Francis Ince - unsung hero
Francis Ince (1841-1920) one of William Ince’s great grandsons, played an important role in the introduction of electricity to the domestic home.
According to his daughter’s book[i], Francis was a practical man of business, by temperament excitable, impetuous and impatient of quick results. A lawyer by profession he was a passionate amateur scientist with a great interest in the technicalities of electrical science. In 1881 he met Sebastian de Ferranti, then aged 17, but already an ingenious inventor, who was then working for Siemens. Francis Ince recognised Ferranti’s talent and set him up in business with the company Ferranti, Thompson and Ince.
Ferranti was a pioneer in electrical engineering, having grasped that electricity could be made on a large scale in one place and then distributed to all those who needed it. One of his aims was to use electricity to help women with their domestic chores. He was appointed to the London Electric Supply Corporation with Francis Ince on the Board of Directors. At the age of 24 he helped establish the world’s first high voltage AC power station at Deptford with the ability to create 10,000 volts. He also invented cables to carry high voltage electricity; the transformer to reduce the voltage for use and the voltmeter to measure use. This is much the same system that is still in use all over the world today.
By 1893 Francis Ince was a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Director of the London Electric Supply Corporation and Chairman of S. Z. de Ferranti. In 1889 he had been amongst the party to meet Thomas Edison when he visited the Deptford works.
Francis left Ferranti’s company in 1899, but they remained firm friends. Ferranti had married his daughter, Gertrude, in 1888 and was a support to Francis during his final illness.
A blue plaque for Sebastian de Ferranti has recently been erected in his birthplace, Liverpool. An excellent explanation of his contribution to our world can be seen at http://www.sebastiandeferranti.co.uk and http://www.ferranti.me/sebastian-1864.html
[i] Ziani de Ferranti, Gertrude and Ince, Richard, The Life and Letters of Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, London 1934
Sarah Ingle is the great great great great grand-daughter of William Ince and has been researching her family history for a number of years. She thoroughly enjoyed the detective work involved in tracing William’s lineage.