Old Stratford - Hayes Wharf

Edward Hayes - his early life in this area.

[From H Stowell Brown, Notes of my Life, 1888]

Four of us, Edward Hayes, William Harvey, William Mickle, and myself, drew together. They were journey men, but young, the oldest not more than twenty-five years. We agreed to lodge together with a peasant named Cox at Old Wolverton. Hayes was a little man, a clever, skilful workman ; he came from Manchester, and was great in phrenology, and in Combe’s ‘Constitution of Man.’ Harvey was a Derbyshire man, one of the best workmen in the place, and gifted with a dry and pleasant humour. Mickle was a Scotchman, brought up in London; a boisterous but kindly fellow, whom Hayes pronounced to be a man in whom combativeness and self-esteem were abnormally developed. The four of us slept in two beds placed in one small room. We had our meals in the lower room of the cottage, which was the kitchen, and there was a small room, about eight feet square, which we converted into a study, and in which we tried in the evenings to improve our minds, which, sooth to say, sorely needed improvement. On Sundays, Hayes generally went out into the fields to meditate; Harvey went to the Methodist Chapel at Stratford; Mickle wandered from one place of worship to another; and I went to church somewhere in the neighbourhood, generally to Stratford, because there was an organ there, which, however, was very execrably played. Our studies were various. Hayes went in for philosophy; Harvey for theology; Mickle for mechanics ; I for mathematics. I don’t think we read a novel all the time we were together, and our whole stock of books was not worth £5.

The three years passed with very few incidents to break the monotony of our lives. We rose at half past five and walked to the works a mile off, cooked our breakfasts at one of the forges in the smiths’ shop went home to dinner at one, returned at two, and the bell rang again at half-past five; on Saturdays at four; in all 58½ hours per week, with every evening free. I think far too easy work.

1871: Census Records - Edward Hayes was living at Kingston House, Old Stratford
1885: Edward Hayes - Electoral Rolls 1885-86 - Edward Hayes of Stony Stratford, freehold wharf and premises.
1902: Wharf House (occupied by William Henry Samson) was sold by Edward Hayes to David Jones 9th October 1902

The Wolverton Express February 25th 1971


This 52-fett-long steam tug was built by Edward Hayes at Stony Stratford in about 1901. The tug had a 10ft. 6ins. Beam, and was fitted with an 8x16x10in., stroke surfacing condensing engine.

[newspaper image]

The motorist speeding along the A5 sees little of Old Stratford. Even if it were not on a trunk road with traffic lights at a busy Intersection, he would see no evidence that here is to be found the site of a most extraordinary piece of industrial archaeology.
Here a hundred miles from the sea, was once the launching place for tugs, yachts and launches built locally.
Just over the river bridge coming from Stony Stratford there is on the right a narrow opening marked "Wharf Lane”. This leads up to what was a canal basin on the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Junction Canal, as was originally called.

Main canal

By the year 1800 traffic was flowing along the main canal, built to join Braunston on the Oxford Canal with London and so make a satisfactory link between Birmingham and the capital.
Shortly afterwards the one-and-a-half-mile 'cut" to the Watling Street (A5) at Old Stratford was made and for many years the Wharf was a busy place. Coal, date and road stone were brought in to serve the needs of the locality and these continued to flow even after the opening of the London to Birmingham railway in 1838.

Until the Invention of tarmac, roadstone was of great importance and a "casual ward" was set up adjoining the Wharf where itinerants on the Watling Street could earn a night's lodging stone-breaking.
The stone was quartzite from the quarries of (among others) Mountsorrel, Manchester and Hartshill. It seems possible that the name given locally to this stone –“archills” was a corruption of the last-named.

All this is unremarkable enough. But in the latter part of the 19th century developments began which would stretch credulity if it were not for the facts.
In the year 1840 a firm of agricultural engineers was founded at Stony Stratford by Edward Hayes, the first of three generations of that name. He pioneered the use of steam ploughs and got a name for making reliable engines. This led to the manufacture of marine engines and finally to the actual building of tugs, yachts and launches — a hundred miles from the sea.

