This noted local engineering firm was started by William Alltoft Summers and backed by Captain Nathaniel Ogle at an iron foundry at Mill Place, Millbrook, c.1831. The foundry had been previously owned by Alexander Fletcher and John Young, about whom very little is known. Summers and Ogle were brought together by a common interest in the development of steam carriages. Ogle provided the finance and Summers, who had operated an engineering factory in Whitechapel, the engineering expertise. William Fletcher (Steam on Common Roads, 1891) tells us that Summers and Ogle built two steam carriages which were noted for having achieved extraordinary high speeds. An article in the London, Edinburgh and Dublin Literary Journal (reproduced in The Thief, November 13 1932) has an illustration of an Ogle and Summers steam-carriage (see clipping below), possibly one of those mentioned by Fletcher.
In 1834 Ogle left the partnership and was replaced as chief financier by Charles Day, a retired East India Company official who lived at Spear Hall in Portswood. Day’s eldest son, Charles Arthur Day, joined Summers as a partner together with another short term partner John Thomas Groves – and the firm Summers, Groves and Day was launched. Although the firm was still interested in land-based steam carriages, in the late 1830s they began manufacturing railway locomotives and steam ships. One of the locomotives, built in 1839, was named Southampton and ran between Southampton and Winchester before the opening of the line to London in 1840. Also in 1839 the company launched its first iron-built steamship, the Hampshire Independent.
The Millbrook foundry, however, was not ideally situated for the manufacture of ships as the completed vessels had to be towed across busy roads before they could be launched. The launch of the Hampshire Independent for example held up traffic on Millbrook Road for several days. This problem was exacerbated by the construction of the Southampton-Dorchester railway in 1847. Consequently, in about 1840, the firm had moved part of its operation to the River Itchen at Northam, having purchased part of Rubie’s shipbuilding yard just below Northam Bridge. It is not clear how long the Millbrook side of the operation continued, but it appears to have ended entirely by about 1866.
Once the firm had become established at what became known as the Northam Iron Works it built ships for some of the biggest shipping lines of the day, including P & O, Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., Union Line and the Hamburg America line. Ship repair work was also undertaken.
An 1847 street directory records the name Summers, Day and Baldock, but this appears to have been a short-lived partnership and soon afterwards the name of the firm was more often styled Summers and Day. After c.1860 the name Day and Co is used and by 1870 the name of Day, Summers and Co. is more usual. The business closed down in 1928 with Thornycrofts of Woolston taking over the slipway. The site was taken over by Pollock and Brown Shipbreakers.
More Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p137-144. (HS/h)
Shipbuilding in Victorian Southampton, by Adrian Rance. (HS/pf)
A Family Odyssey, by James Trelawney Day, p16-33. (HS/pf)
Descriptive Account of Southampton Illustrated, p31-32. (HS/a)
Steam on Common Roads, by William Fletcher, p95-97. (629.2292
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