slung on shafts between two horses in tandem. Shortly after, wheels were added but only for transport where roads existed. The first record of a British unit is at trials by the Army c1858 but it was not approved. At the time that the original Perkins appeared there are rumours of another manufacturer vying for Army business but whereas the Perkins development utilised the steam baking process, the competitor proposed a dry oven.

On October 18th 1867, the Assistant-Commissary-General reported to the Commissary-General-in-Chief on some comparative trials carried out on the "Perkins Patent Portable Oven on Wheels" (Polly Perkins). The results are set out in detail below:

An Army manual of 1900 states - “earlier ovens were superseded by the ‘Perkins’ because steam maintains a more equable temperature than hot air” and “the ‘Perkins’ Steam Oven, is common to most British Military Bakeries”. Its real benefit to the Army was its saving in fuel. It baked ninety four-pound loaves every two hours. The British horse-drawn 4 wheel rigid mobile oven was a difficult beast to move and required up to six horses depending on the surface of the ground to be travelled. It could not be taken into areas that were soft or rough. Soldiers “did not live by bread alone”, and the introduction c1905 of the Army Travelling Kitchen, a limbered 4 wheel vehicle (two matched two wheel 'carts', connected by a pole), provided a very mobile, off road, go anywhere but up a mountain, and cook on the move, alternative for feeding the troops. About the same time a similar limbered store wagon was introduced which was designed to carry bread etc. from a fixed base.

The German company, Werner and Pfleiderer that joined forces with A.M. Perkins in 1893 to create Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd had been producing military base bakeries, usually based on drawplate ovens, since before 1890. These would have been similar to those supplied to the military since the mid-1800s by A.M. Perkins.

Some German portable ovens baking bread in the Field.
A German 'Static' Military Bakery in around 1890.

In the period leading up to WW1, most European armies had mobile baking ovens similar to these German ovens of about 1910. It is known that the Germans developed two models of horse-drawn, 4 wheel mobile oven - one small (light) and one large (heavy), the smaller one being able to travel over difficult ground. Those illustrated are thought to be of the ‘light’ type. It is interesting to note the number of men apparently required to produce bread in the field. As far as can be ascertained, the bread dough make-up was at this time a hand process, not until WW2 was a portable mechanised dough make-up plant available (see Baker Perkins In WW2)

Marine Propulsion

Over the years, a number of the A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd businesses had their headquarters at various addresses in Queen Victoria Street, London EC - which runs from Blackfriars to Mansion House - all of which were sales and/or administrative offices rather than manufactories. One such housed, at least in 1880, The Perkins Engine Company (Nos 19 to 21). It is perhaps fortunate that A.M. Perkins ceased producing engines of any kind after WW1, having dropped the use of this company name it is thought in around 1887, or the confusion caused by the similarity in name between two of Peterborough's largest manufacturing companies might have been greater.

In 1872, a Jacob Perkins compound steam engine and boilers (believed to have been fitted originally in the steam yacht "Salamander") were installed in the Dorking Greystone Lime Co. in a quarry at Betchworth, near Reigate in Surrey. It is interesting to note that for most of its life the Dorking Greystone Lime Co. was run by the Taylerson family, related by marriage to the Perkins family – William Taylerson being Loftus Perkins' brother-in-law. After operating for 47 years until 1919, this 40hp steam engine and an experimental 8hp engine were sent to Baker Perkins' Westwood Works in 1961 and in 1978 were overhauled in the Apprentice School. One of these engines can be seen at Cadbury, Bourneville, the other is privately preserved near Northampton. Further details of these engines may be found in Early Inventions. William Taylerson was also involved with the supply of Perkins engines to Townsend Hook & Co, paper manufacturers at Snodland, Kent, and with Perkins engines to drive winding machinery at Mountfield in Sussex.

The Taylerson family also features in Early Inventions with the text of Major E.W. Taylerson's 1964 Address to the Redhill Philatelic Society on "Jacob Perkins and his Line Engraving Process".