By the early 1900's the Watling Street Works, which were on the site of the Blue Star Garage at the southern end of Stony Stratford, was building vessels up to 80 feet in length and these were going all over the world.

60ft long

The largest were exported in sections, but craft of 60 feet in length were towed along the Watling Street to Old Stratford by a steam traction engine and launched on skids sideways into the canal basin there. They went along the Buckingham Arm to Cosgrove and along the main canal to join the Thames at Brentford.

These unlikely little ships enjoyed a great reputation. In The Engineer publication dated April 6, 1906, there is a description of a Hayes tug boat pulling lighters on the Nile. A testimonial from a satisfied customer is extant, extolling a tug and its good behaviour in "the rough and stormy seas of the Gulf of Cutch."
There is a record of a 51-foot tug which easily towed four Thames barges with a total weight of 595 tons, against the tide.

Sturdy tugs were not the only product of the yard. In addition to the 50 men employed there were apprentices and eight "pupils" who were trained as engineers. Many reached eminence, notably B. J. Fisher, once Chief Engineer of the London and S.W. Railway and Sir Frederick Rebbeck, late chairman of Harland and Wolff.

At the height of their success Hayes had a London office in Palace Chambers, 9 Bridge Street, Westminster, and notepaper headed to the effect that they produced "Steel Steam Launches, Tugs, Yachts and Marine Machinery." This is not to mention the great name they had for the manufacture of "Compound Surface Condensing Screw Engines."
In fact, it is not many years since that an inquiry came to Stony Stratford from the owner of a vessel still in use who was in search of spare parts.

During the First World War the Watling Street Works were kept very busy building urgently needed steam tugs. Edward Hayes III was in his prime and the future must have looked good. In March 1920 he was elected a member of the Institution of Naval Architects, among those to apply their signature to his papers being Sir John Thorneycroft.

By the end of the year Hayes was dead, cut off at the age of 40, and the firm shortly after collapsed, the surplus of ex-Government craft released at the end of the war having undermined the business. Now the Old Stratford Wharf is dried up and deserted and it is very difficult to credit that it was ever a busy bustling place, still less the scene of so many exciting launches little more than half a century ago.

Map showing were the boats were towed to.

Workmen fitting out the boats
Boats beside the wharf buildings

The Northampton Mercury  Saturday August 2nd 1862


This company, which has been formed for the introduction of steam cultivation amongst small farmers in this county, held its first meeting, for the trial of their apparatus, on Thursday last. The principal originator and promoter of the company is J. E. Mansell, Esq., of Cosgrove, who has done his utmost to promote its utility. Being himself deeply interested in steam machinery for the cultivation of the soil, he has taken had as a landlord in introducing steam machinery amongst his tenants. He was almost the first in the county to introduce and adopt steam ploughing, and was the first to throw out the suggestion of a company to introduce steam cultivation amongst the smaller occupiers, and give them a chance of deriving the same benefit from it as their more wealthy neighbours. The field selected for the trial was on the estate of J. C. Mansell, Esq., and near to Quarry Pits, about 300 yards from Old Stratford. It was very unlevel piece of land, the soil of a heavy, tenacious, and clayey kind, and in a most foul state. The present occupier, Mr. Willison, of Cosgrove, had only been able to get one crop from it during three years, having been able to clean it from being unable to get it ploughed up at a proper time. Being, however, a man of energy and resolution, he had yoked the steam horse to accomplish what 6 own horses had failed to do. old labourer who had been employed in that district all his life, and knew the field well, informed us that the work was done exceedingly well, the cultivator breaking the land and bringing up the twitch and weeds to the top, and leaving them there, that the atmosphere would act upon and kill the weeds and pulverize the soil. He also said that, owing to the soil being of very heavy clayey description, if was not ploughed at the proper time it was impossible get on it to clean and get a crop from it. When it was ploughed by the old system they were compelled to use four horses, and depend upon good weather, a necessity from which it would be exempt under steam cultivation. The machinery is portable, simple, and in every respect well adapted tackle for the purpose. The steam engine was stationed one corner of the field, and was ordinary single cylinder engine, similar in construction to those that have been use for years for thrashing, Ac., the farm-yard. This is one of a class of| engines shown in the International Exhibition the manufacturer, Mr. E. Hayes, of the Watling Works. Stony Stratford, and was distinguished by the jurors with honourable mention. The windlass, which is self-acting, is the invention of Mr. Hayes, and is patented. It was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Agricultural society, at their meeting at Leeds in 1861, and has received honourable mention at the International Exhibition. 

