John Isaac Thornycroft
Sir John Isaac Thornycroft (1843–1928) was a British shipbuilder, the founder of the Thornycroft shipbuilding company and member of the Thornycroft family
Thornycroft family
The Thornycroft family was a notable English family of sculptors, artists and engineers, connected by marriage to the historic Sassoon family. The earliest known mention of the family is stated in George Ormerod's History of Cheshire as during the reign of Henry III in the 13th century, taking its...



He was born in 1843 to Mary Francis
Mary Thornycroft
Mary Thornycroft was a British sculptor and a member of the Thornycroft family.-Biography:The daughter of sculptor John Francis, she was born at Thornham, Norfolk...

 and Thomas Thornycroft
Thomas Thornycroft
Thomas Thornycroft was an English sculptor and engineer.-Biography:Thomas Thornycroft was born near Gawsworth, Cheshire, the eldest son of John Thornycroft, a farmer. He was educated at Congleton Grammar School and then briefly apprenticed to a surgeon. He moved to London where he spent four...


Thornycroft worked for a while at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company
Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company
Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited, often referred to simply as Palmers, was a British shipbuilding company. The Company was based in Jarrow, in Northeast England and also had operations in Hebburn and Willington Quay on the River Tyne....

 in Jarrow-on-Tyne before studying for a diploma in engineering at the University of Glasgow
University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Located in Glasgow, the university was founded in 1451 and is presently one of seventeen British higher education institutions ranked amongst the top 100 of the...

. At Glasgow he studied under Lord Kelvin
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin OM, GCVO, PC, PRS, PRSE, was a mathematical physicist and engineer. At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging...

 and Professor Macquorn Rankine
William John Macquorn Rankine
William John Macquorn Rankine was a Scottish civil engineer, physicist and mathematician. He was a founding contributor, with Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson , to the science of thermodynamics....


He established a shipbuilding yard on the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 at Chiswick
Chiswick is a large suburb of west London, England and part of the London Borough of Hounslow. It is located on a meander of the River Thames, west of Charing Cross and is one of 35 major centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex, with...

 in 1864. He built his first steam launch when he was 19 years old. In 1876, his first vessel for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 was a steam torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

, HMS Lightning.

His yard built a steam-powered lorry
Steam wagon
A steam wagon is a steam-powered road vehicle for carrying freight. It was the earliest form of lorry and came in two basic forms: overtype and undertype – the distinction being the position of the engine relative to the boiler...

 which led them into the vehicle manufacturing business, the Thornycroft named business
Thornycroft was a United Kingdom-based vehicle manufacturer which built coaches, buses, and trucks from 1896 until 1977.-History:Thornycroft started out with steam vans and lorries. John Isaac Thornycroft, the naval engineer, built his first steam lorry in 1896...

 lasting until the late 20th century.

Thornycroft worked on means of aiding hull lubrication by air which also led him to the hydrofoil
A hydrofoil is a foil which operates in water. They are similar in appearance and purpose to airfoils.Hydrofoils can be artificial, such as the rudder or keel on a boat, the diving planes on a submarine, a surfboard fin, or occur naturally, as with fish fins, the flippers of aquatic mammals, the...

. This led him to develop stepped chine hulls which used for 55 ft British Coastal Motor Boat
Coastal Motor Boat
During the First World War, following a suggestion from three junior officers of the Harwich destroyer force that small motor boats carrying a torpedo might be capable of travelling over the protective minefields and attacking ships of the German Navy at anchor in their bases, the Admiralty gave...

s during the war gave them speeds of up to 40 knots.

In 1904, he transferred larger shipbuilding activities to Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

. In 1908 he also set up the Hampton Launch Works on Platts Eyot
Platts Eyot
Platts Eyot is an island on the River Thames at Hampton, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England, on the reach between Molesey Lock and Sunbury Lock....

, an island on the Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 at Hampton, Middlesex
Hampton, London
Hampton is a suburban area, centred on an old village on the north bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in England. Formerly it was in the county of Middlesex, which was formerly also its postal county. The population is about 9,500...


He died in 1928.


This boatbuilding works concentrated on cabin cruisers and speedboats, but also produced small naval craft - Coastal Motor Boats in the First World War and Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy.The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy boats and abbreviated to "MTB"...

s, Motor Launches and landing craft
Landing craft
Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

 in the Second World War.

Thornycrofts closed their boatbuilding operation on Platt's Eyot when they were taken over by Vospers in the mid-1960s. The Southampton shipyard continues to operate as a VT Shipbuilding (Vosper-Thornycroft) company.

Sir John Thornycroft's son Isaac Thomas Thornycroft
Isaac Thomas Thornycroft
Isaac Thomas "Tom" Thornycroft was a British motorboat racer who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics.He won two gold medals in the only motor boat competitions included in the Olympics as helmsman of the Gyrinus II, which was designed by his father Sir John Isaac Thornycroft.He became a yacht...

 skippered a motorboat Gyrinus II designed by him to two gold medals at the 1908 Olympic Games
Water motorsports at the 1908 Summer Olympics
At the 1908 Summer Olympics, three motorboat racing events were contested. Various sources refer to the sport as "water motorsports", "motor boats", and "power boating"...


Sir John Thornycroft was the brother of Hamo Thornycroft
Hamo Thornycroft
Sir William "Hamo" Thornycroft, RA was a British sculptor, responsible for several London landmarks.-Biography:...

, the British sculptor and uncle of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...


External links

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