Loftus Perkins showed the same enthusiasm for developing the high-pressure steam engine for marine propulsion as had his grandfather. In 1872, Loftus achieved something of a breakthrough by patenting a new tin/copper alloy from which pistons rings needing no lubrication could be made. This added another dimension to the outstanding performance of the Perkins steam engines and excited particular comment in the record of the 1880 trans-Atlantic trials of the Steam Yacht "Anthracite" mentioned below. Although the sale of Perkins steam engines - despite their acknowledged advantages in economy and low maintenance requirements – proved continually disappointing, the patented metal alloy represented a profitable part of the A.M. Perkins product line for many years after.

Both Angier March and his son Loftus were caught up in the mania for developments in transport technology in the mid-1800s. Angier had been involved in probably the first application of railway carriage heating in 1843 and Loftus experimented with a Steam Road Carriage that he showed at the London International Exhibition of 1873. Loftus also devoted much time between 1871 and 1873 to developing a successful design for a traction engine and also found time to build two tramway locomotives (with 500 psi vertical boilers) for the Leeds Tramways between 1874 and 1878. These latter were not a success and, like all of the other developments described above, failed to provide any commercial return on the effort expended. NOTE: More details of these experiments may be found in Early Inventions.

Returning to Loftus's interest in marine engines, he had a 79-foot yacht – "Emily" – into which he installed a Perkins engine that gave many years of good service. Construction details are given in Early Inventions. Around the same time, the Tyne General Ferry Company, in 1879, in the search for greater economy, fitted one of its old ferryboats with Perkins compound engines with boilers tested to 200 psi. Described as a very remarkable craft, the boat was named the "Loftus Perkins" in honour of the designer.

In 1880, Loftus Perkins installed a triple expansion steam engine of his own design in to the 70-ton motor yacht "Anthracite" – the smallest vessel to have crossed the Atlantic under steam alone. "Anthracite" was built by Schlesinger Davis & Co. of Wallsend in 1880 with engines to the "Perkins" System by Hawks, Crawshay & Sons of Gateshead. Gross Tonnage was 70.26 Tons and its length 84' 6". The voyage of "SY Anthracite" attracted much attention and detailed trials were carried out before it undertook its Atlantic crossing, by the US Navy in Brooklyn Navy Yard, and again on its return to England. Part of the record of these trials (including Boiler and Engine details) also appears in Early Inventions.

He also fitted a Perkins engine into the 160-foot yacht "Express" in 1883. Charles Hayward - an employee of the company for 44 years (retiring in 1930) and who features on many occasions in this story – took up his first position with the company as the Mechanical Engineer of the "Express" which carried up to 677 passengers on daily cruises from Blackwall down river to Sheerness. The 800 horsepower, quadruple compound engine gave the yacht a speed of 14 knots. It is said that more engineers turned up to see the boiler and engine than genuine day-trippers. The yacht was finally sold to a Norwegian cruise company in 1888, thus ending Perkins' attempt to demonstrate that high-pressure steam was economical. For a detailed description by Charles Hayward of the operation of this yacht - see here).

NOTE: It is understood that the manufacture of steam engines ceased in 1887.

Angier March Perkins died on 22nd April 1881 at the age of 81 leaving the business in the hands of Loftus, who it would seem, inherited some of his grandfather's bad habits as well as his engineering skills. Financial accounts of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd have not yet been found but it is clear that it was Angier March who possessed the better business brain. It is possible that, in something of a re-run of Angier March's early financial worries – which were mainly precipitated by his father - it could be expected that the company's later financial performance would be seen to have reflected the amount of time and effort Loftus Perkins put into experimentation and new developments rather than concentrating on the core business.

"Arktos" Refrigeration

Apart from steam engines, Loftus Perkins' primary fixation was the development of a practical form of refrigeration. Britain's rapid population growth created a demand for food preservation and Loftus set out to design an ammonia-based device that would produce ice cheaply. More than 50 years earlier, Jacob Perkins had worked on a process of mechanical refrigeration and, although this was not developed to commercial success, it has been described as the precursor of all modern refrigeration compressors. Loftus Perkins now embarked, with his usual in-bred determination, on the development that, it is argued, would hasten his death.

Ice had been made in an Edinburgh laboratory in 1810 and several types of refrigeration machinery were in operation in London Docks and elsewhere. In 1888, and after many experiments and very long hours of work, accompanied by his able assistant, Charles J. Hayward, the "Arktos" system was proved a success. It was demonstrated to Sir John Thorneycroft, founder of the shipbuilding firm: Sir James Dewar, inventor of the vacuum flask; and Sir Frederick Bramwell, civil engineer and later President of the British Association.

