Henry Habberley Price
born  4th April 1794, Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK
died  8th March 1839, Brynglas, Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, UK
buried  Quaker Meeting House, Castle View, Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, UK
era  Georgian
A biographical summary
Civil engineer and ironmaster Henry Habberley Price worked widely in Britain, including in South Wales, and for a short time assisted Thomas Telford (1757-1834). A partner in Neath Abbey Ironworks, Glamorgan, his lively career encompassed projects and ideas for river navigations, harbours and railways — although he was active at the height of the 1830s boom when many rail schemes were developed but not realised.
He was born into a network of Quaker industrialists. His father Peter Price (1739-1821) was employed at ironworks in Britain and North America before establishing Perran Foundry in Cornwall in 1791 with Samuel Tregelles (1766-1831) and Robert Were Fox (1754-1818), among others. In 1792, they leased Neath Abbey Ironworks and gained a reputation for the high quality of its products.
Price's engineering apprenticeship began in 1808, and he subsequently worked on navigation improvements to the rivers Suir and Lee at Cork in southern Ireland. Itís thought he worked for Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo (1783-1832), who had collaborated with Telford on surveys in the highlands.
In 1818, Price became a partner at Neath Abbey, with his elder brother Joseph Tregelles Price (1784-1854) as managing director. From 1820, they built beam engines and steam engines for the Cornish mines, later making railway locomotives but avoiding armaments, in line with their pacifist beliefs. They also constructed gasworks throughout South Wales and had interests in colleries and other works.
Price's civil engineering practice took him to many other parts of the country. In 1824, he began work for the Tees Navigation Company, recommending the construction of Portrack Cut in the River Tees west of Middlesborough, improving navigable access to Stockton-on-Tees. The cut opened in 1831, though associated groynes designed to increase downstream velocity led to silting of the coal staithes at Middlesbrough used by the Stockton & Darlington Railway. The ensuing dispute would last five years.
He worked under Telford in 1825-27 as engineer for the new Old Ferry Passage Piers in the Severn estuary. It's possible that they worked together earlier as Price met Telford in 1823, when improvements to the South Wales mail road were under consideration.
Among the reports made by Price are ones on Swansea Harbour (1831) and Falmouth Harbour (1835). He also worked on the proposed Sidmouth Harbour in Devon, transporting stone for the breakwaters along a new railway line. However, the project wasn't completed. Various railway schemes came and went, including a line between London and South Wales, and another between Gloucester and Hereford.
Price was a corresponding member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He lived at 4 Parliament Street in London's Westminster, and at Brynglas in Neath, Glamorgan. He married in 1824 and his three sons (and at least one grandson) all went on to become engineers. However, his two daughters were lost at sea in 1854 when their ship bound for Philadelphia went down with all hands.
1794 Born 4th April in Falmouth, Cornwall to Peter Price (1739-1821) and Anna Tregelles (1759-1846), his nine siblings included Joseph Tregelles (1784-1854), Deborah (c.1786-1867), Junia (1787-1845), Christina Abberley (1792-1879) and Edwin (c.1796-1819)
1808 Apprenticed, probably to Alexander Nimmo (1783-1832)
1819 Neath Abbey Coal Company set up to operate mines supplying Neath Abbey Ironworks, 5/12 share owned by Price and brother Joseph
1823 Granted a patent (18th March) "for an apparatus for giving increased effect to paddles used in steam vessels, applicable to rotary movements, by which they are generally worked"
1823 Represents local interests in favour of improvements to the South Wales Mail Road, meets Thomas Telford (1757-1834)
1824 Marries Julia Harriet Struve (born c.1807, not a Quaker) from Jersey, Channel Islands, five children — Henry Habberley (1825-94), Julia Leonora (1827-54), Edwin (1828-56), Maria Louisa (1830-54) and Charles Struve (1831-1915, emigrated to Tasmania)
1824-c.36 Working for Tees Navigation Company, recommends cutting across a loop in the River Tees — Portrack Cut (completed 1831)
1827 Considers a ship canal between the new cut and the river at Port Clarence, not built but the Stockton & Darlington Railway's extension to Middlesbrough follows the proposed route
c.1828-33 Consulting engineer to Clarence Railway and Durham South West Railway
1830 Possibly involved with Penyfilia (Pentre) Coal Pit Railway, a long shallow incline in Swansea
