Kitson family

Kitson, James

Co-founder of the firm which bore his name for 101 years. His father was a licensed victualler who took over the Brunswick Tavern in Camp Road. He was born in Leeds on 27 October 1807 and died in Leeds on 30 June 1885. His brother William was briefly locomotive superintendent of the ECR, and then Kitson's representative in London. George W. Carpenter states in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that he was educated at local schools and at the Leeds Mechanics' Institution and Literary Society, where he was a diligent student in drawing and mathematics. On 20 September 1828 he married Ann, daughter of John Newton, owner of a painting and decorating firm. They had four sons and two daughters: see also James jnr.

Encouraged by studying Nicholas Wood's Practical treatise on rail-roads Kitson quickly realized the great potential future for steam locomotives and in 1837 he joined Charles Todd, who had been apprenticed to James Fenton of the locomotive builders Fenton, Murray, and Jackson, and David Laird, a farmer and financier, in establishing Todd, Kitson, and Laird at the Railway foundry in Leeds, manufacturers of machinery and locomotives. Kitson's great organizing ability, technical ingenuity, and grasp of industrial developments formed the mainspring of these activities. In 1854 he felt it desirable to acquire a source of good Yorkshire iron for the Airedale foundry and established the Monk Bridge ironworks nearby, which was managed by his sons Frederick William and James Kitson, the former having previously been principal locomotive designer at Airedale. After the retirement of Isaac Thompson in 1858 and the death of William Hewitson in 1863 the Kitson family took complete control of the firm, and later James Kitson, junior, and the third son, John Hawthorn, who managed the Airedale foundry from 1863, became partners with their father.

Following the death of his first wife Kitson married Elizabeth Hutchinson, and they had two sons and two daughters. Kitson retired from the business in 1876. He was very musical and had a fine voice, in his youth he had built an organ in an outhouse of his father's premises. Later he became chairman of the orchestral committee for the Leeds music festival. He was also chairman of the Leeds Northern Railway and later a director of the North Eastern Railway. He was vice-chairman and later chairman of the Yorkshire Banking Company. An alderman of Leeds in 1858–68, he was mayor in 1860–61, as well as being a magistrate for Leeds borough and for the West Riding of Yorkshire. Kitson died at Elmet Hall, Roundhay, Leeds, on 30 June 1885.

Kitson, James, first Baron Airedale (1835–1911),

James was born on 22 September 1835 at Leeds, the second of of James Kitson's four sons. James attended the Wakefield proprietary school and University College, London, where he studied chemistry and natural sciences. In 1854 James and his elder brother, Frederick William, were put in charge of the recently established ironworks at Monk Bridge, which their father had bought for them. They built Monkbridge into a vast concern. In 1858 it was amalgamated with Airedale foundry, and the business became a limited liability company with a £250,000 capital in 1886, though still exclusively under family control. Frederick withdrew through ill health several years before his death in 1877, and James Kitson was effectively head of the firm from 1862, though his father did not retire until 1876. Kitson married Emily Christiana, daughter of Joseph Cliff of Wortley, Leeds, on 20 June 1860. They had three sons and two daughters. After her death in 1873, he married Mary Laura, daughter of Edward Fisher Smith, of Dudley, on 1 June 1881, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Kitson was assisted in running the firm by his younger brother John Hawthorn Kitson (1843–1899), and later by sons and nephews.

From the 1880s, the Monkbridge works made steel on the Siemens–Martin open-hearth process. Airedale and Monkbridge each employed about 2000 workers at the time of Kitson's death in 1911. Kitson was prominent in business circles: he was president of the Leeds chamber of commerce (1880–81), president of the Iron and Steel Institute (1889–91), and recipient of its Bessemer gold medal in 1903; he served as a member of the council of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1899–1901), and was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers from 1859; he was also president of the Iron Trade Association. Other business interests included chairmanships of the Yorkshire Banking Company, the London and Northern Steamship Company, and the Baku Russian Petroleum Company, and directorships of the London City and Midland Bank and the North Eastern Railway Company.

Kitson had been a member of the Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel since childhood, and was devoted to the Unitarians for the rest of his life. A memorial window to him was unveiled there in 1916. His interests included social and educational work, and at an early age he became prominent in the mechanics' institute movement, helping to establish a branch in Holbeck, and acting as secretary of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes for seven years. Kitson was involved in launching a self-help model dwelling scheme in 1862, designed to enable working men to buy houses on easy terms, though run as a business rather than a charity. He was also a governor of the Leeds General Infirmary and contributed to organizations involved in treating tuberculosis and in training nurses. He supported the Yorkshire College, later the University of Leeds, from its inception in the 1870s.