"Arktos" was based on the separation of ammonia gas from the water in which it was dissolved, the liquefaction of the gas, and the subsequent revapourisation of the ammonia, with the reabsorption of the gas by the water. The apparatus used no moving parts and not a single valve. An interesting description by Charles Hayward of the operation of "Arktos" can be found here.

An "Arktos" machine was exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. It was capable of freezing one cwt. of Mercury in the open air – Mercury does not freeze until minus 40F, i.e. 72 degrees of frost. Many types and sizes of "Arktos" apparatus were installed – by Edwards in the Hampstead Road for freezing milk in block moulds; by the Kensington Stores and at Whitely Stores in Westbourne Grove; and another kept 2,000 sheep at 26F for two years under Cannon Street Station. However, as C.J. Hayward ruefully commented:

"The Arktos was like high-pressure steam – the public did not really appreciate it"

An indication of the interest generated world-wide by the development of "Arktos" can be gained from an article printed in the 29th May 1889 edition of a New Zealand newspaper - the "Star" - (Reprinted here by courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand):

"SIX MACHINES WORKED BY A BOY.

I went yesterday to see a number of the new "Arktos " refrigerators at work at the patentee's yards in Regent's square. Here, at any rate, there is no hocus-pocus. The whole process is as simple as A.B.C, and as cheap as it is simple. There is no machinery, and no skilled labour required. A lad of twelve looks after the six " Arktos " refrigerators in operation, and they only occupy a portion of his time. The importance of this discovery lies in the fact that it brings a cheap and thoroughly effective refrigerator within the reach of butchers, hotelkeepers, restaurateurs, and tradesmen generally. For about £250 it is now possible to erect a freezing chamber 10ft x 10ft, with " Arktos " pipes, small furnace, &c, all complete. Once put up this concern costs from 8d to lOd per day to work, and can be looked after by any unskilled person you happen to have available. The furnace has to be lit for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evenings. This suffices to retain the freezing chamber at about 13deg Fahr. for twenty-four hours, even though you may once or twice temporarily raise the temperature by the insertion of newly killed meat. The cold generated by this ammonia process is phenomenally dry, so that entering the chamber from the outside one hardly notices it. The chambers at Regent Square are crammed with every conceivable kind of fish, flesh, and fowl, yet there is absolutely no smell. We were shown meat that had been eight months there, yet which in appearance looked no different (and we were assured would eat in no way differently) from joints inserted the previous day.

FISH IN THE ARKTOS.

It is worth noting, too, that the "Arktos" succeeds in preserving fish better than any of the known refrigerators. A gentleman tells me he tried a notable experiment with some sole which were left in an "Arktos" six weeks, and then taken out and compared with a pair purchased from the local fishmonger's that afternoon. His family and friends were asked at dinner to discriminate between the two sets, and say which was which. All agreed there was nothing to choose between them. Major Deane is interesting himself to secure the New Zealand patent, for which the inventor asks £25,000.

INSTANT SUCCESS.

The inventor and patentee of the " Arktos " have already (the discovery has been made public barely a month) far more London orders on hand than they can possibly execute. They have taken out patents in forty countries, and are anxious to sell half their interest in each of them. The Australian patents are still open, but that for New Zealand is under offer to the new Company the M'lvers are trying to organise, the price being £25,000".

However, as is often the case with new developments, interest was not always translated into profit. The Annual Report of the Directors to be laid before the Shareholders at the third Ordinary General meeting on the 25th March 1892, stated:

"The Directors regret that the Operations of the Company during the year 1891 have resulted in loss. The loss is however mainly attributable to the removal of the "Arktos" apparatus which was erected, on trial, at the premises of Messrs Nelson Bros. in Cannon Street in 1890, free of cost to them. On removal, at their request of the Apparatus, which had worked very satisfactorily, the cost of erection which had not been charged against 1890, had to be brought into the accounts for 1891.

The Company was unfortunately forced into litigation during 1891, with Mr Edwards and Mr Wm. Whitely with regard to the "Arktos" apparatus supplied to them.Both lawsuits have been heard during the current year and resulted in the Company being successful in one and unsuccessful in the other.

