The records of R W Hawthorn Leslie and Co Ltd consist mainly of records concerning locomotive production – order books, drawing registers, miscellaneous manufacturing records, also included is photographic material contained in photograph albums and in principle dimension books. There is also a variety of publicity material including brochures and publications. Volumes such as order books and drawing registers follow through uninterruptedly despite amalgamations with other companies, changes in ownership, etc.
Records of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co, locomotive manufacturers, Newcastle upon Tyne (formerly R & W Hawthorn and subsequently Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd)
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Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
The firm was founded by Robert Hawthorn at Forth Banks Works, Newcastle, 1817. Roberts’s brother William became a partner and in 1820 the company became R & W Hawthorn Ltd. Initially the firm concentrated on the building of marine engines, it incorporated locomotives later reportedly after the partners were inspired by witnessing the 1829 Rainhill Trials.
In 1831 their first steam locomotive ‘Coronation’ was produced for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The firm soon became successful as the British railway system expanded rapidly, supplying locomotives to a variety of British railway companies. R & W Hawthorn Ltd. began supplying locomotives to foreign railways in 1838, supplying locomotives to Europe, India, Australia, South America and South Africa. In 1846 a works at Leith was bought for the erection of locomotives that were intended for the Scottish railway; this was to prevent costly transportation by sea. By 1870 over 1,000 locomotives had been built by the company.
Robert Hawthorn died in 1867, and in 1870 William Hawthorn retired. The firm was sold for £60, 000 and was acquired by senior partner Benjamin Browne, his principle aide Francis Carr Marshall, William Hawthorn Junior and Joseph Scott.
The first intention of the new company was to confine themselves only to marine engines; however they found that their reputation meant that orders for locomotives were easy to secure and decided to continue with production. In 1870 the firm secured the shipyard of Messrs T and W Smith at St Peter’s, Newcastle and all marine engineering was moved away from Forth banks. It was subsequently decided to separate the business activities of the Forth Banks and St Peter’s sites.
In 1886 R and W Hawthorn was amalgamated with the shipbuilding company of Andrew Leslie, thus becoming R and W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd.
In 1937 Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd purchased the locomotive department of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd. They became Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd. The policy was to concentrate the building of main line locomotives at Robert Stephenson’s Darlington works and industrial locomotives at Forth Banks.
In 1944 Vulcan foundry acquired Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn Ltd, ending the Hawthorn’s 137 year connection with Forth Banks. In 1955 Vulcan foundry became full members of the English Electric group of companies, which became part of the GEC group of companies in 1968.
The original order of the archive has been difficult to ascertain. The archive has therefore been arranged into five series reflecting either the activities to which the records relate or the nature of the record.
- Order books
- Drawing Registers
- Manufacturing Material
- Photographic Material
The series within each sub fonds are identified in the catalogue description below.
Conditions Governing Access
Access is given in accordance with the NRM access policy. Material form this archive is available to researchers through the Search Engine reading room.
Search Engine is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-5.30. You don't need an appointment to use the library collection but you will need to book at least a week ahead if you wish to look at archival material.
To make a booking, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We recommend you contact us at least one week before your visit.
Address: Search Engine, National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ. Email: email@example.com
Check full details on the website at: http://www.nrm.org.uk/ResearchAndArchive/enquiriesandvisiting.aspx
The bulk of the archive originated from GEC Alsthom who inherited records of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd. The archive was split up and acquired by the NRM via separate routes from GEC Alsthom. The decision was made to reunite the material at the NRM.
List of Engines built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd: Records acquired from GEC Alsthom and Constituent companies by National Railway Museum. Transferred from Trafford Park, Manchester c.1983.
Weight Book, Drawing Registers, order book, spare boilers built, particulars of industrial locomotives built: Records acquired from the Industrial Railway Society. These had been loaned to the society for a short period by GEC Traction and were intended for the NRM collection. Transferred to the NRM October 1984.
Order Books 1-5, photograph album, principle dimension books: Records acquired from GEC Alsthom and Constituent companies by National Railway Museum. Transferred from Trafford Park, Manchester 1992.
Brochures and publications: Four brochures came from the British Transport Commission for historical relics Euston, Westminster and Clapham. Six are an untraced find.
Other Finding Aids
There is an access database that records locations of material.
Alternative Form Available
Order Books 1-5 (HL 1/1): Photocopies of the original order books included in the NRM Hawthorn Leslie collection are kept at the NRM.
Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements
The archive consists of hard backed volumes that are in a fair condition. Some items in series HL 3/1 and HL 4/2 are not fully backed and held together with archival tape.
The catalogue, inventory, administrative history and finding aids were compiled by Alison Kay, Visitor Services Assistant, April-August 2008.
Description created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, May 2015.
Conditions Governing Use
Copies may be supplied of items in the archive, provided that the copying process used does not damage the item or is not detrimental to its preservation. Copies will be supplied in accordance with the NRM’s terms and conditions for the supply and reproduction of copies, and the provisions of any relevant copyright legislation.
The archive has been appraised. Secondary material has been removed. NRM Correspondence, transcripts of private researchers and NRM library material has been placed in the NRM registry files and the library collections respectively.
No accruals are expected to this archive, though items may be added to the inventory as further work is carried out on the wider GEC-Alsthom collection.
Location of Originals
Useful Publications relating to this archive:
- Allan C. Baker Ed. Black, Hawthorn & Co. (with Chapman & Furneaux) : works list : locomotive, stationary & marine engines. (Richmond: Industrial Locomotive Society, 1988).
- Clarke, J. F., Power on land and sea: 160 years of industrial enterprise on Tyneside : a history of R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd, engineers and shipbuilders . (Newcastle upon Tyne : Hawthorn Leslie, 1979).
- Engines built by R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co . The locomotive magazine souvenir, No 16.
- Bradley, Rodger P. Power for the world's railways : GEC Traction and its predecessors - 1823 to the present day . (Sparkford : Oxford Publishing, c1993).