Upper Windrush Local History Society
    North Cotswolds

Stone Pipe Company

For many years the general body of proprietors of the Waterworks Company and the town of Manchester and its inhabitants were, by clever trick and management, given over to the tender mercies of a small body of men, who were the owners of a quarry of oolitic sandstone in the West of England, from which they manufactured stone pipes, trading under the name of the "Stone-pipe Company."
                    - History and Description of the Manchester Waterworks 1884

    The Stone Pipe Company (1806-15) was a Georgian enterprise established by Sir George Wright, Baronet, based on a patent granted to him in 1805 to cut stone or other materials into tubes, columns or on a curve. It enabled mechanised production of industrial quantities of stone pipe in usable lengths, aiming to compete with the existing wooden and iron pipe infrastructure on the basis of price and water quality, cheaper and cleaner.

    Works were established at Charles St (now approximately Drummond St) just of the Hampstead Rd, London. Stone pipes were available commercially and advertised to the public " for use in water works, cisterns, drains, building columns, chimney tops, flues and sewers". However during the companies heyday it was based along with its quarries, mill and workshops at Foxhill, Guiting Power in the North Cotswolds, where the honey coloured limestone is still quarried. The Charles St site comprising 5 adjacent lots along with a 7 h.p steam engine was sold in May 1810 with the London office relocating to the companies wharf at Paddington.

    The Stone Pipe Company was a partnership comprising:
Sir George Wright, baronet (pictured, died in December 1809)
Henry Wright, solicitor
Samuel and Richard Hill, brothers, business men and wine merchants in London
William and his son George Boulton Mainwaring, MPs, barristers and bankers

Others with involvement and investment: John Rennie: Chief Engineer, famous for canals, waterways, bridges, ports and the Bell Rock Lighthouse. James Watt: inventor and mechanical engineer, noted for his involvement with steam engine technology, William Murdoch (Scotsman, in England often referred to as Murdock): inventor of the sun and planet gearing for steam engines, gas lighting, employee then partner at Boulton & Watt.

    At the time the common forms for collective enterprise were a corporation or partnership. After the the South Sea Bubble (1720) stock market collapse changes to the law required an Act of parliament to form a corporation (chartered joint stock company) which allowed the raising of capital by issuing stock with limited liability. Parliament and the Crown refused most petitions for incorporation and the act remained in force till 1844. In contrast, partnerships could be formed by simple agreement and were freely available however they required borrowing or private investment to raise capital with no indemnity. A third legal form, the unincorporated joint stock company, used the basic partnership supplemented by trust law to create an organisation with legal features that could support transferable equity without incorporation. All three types of arrangement are part of this story, with the restrictions of a partnership in the raising of capital a probable cause for the Company's later problems, with an endless search for cash flow and capital.

     Wright also established a Dublin company in 1806, the Circular Stone Manufacturers at North Strand appointing George Papworth, who became an architect of some note as manager. Here the patent using local stone produced "stone-tubes for pipes and other purposes". By all accounts this was a more successful enterprise with stone pipes being preferred to the existing wooden ones till iron superceded. The Dublin company was sold in 1812, some of the stone pipes in Dublin continued in use well into the 20th Century.

The Dublin company is mentioned in "The Gentlemans and builders assistant" by Richard Elsam. A pricing list advertises “Sir George Wright’s patent machine for cutting circular stone, available from "Wright, Hill & Co" in Dublin, and Parker’s Patent Cement” (Parkers Patent cement is the "Roman" jointing compound later used to join the pipes in Hill's patent).


    The works at Foxhill were about 500 meters below the old quarry near the turn off to Guiting Power. The earthen platform where the Engine house with two 14hp Boulton Watt rotative beam engines and plant stood is still visible and some of the cottages remain.

Gears B&W rotative beam engine (Whitbread) Powerhouse Museum The original order for a 30hp engine was amended to two 14hp units with optional cast iron beams and a variety of accessories. The reason for the change in the order is not clear, it may have been to facilitate transport to the site or to provide system flexibility and redundancy. It would have been an expensive change, increasing the up front unit cost, requiring extra boilers and a larger engine house. Along with the options specified an indication that costs were not a factor in the establishment of the works and the partners were confident of success. The engines were 20.75" cylinders with a 4' stroke and a 15' fly wheel, double acting with cast iron sprung beams. They were based on a flexible design and custom made to order. They were delivered in parts, assembly was not part of the purchase and left to the customer to organise. With the demise of the Company they were privately sold, one went to the Stroud area the other is uncertain.

The boring process was an evolution based on a patent first registered by John Tuite in 1734. John Elwick purchased the patent in 1743 and spent a considerable sum of money on the process obtaining an Act of Parliament to expand the patent for a further 14 years. In 1805 the process was revived under patent by Sir George Wright and used in London at Charles St. and for the initial production at Guiting Power.

    George Wright's business model mirrored that of his father James Wright who had established an artificial slate company producing roof tiles, facades and down pipes. The process was based on a patent (# 1185) purchased from Henry Cooke using linseed oil and further refined by Wright's experience in Italy. He built a factory on his Rayhouse estate at Ray Park, Woodford Bridge Essex in 1787. Finding a market for the roof slates locally was a problem due to building restrictions on flammable materials in London. The main market was established in the West Indies where James had interests from his marriage. After his fathers death in 1804 George maintained the Slate Company advertising the products of both businesses while at Charles St.