It was Kitson's long-standing interest in education which brought an introduction to national politics during the controversy following the passage of W.E. Forster's Education Act in 1870. He was instrumental in forming a branch of the National Education League in Leeds. In 1880 he was president of the Leeds Liberal Association, running the campaign for W.E. Gladstone's election as member of parliament. Kitson supported Gladstone over Irish home rule. Standing as a Gladstonian Liberal, Kitson became member of parliament for the Colne Valley in 1892, holding the seat until 1907. During his parliamentary career he was a prominent campaigner for old-age pensions. He also served as the first lord mayor of Leeds, in 1896–7/. He was created a baronet in 1886, was sworn of the privy council in 1906, and became Baron Airedale of Gledhow in 1907. Other honours included an honorary degree of DSc from the University of Leeds in 1904, and the freedom of his home city in 1906.

Airedale died at the Hotel Meurice in Paris on 16 March 1911, after suffering a heart attack while returning by train from the south of France. Most of the above was taken from Gillian Cookson's ODNB entry, although it clearly owes much to John Marshall.

Kitson, Frederick William

Eldest son of James Kitson senior: born Leeds 29 June 1829 and died there on 25 November 1877. According to Marshall invented solid weldless iron tyres and introduced improvements to the manufacture of railway wheels. He was Vice-President of the Iron & Steel Institute.

Kitson, William

Marshall: born Leeds 1813 (brother of James senior); died London 27 November 1875. He was briefly Locomotive Superintendent of the Eastern Counties Railway from December 1865 to June 1866 following which he became representative for Kitson's in London.

Kiston Clark, Edwin

Marshall records (under Clark) that he was born in Grantchester on 18 April 1866, where he was son of Dr E.C. Clark, Regius Professor of Law at Cambridge University and whose mother, Mary, was daughter of James Kitson. He died in Leeds on 15 April 1943. Colonel Kitson Clark compiled a record of his Company which folded just prior to World War II after a brave attempt to produce a combined cycle (internal comustion/external combustion machine): the Kitson-Still system which probably contributed to the fall of the Company. Rutherford and Tufnell both describe this aspect of the company's existence. See also Kitson-Still locomotives

Edwin Kitson Clark's younger son, George Sidney Roberts Kitson Clark, a historian, was born in Leeds on 14 June 1900, the second of three children. George's snooty biographer (Norman Gash) in the ODNB quaintly calls his father a] lieutenant-colonel of the Territorial Army and mechanical engineer. ...He was "brought up in a cultured and spacious home at Meanwoodside.... Kitson—as he was generally known—never married and, with the deterioration in his father's health and finances between the wars, he took on large and continuing responsibilities for the rest of the family". [KPJ's italics].

Own papers

Presidential Address: The translation of the locomotive. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1921, 11, 759-76.
Comment on the battle of the gauges: cites Colburn's "admirable book". Includes many extracts from literature. Noted that D.K. Clark, to whom he was not related, referred to the anatomy, physiology and resistance of the locomotive. : Dickens' Dombey & Sons; Kemble; Edgar Allen Poe's The thousand and second, J,R. Mozley; Birkbeck Hill; Oswald H. Dunn's Night Ridge; William Cosmo Monkhouse and Robert Louis Stevenson's From a Railway Carriage. Bret H
The diesel-steam locomotive: Kitson-Still type. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1930, 20, 728-78. (Paper No. 263).
This is the primary source as it includes an exhaustive analysis of the design, plus details of the test runs.
An internal combustion locomotive. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1927, (1), 333-66. Disc. : 366-98 + folding plate. illus., 21 diagrs.
Kitsons of Leeds, 1837-1937: a firm and its folk.
Chap. VII (pp. 108-38) describes the design and trial running on the L.N.E.R.
Obituary Lieut-Colonel Edwin Kitson Clark, T.D., D.L., MA.. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1943, 33, 157-8. illus. (port.)

Clark, E.F. Kitsons of Leeds. Rly Wld, 1984, 45, 6-9.

Clark, E.F. A very special family birthday. Rly Mag., 1989, 135, 292-6.
Note E.F. Clark is related to the above family. Contains a "family tree" of the relationships between the various locomotive manufacturers and their works in the Leeds area. author was related to the founder of the firm: James Kitson (the article includes a portrait of him). James Kitson had been influenced to enter locomotive manufacture by reading Nicholas Wood's Treatise on railways. The original engineering expertise was provided by Charles Todd. Notes that R.C. Parsons, elder brother of Charles Parsons, was a Partner in the firm and that Charles Parsons worked in the Airedale Foundry on two projects: his rocket torpedo engines and his epicycloidal high-speed steam engines. Notes on the Kitson-Meyer and Kitson-Still types and how the firm failed to take on Garratt's ideas yet built two in 1938 for the Surrey Border & Camberley Miniature Railway (10¼ gauge).