W. and J. Galloway Letter Books

Scope and Content

Typed copies of outgoing letters of the Manchester engineering firm W. and J. Galloway, covering the period 1840 to 1863.

The volumes provide detailed information of the firm's development into one of the North West's leading engineering firms in this period. There are copies of over 800 letters to several hundred different firms and individuals at both home and abroad. Most of the letters relate to orders and payments for goods supplied by the firm, but some of the letters deal with Galloways' suppliers (e.g. of pig iron). There is no personal or family correspondence included.

The correspondence provides detailed information about the firm's products, particularly engines and boilers, most of which were produced as bespoke products. There is also interesting information about how goods were distributed to customers by canal and rail networks, and how engines and boilers were assembled, operated and repaired. The letter books indicate how diverse were the firm's customers, which included local textile mills, saw mills, rice and grain mills, rolling mills, rope works, gasworks and railway companies. Correspondence dating from the 1850s indicates the firm's growing international contacts with Europe, Turkey and India, and there is some valuable information about how textile mills in the Mumbai area were equipped. There is also correspondence over specific projects such as that with the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway Co. over the Leven viaduct. There is relatively little information about the Galloways' connections with Henry Bessemer, but there are details of machinery supplied to Weardale Iron Co to operate a Bessemer process.

Overall, the letter books are a valuable source of information for the development of an important area of the capital goods sector in Great Britain at the height of 19th century industrialisation.

Administrative / Biographical History

W and J Galloway were an important engineering firm in Victorian Manchester. They were particularly known for manufacturing steam boilers which were used for a wide variety of purposes. At their peak, Galloways employed over a thousand people in Manchester.

The firm traced its origins to William Galloway (1768-1836), who moved from the Scottish borders to Manchester in 1790 and set up as a millwright. He later created the successful business partnership of Galloway, Bowman and Glasgow, whose interests included an iron foundry and the manufacture of mill wheels. Galloway's two sons John (1804-1894) and William (1796-1873) were apprenticed to the firm, but set up their own partnership in 1836, the same year as the death of William Galloway senior.

The Galloway partnership was based on engineering and iron-founding, and soon became one of the leading firms in the region for supplying steam boilers to factories and mills. It also manufactured a range of metal goods including pipes, wagons and axles (for railways), rivets, and screw jacks for lifting heavy equipment (one of the which was displayed at the Great Exhibition). Galloways made engines and driving gear, hydraulic presses, planing machines, and were involved with applied engineering projects such as constructing gasworks, and building Southport pier and the Leven viaduct, near Ulverston, the latter two projects using an innovative process of water jetting to sink iron piles into the ground. However, Galloways were however probably best known for their boilers, patenting a double-fire flue boiler, eponymously known as the 'Galloway boiler'.

The Galloways also worked with Henry Bessemer in the development of steel making, Some of the earliest tests of Bessemer's process were made at the Galloways' Knott Mill works in Manchester, and Galloways helped equip Bessemer's first steel mill in Sheffield (they enjoyed a licence to manufacture Bessemer converters). By the 1850s, the firm were successfully exporting to Continental Europe, Russia, Turkey and India. Galloways built gunpowder mills for the Sultan of Turkey, and supplied the new cotton mills which were developing in Bombay, India.

In 1856, the firm took into partnership, John Galloway, son of the younger William Galloway, and Charles Galloway, the son of John senior. William Galloway died in 1874, and John Galloway senior in 1894. In 1889, the firm became a private company, and ten years later a private limited company. The firm of Galloways Ltd. went into receivership in 1932; some of its interests were acquired by Hick, Hargreaves and Co. of Bolton.


There are two volumes: Eng Ms 1504/1, 1840-1843, and Eng Ms 1504/2 1844-1863. All items are typed, although where diagrams were present in the original letters (of machinery etc.), these have been copied in ink. It is not known whether all letters in the original letter books were transcribed.

Access Information

Available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The volumes were donated to the University Library by W. H. Chaloner in 1964.

Other Finding Aids

The volumes are described in Bernard Crick and Miriam Alman, A guide to manuscripts relating to America in Great Britain and Ireland (the British Association of American Studies 1961), which records them as being in the custody of the Department of Economic History, University of Manchester.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The circumstances in which these letters were copied from the original letter books are unknown, but it is believed theis was done by Professor W H Chaloner in connection with his research on the Galloways in the 1950s. It is understood that the letter books were then in the possession of the family, but the current location of the original volumes is unknown.

Related Material

Some of the Galloway family archive is held at Chetham's Library, Manchester (not the business letters). Bolton Archives have custody of the Hick, Hargreaves and Co. archive.


W H Chaloner "John Galloway (1804-1894) engineer of Manchester and his reminiscences" in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society LXIV, 1954, 93-116; Chaloner is believed to have compiled the transcripts as part of this research.

Geographical Names