Charles D Young & Co - A significant Scottish ironworker, engineer and salesman.....
Charles D Young and Family
“talent, ingenuity and enterprise”
Charles Denoon Young (1822-1887) was born in Legerwood near Lauder, son of a minister of the Free Church from Falkirk and one of six - the youngest of three brothers. A remarkable character and ironworker from the age of only 18, he grew his business at a remarkable rate and undertook a range of architectural projects when the application of iron in an architectural sense was still relatively new.
A determined publicist and eternal optimist, he was sequestrated a total of four times, spending seven months in the Perth debtors prison. In the Autumn of 1856 he thought he was worth £58,615 and within a matter of months he was in debt to more than twice that amount. He declined to run annual profit and loss accounts and had a tendency not to consider bad debts or over - runs on projects which damaged his bottom line.
His catalogues are full of buildings and structures which are quite often illustrative but quite often not realised it would appear. A variety of ‘arrangements’ with others causes some confusion in attribution sometimes but it should not detract from his considerable achievements. From the 1853 Dublin Exhibition Building to the Kensington Gore Museum Charles D Young has largely not been recognised for his work.
The various permutations of family partnerships and splits means it is easier to treat them as a whole rather than distinct firms although they often were. His elder brothers William Denoon Young (1817-1882) and James Denoon Young (1811-1868) were in the trade and his sister Maria Denoon Young (1809-1893) also had a hand in the iron trade. Denoon was their mother’s maiden name. Between the brothers there were a total of eight sequestrations, only Maria and his husband Robert sustaining a business without bankruptcy.
A summary of the inter - relationships between family and firms is shown at the bottom of this page.
Charles is recorded as living in a boarding house with his brother William at 38 Rankeillor Street in the South of the city - an area where they put down business roots for a period. He was 19 and had gone into partnership with his brother the year before. William is recorded as a wire worker.
The first premises occupied by the Youngs were at 128 High Street in Edinburgh. These premises are mentioned as early as 1834 at which time they are noted to be occupied by an R B Blyth, ‘an agent for English houses in ironmongery and metal trades’, presumably meaning he imported English-made products for retail.
In the Post Office Directories for 1840-41 and 1841-42 there are entries for ‘Young, Jas & Wm, Wire Cloth manufacturers, 128 High St’. James and William dissolved their partnership in 1847 having established it in 1841.
Charles married Hannah Cupples in 1844 (1824-1908) with whom he had 11 children. Her father married them in St Cuthberts, Edinburgh. The rate of his business growth was remarkable. The 1851 cencus has him living at 5 Bruntsfield Place - “Occupation Iron Founder and Wire Works Manufacturer employing 300 men and 60 women. Living with wife and children Katherine D 5, Charlotte H, 3 Charles E 2, Nursery Maid, Nurse, Cook, Housemaid and Table Maid”. He was only 29.
James D Young Co
On dissolving his partnership with William in 1847 he set up on his own and had re-located to Glasgow as a wire merchant with workshops at the Old Powder Magazine in Cambridge Street. As a Manufacturing Ironmonger in Glasgow, he was sequestrated on the 9th August 1849 although it appears he was able to come to terms with his creditors.
James subsequently was in business with Edward Way, under the name "James D Young, Son, and Co., as Engineers and Buyers and Sellers of Engineering Works, Machinery, Iron, and Wire Manufacturers, and Wrought and Cast Iron in Bars, Pigs, and Castings, and other things of like nature, at No. 2, Upper Charles-Street, Westminster..." On 23 March 1861, The London Gazette records the dissolution of their co-partnery, the business being continued by Edward Way.
James then returns to Edinburgh and back to the business he knows as James Young and Co with the Brittannia Iron and Wire Works, 27-29 East Crosscauseway in the South side of Edinburgh close to his brother. With remarkable tenacity (?) he then moves back to London and sets himself up as a contractor again in Chelsea.
Once again he becomes bankrupt ;
“James Denoon Young, of No. 3, Rolls-terrace, Chelsea, in the county of Middlesex, Contractor, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty's Court of Bankruptcy, in London, on the 19th of October 1863”.
Unlike his younger brother, he manages to get himself discharged from bankruptcy by December that year. Only five years later he died aged 55 leaving his wife and five children with £1500.
James secured two patents - 24th October 1853 patent no. 2450 for “Improvements in casting”
and 7th November 1864 patent no. 2747 for “Construction of rolled iron railway bars or metals, girders, beams, joists and angle irons”. The Edinburgh Gazette records that "The Estates of
William D Young Co
Following the dissolution of 1847 he established William D Young Co and went into business with Robert Peddie of Stirling (1802-1881), the husband of his sister Maria. William formed his own firm in Edinburgh and in Glasgow at 77 George Street and 24 West Nile Street around 1858 and withdrew from the partnership with Robert Peddie.
William is recorded as securing a patent in the London Gazette of 20th November 1858 (patent 3288) for "improvements in making tiles or plates of iron, zinc, or other metal sheets to be used for roofing, and for iron houses and other structures”. His business W D Young and Company reduced in scale between the 1861 census, from "Ironwork Manufacturer Employing 75 Men &c" to "Iron Wire Work Manufacturer Employing 7 Men".
He was sequestrated in 1870 and then again in 1875 before moving to Cheetham, Lancashire, employed as a Civil Engineer in 1882 and died age 67 the following year leaving ten children.
