Furnace and Ashton
The following is an extract from a meeting of the British Association in September 1853, '.....in Hull about the year 1787, experiments were made on the River Hull by Furnace and Ashton, in the propulsion of vessels by steam-power. Furnace and Ashton built a boat which plyed on the river between Hull and Beverley for some time, and answered exceediingly well. In consequence of the good results of their experiments, they built a much larger vessel and engine, and sent the whole to London to be put together and finished, after which it was subjected to several tests, and gave the greatest satisfaction. This vessel was bought by the Prince Regent (afterwards George IV), who had it fitted and furnished as a pleasure yacht; but it was soon afterwards burnt, having, it is supposed, been set on fire by persons who were afraid that such an invention would be injurious to their calling. The Prince was so much pleased with the invention and ingenuity of Furnace and Ashton, that he granted them a pension for life of £70 a year each.
Furnace was a native of Beverley, and Ashton was a medical gentleman having been articled to the father of the late W. and C. Bolton of this place, but I do not know whence he came. The Steamer was on the paddle principle, propelled by a steam engine, to which was attached a copper boiler....'
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Charles Dawson; 'They were actually Robert Fourness & James Ashworth, pioneers in the steam engine field, with British Patents Nos. 1640 and 1674 from 1788. They must, however, have been the victims of a hoax or perpetrated it themselves, since I have checked with the Royal Archives, who could find no evidence for their claims for their patronage from the Prince Regent. '
Extract from Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull
'It is sometimes claimed that the first experiments with a steamboat took place on the River Hull. What seems clear is that in 1788 Robert Fourness of Gainsborough and a physician, James Ashworth of Elland, were granted two patents for what were basically steamboats. Indeed, they are reputed to have built a steamboat in a yard in Wincolmlee on the banks of the River Hull and ran the vessel from Hull to Beverley. Legend has it that they constructed a second such craft which they sold to the Prince of Wales. If such stories could be properly verified then the River Hull could lay claim to being the cradle of steamship technology but apart from the patents, no real contemporary evidence has ever been found to support such assertions.'