    The Stone Pipe Company commissioned William Murdoch to improve the original process looking to reduce breakage, increase efficiency and conformity. He was a noted engineer and inventor and had developed a patent process for drilling wooden pipes of which his stone patent was a refinement. The new process patent was published in January 1810. There appears to have been settling in issues, in September 1810 John Rennie wrote to request that Murdoch come to Guiting to look at problems with the machinery.

A pawl and other unidentified metalwork finds from the site.

    The works at Foxhill were a pioneering success, implementing industrial scale production processes, harnessing the flexibility provided by steam and implementing new technology. George Wright went to great lengths and expense purchasing the site under writing the infrastructure and scaling up the Charles St process. His death in December 1809 was very significant in the direction of the company. Besides his immense wealth, of the partners he was the one with an engineering background and practical experience with production and logistics. It meant the loss of the investment and capital backing that had under pinned the Company along with his managerial expertise, drive and contacts. The remaining partners are reported at the time as projectors seeming to be more speculators, they pop up in similar schemes and investment vehicles. The law at the time didn't allow for the changing of this type of partnership precluding the addition of a new partner.

    They remained optimistic continuing to pursue new methods and engaging the latest expert advice, Samuel Hill took responsibility for the production side of the company at Guiting Power and pressed ahead implementing the Murdoch patent at the works. However dubious commercial and management practices now came to the fore coupled with cash flow problems which would now be firmly set against the Mainwaring's bank with no base capitalisation. Late payment for the steam engines, local tradesman and other bills quickly became the norm.

PDF linkAn eyewitness description of the process at Fox Hill

George Wright Patent William Murdoch Patent
George Wright patent has pen drawings, recommend Adobe Acrobat reader if your software won't display them


George Wright's stone cutting sketches.
Courtesy - The Metropolitan Museum of Art. - click for larger image

A further Patent No. 3355 "joining pipes with a collar of stone" was issued on 3rd July 1810 to Samuel Hill.

The base of the cores, seen about the area clearly show the different patent processes. They were manufactured with various diameters, a price list for supply to Manchester had pipes with bores ranging from 18" (priced at 45s/yard) to 3" (priced at 4s 11d/yard).


Wright's patent with a centre hole for the long bolt (red) and smaller one for the long thin saw blade (blue).


Murdoch's patent using a trepanning blade with a square socket cut to accept a wooden male plug at the base of the spindle.


For a more on the Company including particular local researchrelating to the works:

Guiting Power and the Industrial Revolution

    Till the late 18th century water supply in built up areas comprised distribution to surface wells, public stand pipes and a limited piped supply. The advent of steam allowed pumping to elevated reservoirs allowing distribution at an increased pressure. This enabled supply to the upper floors of private dwellings and catered for the explosion in industrial use. The rapid development and demand for water required massive public and private investment, involving both land and capital with potentially huge returns.

Water was piped either in wooden (usually elm) or iron pipes.Elm water pipe Wooden pipes had a short life span and restricted capacity, iron pipes often stained the water and were initially expensive. In Oxford St seven wooden mains laid abreast were eventually replaced by a single iron main, significantly reducing pavement disruption which had become a major issue with the regular need for repairs. The first cast iron main had been laid by the Chelsea water company in 1746. It was an expensive up front cost but saved on maintenance. By 1810 the price of iron pipes had reduced by 30% and by 1816 70%.

     In 1806 a number of companies including the New River and London Bridge tested the pipes, then made from Portland stone. The New River engineer who conducted the test, William Mylne stating "they are the best conveyances for water, stone being undoubtedly the purest cheapest and most durable of all materials". It is likely that these two well attended public tests, widely reported in a number of London papers, using Portland stone under pressure led the likes of John Rennie to happily endorse the efficacy of the stone pipes. The engineers at the time would have been well aware of the stone pipes used by the Romans in some of the siphon systems in their aqueducts that could operate at over 170 column feet of pressure.

    The newly established West Middlesex Water Works Company also trialled stone pipes from 2" to 12" and despite issues with leaks and seepage advertised "a conveyance by means of which the water will be purified, and entirely free from the unpleasant taste which it is apt to acquire by passing through wood and iron" distributing handbills in the Hamersmith and Brentford area extolling the claimed virtues and benefits. The order was placed with Samuel Hill in September 1807 however by the end of the year the Stone Pipe Company had failed to deliver the contracted 4.5 miles and iron pipes were substituted. The principal difficulty was sourcing suitable stone. Portland stone then in use came from mines and quarries on the Crown Estate, supply ceased when George III placed restrictions on non architectural use. It's not clear what led the partners to Guiting Power. Possibly the association and contacts from George Wrights mother who had inherited property and land in Cheltenham. Or perhaps James Watt who was acquainted with George Wright. Both he and Matthew Boulton spent considerable time in the Spa town taking the waters and touring the countryside. However they stumbled on it, Guiting Powers oolitic limestone was to be their solution to the raw material supply problem.

    The remaining issue was finding an outlet for their product. After the attempts to secure contracts with existing companies failed a new approach, to establish or control water companies with secured monopolies and access to capital was instigated in Manchester and London.

     Manchester was experiencing a quantum increase in demand for water, a result industrialisation (textile production) and urbanisation. In 1800 to address the problem the lord of the manor, Sir Oswald Mosley, built a pumping station at Holt Town to raise water from the River Medlock and distribute it to storage ponds in elevated parts of the city. This proved inadequate and the need for proper water distribution led to a clamour for change. 

