Joseph Whitworth-one of Manchester’s early innovators

Posted on: August 11, 2009

Sometimes it is not the big innovations that can make all the difference as the story of Manchester’s Sir Joseph Whitworth only proves too well.

Sometimes described as the father of precision engineering later working the father of computing,Charles Babbage he is perhaps best remembered for his ability to perfect existing ideas, to extremely high standards.

Sir Joseph Whitworth

Sir Joseph Whitworth

The Whitworth screw thread is amongst his legacies and they bear his name to this day.

He was born was born Stockport, Cheshire, in December 1803,becoming an apprentice at his uncle’s cotton spinning mill in Derbyshire, where he displayed an interest in machinery.

After four years he joined  Crighton and Co. a leading machine making company in Manchester.finally secured job at Henry Maudslay’s works.

By the middle of the 19th century,Whitworth had established himself as the foremost expert in precision and mechanical engineering winning awards at both the Paris and London exhibitions.

His later career is more associated with the armaments industry.His reputation as a precision engineer meant that he was asked to design a replacement for the Enfield rifle, which had not performed well during the Crimean War.

His work brought him into conflict with Sir William Armstrong and the two fought heavily over government armament contacts.

After both their deaths,their companies were to merge forming Armstrong Whitworth Company which had a factory in Openshaw.

He died in 1887 having retired to Monte Carlo.His legacy to the city included technology scholarships at what is now the University of Manchester.

Besides that he is commemorated in his home city by Whitworth Street in Central Manchester, Whitworth Street in Openshaw, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the adjoining Whitworth Park.


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