140+ YEARS OF ENGINEERING INNOVATION
The company history stretches back to 1872, when Edward Bennis initially set up a factory in Bolton to develop an automatic self-cleaning furnace. His invention was to prove a great success, achieving increases in efficiency together with reductions in smoke emissions.
As we explore the Hodgkinson Bennis archives, we'll post additional historical material to the page, outlining some of the innovations delivered by our team over the last 140+ years.
A HISTORY OF INOVATION
Edward Bennis’s improvements were not fully appreciated until the outbreak of the Great War, when his technological advances were incorporated into the nation's push for victory.
The company foundries were used for munitions, substantially increasing industrial output at a time of great need. In the years between the two world wars, Edward Bennis Ltd manufactured the coal-feed systems for the boilers fitted in ocean-going steam ships.
In the early 1960's, with new customers in South Africa and Australia, and a workforce in excess of 250 people, the decision was made to merge with James Hodgkinson Ltd. This merger was mutually beneficial, in that it married the experience of Edward Bennis Ltd with the well-regarded James Hodgkinson Group based in Salford.
Following the miners' strikes in 1972, the coal market was in decline. The company became part of a larger group of manufacturing companies, until it regained its independence in 1992.
The reinvigorated company established a new team of directors comprising of dedicated employees, supported by sound financial backing. It successfully expanded into gas- and oil-fired boiler technology, and more recently into biomass, to become the company our customers know today.
THE BENNIS STOKER ENGINE
Manufactured by Edward Bennis & Co, The Westminster Engin was installed at Manor Mill in Chadderton in 1906 and drove a range of automatic boiler stokers.
Getting coal into boilers (stoking) was a skilled and physically exhausting task. The aim was to establish and control a uniform fire-bed maximising steam production and limiting excessive black smoke. The greater the number of boilers in use, the more difficult this task became for the workers on site. So automatic stokers were developed. Coal was sprinkled evenly from a storage hopper above, onto a moving metal belt or firebar, and into the boiler at a controlled and consistent rate.
E Bennis & Co were a leading manufacturer of stokers, boilers and other coal handling equipment and supplied the complete installation.
NORTHERN MILL ENGINE SOCIETY & FRED DIBNAH
An example of the Westminster Engine is currently on display at the Bolton Steam Museum. Generously on loan from Jack and Roger Dibnah, the engine had been acquired by their father Fred Dibnah in 1978.
Certainly, the UK's most famous steeplejack, Fred become a TV personality after participating in a BBC documentary series in the late 1970s. This engine, which he named Caroline, after one of his daughters, was installed in his garden workshop and powered several woodworking machines.
After Fred died in 2004, his sons loaned the engine to the Northern Mill Engine Society for display in the museum. We are grateful for the use of the picture opposite.