     In 1808 the Stone Pipe Company and a consortium led by Ralph Dodd put forward separate schemes to parliament for incorporation, both drawing water from the Irk or Medlock for the supply of water to the Manchester and Salford area. Mill owners were bitterly opposed to the scheme proposed by Dodd and it was soon abandoned by its backers. Pivotal for the Stone Pipe Company, to preclude competition, was an agreement with Sir Oswald Moseley (Baronet) Lord of the Manor (Manchester) to lease his monopoly on the water supply for £624.10s/annum and for a further consideration (the amount to be arbitrated independently) sell or lease them his existing infrastructure. At the time the inhabitants of Manchester were in the process of negotiating the purchase of the Manor from Sir Oswald,\ from which the water supply infrastructure and rights were specifically excluded.

In Manchester a public meeting was called in November 1808 to consider the water supply proposals resolving to establish a committee to consider the issues. In Feb 1809 a report was tabled...

"Your committee are also of opinion that the supply of the town of Manchester with water ought to be under the direction of its own inhabitants, and that it would be contrary to sound policy to entrust the furnishing and control of this important article of food and cleanliness, on which the health and comfort of the inhabitants depend, to persons whose sole object will be the promotion of their own private interest, and who are induced to undertaking from no other motive."- James Bateman, Chairman

    The meeting resolved to oppose the plan, with funding for an alternative to the tune of £1760 whereby the town's water supply would be be organised as a public service under the joint management of the churchwardens and overseers , the Police Commissioners and the surveyors of highways drawing water from the river Irwell. The police with responsibility for fire-fighting in the city were the major funders. The House of Lords committee, however, was not convinced by the public control argument. A request to have Mosley's contract with "the gentlemen of the pipe company" presented as evidence was refused. The public opposition was left floundering, when Sir Oswald Mosley threatened legal action, the police commissioners withdrew their funding and the opposition collapsed.

    In June 1809 "The Manchester and Salford Water Works Company" was incorporated as a joint stock company with a share issue of £60,000 and a right to mortgage of £50,000. "The first general assembly under the act was held on Wednesday, the 12th July, 1809, at the Royal Oak, in Manchester, at which the whole of the members of the stone pipe company contrived to get appointed officers for executing the act....At this meeting, Sir George Wright, Samuel Hill and Richard Hill and also George Bolton Mainwaring, were appointed directors and William Mainwaring was appointed treasurer, and Henry Wright solicitor of the company and the other directors were the relatives and friends of the Stone Pipe Company." A resolution was passed that allowed the directors to draw on the capital as needed. All further board meetings whilst under the control of the partners were held in London At the next meeting in January 1810 Henry Wright was appointed as Chief Clerk and contrived to take "care and custody" of the companies common seal. The seal signified that the document was the act and deed of the company, and required at the time for the sealing of stocks and bonds. The meeting went on to approve the purchase from the Stone Pipe Company "of all the rights and property" they held in the Manchester & Salford area. Mainwaring had already paid £4500 to "his and his said partners" in consideration for the agreements with Sir Oswald Moseley, when on the 5th July 1810, as a consequence of the meeting, a further payment of £14000 to the Stone Pipe Company, for the same rights was authorised.

According to the records Moseley considered the rental payment (all made by the Waterworks) covered both the infrastructure and the water rights, not surprisingly he received nothing from the lump sum payments.

    From 1809 to 1851 the Manchester and Salford Water Works Company became the sole supplier of water to the city of Manchester. Orders for 15 miles of main and 45 miles of service pipe were placed with the Stone Pipe Company. Followed in 1812 with an additional order for 10 miles of service pipe.

    The quarries and mill were established at Fox Hill near Guiting Power in 1809 to produce the pipes with the new production process using the local Guiting Oolitic limestone. Soon up to 30 tons of pipes were leaving the works each day along the poorly maintained turnpike roads, mainly to Gloucester docks.

The hexagonal cut outer, butt joined with the patent "Roman" cemented external collar, from Manchester.
- image from Science Museum Group Collection.


    In London the Stone Pipe Company had provided a small quantity of pipe to the East London and West Middlesex Companies and others for evaluation however they didn't lead to orders forcing the directors to look elsewhere.

    In 1798 the Grand Junction Canal Company had secured the rights to supply water from their canal to the Paddington area. These rights were not immediately taken up despite the company receiving a number of offers as high as £22,000 for them over the next decade. In 1810 the rights were leased to Samuel Hill, a proprietor of the Grand Junction Canal Company as well as a partner of the Stone Pipe Company.

The Canal Basin on the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington. The Company built  a wharf on the north side just outside the Basin known at the time as the Stone Pipe Wharf, in the vicinity of what's now known as "Stone Wharf". The Grand Junction Water Works was just south of the Basin at Grand Junction Street now known as Sussex Gardens. 

"The Grand Junction Canal Company shall grant to Samuel Hill et al to do all acts to make such reservoirs and lay mains and pipes and other works and to use such Waterworks and Aqueducts of the said Company as shall be necessary to enable the grantees Samuel Hill et al to supply with water to all or any of the Parishes and streets which the said Company of Proprietors of the Grand Junction Canal are authorised to supply and that it shall be lawful for the grantees to apply to Parliament to form a company for carrying on the waterworks". - Grand Junction Canal Company.

