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Steam Fire Engine
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The Merryweather story begins with the firm of Hadley, Simpkin and Lott of Long Acre, London, who had by the late 1700s established a successful business building fire-fighting apparatus. In 1807 they took on an apprentice, Moses Merryweather, who went on to marry Henry Lott's niece in 1836. By this time Lott had become the sole partner, and when he retired, Moses took over the company and renamed it Merryweather & Sons. The company built its first steam fire engine in 1861 - named "Deluge", it was followed a year later by "Torrent", and both engines went to Frederick Hodges' private fire brigade in Lambeth. In 1863 Merryweather entered the engine "Sutherland" with twin horizontal cylinders in an international competition at Crystal Palace, and took first prize; the engine was subsequently purchased by the Admiralty for use at Devonport Dockyard, where it served until 1905. When Moses Merryweather passed away at the age of 79, the company was taken over by his son Richard, and on his death in 1877, it passed to his younger brother, James Compton Merryweather. It was under his dynamic leadership that it would become a world-leader in steam fire engine production: by the turn of the century, Merryweather were Fire Engine Makers by Appointment to the Royal Family, and their steam fire engines were in use in every corner of the globe. In 1885 they introduced the "Greenwich" model with twin horizontal cylinders; this was followed a decade later by the even more popular "Greenwich Gem" that was built in several sizes that could deliver from 200 to 500 gallons per minute. In 1899 Merryweather & Sons introduced their first self-propelled steam fire engine, christened the "Fire King", and within three years it had all but replaced the horse-drawn engine on the home market at least. However, by this time steam power was already starting to be threatened by the internal combustion engine, and as early as 1903 Merryweather built a petrol-powered self-propelled chemical engine.
March 25th, 2014
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