The Northampton Mercury October 4th 1862


The second annual gathering of the friends of agriculture and social progress was held at the Watling Works, on Tuesday last. The attendance was large, although the unpropitious  state of the weather prevented some friends attending from the country. The object of the meeting is to bring together the mechanics, artizans, ministers of religion, tradesmen, and the industrial population of Stony Stratford and the adjoining villages, and discuss the improvements that have taken place in agriculture and the social progress during the past year. The idea of holding these meetings in Stony Stratford originated with Henry Vincent. Among, other places, he visited Stony Stratford, and, owing to the, numerous expenses attending his lectures, many were prevented from hearing him on account of the high price of admission. Mr. Hayes thought something might be done at a cheaper rate, and still be instructive, amusing, and very beneficial to all, both old and young. The idea was mentioned to Mr. Vincent, and his opinion was asked on the matter, and he suggested the title " Gathering of the Friends of Agricultural and Social Progress." The first meeting was held last year, and passed off admirably. This year greater interest was felt in the success of the gathering, owing to the rapid strides that have been made in agriculture by the more general application of steam to the plough. Stony Stratford is closely connected with these advances, some of the most useful steam ploughing machinery being made there. The steam cultivator, the property of the Northamptonshire Steam Ploughing Company (which has been fully described in the Mercury), was at work in a field at Old Stratford, and was visited by a large number of persons interested in steam ploughing, amongst whom were the Hon. R. Cavendish, of Thornton Hall, and Captain Mansell. These two gentlemen were both prevented from attending the evening meeting by previous engagements. Several gentlemen from Landon and Birmingham were expected to attend, but, from some cause or other, they were not there. Their places, however, were supplied by various friends, who addressed the audience. The gathering commenced with a tea at five o'clock in the afternoon, which was held at the Watling Works, and was attended by a large number of residents of Stony Stratford and neighbourhood. The fitting room at the works had been tastefully decorated with laurels, flowers, and flags, under the superintendence of Mr. Britten. A large number of the fair sex were present, and added greatly to the pleasure of the party by attending to the duties of the tea-trays. An amateur string band, composed of young men of the town, under the leadership of Mr. H. Sole, played a variety of tunes during tea. At seven o’clock the meeting and musical entertainment commenced. A large and very intelligent audience attended. The Rev. W. R. Trevelyan, vicar of Wolverton, was unanimously called to the chair.
Before speeches commenced, Mr. Hayes apologised for the non-attendance of several eminent men who had promised to attend.
The Rev. W. S. SANKEY: He thought that all the dwellers in the town of Stony Stratford ought to be proud of Mr. Hayes for the great ingenuity and perseverance displayed by him in his improvements and appliances for the assistance of farmers. The farmers were often a long time before they would allow any change in management; but he thought they must introduce steam cultivation on their farms, and turn their field s more into gardens. With regard to social progress, he was glad to see so good a meeting, and he was sure Mr. Hayes was the best man to carry out their meetings. Mr. Hayes has set foot the practical working out of Christianity. He had lived long amongst them, and he greatly respected him. He had spent a great deal of time with him during his illness. He must congratulate Mr. Hayes on his improvements in machinery.
Mr. Hayes: Several years ago he invented the windlass, which had been so greatly admired in the International Exhibition; but he was a very long time before he would patent it, as he had an antipathy to rope traction, and he did not want to make an article for the farmers that they would, in a year or two, say was useless, and that they had thrown away their money’s worth for his money. After a great deal of solicitation from his friends he patented the windlass, and last year sent it to the annual meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society, at Leeds, where he was honoured with a silver medal. He was convinced it was the best machine of its class at the present invented. It was a great thing for him to say, but it had been commented on by engineers of every rank, and he had found a good mention in every work that had appeared concerning the Exhibition.
Rev. E. L. FORESTER: He recollected Mr. Hayes factory was very small, and the bellows were worked with the foot, but the works have greatly altered since then.