1831 Reports on improvements to Swansea Harbour (plans 1836) — six separate schemes were proposed, including submissions from Price and William Brunton (1777-1851)
1831-32 With Brunton proposes a rail line between Bristol and London, terminating at Paddington, Price later supports Brunel's route at the reading of the bill to enable the Great Western Railway (passed 31st August 1835) but Brunton gave evidence against it
1832 Joins Institution of Civil Engineers (27th March), corresponding member
1835 Reports on establishing a ship canal and docks at Bridgwater, drawing on unrealised work by Josiah Easton (1761-1848) or his son John Easton (1788-1860) of 1811, and by Henry Jessop (1791-1834) of 1828-29
1835 Reports on Falmouth Harbour, the completion of the Grand Surrey Canal and a railway along its bank
1836-38 Engineer to Sidmouth Harbour Company, harbour and railway project abandoned in 1838
c.1836-39 Works on Edinburgh, Leith & Newhaven Railway, which received royal assent 1st July 1839, an updated version of the route engineered by Thomas Grainger (1794-1852) and John Miller (1805-83), Act passed 13th August 1836 but not built
1839 Dies (8th March) at Brynglas, Neath, aged 44 — buried in the grounds of the town's Quaker Meeting House (built 1799), probate proved 30th March 1839 ... In January 1840, the ICE "lament" his death and record that "Mr. H.H. Price was, when in town, a constant attendant at the Meetings, and took a lively interest in the proceedings and success of the Institution"
Selected works
Portrack Cut, River Tees, Stockton-on-Tees, UK .... 1824-1831
Old Passage Ferry Piers, River Severn estuary, UK .... 1825-1827
Tees Navigation, River Tees, UK .... 1828
Swansea Harbour, Wales, UK .... 1831-1836
Gloucester & Hereford Railway, UK .... 1836
Sidmouth Harbour Company Railway, Devon, UK .... 1836-1838
Edinburgh, Leith & Newhaven Railway, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK .... c.1836-1839
Grand Collier Docks, Deptford and Rotherhithe, London, UK .... 1837
All items by Henry Habberley Price
Everything built ... 1794 - 1839
Alec Skempton ed., Price, Henry Habberley, MRIA (1794-1839), A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1: 1500-1830, Thomas Telford Publishing Limited, Institution of Civil Engineers, London, pp.536-537
List of Members, Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 2, John Weale, London, 1838
Notice of Death: Henry Habberley Price, Minutes of ICE Proceedings, Volume 1, p.12, January 1840
with thanks to Edward Grabczewski of Neath
Further reading
John Brewster, The Parochial History and Antiquities of Stockton-upon-Tees, Thomas Jennett, Stockton, 1829
P.J. Geraghty, Sir John Macneill (1793-1880): King of the Irish Railways, read at the Science Museum on 14th November 2007, Transactions of the Newcomen Society, Vol.78(2), pp.207-234, 2008
David John Greenfield, "The Inception of the Parrett Navigation Company" Chapter 6 of DPhil thesis I.K. Brunel and William Gravatt, 1826-1841: their Professional and Personal Relationship, School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, University of Portsmouth, March 2011, available at http://eprints.port.ac.uk/4139/23/02_Chapter6.pdf
Stephen Hughes, Copperopolis: Landscapes of the Early Industrial Period in Swansea, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2008
Laurence Ince, Neath Abbey and the Industrial Revolution, Tempus Publishing, Stroud, 2001
Stephen K. Jones, Brunel in South Wales, Volume I: In Trevithickís Tracks, The History Press, Stroud, 2010
Stephen K. Jones, Brunel in South Wales, Volume II: Communications and Coal, Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006
Michael J. Messenger, The Sidmouth Harbour Company of 1836, The Industrial Railway Record, No.55, pp.282-285, August 1974, available at http://www.irsociety.co.uk/Archives/55/Sidmouth.htm
Patrick Neill, Remarks on the Progress and Prospects of the Edinburgh, Leith, & Newhaven Railway, in January 1839, John Lindsay & Company, 1839
Henry Habberley Price, Report of a Survey of the River Tees, Made by Order of the Tees Navigation Company, in the Year 1824, T. Jennett, Stockton, 1825
Henry Habberley Price, Report respecting the completion of the Grand Surrey Canal to the Thames at Vauxhall, and laying a Railway on the bank thereof, to connect the Southampton, Croydon, Greenwich, and proposed Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Gravesend and Dover Railways together, Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1835
The Repertory of Patent Inventions: And Other Discoveries and Improvements in Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture, Repertory of Arts and Manufactures, London, 1823 and 1838 editions
portrait  photograph by Laurence Ince of a painting of Price owned by his great grandson, Welsh philosopher Henry Habberley Price (1899-1984), courtesy Laurence Ince

