William Pool was born about 1783 at Thorne, Yorkshire. He grew up in an expanding town on the River Don, boasting two ship yards where some of the earliest steam ships were built. These influences were to play a major part in his later life. Ships sailed from Thorne to York, Hull, London and the continent. This is how he made friends with Henry Bell of Helensburgh in Glasgow. Henry Bell was the first man to apply steam commercially to ships in Scotland and England on a commercial basis. Henry Bell is renowned for designing ‘The Comet’ built by Messrs John Wood and Co at Glasgow weighing 30 tons with a 3 horse power engine. She made her maiden voyage on 18th January 1812 where she sailed from Glasgow to Greenock making 5 miles per hour against head wind.
About 1812 William married Catherine Dobb of Rotherham and moved to Lincoln and by the time of their second child where living at Hospital Gate in the register of St. Michaels on The Mount Lincoln. There were 13 children born between 1813 and 1833. William was a whitesmith and seems to been quite a celebrated one having worked for Lord Monson at Burton Hall on his kitchen ranges and smoke jackets. He was also known to have re-hung the Lincoln Cathedral bells and that is where he met and befriended his drinking friends Rev W Grey and one of the vicars Philip Cullen his clerk.
During this time the steam packet started to muscle in on the traditional horse drawn packet and around 1816 the competition on the River Witham was cut throat. It is known that the horse drawn boats often tried to force these new steam driven boats into the bank where their paddles would break up. So to combat this, some steam boats fitted a cutting blade to the bow so they would cut through the tow rope between horse and boat. The steam packet ‘The Witham’ was launched in 1816 even though the operators of the horse drawn packets strongly opposed the introduction of steam vessels.
Sometime during 1820 the inventor in William Pool emerged and he boasted that he could make an iron boat much to the amusement and ridicule of many. However he and three colleagues launched the boat from the drain at the back of the Pyewipe Inn astonishing his critics. It not only floated but he proved it was navigable by rowing it along the drain. Between 1820 and 1829 William set about improving the steam paddle his experiences seems to have culminated at this point. His friendship with Henry Bell must have helped that coupled with this knowledge as a Whitesmith gave him all the skills he needed. He knew that although steam had improved boats greatly over the early part of the 1800’s the paddle itself was not efficient. From the iron boat episode it took William nine years to develop a new and modified steam paddle so in 1829 he patented it in both Scotland and England. This must have taken incredible effort as he had to hike the patent about to several offices and finally to King George IV himself. William had designed a feathered paddle wheel that would smoothly cut the water instead of the paddles ‘slapping’ the water. This meant that boats would go almost twice their normal speed, even a small vessel could reach a stunning 7 to 8 miles per hour and still using the same engine and retro fitting the new paddle. There appears something of a race in 1829 against a rival in Boston who had developed another reputedly inferior adaptation of William’s design of feathering paddles. However with Patent obtained in the two weeks between June and July Pool’s paddles were fitted to Captain Temperton’s Steam Packet ‘The Favorite’. The Packet was by now and aging vessel but the boat made an amazing round trip with dignitaries and reporters who were very impressed, journeying the 35 miles in 5 hours.
Many boats were fitted nationwide with Pool’s paddles amongst these locally was ‘The Countess of Warwick’, ‘The British Queen’ and ‘The Celerity’. The patent also covered other machinery such as water mills.
William Pool’s obituary says that he obtained no financial gain directly from his invention which is strange as neither did Henry Bell for his endeavours.
July 1829. It is with much satisfaction we announce that the ingenious invention of Mr. Poole, of this city, to remedy the back-water, and to increase the speed of steam-navigation, by adjusting the float boards, is proved to be as completely effective in practice, as it appeared to be in the model. The new wheels have been preparing for Temperton's steam-boat for little more than a fortnight past, and were finally completed on Thurday the 16th, when the steam-engine was set in motion: the effect was instantly apparent, and not an indivdual present (and there was a large number of anxious spectators at the Witham Lock) could entertain the slightest doubt of the extraordinary beauty,simplicity, and advantage of this great and long-sought desideratum. We are afraid to indulge in anticipations: there really seems little or nothing now to improve, although doubtless there will be some further benefits attained when constant practice shall have developed all the properties of the 'Lincoln Paddle Wheels'. It is scarcely possible to foresee the important results which will flow from this invention of a most ingenious and deserving individual. In addition to the advantage to steam navigation, it promises completely to obviate the injury of tail-water at water-mills.
All the above information was from Mr. M. Cerrino who kindly gave me permission to include this information in my web site. If you have any further information regarding William Pool then please email me and I will pass it on to Mr. Cerrino.
Thank you Paul for the correction.