Preparing to launch a boat into the canal
Launching a boat into the canal

The Northampton Mercury - Saturday January 17th 1863


The value of property in the canals has latterly received a considerable impulse from the introduction of steam power as a means of locomotive. We believe the credit of this movement is in a great measure due to the efforts of the present effective Board Directors, and their energetic chairman, G. Anderson, Esq., who, in the face of apathy and doubt, had demonstrated the possibility of running steam-boats with regularity and punctuality, and of raising by this means the value of canal property. On Thursday last a trial trip of new steam-engine connected with one of the Grand Junction Canal Company's large boats, named Havock, was made on the Grand Junction Canal at Stratford. The engine is an eight-horse high-pressure, with all the latest improvements, and is the manufacture of Mr. Edward Hayes, of the Watling Works, Stony Stratford, the patentee of an improved windlass for steam ploughing, which took the silver medal at the meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society, held at Leeds, and also received the honourable mention of her Majesty's jury at the International Exhibition. The boiler of the engine is full size, and the arrangement of the engine is such as to allow of a lull-sized useful engine to be put in a very moderate-sized engine-room. The engine-room is fitted with four windows, which open and shut at will, the state of the weather may permit. It is light and cool, and the engine is so excellently fixed that the engineer can get at every joint and every working part, in case of repairs or wanting oil ; every part being distinct, can be separated with the greatest ease. The engine has ample bearing services, and is made of the best material. Steam engines have been attached to boats to work the screw principle, since July, 1861, and now there are over 20 of these engines at work on the canal. It has been found also that through the adoption of steam there is a gradual improvement in the moral character of the boatmen. This endeavour to improve the morals of the men affording them accommodation which they had not before, being carried out the steamboat trial trip which we now chronicle. The cabin is greatly improved; it is much higher, more spacious, and ha 3 greater convenience for sleeping. A book-shelf has been introduced, which we found contained a Bible, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Life of Captain Cook, Robinson Crusoe, Ac, so that the boatmen may, if they have a few minutes to spare, employ their time by reading, instead of cursing and swearing at one another, as was but too much .the custom formerly. From the engineer (Mr. Elliott) we learn since the introduction of steam there had been a gradual improvement in the conduct and manners of the men; and in reply to question a civil answer is given instead of an oath.

The steam being got about fifty lbs. at eleven o’clock the boat started on the trial journey, accompanied by Captain Mr. Sanders, Mr. Elliott engineer company, and Mr. Hayes. The first mile was got through in abour seventeen minutes, and on arriving at Cosgrove locks a boat was attached, and the steamer proceeded along as easily as it were unburthened. It proceeded at the rate of nearly five miles an hour towards Wolverton. crossing the aqueduct called the " Iron Trunk," which carries the canal at great height over the waters of the "lilied Ouze," meandering through the meadows beneath.

A few words about this bridge may not be out of place. When the canal was first made, the incline from Cosgrove to Wolverton was managed by means of locks, but, finding that this mode of procedure occupied too much time, it was resolved to form an embankment. The difficulty arose how to cross the Ouze. At length a bridge was built of bricks, but on the day preceding that on which it was to have been opened with various festivities, it fell in, and inundated the country all round. The " iron trunk" was then substituted, and was considered a great triumph in engineering. The boat proceeded through Old Wolverton to Wolverton, and through New Bradwell, as far as Great Linford Wharf, where she turned back on the homeward journey, proceeding at a rate of over five miles an hour. The engine worked well, and it was truly amusing to see the youngsters of New Bradwell running along the towing-path, and frequently tumbling over one another in eagerness to keep up with the boat, which kept them  running all the time. The vessel arrived at the starting-place about four o'clock. The engineer expressed a high opinion of the qualities of the engine, and said it was great success, as the piece of water that had been traversed was the roughest in the whole canal.