The Company has had to pay and forego a considerable sum as the nett result of such litigation, and this will so adversely affect the trading accounts for the current year that the Directors cannot foresee any prospect of their being in a position to recommend a dividend for 1892.

The current resources of the Company have been so much curtailed by payments in this connection with the above lawsuits that the Directors have found it necessary to borrow further working Capital, which they have succeeded in doing through the kindness of one of the largest Shareholders in the Company."

"Arktos" might have represented a significant proportion of senior management's efforts over a number of years but as a proportion of the Company's turnover, refrigeration apparatus declined rapidly over the following years as will be seen here.

NOTE: "Arktos" was also the name given to the sidings that connected Westwood Works to the main London to Edinburgh railway line. (See The Railway Connection).

Loftus Perkins died only ten years after his father in April 1891 at the age of fifty-six at 148, Abbey Road, Kilburn, his end hastened, it is said, by overwork on the development of the "Arktos" system. It is said that, at the end, his wife Emily said to him – "Lofty dear, I am afraid your mission in life is nearly ended", to which Loftus is said to have replied – "Must I go? I have so much to do."

A lengthy obituary in the "The Engineer" of 1st May 1891 drew attention to his many inventions, together with those of his father and grandfather. It ended with an observation which suggested that Loftus Perkins inherited more than a few of his grandfather's genes – "He was an inventor in the highest sense of the word, and his numerous and costly experiments were often conducted with little or no regard to their commercial success. Those whose privilege it was to know him privately regarded him with the warmest feelings of attachment, and though his enthusiasm severely taxed the endurance of those who helped in his experiments, we believe that we are giving expression to their sentiments when we say that his loss is regretted as that of a personal friend". It is possible that very similar sentiments were expressed at the time of Jacob Perkins' death and it is fitting that Loftus too should be buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. His death brought to an end the control of the business by the Perkins family. The company was left in the hands of a group of people, none of whom appeared to have the enterprise previously shown during the reign of the Perkins dynasty. As will be seen in History of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd, the only remaining member of the Perkins family with any significant engineering ability – Loftus Patton Perkins - left the company soon after the merger in 1893.

It was the way that Paul Pfleiderer handled Loftus Perkins' Arktos patent, following the merger (see here) between Werner & Pfleiderer (London) and A.M. Perkins & Son in 1893, that created a bitter dispute with Loftus's younger son, Ludlow, and finally ended any semblance of control at Regent Square by the Perkins family.

NOTE: For more details of some of the many inventions of the Perkins family click here.

The Company is Incorporated

Just a year before he died, Loftus Perkins was advised to incorporate his business as a private limited company and in 1889, A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd was formed. It had a capital of £110,000 in £10 shares and 2 shareholders – Loftus Perkins as Chairman and Major George Deane, a retired soldier who had fought in the Indian Mutiny thirty-five years before, as Managing Director. Prior to setting up the new company, the above two persons had run A.M. Perkins as a Partnership. Loftus Perkins was granted 10,162 shares and Major Deane 833 shares. Mrs Ellen Perkins, wife of the late Angier March Perkins, was granted an annuity of £100 per annum. Listed as Members of the Company and allotted one share each were – Frederick Power - (Gentleman), W.W. Harris – (Civil Engineer), W. Taylerson – (Civil Engineer), Loftus Patton Perkins – (Civil Engineer), W.T. Power – (Barrister).

On 10th February 1890 – 14 days after the first Ordinary general meeting – the list of shareholders had been added to with Loftus Perkins’ holding split into three:

Loftus Perkins (Engineer) – 4162 shares.
George Deane (Managing Director) – 833 shares.
Frederick Power (Gentleman) – 5001 shares.
William Harris (Engineer) – 1 share.
William Taylerson (Engineer) – 1 share.
Loftus Patton Perkins (Engineer) – 1 share.
William Power (Barrister) – 1 share.
George Crawley (Gentleman) – 1000 shares.

Paul Pfleiderer and the merger

The fortunes of A.M. Perkins Ltd were to change with the involvement of another dynamic character, full of optimism and promises for a prosperous future – not all of which were realised. Paul Pfleiderer exploded onto the scene and, on 2nd June 1893, A.M. Perkins & Sons Ltd merged with Werner & Pfleiderer (London) to form Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd. The events leading up to the merger are covered in History of Werner & Pfleiderer (London) and History of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd.

