B.R. Faunthorpe Papers relating to Sir Joseph Whitworth

Scope and Content

Papers collected by Commander Bertram R. Faunthorpe (1908-66) in connection with a planned biography of the engineer and industrialist Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-87). The collection mainly comprises research notes and correspondence relating to Faunthorpe's research. This includes material on firearms and screw threads, the history of the engineering industry, the history of Britain in the 19th century, notes on contemporary investors and engineers, copies of articles by or about Whitworth, photographs, and papers relating to Whitworth's estate at Stancliffe in Darley Dale, Derbyshire. Among the latter are an estates account book (farm and quarry stock) and the letter-books of Whitworth's estate manager, Joseph Dawson.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Whitworth, 1803-87

Joseph Whitworth was one of the leading, if not best-known, industrialist-inventors of the Victorian age. Whitworth's contributions in the fields of mechanical engineering and scientific measurement were manifold: he invented a method of manufacturing truly plane surfaces, conceived and developed a micrometer which was accurate to two-millionths of an inch and, perhaps most significantly, devised a uniform system of screw threads.

Whitworth was born at Stockport in 1803; in 1815 following the death of his mother, he was fostered while his father trained to be a nonconformist minister. Between 1820-1824 he worked in Manchester for W J Crighton & Co. before moving to London. He returned to Manchester in 1832 to set up a business. In 1834 he applied for his first patent - a screw cutting machine. By the 1840s Whitworth was well established as an inventor and engineer, and he won considerable public acclaim after his inventions were displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition. At his extensive works at Chorlton St and Openshaw, Manchester, Whitworth also experimented to improve the design of rifles and artillery pieces. The business was converted into a limited liability company in 1874, and in 1897 it merged with Armstrong's of Elswick.

Whitworth's success allowed him to purchase the Firs estates in the suburbs of Manchester (then known as Ardern's Place and now part of the University of Manchester), and later, a country estate at Stancliffe Hall, Darley Dale, Derbyshire, where he undertook many improvements. After his death in 1887, executors were appointed to disburse his considerable fortune; major beneficiaries included Owens College, Manchester, where money was used to build the Whitworth Hall.

Bertram Ryves Faunthorpe, 1908-66

Bertram Ryves Faunthorpe (1908-66) was born in India, the son of Colonel John Champion Faunthorpe (1871-1929), army officer, big game hunter and sport shooter, and his wife, Amy Frances née Ryves (d. 1953). According to the London Gazette, Faunthorpe was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 1 November 1928, promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1930, and to lieutenant-commander on 1 July 1938. He was mentioned in despatches on 25 June 1940. He retired from service on 9 December 1952 and was awarded the rank of commander (retired) on 10 December 1953. He published a volume on fishing, Shore Fishing for Lobsters, Crabs and Prawns (London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1952). In the mid-1960s, he began to research the life of Joseph Whitworth, with the intention of publishing a biography. Although he appears to have undertaken a substantial amount of research, it does not appear that the life was ever completed. He died on 21 March 1966 and is buried in St Helen's churchyard, Abbotsham, Devon.


The collection has been subdivided into Faunthorpe's research papers and notes (FJW/1), and original documents relating to the Stancliffe Hall estate (FJW/2).

The papers were formerly organized according to a single series, with alphabetic references, applied when the collection was accessioned in the 1970s.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection may include material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to the Library in February 1975 by Miss J.E. Lomas (Library Committee minutes, 26 February 1975). Her connection to Commander Faunthorpe is not known.

Other Finding Aids

Supersedes an earlier finding aid compiled in the 1970s.

Conditions Governing Use

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

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

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


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

The Library also holds six letters from Sir Joseph Whitworth to Sir James Emerson Tennent, 1864, ref. English MS 1573.

Whitworth's personal archive is not believed to have survived: Norman Atkinson, Joseph Whitworth, p. 310 n. 2, reports evidence that Whitworth's own papers were destroyed shortly after his death. A small collection of legal papers relating to his will and executorship is kept at Derbyshire Record Office (D 504).


Norman Atkinson, Sir Joseph Whitworth: 'The World's Best Mechanician’ (Stroud: Sutton, 1996) .

Marshall J. Bastable, 'From Breechloaders to Monster Guns: Sir William Armstrong and the Invention of Modern Artillery, 1854-1880', Technology and Culture, 33.2 (1992), 213-47 .

Terence Kilburn, Joseph Whitworth, Toolmaker (Cromford: Scarthin, 1987) .

Thomas Seccombe and R. Angus Buchanan, 'Whitworth, Sir Joseph, baronet (1803–1887), mechanical engineer and machine tool manufacturer', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004, online edition 4 October 2007 .

Geographical Names