Peddie, Young and Co / Peddie and Co
Peddie, Young and Co did not last long and Peddie and Co struck out themselves - with better longevity than the rest of the family based at 182 George Street then 72 Princes Street with a move to Tynecastle Ironworks adjacent to Haymarket Station in 1870. In 1860 they advertised themselves as supplying fences, bridges and conservatories and seemed to be fairly successful. Their son Henry (1847-1934) joined the firm taking it over when his father died in 1885. He had no children and died in 1934. It appears none of his six sisters had children either and the firm ended with him.
courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Charles D Young Co
In the Edinburgh Post Office Directory for 1847-48 the entry is ‘Charles D Young & Co (late William & Charles Young), manufacturing ironmongers 128 High St’.
This continues until 1850-51 when the address changes to 48 North Bridge, however this is still probably a display - office only. In 1851-52 the entry changes to ‘iron and wireworkers, manufacturers, contractors etc’ but still no reference to iron founding. Not until 1857-58 is iron founding listed as a formal C D Young in-house activity when the entry becomes ‘engineers, iron founders etc.’
A description from 1852 records that Youngs had taken over the former depot of the horse railway to Dalkeith (known as the ‘Innocent Railway’) and were now employing some 700 hands and with operations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and London. In this year he had clear capital of £21,386.
In 1858-59 the entry notes “Charles D Young & Co & Co, iron founders and contractors, St Leonards Ironworks and Britannia Ironworks, East Crosscauseway”
Unfortunately Charles overstretched himself and was sequestrated in 1858, partly due to his cavalier approach to book-keeping but also to the lack of lending discipline in the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bank which collapsed at the same time. On 26 July 1858, Charles was called before the Edinburgh Bankruptcy Court for examination.
The proceedings were extensively reported in The Scotsman, 28 July 1858 and were re-printed widely - even as far as Australia, because the sums of money were large and the story incredulous to most.
Charles outlined the history of his co-partnery with William and also the history of his own company since the break-up of the former. He outlined the structure and methodology of his own works. While he had general control, a William Hume had been cashier for the last ‘six or seven years’:
‘Mr Hume is the head and confidential clerk for the whole establishment. The counting house under him was divided into departments. These were the book-keeping, the charge of the foreign consignments, and the general correspondence and business of the counting house. Mr Thomas Pearson was book-keeper for some years, and latterly he was in charge of the consignments and shipping and insurance connected with these. Mr Clark had charge of the books and the cash was under the charge of Mr Hume. To the best of my knowledge I have handed over to my trustees all the books connected with my business. I carried on business in London, Liverpool and Glasgow, besides Edinburgh, which is my headquarters; and at the date of sequestration the London office only was open, the Liverpool and Glasgow offices being discontinued at the beginning of this year. I informed the trustees that some of the London cash books were wanting. My explanation is that they were lost: they were in charge of the manager of the London business.’
Charles went on to say that it was in January or February he became aware of the missing books and the London Manager was dispensed with in August. Charles reckoned that there was at least £3,000 missing from the London office.
He continued explaining his approach to book-keeping and the balancing thereof, remarking that he had balanced his books up to 1853 and had entered these balances in a private ledger up to 1850. He used the excuse of saving expense for not producing a proper balance each year, saying that it took £200-£300 to take stock. In 1854-55 the excuse was that they were ‘too involved in fulfilling heavy contracts’. This half-hearted approach had continued until 1857 when his affairs were examined.
Cash flow had become difficult and he started getting overdraft facilities from the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bank in 1854-55. The main problem with Charles’ approach to his liquidity appears to have been that he seemed to ignore bad debts. When he obtained a job he simply subtracted costs from expected income and totalled all the profits. The fact that some of this income never materialised was not taken into account.
He stated to the court that he had never been aware that he was insolvent.
When pressed, he cited several bad debts as the main reason for his current financial state. He admitted that his liability to the bank had been as high as £80,000 in mid 1857 (an eye watering £11.5M today) , but said that it was now in the order of £37,000. He had also overdrawn to the extent of £26,000 making his total liability to the bank in excess of £60,000. However, he went on to say that in September 1856 he had prepared a statement showing the general position of his affairs. Comparison of company assets against liabilities showed a balance in favour of the business of £58,000. This of course was a theoretical balance assuming that all the assets, including orders in hand, would be realised.
Charles had included in his estimate of £58,000 a number of assets which were over-valued.
The Government was due £22,000 for the Chelsea Bridge but this was subsequently reduced to £14,000 by their inspectors.
The principal contractor on the upgrading of the Westminster Bridge then failed owing Charles D Young & Co £9,000, £6,000 for work already done and £3,000 for useless materials prepared for it, the work was unfinished. A company in San Francisco was also due Charles D Young & Co £3,000.
The Inverness Courier of July 1858 noted his somewhat cavalier attitude to accounting but also levelled criticism squarely at his bank ;
“the bank lent him £5-60,000 without security, without knowing anything about him other than he needed money, and then threw him £60-70,000 in an utterly desperate attempt to get back what was irrecoverable and avert what was inevitable”.
Seemingly never anything but determined, by March 1860 an agreement was reached between Charles Young and Joshua, George and Frederick Buckton of the Wellhouse Foundry, Leeds, where the latter were to stock certain premises in Perth on which Charles D Young & Co was getting a lease. The Bucktons agreed to supply machinery, plant and utensils to the value of £900 Sterling.
courtesy of National Library of Scotland
The Bucktons had also leased the premises from James Morrison (accountant), judicial factor on the estate of the late Patrick Wallace, a coachbuilder, for a rent of £160 per annum payable at Martinmas and Whitsunday. The Bucktons sub-let to Charles D Young & Co at a rent of £500 per quarter (£2,000 per annum), a considerable profit on rent alone. Further sub-letting was forbidden. Young was expected to gradually pay back the tooling costs with the rent. However, Charles’ financial management was again found to be wanting and there was a dispute between him and the Bucktons in early 1862 to the extent that they tried to have him evicted.
