The principle of the Tin Can Davy was devised by Richard Heckels, who was the chief viewer of the Earl of Durham’s Houghton collieries in County Durham. As chief viewer, his role was to oversee and advised on the general running of all the Earl’s collieries. In 1865, whilst experimenting with a Davy lamp, he found that by placing it in a workman’s can, the lamp was significantly safer in strong air currents.
The lamp was made by Abbot of Gateshead. The firms founder was Joseph Abbot was the founder of the business in 1776 as a pewter and brass worker. He was succeeded in 1812 by his son John Abbot who subsequently undertook great expansion of the business described as a ‘manufacturer & dealer in copper, brass, iron and lead’. By 1841 the workforce was 640, making anchors, chains, chain cables and nails. John died in 1863 at age 81 when the works was described as a vast hive of industry. John Abbot was succeeded by John George Abbot and William Brown making it of limited liability in 1864 becoming J. Abbot & Co Ltd. By 1889 the workforce was up to 2000 and the variety of products much wider. Lack of specialisation led to financial trouble and voluntary liquidation in 1909. By 1914 the site was cleared.
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