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Joseph Whitworth's first workshop
44 Chorlton Street, Manchester, UK
associated engineer
Joseph Whitworth
date  1833
era  Georgian  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  SJ842979
Joseph Whitworth (1803-87), pioneer of high-precision measuring instruments and standardised screw threads, opened his first workshop at 44 Chorlton Street in 1833 and remained there until 1880. His ideas were to revolutionise mechanical manufacturing and armaments.
In 1834, Whitworth filed his first independent patent, for a machine that could cut screw threads on studs and hexagonal bolts. Nuts and bolts had previously been hand threaded, which was both inaccurate and expensive — and each workshop had its own technique. Between 1839 and 1849 he lodged 15 patents for machine tools, including one for a true plane that used a scraping rather than grinding action to produce a flat surface.
Whitworth began developing a system of uniform standardised screw threads in 1841, which was adopted throughout Britain by the 1860s and is still famous today. He presented his ideas to the Institution of Civil Engineers in the 1841 paper On a uniform system of screw threads.
In 1830, it was supposed that a good workman could achieve an accuracy of one sixteenth of an inch but by 1850 Whitworth's tools were measuring to one ten-thousandth of an inch. Then in 1859, Whitworth built a machine with the capacity for measuring to one two-millionth of an inch while his contemporaries were still approximating to one thirty-second of an inch.
The displays of more than 20 of Whitworth's inventions at the Great Exhibition of 1851 were adjudged "of first rate excellence". Following this, the British Government asked him to work on improving army weaponry, which had proved unsatisfactory during the Crimean War (1853-56). The War Office rejected his initial attempts, despite his weaponry being far more accurate over distance than anything then in military use.
He found greater commercial success with rifles. Queen Victoria opened the first Wimbledon tournament on 2nd July 1860 by firing a Whitworth rifle and hitting the target's bull's-eye from 365m. To increase the safety of his guns, Whitworth used ductile steel rather than hard steel — which was inclined to explode if there were defects in the metal — and perfected the hydraulic forging of ductile steel by 1870.
His interest in ordnance continued, with demonstrations of artillery capable of piercing armour plate more than 100mm thick and shells with fuseless detonation.
In 1874 Whitworth converted his Manchester works into a limited liability company.
Whitworth is the only person to have been elected President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers twice, in 1856 and 1866. In 1868, he funded 30 Whitworth Scholarships for engineering. The following year he was created a baronet, both for this action and for the value of his inventions.
Research: ECPK
reference sources   DNB

Joseph Whitworth's first workshop