Williamson Bros Vortex Turbine No. 1

Contributed by Museum of Lakeland Life

Williamson Bros Vortex Turbine No.1, 1856. © The Museum of Lakeland Life, Kendal.

This Turbine was a great piece of Victorian engineering and powered machinery for 100 years, needing only minor repairs.This Turbine was made by Williamson Brothers, a Kendal based firm that acquired a licence for their manufacture. The first order was placed on the 17th August 1856 and was for the Number 1 Turbine on display at the Museum, which powered machinery at Holmescales farm for 100 years.

Williamson Brothers built 441 Vortex Turbines, selling one of the last to Sir William Armstrong at Cragside in Northumberland, the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. As a result of local expertise, the introduction of hydroelectric power was early in this region and Troutbeck Bridge on Windermere had electric street lighting installed in 1893.

Gilbert Gilkes purchased Williamson Brothers in 1881 and today, Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd. is a world leader in small hydropower systems for generating electricity. They have produced 6500 turbines for 80 different countries to date and still occupy their original premises in Kendal.

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