    In 1810 parliament amended the rights to allow the raising of capital and enable their practical functioning, again specifically assigned to "Samuel Hill et al". There were objections to the quantity of water that would need to be taken from the river Colne which delayed incorporation of the Grand Junction Water Works Company until 1811, with some protective clauses added to address the concerns. The Act allowed an initial capital raise of £150000 in a £50 share issue (further increased in 1813 to £300000 though only £240000 was issued). Samuel Hill was appointed the founding chairman, Richard Hill the company secretary with others from the Stone Pipe Company on the board. John Rennie was retained as the consulting engineer and Mainwaring, Son, Chatteris bank served all three companies. In July 1811 prior to completion of the Paddington reservoirs and pumping stations an order for 41 miles of stone pipe was placed with the Stone Pipe Company. The directors considering it as:

"a measure of expediency on behalf of this Company and of justice to the Stone Pipe Company if this Undertaking should be extended as far and as rapidly as may be hoped for, so as to require an extension of the present Contract before it may be complete"  - Grand Junction Waterworks Company 5 July 1811

    The Marylebone Select Vestry (parish representatives) raised concerns about damage to the streets from failures and leaks as early as September 1811 but were rebuffed by the company. Water started flowing from the Paddington reservoir in June by which time about 4 miles of pipes had been laid from the Oxford St main as far as New Bond St. The stone pipes suffered leaks and failures from the outset. In July 1812 after a report from Rennie, the Directors resolved that "the use of Stone Pipes for Mains cannot be continued with", and a week later Rennie reported that "from the trials already made he has great doubts of the effectual and lasting use of Stone Service Pipes" steel pipes were substituted. However the board decided further investigation as to the feasibility was warranted and it wasn't until 1813 that an in principle decision to abandon the use of stone pipes was made.

1820 map of London.  Showing Charles St, the Grand Junction Water Works and the Canal Basin.
Pipes were laid from the Reservoir as far as New Bond St.
Click for the full size image. 

    There followed a long dispute which ended with 8 of the Grand Junction Water Works proprietors forced to resign, including 5 board members who were either partners or considered "particular friends" of the Stone Pipe Company. A further 20 of the 60 proprietors left the company. The Stone Pipe Company surrendered Grand Junction shares to the value of £22,000, only two thirds of the actual £33,000 spent on stone pipes. The Stone Pipe Company argued that as the price of iron pipes had fallen since the initial purchase of the stone pipes the restitution should be discounted and this was accepted as part of the resolution. To end the impasse and allow the company to move on the dispute was settled. The Grand Junction Water Works advertised widely that the differences between the companies had been "amicably adjusted......and that all shares in which the compensation for damages had been sold"  - Morning Chronicle 31st December 1813. The partners ensuring that any possible liability issues had been addressed prior to relinquishing control of the Company.   

At a parliamentary inquiry the following evidence was given, "..and that the stone pipe company had incurred very heavy expenses; under these circumstances they did consider that it was very fair to allow the stone pipe company this difference in the account" this was further queried and "About the time that we were contracting for the stone pipes, iron was from £12.10s. to £13 a ton; when we actually made our contracts for them, they were from about £9.15s.to £10 a ton.........and therefore the directors considered that they had got a fair sum." - House of Commons SC (1821), Supply of Water to the Metropolis

     At Foxhill transport of the pipes became an issue with the only access to the quarry being by road. Up to 30 tons of pipe were produced daily with the majority sent by horse and cart on the turnpike to Gloucester via Cheltenham or from 1811 on the "Tramway". A typical heavy cart carried about 4 tons and the steel hooped wheels easily damaged the road surface. In 1809, the Postmaster General temporarily withdrew mail coaches from the Cheltenham to Gloucester turnpike due to its poor state of repair.

    The Stone Pipe Company first proposed building a canal at an estimated cost of £470,000 to ship out the pipes and bring in the coal. The 60 mile "Central Junction Canal" would link the Avon near Stratford to the Thames at Abingdon. It was surveyed under the supervision of John Rennie the route roughly following the course of the Windrush, Dikler, Knee Brook and Stour with a spur at Bourton to follow the Windrush and connect to the Companies works at Guiting Power. However opposition from the Grand Junction Canal (the same as involved with the London pipes) and the Warwick & Napton companies looking to minimise competition blocked the proposal from being put forward to parliament.

Notice of Intent "Central Junction Canal"

    The local condition of the roads remained a problem. In 1811, the Postmaster General had written to the trustees of the new turnpike road between Staverton and Cheltenham again threatening to withdraw the service or take legal action to enforce the road's repair.

With the demise of the canal a new scheme "The Cheltenham & Cotswold Hills Railway", to build a tram-road linking to the newly opened Gloucester & Cheltenham Railway at Leckhampton was put forward in September 1811.

.." to obviate so great a public injury the Guiting Stone Company have made a proposition to continue the railway from the side of Leckhampton Hill to their Quarry; and have liberally agreed to subscribe a considerable sum, representing at the same time that it would be of great public utility, in as much as the Cotswold Hills would be supplied with coal at a considerably reduced price." - Cheltenham Chronicle

It was welcomed by most parties and progressed through parliament. However land owners in Charlton Kings successfully petitioned to block the proposal at its 3rd parliamentary reading in May 1812.

House of Commons Petitions

Tram-roads and Turnpikes

    The inherent problem was the friable and porous oolitic limestone and the butt joins with a stone collar and Roman (Parker’s) compound, being unable to stand a water pressure of greater than 40' (just over an atmosphere) leaking and fracturing under the streets. Guiting limestone has a density of 1832kg/m3, water absorption of 11.8% and porosity of 32.01% by comparison the previously used Portland limestone density of 2376kg/m3, water absorption of 4.7% and porosity of 18.4%.