An advert in the Glasgow Herald of November 1858 announced a sale of contents at the St Leonards Works including boilers and engines in progress, moulding and casting equipment, patterns and iron materials.
He was elected as a life member of the Society of Engineers in 1865.
In 1866 he became a director of a new company, Young, Carrington & Co, who purchased the St Leonards works, Perth, from him. Young Carrington & Co took over on 1 May 1866 but the relationship lasted little more than a year and it was resolved to wind-up Young Carrington & Co. During the incumbency of Young, Carrington & Co, Charles may have retained his own firm, Charles D Young & Co, in some form since he apparently took on his son, Charles Edward Young as a partner on 15 May 1867.
Charles set up on his own account as an agent but was sequestrated for a third time in 1867 and discharged about two years later.
In 1868 Charles D Young & Co purchased the Perth St Leonards works back from the liquidators of Young, Carrington & Co and Morrison, the factor. How he did this is not clear since at the time he was undischarged from his previous debts. He was sequestrated for a fourth time on 14 April 1874 when unable to repay the borrowings for the 1868 purchase and was sent to prison for seven months.
A servant reported he had taken a range of items from Perth to Edinburgh to pawn, including four silver jugs, two ladies dressing cases, one gold chain, silver napkin rings, silver snuff boxes, silver cutlery and dishes and a number of silver toddy ladles. This was at the request of Charles Young and to his knowledge they remained so - desperate measures.
The 1874 sequestration seems to have been the last straw in business for Charles Denoon Young at the relatively young age of 54. The Procurator Fiscal had also laid charges of “wilful fraud and fraudulent bankruptcy” against Charles. By March 1875 Iron Merchant William Robertson was petitioning the Sheriff for “summarily removal of Charles Denoon Young, his wife, bairns, servants, dependents, goods and gear” from the rather splendid Inveralmond House near Perth. The complainant noted that Charles “had threatened personal violence” against a Carter sent to occupy the property.
He was finally granted a discharge on 1st March 1877. The judge noted Young's "very considerable talent, ingenuity and enterprise" and that "at his more mature age, it may reasonably be expected he may act with greater sobriety and discretion than in former years, when his creditors assuredly showed no disposition to mistrust him, and therefore were accessories somewhat to his speculations.” Prior to final bankruptcy in 1871 he was only employing six men, quite a change from the 370 staff of 1851.
Charles, his wife and eldest daughter Katherine had moved from Scotland to London in 1881, renting rooms from a Mr Nyth at 18 Summerfield Road, Hornsey Rise, Middlesex, employed as a Civil Engineer. This marked quite a decline from owning three houses in Scotland.
No more is heard of him in a business sense and he dies in lodgings in Holborn, London in September 1887 aged 67. He was buried on the 10th December 1887 in Islington, London
Projects and Manufactures
The range of products related to Charles D Young & Co during his career in the ironwork industry can be divided into three chronological phases:
The co-partnery with brother William from 1841-1847
The Edinburgh business from 1847-1858
The Perth business from c.1859–1874
Charles Young secured two patents reported in the London Gazette. No. 943, dated 4 April 1865, for "improvements in double acting life and force pumps" , and also No. 2332, recorded 5 July 1873, with John Ryle, engineer, for "improvements in ice boxes for the artificial production of solid and transparent ice."
Catalogues have survived from the first two of these phases, listing and frequently illustrating products. There have been various propositions as to why the firm seem to have a somewhat ‘flexible’ approach to what they illustrate in their catalogues. They frequently illustrate buildings and machinery manufactured by others. At the end of the 18th Century generic ‘pattern’ books of design were not unusual where manufacturers could use them, but later in the 19th Century firms were very pro-active at taking others to task when there was even a hint of design plagiarism.
There is evidence that the firm did act as agents which may account for some instances or being kind they were perhaps presenting illustrations as the ‘possibilities’ using iron, but the reality is they were being more than a little liberal with the truth and it has led to a tangled web of mis-attribution and confusion to historians for years. It is important not to judge with the benefit of hindsight of course - the market for iron structures post the Great Exhibition was feverish. In the rush to benefit perhaps Charles aggregated the projects of others - including designs to merely show what is possible. Some of the structures used were well known buildings to many people and perhaps it was enthusiasm over subterfuge..
Their 1857 “Young’s Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Machinery, Implements, Tools etc.” covers a myriad of items well outwith the abilities of the firm to reproduce. Some illustrations in the catalogue are direct lifts from the illustrations of others, including William Fairbairn’s Constantinople Iron Mill and Richard Turner’s glasshouses.
One of the earliest catalogues seen is a William & Charles Young item, where they are described as ‘manufacturing ironmongers and wire merchants, 128 High St, Edinburgh’. It is headed ‘Catalogue of wrought iron work, Ornamental cast iron work and wirework’. It consists of eight pages and lists types and prices of products under the following headings:
Wire fences (invisible wire fences to resist Deer, Cattle, Horses, Sheep and Lambs)
Iron Fences (for Horses, cattle and Sheep)
Railings and Palisading etc
Verandahs and Balconies
Hot Houses etc
Aviaries and Pheasantries
Furnishing ironmongery for banks and Offices.