home  •  news  •  search  •  FAQs  •  references  •  about  •  sponsors + links
Henry Habberley Price
This biography was funded by
the ICE R&D Panel
Institution of Civil Engineers
© 2022 Engineering Timelines
Neath Abbey Ironworks
Neath Abbey, Wales, UK
Ironworks founded beside River Clydach — partners include Peter Price (1739-1821), Samuel Tregelles (1766-1831) and Robert Were Fox (1754-1818)
Two blast furnaces in use and a Boulton & Watt blowing engine (40in diameter cylinder, apparently the most powerful in Britain at the time), making iron parts for Cornish engines
Peter Price resident manager, leads change to making precision-engineering machine parts, complex castings and later cranes (from 1805), pipework (from 1812), stationary steam engines of all kinds (from c.1820) and locomotives (from 1829)
New lease drawn up, Henry Habberley Price becomes a partner, and his brother Joseph Tregelles Price (1784-1854) becomes managing partner
Premises of Cheadle Copper Company, Penclawdd, acquired for shipbuilding
A forge and rolling mill constructed upstream of the Neath Abbey blast furnaces
Produces the first locomotive with pivoted bogies in the world
Price's 5/32 shares sold to Thomas Were Fox (1766-1844), George Croker Fox (1784-1850), George Philip Fox (1790-1854), Nathaniel Tregelles (1803-87) and Joseph Tregelles Price
Constructs the first iron ship in Wales
Price's son Henry Habberley Price jnr (1825-94) takes over on the death of his uncle Joseph Tregelles Price
The Price and Fox families withdraw
Steam engine manufacture ceases
Locomotive manufacture ceases, some 35 locomotives were built 1829-80
Ironworks close (equipment sold 1920s)
engineering timelines
explore ... how?   explore ... why?   explore ... where?   explore ... who?  
home  •  NEWS  •  search  •  FAQs  •  references  •  about  •  sponsors + links
Portrack Cut, County Durham, UK
In 1824, Price begins work for the Tees Navigation Company, and makes two reports. He recommends the construction of the Portrack Cut (completed 1831), downstream of the earlier Mandale Cut (1810, William Chapman) on the River Tees, west of Middlesborough in the UK. Under Price's direction, William Edgeworth (c.1794-1829) made two surveys of possible routes. A detail of one of those is shown here.
Map: "The History of the River Tees in Maps", Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society, 1990
Beachley slipway, Severn Estuary
The Beachley slipway on the Severn Estuary, with the Severn Road Bridge soaring overhead. In 1827, Price became engineer for the Old Passage Ferry Piers, one at Aust on the English side of the estuary and one at Beachley. They served a new steamboat commissioned by the Old Passage Ferry Association, reviving the ferry service to Wales.
Photo: © Nicholas Mutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Sidmouth Harbour Railway route, courtesy Industrial Railway Society
Plan of the route of Sidmouth Harbour Company Railway (1836), at Sidmouth, Devon. Price undertook the engineering for a proposed harbour at Sidmouth, constructing a 3ft6in gauge railway to move stone from Hook Ebb (at right) to the designated site at Chit Rocks (at left), where two L-shaped piers were planned. Note the tunnel section in the centre. Although the railway was almost completed, the project funding failed.
Plan: from The Industrial Railway Record, Issue 55, p.282, reproduced courtesy Industrial Railway Society
Sidmouth Harbour Railway route, courtesy Industrial Railway Society
Remains of a length of Sidmouth Harbour Company Railway (1836) protected from removal by an early cliff fall and more-recently revealed by storms. The track ran on iron-tipped piles (some of which can be seen on the beach), or rock footings. A 10mm thick wrought iron running strap was laid on the timber rails (visible at left). The sleepers were at 910mm centres.
Photo: by M.J. Messenger, from The Industrial Railway Record, Issue 55, p.282, reproduced courtesy Industrial Railway Society
Neath Abbey Ironworks
The remains of Neath Abbey Ironworks (Riverside Works, 1792), Neath Abbey, Glamorgan. Price's father, Peter Price (1739-1821), became resident manager of the works in 1801. Price and his brother Joseph Tregelles Price (1784-1854) took over as partners in the company in 1818.
Photo: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales | © Hawlfraint y Goron: Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru
Neath Abbey Ironworks blast furnaces
Neath Abbey Ironworks's blast furnaces were set up in 1793. Under Price's father, the works gained a good reputation and was an important manufacturer of Cornish engines. By the time Price snr died, in 1821, Price family interests dominated the running of the company, and Price's brother was running associated collieries.
Photo: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales | © Hawlfraint y Goron: Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru