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Family Origins Since Williams the Conqueror


The origins of the DOXFORD family in England are said to have started with Sire de Gaugi, a knight who arrived in England with William the Conqueror's forces in 1066. He is named in the Battle Abbey Rolls as one who fought at Hastings. He was born in 1040, and he died in 1100. Ralph de Gaugi (1070-1130) married Mabel de Grenville had moiety, (half), of Barony of Ellingham with his wife. Adam de Gaugi was rector of Ellingham about 1170. Adams second son, Elyas took his name from lands held by him, namely those around the village of Doxford in Northumberland. From Embleton, John Doxford and his wife Elizabeth Gair and son William ‘migrated' to the village of Dalton-le-Dale in County Durham, possibly due to the rebellion in Northumberland 1745. William's son Joseph Doxford moved to Sunderland, together with another brother. Joseph had a raff yard and saw mill, the other brother set-up a grocery shop in High Street. Joseph 's son William (1812-1882) started the first Doxford shipbuilding yard.

1840 William Doxford began shipbuilding at Coxgreen (1840) a few miles inland from the mouth of the River Wear at Sunderland.

1857 He moved down river to Pallion to what would later be known as the West Yard.

1870 Another site was purchased, which would be known as the East Yard.

1878 One of his grandsons Robert (son of Robert Pile Doxford), who had trained under Sir William Allan at the North Eastern Marine Engine Works, built the original engine works to produce steam engines and boilers.

1886 The Company built, to their own account, a single screw torpedo boat, which allowed a speed of 21 knots, the highest speed recorded for that particular type of craft. This vessel ran her trials with a coal burning locomotive type boiler which was shortly afterwards converted to oil burning.

1897 Rudolph Diesel invented the compression-ignition engine in his Man engine works in Germany, he used coal dust as fuel, which was blasted into the cylinders with compressed air.

1902 Doxfords explored the idea of producing gas engines but decided against it.

1905 Karl Otto Keller joined Doxfords on a three-year contract to investigate gas engines. The same year they earned the Blue Ribbon of the maritime world for the largest output of any firm in world.

1906 Doxfords output of 106,000 tons did not gain them the Blue Riband, but were practically turning a ship out every two weeks. An achievement only surpassed many years later.

1907 Once again they gained the Blue Ribbon for the highest production of any yard.

1910 Karl Otto Keller re-joined Doxfords as chief designer working along side Professor Junkers on the opposed piston type.

1911 William Purdie joined Doxfords as chief draughtsman and designer.

1912 Doxfords obtained the sole U.K. licence to build the opposed piston design of Oechelhauser and Junkers. Experimenting began on a single piston diesel unit, which was abandoned after just one month.

1913 In May Keller and Purdie commenced work on the first opposed piston engine. It had a bore of 500mm with equal strokes for upper and lower pistons of 750mm, which produced 450BHP at 130rpm. M.I.P. was 100lbs /m2.

1914 The outbreak of World War 1 ended the association between Professor Junkers who left for Germany before engine trials commenced in November. Output was increased to 750BHP at 160rpm. The possibility of the engines being used in submarines was considered, but was abandoned when the war ended. The demands of war the years required the supply of many steam engines and, whilst design work on diesel engines continued, production was not resumed till after the war.

1916 The abandonment of fuel being blasted into the engine with compressed air was due to seizure of the air compressor. Instead, the common rail system was adopted whereby fuel is forced under high pressure through injectors into the engine cylinders. The Doxford engine thus became known as an ‘Oil Engine.' The engine produced 250BHP at 130rpm. Doxford would continue to describe their engine as an 'Oil' and not as a 'Diese'l engine.


1919 Northumberland Shipbuilding Company on the Tyne was a small firm with capital of £500,000. With the advent of Mr. R.A. Workman (Workman Clark shipyard, Belfast ), and their bankers, Sperling there were some marvellous and immediate changes in N.S.C. In 1919 it became a public company with a share issue of £3,000,000. In March 1919 it registered a trust deed in respect of the £3,000,000 and authorised capital increased to £7,000,000. It soon began to buy other companies costing between £7M and £8M. By 1920 Northumberland Shipbuilding Company had bought Workman Clark. It then bought all Doxford Engine Works for £2,986,169-13s-6d, written up by £1,000,000 the following year.

1919 On the 20 th January Charles D. Doxford, William Doxford, Robert Pile Doxford, Charles Doxford, Albert Ernest Doxford and Robert Doxford all resigned. At the same time E. Mackay Edgar, R.A. Workman and W.O. Workman were appointed as board members.

On 23rd January at 12-00pm in the Hotel Russell in Russell Square, London the Doxfords transferred their shares to the new owners. At 12-30pm on the same day in Basildon House, Moorgate Street, and Sir John Elspen was appointed as director. Frawell was appointed as London secretary.

Work on the four-cylinder prototype engine began, although three others were commenced at the same time. The four cylinder, 580mm bore, 2 x 1160mm stroke opposed piston engine would be designed to produce 3,000 IHP at 77rpm. Thus was born the 58L4 (L for Long stroke).

1920 The prototype four cylinder engine commenced testing in October.

1921 The prototype engine was installed in the ‘Yngaren' a 12,760ton cargo ship for the Swedish Transatlantic Company, yard No 549 built at the Doxford shipyard adjoining the engine works. The association between Keller and the owner's engineer Tage Madsen would undoubtedly have influenced the placing of the contract. Sea trials commenced on June 15 th 1921 . The ship was torpedoed and sunk on January 1943, in a convoy HX168, 500 miles south west of Iceland by U-boat U34.

1922 Robert Pile and Charles David Doxford were retained as senior officials of the company. Other members of the family were retained as managers.

1925 The first twin Doxford installation was fitted to Workman Clarks ‘Port Dunedin,' followed by ‘Port Freemantle' in 1927.

1927 All the press cuttings regarding the legal action in the Workman Clark case reported in the ‘Northern Whig & Belfast Post, 28th October 1927 are in Tyne & Wear Archives. The Furness Withy passenger liner ‘ Bermuda ' was built at Workman Clark's yard in Belfast with a quadruple screw installation of 14,600 H.P.

1933 Fabricated steel superstructures and supporting frames were used for the first time.

1936 Fabricated steel bedplates used for the first time, instead of cast-iron.

1942 The death of Karl Otto Keller.

1943 The 3-cylinder engine earned title of ‘The Economical'

1947 Percy Jackson Joined William Doxford & Sons.

1953 William Purdie retired after forty-two years' service.

1959 First Doxford ‘P' engine underwent test bed trials.

1964 First Doxford ‘J' engine underwent test bed trials.

1965 Percy Jackson retired. The prototype ('J' engines) a 9 cylinder unit of 20,000BHP was installed in the M.V. NORTH SANDS a 64,450-ton tanker.

1980 Last engine built a 76JC4R for M.V.”Canadian Pioneer”

1984 Percy Jackson died aged 87, at the same time Doxford Engine works closed for ever.


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