A similar W & C Young catalogue, this time of 16 pages, is headed ‘William & Charles Young, manufacturers of iron and wire work, and wire merchants’ and gives the Glasgow address, 32 St Enoch Square in addition to the Edinburgh address. Because of the larger size and the inclusion of the Glasgow address it is likely that this catalogue is slightly later than the one above. It was divided into two sections: ‘Wire Work Department’ and ‘Wrought Iron Department’. Under ‘Wire Work’ there is listed the usual variety of fences and also the fact that wire could be supplied in various gauges either in bundles of known weight or in lengths of 100 yds. Various types of garden applications i.e, guards, espaliers arches etc are also offered.
Under ‘Wrought Iron’ are the usual range of fences, gates and tension and suspension bridges, also an interesting item:
‘Iron houses: of wrought or cast iron, for dwellings and stores, made especially for the East and West Indies and other warm countries. Being portable, they can be taken down and removed at pleasure, and sent to any distance at little expense. They can again be put by any person of ordinary intelligence, in a very short time. In their construction, every attention is paid to having them ventilated on the best principles; and the best classic as well as plain designs can be wrought out. Estimates sent to any part of the world, upon receiving specification of the accommodation required.’
This is clear evidence that the Youngs were at least contemplating ‘iron houses’ in the mid 1840s if not actually making them.
Wrought and cast iron hot houses, conservatories and greenhouses were also on offer with crown or plate glass, ‘planned for the smallest as well as the most extensive establishments, and heated on the most approved systems with hot air or hot water’.
A wide range of garden furniture was offered and under ‘miscellaneous’ everything from cast iron field rollers to beams, scales and weights to prepared paint, tools, work tables and even rim and mortice locks were offered.
A copy of a third catalogue of similar format, but extended to 40 pages of which the last 16 are identical to that above, has ‘Chas D Young & Co, late of’ inserted between ‘manufactured by’ and ‘W&C Young’ probably dating it to late 1847 or 1848.
The first 24 pages consist of testimonials from, and lists of, patrons, mainly from the period of the co-partnery. All the testimonials, upwards of 20, date from 1841-1846 and are exclusively about fencing. Considering that by 1848 William would have set up on his own behalf in a very similar business, it would appear that Charles was not shy about using past trade to his own benefit. Since he had taken over a going concern he was probably entitled to extol past successes, however he was certainly giving little ground to his brother.
‘In order to meet the wishes of a number of their friends abroad they [Messrs Young] have established connexions with the following Houses [companies] in India, America etc
Messrs Lyall, Mathieson & Co, Calcutta
Messrs Bainbridge & Co, Madras
Messrs Jamieson & Co, Bombay
Messrs Wilmer & Rogers & Co, New York
Messrs Elliott & Co, Hamburgh
Orders will also be received by ;
Messrs Wm Drummond & Sons, Agricultural Museum, Stirling
Messrs Lawson and Smith, Nursery & Seedsmen, Inverness
Messrs Wilmer and Smith, Liverpool
Messrs Wm Drummond & Sons, Dawson Street, Dublin
Messrs Scott Brothers, Belfast’
The latter were presumably acting as agents.
These comments are obviously from the period of the co-partnery and indicate that by the mid 1840s the Youngs were getting themselves established in exports. The list of patrons extends to around 500 in Scotland (everywhere from Dumfriesshire to Shetland), over 60 in Ireland, 30 in England and 11 Foreign, 5 in the USA plus 2 in Hamburg and 1 each in Cape of Good Hope, Copenhagen, Sweden, East Indies and West Indies.
These three early catalogues demonstrate that, while the main output of the Youngs was iron and wire fencing, the beginnings of the larger and more ambitious projects, for which Charles was later to become famous, were established.
In 1850 Charles D Young published a work of considerable size entitled “A Short Treatise on the System of Wire Fencing, Gates etc, as manufactured by Charles D Young & Co & Company, at their several establishments in Edinburgh, London, Liverpool and Glasgow”
This book, although much bigger and more comprehensive than the three above, nevertheless carries on in much the same vein. It starts with a list of the great and good who have patronised the company, moving on to a long and detailed dissertation on what still seems to have been Charles D Young & Co’s main stock-in-trade, fencing and gates. This is followed by a rather more detailed description of other products than what appeared in 1848.
Suspension bridges are discussed in some depth but they seem to be generally small, for use in estate landscape enhancement rather than for public roads. Prices of 25s to 35s per lineal foot are quoted with the rider that if the bridges are required for wagons, carriages etc, they will need to be stronger and designs would be supplied after receiving full particulars.
Tension bridges were another Charles D Young & Co product and these were recommended for spans even shorter than the suspension variety. These were constructed with the upper part having a slightly upward curve which was matched by lower tension bars curving in the opposite direction, the effect being that the greater the load, the stiffer the structure becomes, within the limits of the tensile strength of the members of course. The main advantage of this system was that the structure was self-supporting, only needing to sit on the ground at each end which cut costs considerably. The suspension bridge needed strong anchorage for the suspension cables. Charles D Young had erected a tension bridge on the Edinburgh to Hawick railway where it crossed the Hassendean Burn.
Arch bridges in iron are also discussed and these had the advantage of using significant cast iron sections which allowed for elaborate decoration, family crests being referred to in particular. An arched bridge was erected at Lennox Castle by Charles D Young & Co. It was noted that Charles D Young & Co had also erected several bridges on a number of West Indian Islands to the ‘perfect satisfaction of the Commissioners’.
