Ewart, Peter

Ewart, Peter
b. 14 May 1767 Traquair, near Peebles, Scotland
d. September 1842 London, England
Scottish pioneer in the mechanization of the textile industry.
Peter Ewart, the youngest of six sons, was born at Traquair manse, where his father was a clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He was educated at the Free School, Dumfries, and in 1782 spent a year at Edinburgh University. He followed this with an apprenticeship under John Rennie at Musselburgh before moving south in 1785 to help Rennie erect the Albion corn mill in London. This brought him into contact with Boulton \& Watt, and in 1788 he went to Birmingham to erect a waterwheel and other machinery in the Soho Manufactory. In 1789 he was sent to Manchester to install a steam engine for Peter Drinkwater and thus his long connection with the city began. In 1790 Ewart took up residence in Manchester as Boulton \& Watt's representative. Amongst other engines, he installed one for Samuel Oldknow at Stockport. In 1792 he became a partner with Oldknow in his cotton-spinning business, but because of financial difficulties he moved back to Birmingham in 1795 to help erect the machines in the new Soho Foundry. He was soon back in Manchester in partnership with Samuel Greg at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, where he was responsible for developing the water power, installing a steam engine, and being concerned with the spinning machinery and, later, gas lighting at Greg's other mills.
In 1798, Ewart devised an automatic expansion-gear for steam engines, but steam pressures at the time were too low for such a device to be effective. His grasp of the theory of steam power is shown by his paper to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1808, On the Measure of Moving Force. In 1813 he patented a power loom to be worked by the pressure of steam or compressed air. In 1824 Charles Babbage consulted him about automatic looms. His interest in textiles continued until at least 1833, when he obtained a patent for a self-acting spinning mule, which was, however, outclassed by the more successful one invented by Richard Roberts. Ewart gave much help and advice to others. The development of the machine tools at Boulton \& Watt's Soho Foundry has been mentioned already. He also helped James Watt with his machine for copying sculptures. While he continued to run his own textile mill, Ewart was also in partnership with Charles Macintosh, the pioneer of rubber-coated cloth. He was involved with William Fairbairn concerning steam engines for the boats that Fairbairn was building in Manchester, and it was through Ewart that Eaton Hodgkinson was introduced to Fairbairn and so made the tests and calculations for the tubes for the Britannia Railway Bridge across the Menai Straits. Ewart was involved with the launching of the Liverpool \& Manchester Railway as he was a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce at the time.
In 1835 he uprooted himself from Manchester and became the first Chief Engineer for the Royal Navy, assuming responsibility for the steamboats, which by 1837 numbered 227 in service. He set up repair facilities and planned workshops for overhauling engines at Woolwich Dockyard, the first establishment of its type. It was here that he was killed in an accident when a chain broke while he was supervising the lifting of a large boiler. Engineering was Ewart's life, and it is possible to give only a brief account of his varied interests and connections here.
Further Reading
Obituary, 1843, "Institution of Civil Engineers", Annual General Meeting, January. Obituary, 1843, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society Memoirs (NS) 7. R.L.Hills, 1987–8, "Peter Ewart, 1767–1843", Manchester Literary and Philosophical
Society Memoirs 127.
M.B.Rose, 1986, The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm, 1750–1914, Cambridge (covers E wart's involvement with Samuel Greg).
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester; R.L.Hills, 1989, Power
from Steam, Cambridge (both look at Ewart's involvement with textiles and steam engines).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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