Edward RobertsEdward Roberts
From the archives ...

Another stalwart of the Dowson, Taylor & Co. régime who was destined to play an important part in the history of the first fifty years of the company was Edward Roberts who, for many years, carried out the duties of Technical Director in the Fire Engineering Department.

Edward Roberts was the son of John Roberts an Engineer of’ Church Bank, Bolton. His father originally had a millwright’s business but later devoted his attention to the manufacture of wringing machines. Edward was educated at Bolton Grammar School and was proud of his association with this old established foundation. But he placed the education of experience above academic qualifications and thus was representative of the old hard-headed Lancashire school who concentrated upon plenty of work and unremitting devotion to duty.

In 1881 be became an Indentured Apprentice of Charles Loxton Jackson of Jackson and Brother, of Bolton and - later - as a draughtsman with John and Edward Wood of Victoria Foundry, Bolton, where he gained experience which was to prove of immense value in his subsequent career.

After he had completed his apprenticeship, he joined John Taylor in the newly established Fire Engineering business of Dowson & Taylor. He was with Dowson & Taylor when they produced the Simplex Automatic sprinkler and when arrangements were made for them to take over the development of the “Grinnell” Sprinkler in Britain. To Edward Roberts was assigned the task of organising the Drawing Office work in connection with early Sprinkler Installations.

He soon realised that systematic measuring up was essential to the effective erection of a Sprinkler Installation, no less than to its ultimate performance in case of fire, and he proceeded to establish the work of surveying on a sound basis. As the Sprinkler work developed he played an important part in everything appertaining to the erection of the plant. Thus it came about that Edward Roberts probably knew more about the technical side of sprinkler work than any other man associated with the automatic sprinkler business. He had a remarkable memory for the intricacies of some thousands of “Grinnell” installations and could recall a tremendous amount of technical detail about particular features of many important sprinklered buildings, both in Great Britain and in Europe.

When Mather & Platt Ltd. secured their first sprinkler business in new territory. Edward Roberts made it his personal responsibility to see the installation through, often making the first survey himself supervising every detail and later visiting the country concerned to make a final inspection; remaining on the site to see that every detail of the installation conformed to the Grinnell standard. This duty took him to many parts of the world and in the course of his life he established an international reputation as one of the foremost technical authorities on Automatic Sprinklers.

By virtue of his early engineering training and active technical association with the “Simplex” and early “Grinnell” Installations, Edward Roberts might be described as a pioneer if not actually the first man who could rightly be termed a Fire Protection Engineer. He was a Director of Mather & Platt Ltd. from 1916 until his death in December 1944.

Arthur Roberts

His son, Arthur Roberts, joined the Board of Directors of the company in 1929 and carried on the family tradition. Like his father, Arthur Roberts was a pupil of Bolton Grammar School and, after receiving his early engineering training at home and becoming an Engineering Honours graduate of Manchester University, he spent a considerable time studying in Europe and serving a year’s apprenticeship with Escher Wyss & Co. in Switzerland before the first World War in which he served in the Royal Engineers.

On his return to civilian life, Arthur Roberts went back to Park Works as assistant to Edwin Buckley - an engineer of the Dowson Taylor régime who enjoyed a great reputation as Works Manager at Park Works. When Edwin Buckley died in 1923, Arthur Roberts was appointed to succeed him as Works Manager. He remained responsible for the Works Management and became a member of the Board in 1929. By the 1950s he had also become a President of the Manchester and District Engineering Employers Federation.