In December 1855 Charles Young was forced to write into the Times to rebuke a claim that he had dumped ironwork in the Queens Park (Holyrood Park) adjacent to their works. He was at pains to point out that their iron bridge for Chelsea could not be installed due to the delays created by the groundworks contractor, and he had sought, and been granted permission to temporarily store the bridge here because he needed the room to complete the iron building for the Kensington Gore Museum.
The Chelsea Bridge was eventually delivered to site in 1856 and was not installed until 1858. It was designed by Thomas Page and comprised four 97-foot cast iron towers supporting chains, which in turn supported the weight of the deck. The bridge was 703 feet long with a central span of 333 feet and the roadway was 32 feet wide with a 7-foot-6-inch footpath on either side, making a total width of 47 feet. The four large lamps were set at the tops of the towers, and only lit when Queen Victoria was spending the night in London. The central span was inscribed with the date of construction and the words "Gloria Deo in Excelsis" ("Glory to God in the Highest”). On 31 March 1858 Queen Victoria, accompanied by two of her daughters and en route to the formal opening of Battersea Park, crossed the new bridge and declared it officially open, naming it the Victoria Bridge; it was opened to the public three days later, on 3 April 1858 but additional chains were added in 1861 due to concerns about its stability.
It was enthusiastically endorsed by the Illustrated London News in September 1858 ; “A fairy structure, with its beautiful towers, gilded and painted to resemble light coloured bronze, and crowned with globular lamps, diffusing light all around” It was eventually replaced in 1934-7 as its condition deteriorated and its Victorian styling grew criticism.
Their connection with Page was to prove successful as they were then involved in the creation of Westminster Bridge to his design, opening in 1862. The original construction contract was let to C.J. Mare of Millwall and work began in May 1854. However, in September 1855 Mare's business failed, delaying the work considerably. The work was taken on by Cochrane and Co of Dudley - it is not clear what part Young and Co played in the project.
The 1850 ‘Treatise’ contained a chapter on ‘a class of objects more purely ornamental’. Arches etc for gardens are mentioned before moving on to all sorts of applications in houses and churches and even graveyard furniture. As far as the domestic use of iron is concerned, the text did not attempt to enumerate all the wares available, but touched upon a few. As in all other aspects, individual items were dealt with in the catalogue which formed the second part of the book.
The method of heating mansions, churches, public buildings etc by means of hot water was discussed extolling the virtues of comfort ‘in safety of fire and complete freedom from dust and smoke’.
Distribution of water, gravity-fed or by means of rams was followed by domestic gas producing apparatus, and the text also stated that the example illustrated would produce surplus gas over and above what was required even for a large house. That surplus could be used to;
‘furnish neighbouring villages so as to afford a handsome return to the proprietor for his outlay’.
The 1850 ‘Treatise’ goes on:
‘The foreign trade of C D Young & Co is most extensive, and is conducted upon a principle which allows them to contract at much more advantageous terms for the parties employing them, than can be offered by any other firm….They (Charles D Young & Co) have established connexions with the first houses in Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Canton, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Quebec and Hamburg, beside having commercial relations with several extensive foreign houses in London and Liverpool.’
The next significant step in the evolution of Charles D Young & Co came about probably in 1851, when they entered into an agreement with Dredge and Stephenson, Civil Engineers, London, to do the manufacturing for taper suspension bridges.
James Dredge of Bath patented the taper (sometimes called double cantilever) principle for suspension bridges in 1836. Instead of the normal suspension bridge design, where the roadway support cables/rods hang vertically from the main suspension cable/chain, Dredge’s supporters were angled towards the main towers at either end of the bridge thereby transferring most of the load to these towers. In theory this meant that even if the bridge was split in the middle, the road would remain supported. Consequently the structure towards the centre of the bridge could be made much lighter thereby saving iron.
Charles D Young & Co published a pamphlet on the subject of ‘Dredge’s Patent Taper Suspension Bridges’. Typically there is no date on this paper but there are several testimonials to the efficacy of this type of bridge, remarkably 4 between 9 and 15 November 1850. In the paper Charles D Young & Co outlines the history of the suspension bridge and highlights some of the examples already built, including the first to Dredge’s principle in 1836 (this bridge still stands). Other Dredge bridges were completed in Scotland before Young’s involvement, at Balloch over the River Leven in 1841 at the behest of Sir James Colquhoun, Bart. It was 300ft long at a cost of £2,500, however this bridge was replaced in the 1890s. Others included Bridge of Oich (1850) and at Fort William (1849) for David Cameron of Lochiel, this was 240ft long. He was also commissioned to build an iron bridge of 162ft span across the Martha Brae River near Falmouth in Jamaica.
Charles D Young & Co were careful to point out that:
‘…in announcing to their employers and the public in general this arrangement with Messrs Dredge and Stephenson, would further explain that while the whole manufacturing department of these bridges is in their hands, the entire engineering, and the immediate superintendence of the erection of all such structures devolve upon Messrs Dredge and Stephenson.’
It is likely that any suspension bridges constructed to Dredge’s principle from 1851 onwards used components made by Charles D Young. Secondly, it is unlikely that any of these structures will carry Charles D Young & Co’s nameplates since they were not main contractors.
It is not known whether Charles D Young & Co’s relationship with Dredge and Stephenson survived his 1858 sequestration and subsequent move to Perth.
Charles D Young & Co’s involvement in larger-scale projects appears to have continued to expand through the 1850s. In 1857 or 1858 they published an important pamphlet Illustrations of Iron Structures for Home and Abroad, consisting of Stores, Dwelling-Houses, Markets, Arcades, Railway Stations, and Roofings constructed of Wrought and Cast Iron and Corrugated Sheets.
Charles D Young & Co are described as Engineers, Iron Founders, Contractors etc in this pamphlet, and the addresses given are: 19 Great George Street, London, and Britannia and St Leonards Iron Works, Edinburgh.
As ever, Charles D Young & Co are pro-active salesmen.
‘Few firms have had as much experience as Charles D Young & Co & Co in the construction of Iron Buildings. These they have supplied of all classes and dimensions, from the humblest cottage to Mansions of the greatest extent and most elegant design – from the small store-room to extensive ranges of ware-houses – and from the temporary Meeting and School-House to Churches capable of accommodating two or three thousand persons, with Galleries and Spires, and in very style of architecture. Their experience has been no less considerable in erections of a public character – such as Arcades, Market-Houses, Customs-Houses, Sheds for Stations, as also in Military Barracks and other accessory buildings: and in all these they have been largely employed by Home and Foreign Governments as well as by Public Companies and Mercantile firms in this country and abroad.’
‘The present pamphlet being merely a preliminary to a larger work on the subject, Charles D Young & Co & Co have, in the meantime, confined themselves to the brief descriptions which follow. The first six engravings show the commoner class of Iron Structures largely in demand for various quarters of the world, from their convenience, strength and economy: the others represent more costly, massive or elaborate design.’
‘Iron Structures’ is an interesting and informative work. It notes that Charles D Young & Co were favoured with large Government contracts for Military Purposes such as Barracks, Cooking-Houses, Stores, Stables etc and mentions in particular work at Aldershot and Colchester.
‘Camp at Aldershot – We understand Messrs C D Young & Co, of this city, yesterday received instructions from the Government to proceed instantly with the construction and erection of the iron buildings for the new Military encampment at Aldershot. Arrangements have accordingly been made by which ten of these structures will be completed and sent off every week, and that a staff of their workmen leave immediately for the camp to put them up.’
It seems likely that the 1854 Iron Church at Aldershot, later to be used by Haig and Queen Victoria was supplied by Young and Co - it survived until 1927. The firm also supplied iron kitchen buildings and general barracks.
The use of iron for Military hospitals had ‘of late attracted the attention of the Medical authorities of the army.’
The late Sir George Ballingall, Professor of Military Surgery at Edinburgh University, had praised iron hospitals for their ventilation, cleanliness and above all, their portability, ‘as the very essence of everything that is desirable in a Military Hospital’.
Two examples are illustrated, a simple double-bay structure for encampments, this has a curved convex roof, and a much larger two-storey structure with wings and a verandah all round. The latter could give accommodation to between 100 and 200 men and was suited to tropical climates.
Inspired by the success of the Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, further structures of its type were erected in the 1850s. Prince Albert’s interest in iron structures continued and he persuaded Parliament to vote £15,000 for a ‘temporary’ iron museum
Whilst the design of the building has been credited to Sir William Cubitt, as Charles wrote to the Times in April 1856, it was indeed his firm that both designed and constructed the building and that Cubitt was merely one of the Commissioners who had endorsed their design. The connection in reality was more simple - the London office of Charles D Young was in the same Great George Street building as Sir William Cubitt. Albert was keen enough to have the designs sent to him while attending the Paris Exhibition in 1855.
Courtesy of V&A
Charles D Young & Co were contracted by the Government to erect the Kensington Gore Museum to be;
‘…constructed of Corrugated Iron, supported by Iron Columns and Girders, upon a principle somewhat similar to the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park. That portion of the buildings now in the course of erection will cover rather more than an acre of ground and a sum of £15,000 was last year granted by Parliament for the purpose.’
Courtesy of V&A
Described by the Times in 1856 as a building ‘scarcely begun - the works look more like a preliminary scaffolding than a building nearing completion’ , then to advise it was actually just about to receive exhibits for display - a wry observation on the skeletal nature of an iron building perhaps.
Prince Albert was perhaps in too deep into the design - he chose the green and white striped colour scheme for the exterior and added a portico when the external corrugated iron shell started to be ridiculed - the Kensington Gore Museum was christened ‘the Brompton boilers’ thereafter.
It was subsequently mostly dismantled 1865-7 and then finally in 1899, re-erected in Bethnal Green as a museum in 1872. It housed collections from South Kensington until the 1970’s and is now a museum of childhood.
Charles D Young & Co had also been the contractors for the columns and other cast-iron work on the building for the Irish Industrial Exhibition of 1853, in Dublin.
Dublin Exhibition Building, 1853
Constructed in the grounds of Leinster House, it was the largest international event to be held in Ireland with the purpose of motivating industrial development in Ireland. It attracted just over one million visitors.
“Presenting a front to Merrion-square of 300 feet, the main or centre feature of elevation consists of a semicircular projection, which forms the Eastern termination of the Central Hall. This in a noble apartment of 425 feet in length, and 100 feet in height, covered by a semicircular roof trellis robs, in one span of 100 feet. On each side of the Centre upon trellis ribs, in one span of 100 feet. On each side of the Centre Hall, and running parallel to it for the same length, are two halls 50 feet wide, with domed roofs, similar to that which covers the main nave or hall of the building. The Height from the floor to the roof of each of these halls is 65 feet. They are approached through passages from the Centre Hall. In addition to these three halls are four compartments of 25 feet wide, running the whole length of the building; two are placed between the Centre Hall and the side halls, and two on each side of the latter; divided into sections of 25 feet square, forming convenient divisions for the purposes of classification.
