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[HARTLEY, David]

An account of the method of securing buildings (and ships) against fire.
London, 1774

In 1773, David Harley took out a patent for fireproofing using thin iron plates fixed under floors and to ceilings; it is almost certainly the first purpose-designed system of fireproofing and the first application of iron to such a use. He produced this account in 1774, explaining the principle behind the idea in broad terms and referring to experiments he had carried out.

In 1776, he proved the effectiveness of the fire-plates when he conducted a spectacular experiment in a house in Putney Heath. He protected a room using the plates and then dined in it, having lit a raging fire in the room beneath. In 1777, he secured an act to extend the patent for 31 years and in 1793 the method was re-tested by Henry Holland’s, "Committee...to consider the causes of the frequent fires and the best means of preventing the like in future", which recommended it as the most effective of the three systems they looked at.

The plates themselves were made of wrought-iron sheet, thin enough to be nailed to timber joists, and large areas could be covered by folding and rivetting the edges of plates together. S.B.Hamilton (in "A short history of the structural fireproofing of buildings") says of them, "there can be no reasonable doubt that [they] gave a degree of resistance that would pass present-day requirements for multi-storey flats".

Hartley’s fire plates were widely used by architects, such as Holland himself, James Wyatt and William Chambers, who made use of them in Somerset House. Moreover, the Duke of Bedford specified their use on buildings all over the Bedford estate in London.

An item of the greatest rarity.


4to. 14pp. As issued. Old repair to spine. Boxed.



Catalogue No: 5709