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Handyside, Andrewlocked

  • Robert Thorne

Handyside, Andrew (1805–1887), iron founder and engineer, was born on 25 July 1805 in Edinburgh, the son of Hugh Handyside, ironmonger, and Margaret Baird. As a young man he followed the example of his brother William Handyside (1793–1850) by going to work with his uncle Charles Baird at his iron foundry and engineering works in St Petersburg. The Baird manufactory was known for an immensely wide range of products, from steam engines to constructional ironwork, and through his experience there Handyside became ideally qualified to manage a similar enterprise back in England. In 1839 while still in St Petersburg, he married his Polish-born wife, Anastasia Henley: they had no children.

Handyside returned from Russia about 1846 and took over the Britannia ironworks in Duke Street, Derby. This works had been established over thirty years earlier by Weatherhead and Glover and had a wide reputation for its ornamental cast ironwork known as ‘Derby castings’. Under Handyside, the scope of its output was considerably extended, and the firm became a leader in the manufacture of iron products for export. During the continued development of the English railway system in the mid-nineteenth century, Handysides supplied bridges, railway equipment, and the ironwork of station buildings, including the roofs of Broad Street, London (1864–5), Liverpool Central (1872–3), and Manchester Central (1876–80) stations. The same range of products was exported for railways throughout the world, notably bridges for India and Australia and the 120 foot span roof of the main station in Amsterdam. Prefabricated buildings were also part of its export trade, supplied ready for erection complete with doors, windows, and fittings. Despite such diversification, the firm still maintained its reputation for traditional castings such as for lamp-posts, pillar boxes, and other ornamental objects, plus the manufacture of steam engines, pumps, and mining machinery.

The more important commissions that Handysides received were based on designs by consultant architects or engineers, for instance the Albert suspension bridge, London (1871–3) by R. M. Ordish, and a winter garden at Leeds Infirmary (1868) by G. G. Scott. However, under Handyside the firm developed the expertise to design as well as manufacture new structures of every kind. This accomplishment was publicized through a promotional book Works in Iron (1868 and subsequent editions), which helped demonstrate that less complex structures could be completed without the need for an independent designer. Handyside ran the works on a tight rein and did his best to eliminate traditional customs such as the observance of Mondays as an unofficial holiday. By 1873 he had a workforce of about 360 and decided to open a second site for the firm in Fox Street, Derby. Probably to help finance that extension, the company was incorporated with a capital of £120,000.

Handyside played a modest role in Derby public life. He was a town councillor (1855–8), and was a director of both the Derby water works and the Derby and Derbyshire Banking Company. However dour he may have seemed to his workers, he and his wife maintained Russian customs of hospitality at home, complete with a samovar on the sideboard. He died on 9 June 1887 at 16 Ashbourne Road, Derby, and was buried in the Uttoxeter Road cemetery. Handyside was survived by his wife. The firm which carried his name continued to flourish and was employing about 1000 people in the 1890s, but from that height of success it plunged to failure and was wound up in 1910.


  • Derby Mercury (15 June 1887)
  • Works in iron, Andrew Handyside and Company (1868)
  • F. Nixon, The industrial archaeology of Derbyshire (1969)
  • M. Higgs, ‘The exported iron buildings of Andrew Handyside and Co. of Derby’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 29 (1970), 175–80
  • R. Christian, ‘The Handyside story’, Derbyshire Advertiser (7 April 1961)
  • d. cert.
  • Nottingham Road cemetery, Derby, register of graves in Uttoxeter Road cemetery
  • private information (2010) [P. Butt]



Wealth at Death

£6622 16s. 6d.: probate, 27 July 1887, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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