Over these compartments are spacious galleries, also running the length of the building, which not only afford increased space for exhibition, but form an agreeable promenade from whence the effect of the three halls may be seen to greater advantage. The ceiling of the halls being divided into panels formed by the trellis ribs, and the other constructive parts of the building, has allowed ample opportunity for effective decoration. Light is admitted from above in one unbroken and equally distributed body. The construction of the building is strongly marked on the elevation, and forms in fact the ornamental character of the design. There are also external galleries which are attractive features. The materials of the building are iron, timber, and glass “.
Dublin Exhibition Catalogue, 1853
As well as providing the building components, the firm had a number of exhibits, including ;
“Exhibit 344 ; Lodge and entrance iron gates ; iron field gates, under their scheme for the reduction of the prices of iron manufactures ; simultaneous acting iron gates for railway
level crossings ; plain and ornamental iron and wire fencing ; hare and rabbit proof wire netting ; galvanised wire netting for Australian fencing ; galvanised netting for salmon fisheries; wrought and cast iron garden chairs and seats; new French iron and galvanised wire seats; pheasant feeder; plant guards; flower stands, vases, fountains, dial stands.
Exhibit 1351 ; Improved corn rick stands, under their scheme for the reduction of the price of iron manufactures ; premium iron field gates and posts, and Crosskill's clod crusher, both
under same scheme; premium hare and rabbit proof wire netting ; iron and wire fencing ; garden roller ; garden chairs ; new French iron and galvanised wilre seats; “
Dublin Exhibition Catalogue, 1853
It seems that the scale of the work and short timescale also led to them procuring castings from Richard Turner; Ironworks in Dublin.
Young also mentions in ‘Iron Structures’ that he has contracts for the Chelsea and Westminster bridges, two projects with problems which would contribute to his 1858 sequestration.
The first six engravings illustrate fairly mundane structures, mainly of corrugated iron with wrought frames and wrought or cast columns. Most of the roofs have a convex curve which would lend strength to the actual panels themselves enabling lighter supporting framework. One range of cottages actually has a concave roof curvature. Plate V illustrated a two-bay store ‘made in large numbers for Australia and South America’
The next 4 plates (Designs 10 to 16) are of much grander structures, houses, some with shops below, with cast iron fronts and are from the designs of Bell & Miller Co. These vary from one to three storeys and from single entities to ranges. Design 11 is an iron store and dwelling house with ornamental cast-iron front (the other walls are corrugated iron), constructed for Messrs Maccallum, Graham and Black of Glasgow, and sent to Australia. It would appear however that these designs were undertaken by Bell and Miller in Glasgow for Robertson and Lister and either used with permission or the designs ‘appropriated”
Design 14 is particularly interesting; it is, beyond doubt, Corio Villa, which survives in Geelong, Australia. Young commented:
‘The Villa, from which this is a drawing as actually erected, was made for the late Mr Gray, Colonial Land Commissioner at Geelong.’
It is now generally accepted this was not the work of CD Young.
Design 15 is a building that was erected for Messrs Miller and Dismorr in Collins Street, Melbourne. This pamphlet states that it was ‘the first building of its kind to be sent to Australia.’ It had been made in 1851. This is likely the work of Robertson and Lister in Glasgow.
All of these structures, with the exception of the most basic stores for non-perishables, would have been wood-lined and suitably ventilated.
Further illustrations include:
Two examples of iron churches with cast iron fronts and galleries
Three examples of arcade, bazaar or market-house and a railway station
Section drawings of five different roof designs, one convex curve.
There are two illustrations (one internal and one external) of the ‘Art Treasures of the United Kingdom’ exhibition building erected in Manchester in 1857. One of the Commissioners of the Crystal Palace was Sir Thomas Fairbairn, who was also Chair of the 1857 Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester. He was aware of the firm’s work at South Kensington and appointed Charles D Young to build the Manchester Exhibition building. He had some expertise being the son of the eminent Scottish Engineer Sir William Fairbairn, builder of iron ships, railway locomotives and the successor to lead his father’s firm.
A comprehensive description of this building is given of which this is part:
‘The Building for the Art Treasures Exhibition at Manchester was contracted for and designed by Messrs C D Young & Co, with the professional assistance of Mr William Dredge, C E, their engineer.’
The building is described basically as three gigantic tubes, the largest a central hall or nave, and a picture gallery each side. Further precise detail is given and the overall dimensions are impressive. The façade including wings was 450ft wide, the central hall 704ft long x 106ft wide and the side galleries each 432ft x 48ft:
‘To conclude these statistics, it may be stated that the building covers an area of 16,000 squ yds, or more than three acres, and is calculated to hold 40,000 visitors without inconvenience.’
Charles D Young & Co also built a railway station for the visitors to the exhibition, with platforms 800ft long of which 500ft was roofed over.
From their original design proposal they were asked to provide additional ornamentation. The contract was weighted towards prompt completion for the sum of £24,500.They had beaten Fox Henderson, contractors of the Great Exhibition building. Following additional work the value of the contract rose to £39,000. In total 650 tons of cast iron and 600 tons of wrought iron were used.
There is more information on the Kensington Gore Museum of Science and Art, under construction at the time. It was intended to house artefacts and other items from five different London establishments. If not quite on the scale of the Manchester building, it nevertheless covered 1.5 acres, exclusive of galleries and aisles. The heating would comprise 1.5 miles of 4 and 6 inch pipe, fed by boilers placed in underground vaults external to the building.
Iron Buildings ends with a short price list which includes bulk purchase of various gauges of Corrugated Iron which was more expensive if curved.