The Yellow Guiting oolitic limestone was well suited to the production process as it was easily cut and shaped. Quarrying produced naturally fractured blocks in large beds of stone that was soft and easy to work. However not taken into account was the inherent weakness and porosity. Some pipes were laid in Gloucester and Tewkesbury as a trial prior to use, at least in Manchester, however the subsequent inquiry in Manchester found no record of any test. By June 1812 sections of pipe in London had failed (prior to the connection in Manchester) and iron pipes were substituted.

    The pipes in Manchester were initially laid in parallel streets with no cross connections. Samuel and Richard Hill partners at the Stone Pipe Company personally supervised the laying and covering of the pipes to ensure the contracted delivery and payments were made prior to cross connection. Once connected in mid July there were, as in London regular failures.

    ..."There are many circumstances which convince us that the Stone Pipe Company, at the time they executed the agreement with the Waterworks Company, were aware that the stone pipes (which were bored out of blocks
of soft rotten stone) would not bear any pressure of water, and would prove unserviceable; and, for the purpose of preventing the discovery of these circumstances, Mr. Samuel Hill, being a director in the Manchester and Salford Waterworks Company, proposed to superintend the laying down the pipes in the Manchester streets himself, and his proposal was, as a matter of course, accepted by his brother directors ; and in May, 1810, he proceeded with full power to Manchester for that purpose.".."The stone pipes were laid in the streets of Manchester as soon as delivered there, under the immediate superintendence of the said Samuel Hill, and his brother, Richard Hill (another of the directors of the Waterworks Company) ; and they so contrived to lay the pipes in the different streets, and placed apart from each other, that no trial of them could be made with the water in the reservoir until long after the Stone-pipe Company had obtained payment of the following sums from the Waterworks Company, viz." [in all, £36,984.] ....... It was the 10th or 11th July, 1812, that the subengineer, Mr. Freemantle, turned some water into a part of the 18-inch stone-pipe main, laid down near the reservoir, and the main burst, although a little pressure had been laid on it.
" - Water for Manchester

    Eventually iron pipes were substituted for the mains but stone service pipes were retained in low pressure areas. At a General Meeting on the 15th of September it was resolved that no further pipes be sent to Manchester. The directors however ignored the resolution. The company engineer was asked to furnish an exact account of "deficient or burst pipes" which, as they were buried, was impossible.

The pipes continued to be laid and immediately buried in the streets but not connected to the supply until the Waterworks were £50000 in debt.

...." in laying down stone pipes in the streets without joining them, and in a short time he had put the whole of them out of sight. There were a great many pipes, however, which were so very bad, that the Stone-pipe Company (a short time previously to the next general meeting of the Waterworks Company) had a large pit excavated in Beswick, and these bad pipes (all of which were included in the above-mentioned invoices) thrown into it and covered up, to prevent their being seen by the proprietors, who were about to assemble" - Water for Manchester

    Finally at a Special General Meeting of the Water Works called in London, advertised only "to consider the general state of the company and other special matters" in December 1814 the bonds that had secured the pipes were ratified and sealed. This effectively paid out the Stone Pipe Company and the partners ended their involvement with the Manchester and Salford Water Works. It was resolved that a mutual release be given to both parties and the contracts terminated. The details are reported in Hill v The Manchester and Salford Water-works company - 1833 a case bought by Hill (and others) to force payment on a number of bonds. The defence claimed a number of arguments including that the dealings were fraudulent, "in their capacity as managers of the Stone Pipe Company and Directors of the Manchester and Salford Water-works Company, contrived to throw the losses of the former company on the later without notice or consent" this relating to the way the Special Meeting was called and breach of the Bubble Act. The Jury found there was no fraud and ruled for Hill.

    It took till 1821 for the Waterworks to stabilise the company, pay who they considered their their bona fide creditors and replace the pipes. They were forced to raise further capital with borrowings and a share issue, requiring further Acts of Parliament in 1813, 1816 and 1821. The Waterworks company documents held by the Stone Pipe Company partners weren't returned until 1817. Between 1809 and 1823 the Waterworks lost £228,000 and in that time no dividends were paid.

  Extracts from the History of the Water Supply to Manchester by JFT Bateman.
Part 1 is the first chapter which describes the expansion of the water supply and the issues of privatised public infrastructure
. Part 1: History
Part 2 is from the appendix including an article from the Manchester Guardian; Old Manchester - its water supply and Water for Manchester - under the Stone Pipe Company and the Waterworks Company
Part 2: Appendices

    The Stone Pipe Company partners exercised a vice like grip on the boards of both Water companies, ensuring agreements were in place that addressed any liability issues prior to surrendering control of the companies. There was however the debt from the ongoing day to day costs and capital expenditure which was drawn against the Mainwaring Son and Chatteris Bank. The bank which was used by the Mainwarings and the corrupt clique for a variety of public accounts was forced into bankruptcy on the 19 November 1814. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Mainwarings corrupt connections allowed them to retain their public offices.

Foxhill sale image In July 1817 the Foxhill Quarries with all the associated plant and buildings were sold by auction in three lots at the Plough Inn in Cheltenham..