Part of a letter written from Cosgrove Hall and signed J. C. Mansel

February 13th 1863

Mr. Hayes is a good engineer but not a boat builder.

A letter written from Cosgrove Hall and signed J. C. Mansel

February 15th 1863

Dear Sir
In a letter to your Father I stated that I did not think Hayes & Co could build a boat I have since that seen Mr. Hayes and he assured me that he could do so, and that he should be glad to take a contract to build one or more steam boats and that he could engage good workmen for the job; should the invitation be to build the boat from Iron (the Material I consider best suited for small river steamers) I believe Hayes & Co would execute the work to your satifaction

I am dear sir
Yours truly
J. C. Mansel

E. K. Fisher Esqr.

The Northampton Mercury July 5th 1879

STONY STRATFORD POLICE COURT, June 26th. Alfred Abrahams, carpenter, was charged with stealing a quantity of felloes and spokes, from his employer. Mr. Edward Hayes, Stony Stratford. Prisoner had been suspected for some time. On Friday, the 27th, the prisoner, with the help of two other men and a boy, carried a box from the wharf at Old Stratford (occupied by Mr. Hayes) to Mr. Holland's gardener, Vicarage-road, Stony Stratford, for whom he was (after working hours) making a cart. Inspector Webb, being sent for, searched the box, and found it full of spokes and felloes, instead of tools. The house of the prisoner was then searched, and, in adjoining building, 26 spokes were found. The prisoner being charged with stealing them, addressing Mr. Hayes, said he hoped he would forgive him; he was very sorry for what he had done, and would pay for the goods if Mr. Hayes would not prosecute him. The prisoner was committed for trial.

The Northampton Mercury September 30th 1898

On Monday a fire occurred at Old Stratford Wharf, the property of Mr. Hayes, engineer. There were no indications of fire at 10.45p.m, but a few minutes afterwards the place was observed to be ablaze. P.C. Robinson was the first man on the spot, and at midnight one wing was well alight. A messenger was dispatched for the Stony Stratford Fire Brigade, and they promptly responded and succeeded in keeping the fire to one wing. In this was a quantity of wood ready planed for fitting in a boat which was being built there. Several benches and, unfortunately, a quantity of workmen's tool were destroyed, as well as the powerful crane situated between the two wings. The origin of the fire is a mystery, but a fireman inclines to the opinion that it is the work of an incendiary, for there have been many outbreaks in the locality, the property is insured. Three firemen fell into the canal through a raft upsetting. The damage is estimated at nearly £500.

Wolverton Express February 12th 1915


More than ordinary interest attached to the launching of a steam tug, George Hill, at Old Stratford Wharf, on Saturday, from the fact that a little Belgian girl, Mdlle Renee Selbac Corstiaens , performed the Christening ceremony. The vessel has been built by Mr. E. Haynes C.F..., at his Watling Works, Stony Stratford, and it is destined for ___________ for  the purpose of assisting in the loading up of _____________ troops for the front. About three months has been taken up in the work of construction. Similar tugs and launches have been built by the firm for the foreign Governments. One of the launches is now in use in the sea of Galilee for the conveyance of Mahommedan pilgrims on their journey to Mecca. In this case special attention was paid to its construction in view of the sudden storms met with on the Galilean Sea.

The George Hill, before being shipped on a liner, will have to pass about 70 odd locks in its passage along the Grand Junction Canal to the Thames, where it will be put through its trials. The length of the tug is 51ft., width 11ft., depth at side amidships 5ft. 2ins. And draft 4ft. In the way of speed it is expected to make a little over 13 miles an hour.

A number of interested spectators gathered for the christening ceremony including Mr. E. Hayes C.F.., Mr Arthur Hayes, A.M.I.N.A., Mons Corstiaens,(ex-town clerk of Antwerp), Mme Corstiaens, and their grand-daughter, Renee Corstiaens, Mrs Hayes, Mr. A. R. Elmes, Mrs. And Miss Worley, Mrs G. Bull, Mrs Cecil Powell, Mr. C. Boden Brifton, Miss Whiting (Castlethorpe), Mrs. Brown, M. Marsait, M. Van Gastel, M. Van de Bruck.

