Five Innovations from The North of England

Innovation is the main factor that makes a city or region prosperous. England’s Northern region was once the most innovative place in the whole country. Its ships, machinery and trains were spread across the world. Many people don’t know that some of the products they use every day came from this very place. Here are five innovations that came from the North of England that changed the world forever.

1. The windshield wiper

Unlike today, cars in 1908 were not a convenient, automatic, way of getting from one point to another. If a driver was caught in the rain, it would not be long before they had to pull over to the side of the road because they could no longer see out of their front window. Enter Gladstone Adams of Newcastle, who had to stop several times on his way home in the snow after a football game. His solution to this annoyance would be a gift to millions of drivers after him, the windshield wiper.

2. The light switch

Every time someone switches on a light, they have another Newcastle resident, John Henry Holmes, to thank. In 1884, he registered the patent for the light switch. His “bright” idea came after he had been installing lighting for his father. He was responsible for other inventions too, including the “Castle” dynamo and trains’ electrical systems.

3. Perspex

Right before the Second World War, in 1936, a chemical plant in Stockton-on-Tees produced a very important material that would be essential for both military aircraft and submarines. The acrylic safety glass called Perspex was a transparent material, which was shatter-proof and tough enough to withstand all kinds of pressure. Pilots who were injured by flying pieces of the material would be able to survive, where before, the standard glass would have had a detrimental effect on their eyes. Today, Perspex is used for bathrooms, fashion, glazing, and more.

4. Cleaning bleach

The product Domestos was invented by Wilfred Handley from Newcastle upon Tyne in 1929 as a cleaning agent. The composition was sodium hypochlorite for the most part, and when mixed with water this compound becomes bleach. The strong chemical was sold door-to-door with storage done in stone jars by the salesmen. Eventually, the large conglomerate Lever Brothers acquired it. This paved the way for the common household bleach that people use up until today.

5. The lifeboat

There were many adventurous sailors, navigators, and innovators in the north of England, so they needed something to keep them safe. In 1789 there was a tragic shipwreck, a boat ironically named “The Adventure”, and many passengers drowned in sight of the shoreline. This sparked a competition to create a boat that would survive disasters like these. Enterprising young inventor William Wouldhave won with a copper ship that he invented. This very first lifeboat was kept afloat with cork. For his hard work, he earned an award of one guinea, which was about a quarter of an ounce of gold.

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