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Cooke Lenses - Taylor Family

This is not intended to be a full biography, but to cover some aspects of the Taylor brothers' lives.

The Taylors who founded Taylor Taylor & Hobson were brothers: William Taylor and Thomas Smithies Taylor. Their father, Richard, was in the hosiery trade. They were born in north London and both attended Finsbury Technical College.

Thomas S. Taylor, 17, and William Taylor, 15 are listed as "optician's apprentice" on the 1881 census. Their address is Clyde Villa, Stonebridge Park, Willesden, Middlesex. In 1885, their father moved to Leicester.

William Taylor

As well as working with lenses, William Taylor was involved with precision engineering such as that used for measurement.

In 1901 he was involved with the standardization of the screw thread for camera lenses.

William Taylor was awarded an O.B.E. in 1919, because of his work during the World War 1, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1934.

He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1932, and was made an Honorary Life Member in 1936.


William Taylor was told by his doctor to take up a relaxing hobby. So he chose golf. At the time golf balls were smooth, but it had been noticed that damaged balls travelled further. So William Taylor did experiments with different designs, using smoke in a test chamber to see the airflow. As a result he invented, and, in 1905, patented, the modern dimpled ball.

With the aim of further improving the design, William Taylor devised a golf driving machine which would allow controlled experiments. He used it in a field near Narborough where he could measure how far each ball travelled.

Thomas Smithies Taylor

Thomas Smithies Taylor's wife, Mary Ellen (née Bennett), was active in the suffragette movement and he was supportive of her. She spent time in Holloway Prison in 1911 and 1912. Family letters are held in the archive of The Women's Library at London Metropolitan University.

Mary Ellen Taylor was one of the suffragettes photographed when the police first used secret surveillance cameras. The lenses used in the cameras were not made by Taylor Taylor & Hobson.

His son Lieutenant Garth Smithies Taylor of the Sherwood Foresters, was killed in World War1, in 1916, aged 20. His family published memorial notices for Garth in The Times in the 1920s. They also made a donation to Leicester University in his name shortly after the end of the war.

Garth had attended Bedales School in Hampshire, and Thomas Smithies Taylor became Estate Manager there.


Taylor, Taylor and Hobson Ltd. - Leicester's contribution to precision engineering [doc]

William Taylor

William Taylor - Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, January 1, 1938 Vol 2, No 6, p362-365

Obituary: "Mr. William Taylor, O.B.E., F.R.S.", Nature 139, 537-538 (27 March 1937)

Obituary: "Mr. W. Taylor, F.R.S.", The Times, 02 March, 1937, p18.

"Trail Of The Storm", The Times , 02 March, 1937, p16. Report of William Taylor's death after setting out to help his son whose car was trapped in an snowdrift after a severe snowstorm.

Supplement To The London Gazette, 8 January, 1919. p459: William Taylor Esq, O.B.E.

Institution of Mechanical Engineers' heritage website: William Taylor

Thomas Smithies Taylor

Thomas Smithies Taylor

London Metropolitan University, The Women's Library Autograph Letter Collection: Taylor Collection

The Suffragettes: Terrorists! - the police first used secret surveillance cameras to photograph suffragettes, including Mary Ellen Taylor.

Graduates' Review 09 - University of Leicester - donation in memory of Garth Smithies Taylor.


William Taylor and golf's greatest innovation

Your golf ball flies further, thanks to the inventive genius of William Taylor!

Narborough's Claim to Golfing Fame

Golf is include in the display about Taylor Taylor & Hobson at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville.


Last updated 12th August, 2013.

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