Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Forth Bridge by Wyllie

The Forth Bridge as painted by William Lionel Wyllie in 1914.

William ArrolSir William Arrol (1839-1913), engineering entrepreneur, steel bridge builder, designer and manufacturer of cranes, heavy machinery and automobiles, innovator in construction methods

Engineering achievements

Sir William Arrol was a contractor responsible for the fabrication and construction of steel bridges many of which were at the forefront of technology. He developed methods of working and techniques which are still used today. After the collapse of the First Tay Bridge, the major bridges of the time in the United Kingdom, the Second Tay, Forth and Tower Bridges, were entrusted to him and his company. Achieving ingenuity in bridge construction required the development of specialist equipment for the manufacture and erection of steel components, for example the hydraulic riveters and cranes. This led to the development and production of machine tools and material handling devices.

Sir William Arrol's firm designed and developed a form of engineering workshop that provided clear working space with overhead crane capacity. These were extensively adopted by the heavy engineering and shipbuilding industries in the Glasgow area and further afield. Sir William Arrol saw the potential of the early automobiles and helped finance the Arrol-Johnston business in its formative years.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born 13th February in Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland 1839
9 Started work in a Paisley Cotton Mill 1848
13 Started training as a blacksmith 1852
29 Started a boiler-making business in Peel Street, Glasgow 1868
32 Constructed Dalmarnock iron works 1871
36 Secured contract for Bothwell Viaduct over the River Clyde 1875
37 Secured contract for Caledonian Railway Bridge over River Clyde in Glasgow 1876
43 Secured contract for Reconstruction of Railway Bridge over River Tay 1882
44 Secured contract for the Forth Bridge 1882
47 Secured contract for Tower Bridge over River Thames in London 1886
50 Awarded Freedom of City of Dundee 1889
51 Knighted 1890
51 Awarded Doctorate of Laws by University of Glasgow 1890
51 Awarded Freedom of Royal Burgh of Ayr on 26 February 1890
56 Elected Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire 1895
56 President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 1895
56 Chairman and financial backer of Mo-Car Syndicate Limited which became Arrol-Johnston 1895
63 Sir William Arrol & Co built engine and boiler shops for Beardmore's Dalmuir Yard 1902
65 Sir William Arrol & Co built bridge over River Nile in Cairo 1904
69 Sir William Arrol & Co built the Arrol gantry at Harland and Wolf, Belfast for Titanic and Olympic 1908
74 Died 20th February at Seafield, Ayr, Scotland 1913
74 Buried at Woodside Cemetery, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland 1913

His Legacy

The legacy of Sir William Arrol can be seen in the many bridges, cranes and engineering workshops that are still in existence with many still in use: in particular the Forth Bridge, Tower Bridge and Tay Bridge. Sir William created a company which continued, long after his death, to produce and construct "Arrol built" bridges, buildings and cranes that were exported worldwide.

Some surviving examples of his work have become world icons of engineering. The Forth Bridge and Clydebank's Titan crane are classed as World Civil Engineering Landmarks by the American Societies of Civil and Mechanical Engineers.

More Information

Bridges, with description of their manufacturing works Sir William Arrol Ltd, 1909
Bridges, Structural Steel Work, and Mechanical Engineering Productions partly reprinted from Engineering. London. 1909
Sir William Arrol, a Memoir Sir Robert Purvis, 1913.
Sir William Arrol, the Great Scottish Bridge Builder John Arrol, 1996.
Bridges, Structural Steelwork Sir William Arrol & Co, 1909.
The Forth Bridge W Westhofen, 1890.
Battle for the North Charles McKean, 2006.
Archives Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
Archives Glasgow City Archives
There are two portraits of Sir William Arrol held in the National Portrait Gallery.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry (full text available to subscribers and UK library members)

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