Under ‘Iron Castings’ they offered: Girders, Columns, Water Pipes and Gas Pipes, Railway and Engineers castings, Balusters for Gates and Railings, Stable fittings, Sugar Pans and Iron Troughs of every description.
Professor Miles Lewis of Melbourne University and other academics have explored the attribution of iron buildings sent to Australia in the early to mid 1850s, especially those by Charles D Young & Co and Robertson & Lister, and in particular Corio Villa.
Lewis comments :
‘Australia received not only the system-built corrugated iron buildings of the major English manufacturers, but also a few more substantial cast-iron structures in the older tradition of iron prefabrication. All of these more impressive works originated in Glasgow, and most of them from the one firm of Robertson and Lister. This business seems to have been taken over by, or merged with, CD Young & Co, which has caused endless confusion.’
Davis remarks that;
‘the reporter for McPhun, in 1853, described a magnificent display of iron structures at Robertson & Listers, but that he had visited the factory of Young, Peddie & Co of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and had seen many beautiful designs for iron structures.’
Miles Lewis also remarked on a possible tie-up takeover concerning Robertson & Lister and Charles D Young & Co but no evidence for this has been found. However, a possible scenario may be postulated.
Robertson & Lister were sequestrated on 26 February 1855. The sequestration was in response to a petition from C I Malloch, glass merchants, Glasgow, who were owed £600. Upon investigation Robertson & Lister’s nett debts were found to be £10,381/19/10d. At the first meeting of creditors (12 March 1855) George Robertson and Alexander Lister were afforded protection against imprisonment.
However, by 16 April 1855, Lister is in Glasgow’s North Prison at the behest of his creditors. Lister was discharged on 19 August 1856, but it is not clear whether this was from prison or from his debts.
It could be that both were back in business before too long but not as a team, and whether their output included iron buildings is a moot point.
Bell and Miller
Charles D Young may have come to some agreement with Robertson and Lister to take over their type of work but it seems unlikely. However in Iron Structures, Young clearly identifies Bell and Miller as architects (actually engineers) of many of they designs they offered. Bell and Miller were also Robertson and Lister’s designers and they may simply have used both companies on an availability basis up to the sequestration of Robertson & Lister in early 1855. They are recorded in the Post Office Directory from 1853 to 1855 as iron house builders. However, given his other business practices, it would not have been beyond Charles D Young to indulge in opportunism and grab the share of the market left by Robertson & Lister’s demise, and he would not have hesitated to use their past history to advertise his own wares. For example, when his co-partnery with his brother William ended in 1847, he carried on using projects from that period to advertise himself. Again, when he published his pamphlet on the Dredge system of suspension bridges, he used historical material without qualifying that he had not actually done the work.
It would seem most likely that CD Young supplied Corrio Villa to original designs by Robertson and Lister either with consent, or through opportunism on their demise.
His later catalogues list:
‘Machinery, Implements, Tools, Manufactured articles, Raw materials etc, employed in Railways, Mines, Iron Architecture, Bridges, Piers, Breakwaters; Flour, Oil, Saw Mills; Distilleries, Gas Works, Brick and Tile Works; Agriculture, Horticulture and other Misc Manufactures etc, etc, for Scientific and practical purposes in South America and other countries.’
Also included is a panoramic view of the suspension pier at Valparaiso and one mentions text in English and Spanish.
Assessing Charles D Young’s range of products is more difficult once he moves to Perth c.1859. The Perth company history is quite well documented, mainly through the reported proceedings of his three sequestrations there.
In the report on his 1862 bankruptcy, Charles D Young & Co is described as an iron founder, engineer and contractor. During investigation he remarked;
‘I had a very valuable connection abroad, and on that I started in Perth.’
Given that he was already exporting a wide range of goods according to his last Edinburgh catalogues of c.1858, it is reasonable to assume that he took up with at least some of his former customers once he started up in Perth. Whether or not he ever got back into the market for iron buildings is not known, but the production of engines appears to have become a major product, something that was not mentioned specifically in his Edinburgh days.
Real or imagined - manufactured or aspirational ?
C D Young set out to provide a complete package, and like every article sold by the firm the gushing logic of purchasing their product was laid on thick - in the case of their paint - quite literally. They advertised their own paint for ironwork, with pigments ground in an oil base and with a genuine lead base to a thick consistency. They then supplied their own oil so the user could mix the paint on site. They warned buyers to be aware of other products designed to look theirs but rather than a lead base they have “adulterated” their paint with sulphate of barytes - “totally worthless and deficient in body” - the risk taken is that paint - particularly green sees will quickly fade ! As well as stock colours for ornamental work they also supplied a patented ‘metallic paint’ of which little is described except to say it is used for all plain work and by “all the major rail companies”.
A volume discovered in 2023 seems to comprise all the woodcut blocks used by the firm over time - it looks to have been a singular bound copy - even perhaps for Charles himself. Illustrations for known CD Young catalogues are shown as well as much more in the way of engineering products - pumps, stationary and portable engines. Also in this volume is the only known image of Charles D Young.
Regardless of his flexibility in attribution, his accounting approaches and his over zealous nature as a salesman, Charles D Young on his own, and in partnership with his brothers and others were certainly early pioneers in the use of iron in architecture and pre-fabricated iron construction and deserve credit as pioneers for those that came after them. That he died in relative poverty is somewhat unfortunate given his wide ranging contribution, his long suffering wife must have been of saint like character.
Development and relationships between the Denoon Young family and firms
This work is copyright of the author and may not be reproduced without permission except for personal or academic research with appropriate acknowledgement.