About an hour was taken up in the work of preparing for the launching, and then amidst cheering, little Renee Selbac cut the string and a bottle of champagne burst against the bows. The vessel slid gracefully into the water, but the wash on the other side caused a few spectators to find safe quarters.

At the masthead was flown the Union Jack and then the ensigns of France, Belgium and Russia.

About 20 years ago the firm of Messrs Hayes built a number of fireboats for the Thames, used in conjunction with the Fire Brigade.

Towing the cargo Launch Type B.T.C.
56ft. 9ins. x 12ft. 9ins. x 6ft. 3ins. x 5ft. 6ins. Draft Speed 11 Statute Miles
Engines: "Hayes" 9ins. and 18ins. x 11ins. C.S.C.
Shipping Weight 29 Tons.
Bunker Capacity, 5.5 Tons.

Edward Hayes in Stony Stratford

Edward Hudson

Edward Hayes came to Stony Stratford in the 1840s after several years’ employment in the newly-opened Wolverton railway works.

His career in the town appears to have started modestly. In 1847, he was teaching at the British and Foreign School at the corner of the High Street and the Wolverton Road. Meanwhile, his wife (a local girl, Ann Sirett, whom he had married in 1844) continued to earn her living, as she had done before her marriage, making straw hats on the Market Square. He later recalled that, in these early years in Stony Stratford, his teaching work had “met with great opposition”, apparently because some local residents appreciated neither his northern origins nor his recent association with the railway, no doubt because it had killed off the coaching trade on which the town’s prosperity had depended.

It was not until about 1850 that he was able to combine teaching with his true vocation of engineering by establishing his own enterprise, the Watling Works. Here, in his sheds on the east side of the London Road, he could indulge both his creative engineering talent and “receive young gentlemen as pupils, who are trained in mechanical engineering”.

In the census of March 1851, Hayes described his occupation as “engineer”. By then, he and his wife were living in the parish of Calverton, probably at or near the south-east corner of Horsefair Green. He was already accepting engineering students because, in addition to their three young children, the Hayes’ household included a pupil engineer.

In the summer of 1853, Hayes and his family moved across Horsefair Green to the former malting at no. 9. The property had been rebuilt in the 1790s, along with the maltster’s house at no. 8 and the rest of the malting at no.7, to meet the booming demand for malt in the heyday of the coaching trade through Stony. But the boom had ended soon after the opening of the London to Birmingham railway in 1837, and the malting had ceased operation. In 1843, a retired grocer, Thomas Knighton, had bought the whole property in order to reside in the maltster’s house himself and let out the disused malting on either side. Knighton had improved no 9 by blocking up the old carriage entrance (whose brick arch can still be seen on the front of the building) and renovating the old malting sheds at the back of the property, which now offered Hayes the space he needed to lodge and teach his growing number of students. By 1861, his household included some thirteen students, in addition to his own family (now increased by the arrival of a fourth child) and two domestic staff.

During the ten years he spent at no 9, Hayes made his reputation , first locally and then nationally, as an inventor and manufacturer of agricultural machinery. After patenting a feed mechanism for threshing machines in 1855, he turned to the novel idea of using steam power to haul ploughs and other agricultural implements. Given the difficulty of developing a steam-powered cultivator that could cross rough farmland (an approach being explored by several other inventors), Hayes’ preferred solution was a static windlass which, coupled to a steam engine and positioned at one end of a field, could pull an implement across it by mean of a hawser wound round a revolving drum. He brought to this system an ingenious self-reversing mechanism fitted with a remote-controlled brake, which he patented in 1857. Unlike its rivals, Hayes’ windlass avoided the need for constant stopping and starting to reverse the drive when the plough reached the headland. Moreover, it could be operated safely, and with less manpower, even when the plough was out of sight of the windlass.

Despite these advantages, it took Hayes a few years to convince the farming community of the benefits of his invention. He began to achieve local recognition in November 1860, when he successfully demonstrated the windlass, coupled to a steam engine of his own manufacture, on Mr G.J. Chapman’s farm at Wicken. National recognition came the following year, when Hayes’ windlass was in competition with many other steam-powered devices at trials organised by the Royal Agricultural Society at Leeds. By now, public interest in “steam cultivation” was widespread because, we are told, “so numerous were the visitors that special trains were run, bringing many thousands of persons each day to the trial grounds.” Amid this glare of publicity, Hayes’ windlass was awarded the Society’s silver medal.