"consisting of a neat stone built and slated Cottage Residence, in the Gothic style, containing every requisite accommodation for a genteel family , seated on a lawn, sloping to a running stream, and screened by thriving plantations, seven cottages, blacksmiths' shops, extensive stabling, sheds, granaries, and other buildings; the Quarries have been worked at an unlimited expense, and they abound with stone of excellent quality and size, which , including the land , site of house, &c.contains altogether about 104 acres,
Early possession may be had, and the purchaser may have the option of taking the two Steam engines, with all the machinery, cranes,, &c, and also the buildings in which they are now are, at a fair valuation, or they will be sold by Auction."

Widely advertised in a number of papers from London to Manchester
Following the auction the payment to the creditors of the bank was increased by 1s6d  in the pound.
Click for the full size image. 

   There was however one last desperate and fraudulent attempt to raise funds. Shortly before September 1814 George Boulton Mainwaring, Samuel Hill and Henry Wright (and probably others not mentioned) sold shares in a non existent company "The Bayswater Spring Water Company". Then illegal without Crown consent or an Act of Parliament. In a scam they had used before, the bonds were sold in instalments, 30% was paid with the 70% outstanding in essence pocketed as described in court - The plaintiff's, who formed the banking-house of Everett and Co., were interested, as shareholders, in a company called the Stone Pipe Company, to which they were also treasurers..... the Stone Pipe Company, which Company was indebted to them £12,000, - prevailed on the Spring Water Company to purchase the pipes of the Stone Pipe Company; and to effect payment for the pipes , the plaintiffs, without any calls having been made, entered up in their books as paid, the remaining 70 percent due on the Spring Water Company's shares, and having made this entry , paid the Stone Pipe Company, deducting and transferring to their own account, enough to discharge the debts due from the Stone Pipe Company to themselves. - Everett and Others v Eyre 1824. The action was not bought until 1824 principally due to a 5 year term on the payment of the balance, by which time George Boulton Mainwaring had absconded to the continent after the uncovering of a further long term fraud on the County of Middlesex that he had run using his position as treasurer.

The proceedings are widely listed in case law due to the condition on the bond, the legality of the scam is alluded to but not the focus.

Extract from cases argued and determined Court of Common Pleas vol IX


   It is an insight into the dawn of the industrial revolution. Set against the successful implementation of new technology and large scale industrial production there came a number of lasting changes. The failure of the pipes and the subsequent disruption caused by the continual repair and relaying of the London streets was the principle factor in iron pipes being made compulsory in London from 1817 with a bill known as "Michael Angelo Taylor's Act", later enforced by statute nationwide.
"... Mains of Pipes for the Conveyance of Water or inflammable Air or Gas, thentofore laid down for the Conveyance of Water or of inflammable Air or Gas, shall consist and be made of Iron alone, and of no other Material ; - ACT 57 Geo III Cap Xxix XII

In 1818 the court ordered an unreserved sale of the Paddington wharf contents for non payment of wharfage fees.

Nationwide there was a general acceptance that the use of private enterprise to exclusively provide a public utility was not in the public interest, except in London. Where despite repeated calls for public control and ownership from the 1810s onwards the lack of a unitary system of supply and consumption and the territorial based monopolies prevailed. Continued problems with pricing, pollution and disease including a number of Cholera outbreaks put enormous pressure for change on the authorities. The private monopolies came to an end only with the 1902 Metropolitan Water Act, which bought out the companies for a generous £43 million and transferred control to the Metropolitan Water Board, with local authority representation.

The way that capital raised via a bond issue and its subsequent distribution and liability of shareholders became published case law. SPCMany of the issues encountered led to the general systemic testing of new processes and technology that we have today.

    Emeritus Professor Hugh Torrens (Keele University) has researched the Stone Pipe Company for many years and has kindly donated all of his paper work, books, slides, cuttings, notes and collection of stone pipes to the UWLHS.

The collection amounts to about six boxes of material plus the pipes and is of intrinsic historical significance.


Extract from inquiry of the "Supply of Water to the Metropolis" 1821

The Grand Junction Water Works company (established in 1810) referred to in the report was the London company set up by the SPC to use its pipes. The methods and practices of raising money, manipulating the stock price along with a private members bill establishing the community charges were subject to much debate.


Extract from the "Grand Junction Nuisance" 1827


Background of the partners

Sir George Earnest James Wright Baronet 1770 - 1809

Son of Sir James Wright, Groom of the Bedchamber (a Crown appointment) Ambassador to Venice married to Catherine Stapleton 1754. She had inherited £30000 along with land and a house in Cheltenham. In 1761 James received an eighth share of the Stapleton sugar plantations in the West Indies including an estate in St Kitts. He established an artificial slate company at his Rayhouse estate (one of several) at Woodford Bridge in Essex.

George Wright married Rebecca MacClane 1796, they lived initially at Ray Lodge built for the couple by Sir James on his estate and had a daughter Ruperta in 1798. Shortly after they moved to Bathford. George Wright sold of the Rayhouse Estate in lots between 1803 and 1808. He was partially invalid from birth and the sole heir of his fathers fortune. In his fathers will James requested that George take his grandmother's maiden name Huband, he mentions the estate in St Kitts but not the sugar plantations which stayed in the family till 1840.


William (1735 -1821) and George Boulton (son, c 1773 - c) Mainwaring

William: eldest son of Boulton Mainwaring of Isleworth, Middlesex studied law and called to the bar in 1759. Chief clerk of the Court of King's Bench and the Court of Common Pleas 1768 - 94 Chairman of the Middlesex and Westminster Quarter Sessions 1781 - 1816, MP for Middlesex from 1784 - 1802,

George Boulton: trained as an architect, MP Middlesex from 1804 - 1805 & 1806 Treasurer of the County of Middlesex 1804 - 22. George and his wife Letitia moved to the continent after the discovery in 1822 of an ongoing fraud costing in excess of £18000 on the County of Middlesex..

