FEATURE: Sir Henry Bessemer’s 200th birthday

A painting of making Bessemer steel

A painting of making Bessemer steel - Credit: Archant

AN INVENTOR from Comet country who changed people’s lives with his many ideas will be honoured this month.

Sir Henry Bessemer, as he appeared in Illustrated London News in 1875

Sir Henry Bessemer, as he appeared in Illustrated London News in 1875 - Credit: Archant

Sir Henry Bessemer was born in Charlton 200 years ago.

John Pearce pulls the first pint of the Bessemer ale at the Half Moon, Hitchin

John Pearce pulls the first pint of the Bessemer ale at the Half Moon, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

And villagers are determined to mark the occasion with a series of activities and celebrations.

One of Sir Henry’s biggest achievements was the invention of the Bessemer Process for the production of cheap and large scale production of steel.

John Pearce, chairman of the specially set-up Bessemer 200 Working Party, said: “The availability of good quality affordable steel had a huge impact on all aspects of Victorian life, especially bridge building, railways, shipping and guns and ordinance.”


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Sir Henry, who was born on January 19, was fascinated by all things mechanical at a young age.

In his early days, he experimented with electroplating and die making, the latter of which was used to prevent forgery of stamps used on legal documents.

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Although his ideas were adopted by the Stamp Office, the inventor did not receive any thanks or payment at the time.

And it wasn’t until he was in his 60s that he was recognised by the monarchy, with Queen Victoria awarding him a knighthood.

When he died, he had filed more than 100 key patents and licences across the world, of which 35 were associated with steel manufacture.

“That so many were filed for other topics gives testament to his genius,” said John.

Sir Henry’s other successes included the inexpensive manufacture of gold and bronze powder, and improvements to type casting, velvet production and glass manufacture.

He died in 1898 at the age of 85, but not before making his fortune.

“He is buried in London’s Norwood Cemetery but will always be remembered as the lad from Charlton who through perseverance and self-belief went on to become one of the most influential figures in British history,” said John.

He added: “I very much hope Comet country will join in with the celebrations.”

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