A Breif Introduction to the Company

About Robey & Co...

Robert Robey was born in Nottingham in 1826. He established the business in Lincoln in 1854 with George Lamb-Scott as Robey & Scott, at the Perseverance Ironworks. In 1854 Robey & Scott built the first iron framed threshing machine. Another partner Thomas Gamble joined the firm, Scott resigned in September 1856 and the company became Gamble & Robey.

In 1861 the firm produced its first portable steam engine before moving on to traction engines. They also made steam engines for industry, railways and steam wagons for the road.

Robeys was an important employer in Lincoln, employing 114 men by 1865. By 1868 the firm was known as Robey & Co Ltd. The Perseverance Ironworks was enlarged in 1871 and covered a total area along Canwick Road of seven acres.

Robert Robey died in 1876 at the age of 50 in Nottingham where he then lived having taken a less active part in the running of the business. He is buried at Canwick Road Cemetery on 11th March 1876.

Robey & Co. are believed to have built a prototype of steam ploughing equipment to the designs of W. Savory, but did not pursue this further and a Robey steam engine won a gold medal for reliability at the Paris Exhibition in 1878.


By 1885 Robey's manufacturing took place at the Globe Ironworks, reflecting their worldwide sales, which was possibly a renaming of the site rather than a move to new premises. Robey produced threshing machines, saw benches, mills, and elevators, all for steam power. An electrical plant supplied by Robey lit Lincoln Cathedral to celebrate both the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria. The electric winding gear for Blackpool Tower was also produced by Robey.

Between 1915 and 1919 Robeys built aircraft for the war effort, read about the aircraft built in Lincoln during WWI. The strength of their general steam engineering business in boilers, stationary engines, etc. enabled the firm to survive the decline of agricultural steam business after the First World War. The firm added road rollers to the product range in the 1920s, and after 1945 moved into electrical and diesel engineering, finally going out of business in February 1988.

Robey was an innovative firm, often building engines to other people's designs. Numerous different traction engines were built to their own designs as well as other patented designs such as Thomson (road steamers) and Savory (ploughing engines) as well as two engines to the Pattern of a Mr William Box. These engines used coupling rods and friction straps to transfer power to the wheels as opposed to the normal geared layout.

The fixed 'Undertype' Semi-Portable engine was introduced in 1872 and electric motor pumps were on offer by the 1890s.

By the turn of the century the firm had been incorporated into a limited company, the works had expanded to cover 15 acres and 20 000 engines and plant had been built. Stationary engines of many types were added to the range, such as the 'Quick Revolution' vertical, for electrical generation. Robey's 'Globe works' was said to be the first factory in the U.K. lit by electricity.

Engines with simple slide valves, expansion gear, piston valves and drop valves were developed for application in many industries (our Class E is a good example of the latter). Colliery winders up to 84" stroke were amongst the largest of these, exported all over the world. Many are still in use in India and elsewhere. The Trust owns one of three examples preserved in England.

'Overtypes', 'Superheated' and 'Uniflow' engines were sold. The latter, a type of reciprocating steam engine with the steam exhausting in the middle of the cylinder, being a speciality of the firm. Engines were made to every configuration; horizontal, vertical and diagonal; duplex, tandem and cross compound cylinders; open and high speed enclosed, all in a variety of sizes and powers.

The road vehicle department expanded considerably at the turn of the century. A new range of traction engines was introduced and the steam wagon made its appearance in 1906, various models of which remained in production until 1934. Road rollers were made from 1914 and steam tractors enjoyed a ready sale. Road locomotives became popular, especially in overseas markets; a few still exist in Australia. An inspired innovation was the development of a tandem roller using the same boiler and engine unit as the Wagon. This was Robey's famous Patent 'Pistol' Boiler that required no stays holding the inner and outer fireboxes the correct distance appart. The Trust's first acquisition, 42693, is a 1925 example.

Robey made an early entry into the internal combustion engine market: for half a century vertical and horizontal oil and diesel engineswere produced for diverse applications such as ship propulsion. Air compressors, rock crushers and hemp decorticators serve as examples to illustrate the wide range of products made.

Robey's contribution to the war effort was considerable; in 1916 Sopwith aircraft and Short Seaplanes were built in large numbers; from 1939 production centred on gun mountings, frigate engines and other heavy items. After the war the capacity and expertise of the company was used to fabricate everything from converters for steelworks to parts for the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. In the firm's later years, however, package boilers in oil, gas or solid fuel fired versions were made in larger numbers: a new boiler barrel and tubeplate for the Trust's Tandem roller was the last boiler made and tested at the works before closure in February 1988.