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The Story of The Invicta Works A History of Aveling & Porter, Rochester by Michael R. Lane

cover photo

Thomas Aveling (1824-82) was described in the 1851 census as a farmer and grazier employing 16 men and 6 boys and owning a drainage tile works at Ruckinge on the northern edge of Romney Marsh, in Kent. In the mid-1850s he purchased a Fowler steam plough, under taking contract work for his neighbours. So successful was this that local agriculturists rewarded him with a fine silver plate and a purse containing 300 guineas.

Aveling made his often quoted comment in 1857 about the absurdity of having to use horses to haul ponderous loads like threshing machines, when the typical portable engine of the day possessed the ability to generate ten times the power of the struggling horses. He proved his point by making a 8 nhp Clayton & Shuttleworth portable engine self-moving by means of a chain drive to the hind axle from a countershaft which was gear driven from the crankshaft.

He exhibited the first traction engine he actually built at his newly established Invicta Works in Strood at the Royal Show held at Armley in 1861 and during the next decade the business grew and prospered. The Royal Agricultural Society of England held very important engine trials at its 1871 show held at Wolverhampton. Aveling's traction engines earned him the soubriquet Father of the Traction Engine. His hornplate invention literally revolutionised engine design for the remainder of the steam era, and he was credited with the benefits accruing from steam jacketing cylinders, feed water heating, and the introduction of brakes.

Probably Aveling's greatest successes in the company's formative years were his association with men like William Batho, and his experimental road rolling in London's Hyde Park, culminating in the order for the 30 ton monster for Liverpool Corporation. Sadly, he did not live to see the full benefits of this work, but by WWl the 3-point roller, which he pioneered, had become a familiar sight in Great Britain. After the passing of the Local Government Act of 1888 almost every County Council, Metropolitan and District Council in the country employed Aveling road rollers, the Greater London Councils owning over 200 rollers at one time. Additionally, a new breed of road rolling contractors emerged, the doyen of whom was the Eddison Steam Roller Company, who owned 500 Aveling rollers. Nearly half the Company's output were exported, finding their way to 120 different countries. Honours were awarded to Aveling by Germany, Austria and France.

The business was taken over by Aveling's son, Thomas Lake Aveling (1856-1931) in 1883 and the Company were formed into a private Limited Liability Company in 1895. Shortly after the ending of WWl the Company was absorbed into a conglomorate formed by Archibald Maconochie, a personal friend of Aveling Jr., called Agricultural & General Engineers Ltd. The raison d'etre of this concern was to protect and develop a group of well known family engineering businesses, mainly associated with agricultural interests in Eastern England, against American competition. Sadly, in the early 1930s the business failed and Aveling & Porter were saved by a remarkable character, Edward Barford (1898-1979), who restructured and renamed it Aveling & Barford Ltd.

Code No. 015141, 238 pages, ISBN 0905818075, $87.00

This item is listed under the following subjects:

Traction Engine  
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