Cover of Duncan Stewart & Co. Ltd Brochure of Equipment, c. 1960 Guyana Jamaica

Duncan Stewart & Co. Lrd Brochure of Equipment c. 1960
Duncan Stewart & Co. Lrd Brochure of Equipment c. 1960

Custodian: University of Glasgow Archive Services

Reference: UGD052/1/2/8

Duncan Stewart & Co. Ltd., sugar machinery manufacturers, was established by Peter Stewart in Anderston, Glasgow in 1840. He was later joined by his son Duncan (1844–1904), and in 1864 the firm moved to larger premises at London Road Ironworks across town in Bridgeton, where they had a workforce of 80.

Duncan Stewart introduced the use of hydraulic pressure cylinders to sugar cane mills, for which he was granted a patent in 1871. In 1879, he married Marie Beardmore, daughter of William Beardmore senior, owner of Parkhead Forge in Glasgow’s East End. In the 1880 and 90s, the firm developed new markets for sugar machinery in Java, Australia, Egypt and Japan, as well as in the Caribbean, including Guyana, and also produced steel-making equipment for Beardmore, made machinery for textile production, diversified into marine engineering, and built large steam engines for driving electrical generating sites. The firm was incorporated as a limited liability company as Duncan Stewart & Co Ltd in 1891 with a capital of £100,000. By 1900, the firm employed over 1,000 people.

Financial difficulties and Duncan Stewart’s ill-health at the beginning of the 20th century saw the liquidation of the firm, and the establishment of a new company Duncan Stewart & Co (1902) Ltd , incorporated, with William Beardmore junior (later Lord Invernairn), who met many of the old company’s debts, as chairman. Following the reorganisation and second liquidation of the company, by the early 1920s, Duncan Stewart & Co Ltd extended its work in the sugar industry to include the processing of sugar beet. They had also expanded the scope of its activities to include the manufacture of hydraulic presses to reduce raw cotton bulk; gold-dredging plant; large engines to drive spinning machines; and high-speed rolling-mill engines for steel works with factories in several English towns. In 1926 the firm pioneered the introduction of continuous diffusion in the UK.

After the death of William Beardmore in 1936, the company was sold off to the machinery manufacturers at Sheffield steel work, Davy & United Engineering Co Ltd. In 1964 Fletcher & Stewart Ltd was formed when the Stewart firm merged with George Fletcher & Co Ltd, sugar machinery manufacturers (established 1838), itself acquired in 1956 by Booker Bros & Co Ltd.