Horace Sandars, who was to play a significant role in the merger with Werner & Pfleiderer (London), is said by Augustus Muir to have been 'conducting' A. M. Perkins, together with Major Deane, in 1892 when merger discussions first began but it should be noted that some confusion exists as to his background of and the level of his involvement in the Company prior to 1892. (See also History of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd for copies of correspondence that prove his presence in December 1892). It is also clear from these letters that the new company, Werner Pfleiderer and Perkins Ltd was incorporated in June 1893. However, it is understood that A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd continued in existence as the holder of some Perkins patents. It is therefore interesting to note that a Special Resolution at an Extraordinary General Meeting of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd was held on the 9th June 1893, when the Nominal Capital of the Company was increased by £6,000 – divided into 600 shares of £10 each. Horace Sandars signed this document either In the absence of the Company Secretary or acting as the Company Secretary, the title – Secretary – being crossed out on the document.

On 13th July 1893, Frederick Power invested £5,000 in A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd in exchange for 500 £10 Preference shares. This document was also signed by Horace Sandars and he signed a letter dated 12th March 1896, to the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, as “Managing Director of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd”.

Further significant changes in the shareholdings of A.M. Perkins continued to take place long after the merger. In March 1896, Loftus Perkins' original shareholding is recorded as having been split, in part, between his widow, Emily, and his son, Loftus Patton Perkins. This is also the first time that a shareholding by Horace Sanders is indicated.

In June 1896, the Company's Nominal Capital was reduced from £117,000, divided into 11,000 Ordinary Shares of £10 each and 600 Preference shares of £10 each to £17,000 divided into 11,000 Ordinary Shares of £1 each and 600 Preference Shares of £10 each - "such reduction being effected by cancelling Capital which has been lost or is unrepresented by available assets to the extent of £9 per share ..... " At this time Loftus Patton Perkins was signing key documents as company secretary.

In 1900, Major Deane became the majority shareholder in A. M. Perkins and in January 1901, a return to Companies House lists Horace Sandars as Chairman, with Paul Pfleiderer, Major Deane and F.C. Ihlee as directors. By September 1892, Sir William Tyrone Power KCB, Horace Sandars, Paul Pfleiderer and Emily Perkins were the major shareholders.

Liquidation

On the 3rd of September 1903 the shareholders of A.M. Perkins and Son Ltd were called to a General Meeting at 43 Regent Street, Gray's Inn Road, London to hear how the company was wound-up and disposed of by Horace Sandars, the Liquidator. This followed on from the extraordinary resolution to wind the company up on the 23rd of February 1903. Horace was the company's last chairman and his address for correspondence was 25, Victoria Street, Westminster.

A "Directors' Report" for the year ending 31st March 1894 - signed by Horace Sandars as Chairman - and dated 6th July 1894, stated:

"The amalgamation of the business of the Company with that of Messrs.. Werner & Pfleiderer of London became effective on the 31st March 1993 and has continued in active operation since that date.

The income of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd is now derived solely from the shares they hold in Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd.

The expenditure of the Company should in future be confined almost entirely to the payment of a moderate salary to the Secretary and to the Auditors, and to the maintenance of certain patents.

Mr. F. Power kindly consented to accept 5% Cumulative Preference Share in payment of his loan of £500 to the Company.

The Directors anticipate that the dividend shortly to be received on the Shares in Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd. will be sufficient to enable them to pay the Interest on the Preference Shares to the 31st March last.

In order to enable A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd. to complete their cash contribution towards the working capital of Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd, two members of the Board advanced to the Company between them at the end of 1893, the sum of £200, and this amount has been added to the liabilities of the Company on the 31st March last."

NOW SEE:

History of Werner & Pfleiderer (London).
History of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd.

To be continued.

AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY

There follows another version of the early days of Jacob and Angier March Perkins during the time that they were building up their business in London. David Hayes, Editor of the "Camden History Review", first encountered Jacob Perkins while researching the Albany Street manufactory. By an amazing coincidence, he once occupied a bedsit at 17 Skardu Road, formerly Loftus Patton Perkins' home. Although David acknowledges the use that he made of our website, he has carried out further detailed research and it is considered worthwhile reproducing his conclusions in full here.

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