William and George along with Thomas Chatteris were bankers and partners of "Mainwaring, Son, Chatteris and Co" bank. Originally established at 83 Cornhill in 1791 by Staples Day Cox and Lynn it moved to 13 Lombard St when Thomas Chatteris joined, then back to 80 Cornhill in 1799 when the Mainwarings joined becoming Mainwaring Son and Chatteris. The bank was an unincorporated joint stock company and the principle bank for the Stone Pipe, Grand Junction Water Works, The Manchester and Salford Water Works and for a time The East London Water Works.


In an infamous parliamentary episode at the 1802 general election William the incumbent MP was opposed by the radical Francis Burdett. He was defeated by Burdett but the election was controversially declared void in 1804, and when re-contested, George Mainwaring was elected, his father not standing.

The result was then reversed in favour of Burdett in 1805, George Mainwaring presented a petition accusing Burdett of bribery, corruption and impersonation. In May 1805 Burdett stated that he was not in a position (financially) to defend the election result the Committee finally endorsing George in 1806. He did not contest the 1807 election.

Satirical print from the Middlesex elections. George Mainwaring in the centre.
© The Trustees of the British Museum


William Mainwaring was a "Trading Justice" using his position to charge fees for exercising his authority. "the trade of thieving will ever thrive, whilst there exists a trade of Justices" - The Times. As Chairman of the Middlesex Justices from 1781 he was notoriously corrupt accused of illegally profiteering from cronyism, liquor licenses, contracts, bribes and manipulating the Middlesex Bench. It's assumed that he was shielded from prosecution by William Pitt as a consequence of running the local spy network for the government. Following the French Revolution, radical societies sprang up across England. When war broke out against France in 1793, the Home Office set up an extensive spy network, focused on high risk areas such as London’s East End. The Middlesex magistrates, chaired by William Mainwaring, recruited and controlled the local spies. Mainwaring negotiated additional secret government payments in return for fulfilling the role.

He became a close associate and banker for Joseph Merceron "The Boss of Bethnall Green" a Mafia style godfather of the East End. Charles Dickens based the slums where Bill Sikes lived in Oliver Twist on Mercrons Bethnall Green. In 1795, Merceron was appointed as a local magistrate establishing himself with the Mainwarings and Sir Daniel Williams as a core of corruption. Mainwarings bank held enormous personal and public funds funnelled by the clique including the accounts for the water and the Stone Pipe companies. As treasurer for the County of Middlesex George Mainwaring moved the County accounts to the bank. The trio had control of various local Commissions of Sewers and moved the accounts for Westminster (William Mainwaring chairman) Holborn & Finsbury (Williams) and the Tower Hamlets (Merceron) to the Bank.

The bank was declared bankrupt in November 1814 - "a payment of 10s. in the pound, upon debt due from the estate of Messrs. Mainwaring, Mainwaring and Chatteris, Bankrupts." - London Gazette

    In an earlier fraud designed to circumvent share holding restrictions imposed by the company's incorporation act. When the East London Water Works Company was established in 1807 with George Boulton Mainwaring a director, William Mainwaring the Company treasurer, Henry Wright, Samuel Hill and George Boulton Mainwaring as listed proprietors. Prior to securing its act of incorporation, the directors investigated purchasing the waterworks owned by the London Dock Company seen as essential to the supply monopoly. The East London company engineer valued the purchase at £60,000, however the London Dock Company priced the sale at £130,000. George Mainwaring in negotiating the deal advised his fellow directors that they had three days to to make a take it or leave it decision on the purchase. The minimum notice requirements precluded a special meeting to consider the proposal being called and the board were "much alarmed at the awful responsibility of their situation", concerned that they would be unable to raise such a sum from the 120 proprietors.
George Mainwaring, proposed a solution: "some most opulent and respectable persons'' he knew had agreed to take up 400 new £100 shares toward the purchase the remaining new shares would be allocated to the directors (300) and proprietors (600). The issue would be on condition that they were not resold, to prevent any depreciation in the company's value. The plan was retrospectively approved by a special general meeting in January 1808 despite misgivings. It was hoped that the move would "secure to this undertaking the patronage and support of persons of high character" and "whose known honour and integrity would ensure the performance of the stipulation that such shares should not be disposed of." Several directors, however, sold their shares at large premiums just a few months later. Subsequently a General Meeting established a committee to investigate the relationship between Mainwaring and the "opulent and respectable persons". It found various irregular dealings, two directors Mainwaring and William Hubbard, were singled out for particular censure. It showed that the shareholders had been misled throughout the whole affair: the London Dock Company had not imposed a three day deadline, so a meeting could have been convened to consider the matter the statutory limitations on ownership and the conditions of resale had been broken. The scheme advanced by Mainwaring was designed to ensure that the extra shares were distributed amongst Mainwaring and his friends and not the other shareholders. George and William Mainwaring resigned their positions in November 1808. The committee sought legal advice and was told that "the mode by which the appropriation of the 400 shares was obtained,  was a gross fraud on the Company." The company filed a bill in Chancery, heard in March 1809, against the delinquent directors and successfully compelled them to return the money made from the transfers.*     


With the failure of the bank it was widely assumed that the Mainwarings influence and positions would end.
However George Mainwaring claimed that the banks public debt to the County of Middlesex of £9177 had been kept separate from the private and corporate debts and would be paid out. He looked to his brother in law, colleagues and other relatives for support to pay the debt and stand a surety of £12000 which was later redeemed*.
Dominated by Merceron and Williams the Justices re-elected William as Chairman and George as Treasurer in January 1815. In 1816 William retired on a generous pension, requested for him in recognition of service by the court, till his death in 1821.