Hayes spent much of the following year in London displaying his machines at the International Exhibition of 1862, where both his windlass and his farm steam engine received honourable mention. Meanwhile, back at Cosgrove, Mr J.E. Mansel had introduced steam ploughing on his estate, being one of the first in Northamptonshire to do so, and was promoting the idea to others. He ran a demonstration of ploughing with Hayes’ windlass on one his farms near Old Stratford in July 1862, witnessed by “a large number of farmers from the neighbourhood” who “expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with the machinery and praised the work that it was doing”.

By the end of 1862, the farming community was becoming convinced: at the Easton Neston ploughing match on 7 October that year, all the talk was of steam power. One Northamptonshire farmer “had no doubt the day was not far distant when the steam plough would supersede the present system”. Another “in very strong terms praised the windlass that had been invented by Mr Hayes of Stony Stratford. He said they might probably laugh at him if he told them they might with safety, by means of this windlass, plough by candlelight — but he could assure them it was practicable and had been done.” And yet another thought that “the farmer ought to hail the day when the steam plough became general. The economy of steam ploughing seemed plain to him. He had once thought that two or three farmers might have one set of apparatus among them, but now believed that it would be a much better plan for each farmer to have one of his own.”

Meanwhile, Hayes’ fertile brain had turned to the steam boats that were now operating on the Grand Junction Canal. The canal company had started fitting its boats with steam engines and screw propellers in July 1861. Over the next eighteen months, it had equipped more than twenty of its boats in this way, presaging the end of the canal’s horse-drawn era.

There was, however, a major problem with these early steam-powered boats. The water they needed for the boiler was pumped up from the canal. But, stirred up by the rotation of the boat’s propeller, the water contained so much sludge from the bottom of the canal that the engine could not operate for long before becoming clogged up. Hayes discovered a simple and elegant solution: by making use of the partial vacuum created at the stern of the boat by the action of the propeller, he found that water could be drawn up from the side of the boat and run through a condenser in sufficient quantity to turn all the steam from the boiler back into water. With its water thus permanently recycled, a steam engine fitted with a surface condenser could operate continuously for much longer periods. Hayes promptly applied for a patent for his invention, granted on 28 February 1863.

A few weeks earlier, on 15 January 1863, a large boat equipped with a high-pressure 8-horsepower condensing steam engine manufactured by Hayes was successfully trialled on the canal. Carrying a group that included Captain Mansel, it towed a barge from Cosgrove to Great Linford and back at the unprecendented speed of over five miles an hour. “The engine worked well, and it was truly amusing to see the youngsters of New Bradwell running along the towing-path, and frequently tumbling over one another in eagerness to keep up with the boat, which kept them running all the time”.

In the summer of the same year, a steam-powered boat with one of Hayes’ engines was successfully demonstrated on the River Nene at Northampton. And it was at this point in his career that, perhaps to be nearer the canal which was to become the focal point of his firm’s future boat-building activity, he moved away from Stony Stratford. By 1871, he was living at Kingston House in Old Stratford.

Despite a number of personal problems in the 1860s (a long illness and separation from his wife)., Hayes had built up a national reputation in the application of steam power to agriculture and was beginning to do so in the field of marine engineering. Perhaps wisely, he had resisted the visionary idea of his associate engineer Thomas Rickett of applying steam power to road transport. Rickett ended his partnership with Hayes in December 1856 in order to manage the newly-built Castle Foundry in Buckingham, where he manufactured a fully operational steam car in 1858. A technical success, his invention was too far ahead of its time: it ran into such political opposition that Rickett was soon forced into bankruptcy. In contrast, Hayes, by concentrating on less controversial applications of steam power, created a firm that would prosper in Stony Stratford for another two generations.

For more information: http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/mkm/stonystratford/docs/hayes.html