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Edward Hayes started building steamboats in the 1860's at Stony Stratford, in rural North Buckinghamshire at a works as far from the sea as possible, and 1.5miles from the nearest navigable water. Nevertheless the firm built vessels for the far flung corners of the world, including steam launches and tugs used in the exploration of the tropical jungles of South America, the River Nile and in the Arctic cold of Archangel. Prestigious commissions were also undertaken for wealthy clients, who were impressed by the skill and innovation of the marine engineering emanating form a small yard in a country town.

Hayes Watling Works at Stony Stratford

The firm had its origins in agricultural engineering, playing no small part in the development and mechanisation of the farming industry. Later development in marine engineering lead to a period of relative prosperity, and government commissions for steamboats. But the family run firm provided a good grounding in a range of practical skills for engineering apprentices. However through the foresight of the firm's founder the firm also took on the education of privileged apprentices, many of whom went on to become leaders in the engineering profession including Chief Engineers of many companies, including one of the designers of the Titanic!

Boiler makers at the Watling Works

To read more about the Hayes Works, visit our feature on Stony Stratford