*The surety became an issue for the guarantors. - Kings Bench 1823

    In 1822 a committee of magistrates found further discrepancies in the Middlesex County Fund and investigated George Mainwarings accounts as treasurer. George refused to hand over the accounts until forced by threat of mandamus (a writ) from the King's Bench. The investigation showed a further sum in excess of £18000 had been defrauded from the county on a regular basis since his appointment as treasurer in 1804. On 26th March 1822 he resigned as County Treasurer and was struck off as a magistrate, he then absconded abroad. There is a record of residing in Metz, France and possibly appearing at his daughters wedding at the British Embassy in Berne Switzerland 1840.


Samuel (1777 - 1850) & Richard (1779 - 1834) Hill (brothers)

London based merchants. Co-owned Samuel Hill & Co. wine merchants.
As wine merchants they would have had contact with Mainwaring who controlled the issuing and renewal of licences.
Samuel Hill and Sir George Wright stood together for the East Grinstead election, May 1807 and when unsuccessful petitioned together against election result on the basis of irregular votes.


Henry Wright

Solicitor (acted for the Grand Junction Canal Company setting up the Waterworks Act)
A founding proprietor East London Water Works along with Samuel Hill and George Boulton Mainwaring.
A founding proprietor West Middlesex Water Works 1806


* The South Sea Bubble scandal of 1720 was pivotal in British economic history. Prior to the scandal investors had been misled with false information, politicians bribed and dividends paid out of capital. The Bubble Act of 1720 looked to address the collapse imposing restrictions on incorporation. As the Bubble had enriched insiders, temporarily at least, the balance now swung to the outside investor. Limited liability was restricted but not banned, such that proposed incorporations required parliamentary or crown approval. Fraud was subject to severe criminal penalties, shareholders enjoyed rights to access and inspect company accounts in most joint stock companies and also a substantial number of unincorporated businesses. A corporation could be granted a monopoly over its specified activity, aimed at reducing secrecy on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. Secrecy prevailed only in some sectors, notably financial services, where there was concern about providing competitors with access to policyholders details.

The new rules encouraged collusion between company promoters and political insiders leaving outside shareholders potentially vulnerable, for example to dishonest share appropriations. The East London Water Works Company fraud is a classic example with Mainwaring and Hubbard being only censured as part of the legal process, and the injured shareholders recovering the full value of their investments seen as a satisfactory legal outcome.

In 1825 another financial crisis highlighted the limitations of the narrow investment base, and of unlimited liability in the banking sector, which made the liquidity crisis much worse. The result was the introduction of limited liability joint stock companies, first in banking then in the wider economy in the 1850s. Meanwhile, the active shareholder model gradually broke down as new, often middle-class investors, were drawn first into institutional holdings, banks and railways, and then the wider economy.

Calculating the value of today’s pound.

There are a number of calculators that project to today’s currency. It is useful to take into account what is being measured to ensure the correct deflator is used. For the £470000 (1810) cost for the canal should be seen as a project costing between £414,100,000 and £2,240,000,000. 

In 2019, the relative price worth of £470000 0s 0d from 1810 is:
£33,600,000.00 using the retail price index
£32,100,000.00 using the GDP deflator
In 2019, the relative wage or income worth of £470000 0s 0d from 1810 is:
£414,000,000.00 using the average earnings
£441,000,000.00 using the per capita GDP
In 2019, the relative output worth of £470000 0s 0d from 1810 is:
£2,240,000,000.00 using the GDP


:Sources in addition to Professor Torrens collection.
A brief, incomplete bibliography; not included are referenced documents, various newspapers and some court case summaries.

The Boss of Bethnal Green - Julian Woodford
Shareholder Democracies? - Freeman, Pearson and Taylor

The transformation of London’s water supply, 1805-1821. Graham-Leigh, John David (1985). MPhil thesis The Open University.
Select Committee - Supply of Water to the Metropolis, House of Commons 1821
English Local Government from the Revolution to the Municipal Corporations Act : The Parish and the County- Sidney and Beatrice Webb.
English Local Government; Statutory Authorities for Special Purposes - Sidney and Beatrice Webb.
Lives of the Engineers, The Steam Engine, Boulton and Watt -Samuel Smiles
An ambassadors house in Essex - Julia King
The Gloucester and Cheltenham Tramroad - Roger Farnworth: website: https://rogerfarnworth.com/
London Water Supply - Sir Francis Bolton
History and description of the Manchester Waterworks - John Bateman
Londons Water Supply 3 lectures by Henry Berry
State of the Supply of Water to the Metropolis - House of Lords - 1828
Metropolitan Water Companies - Richards and Payne
Lancashire and Cheshire past and present - Thomas Baines
Impact and Development of the water supply in Manchester 1568 - 1882 - J A Hassan
Environment and Health in Manchester 1750 - 1850 Thesis J.E.M Walker D.Phil 1975
The Grand Junction Canal Tring History Society: website https://tringhistory.tringlocalhistorymuseum.org.uk/Canal/index.htm