Bessemer Road, SE5


Sir Henry Bessemer (January 19, 1813 – March 15, 1898), was an engineer and inventor who developed a new process for manufacturing steel in 1855 drastically reducing its price. He lived and died at Denmark Hill.. The son of an engineer and typefounder, he was a prolific inventor from an early age and had made many inventions by the time he turned to metallurgy. Bessemer had been trying to reduce the cost of steel-making for military ordnance, and developed his system for blowing air through molten pig iron to remove the impurities. It led to the development of the Bessemer Convertor, and with it the price of steel came down from £50–60 a ton to just £6–7 a ton. In the 1860s he opened his Greenwich steel works, supplying the London shipbuilding industry. A fall in demand due to the financial crisis of 1866 forced it to close only a few years later however. By the time of his death, Bessemer had made over 100 inventions in the fields of steel, iron and glass. W M Lord has said of him: “Sir Henry Bessemer was somewhat exceptional. He had developed his process from an idea to a practical reality in his own lifetime and he was sufficiently of a businessman to have profited by it. In so many cases, inventions were not developed quickly and the plums went to other persons than the inventors.” His success allowed him to acquire the lease of a large property at 165 Denmark Hill in 1863. Its grounds were described by William Blanch, historian of Camberwell, as “the most charming spot within the hamlet” of Dulwich. Shortly afterwards he rented the house next door for his daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, William Wright, the chief clerk at Trinity House, the organisation responsible for maintaining lighthouses. By the time of his death, Bessemer had made over 100 inventions in the fields of steel, iron and glass. He is buried at West Norwood Cemetery. The street was developed in the early 20thCentury probably around the same time as King’s College Hospital, which was built on the former cricket ground and cabinet works. It appears on the Ordnance Survey map dating to 1916. 



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