Tamworth could not boast many notable inventors over the years, but in William Silver we have one of repute.
Born in 1846, he was the son of David Silver who was the licensee of the Royal Hotel at Foley's Folly near Hanging Rock back in the 1850s Gold Rush era.
With an unsuccessful attempt at an additional ore crushing business, David's new investment came to nought by 1862.
Some years later he moved to Tamworth and in 1878 he opened an engineering works near the new Railway Goods Shed in West Tamworth.
The following year he invited Mayor P.G. King to pour the first casting on his additional foundry facilities.
A Cobb & Co. coaching factory had been built on the northern corner of Marius and White Streets in 1877, composed of brick with a galvanised iron roof, with a large shed beside it for parking the coaches.
However, with the railway arriving in 1878 at West Tamworth, later extending across to East Tamworth over the newly-built Viaduct by 1881, the Cobb & Co. land was resumed by the Railway with the Coach Company forced to sell up at this location.
William Silver seized the opportunity to buy the factory's machinery from the site.
By 1880, William had become a partner in his father's foundry, taking over the business three years later and transferring the equipment to a new site at today's 213-215 Peel Street.
This opened the door to a developing life of engineering invention in Tamworth for William.
In 1884 he entered into a short-lived coachworks venture on his Peel Street site, claiming it to be "the largest coachworks north of Newcastle".
His main business partner's death seven months later ended the venture.
One of his other partners had been Thomas Lane, coach-builder and carpenter, who later built the new Upper Moore Creek School building in 1895.
Amongst the Silver & Co. accomplishments was building a 10-seater "sociable", a horse-drawn bus, so named because the passengers sat facing each other on seats along the side.
These vehicles could meet incoming trains, take passengers to other towns or be hired as mourning vehicles at funerals.
William Silver really came to the fore with his engineering/invention skills in 1889 when he'd completed his own significant improvement on Australia's Wolseley shearing machine, which had followed on from our world-first machine in 1867.
An initial demonstration of Silver's new machine took place in Denning Lane (now Rawson Avenue), with the Tamworth Observer reporting - "Mr William Silver, coach and buggy builder, had for the past two years been developing a new sheep shearing machine.
"So great an improvement is this machine upon its contemporaries that no time is lost in having it patented, not only in this but in all countries where wool growing is a stable industry.
"Several trials were made at the works of Mr Silver."
A second demonstration followed a fortnight later at the Tamworth Show on our second Showground site.
Soon after, leading Tamworth citizen Nathan Cohen arranged a shearing demonstration at Sydney's Circular Quay, with one sheep being shorn in as little as four minutes.
Further exhibitions were held in Melbourne and steps were then taken to market the invention.
On returning to Tamworth William Silver got a hero's reception from a large crowd at the railway station.
A few weeks later, in January 1890, Bective Station was the scene for an impressive demonstration of the Silver machine, when 20,000 lambs were shorn in front of widespread visitation.
Various contests were held subsequently between the Wolseley and Silver machines, the latter being judged the more efficient on each occasion.
William Silver made two trips to England regarding patent and manufacture of his machine, as well as an improved type called the Paragon.
Back in Tamworth by late 1894, Silver showed a wider scope of his skills with an improvement to windmills, and in 1896 a railway coupling and railway axle lubricator, for which he was awarded the Parisian Academy of Inventors Gold Medal and Certificate of Honour.
At this time he was advertising himself locally as a coach-builder, wheelwright and blacksmith and operating a steam-powered sawmill.
The first shipment of his newly-designed shearing machines arrived from England in 1901.
These were shown to be very efficient, as at the 1909 Tamworth Show, when one of C.J.Britten's lambs from his Appleby property were shorn in 65 seconds.
The Silver machines were used widely in NSW, Victoria and Queensland but gradually lost popularity due to some emerging design faults, due mainly to the rocking Philip Gidley Kingof the hand-piece.
With the status of his shearing machine diminishing over time, having been for a period probably the best in the world, William Silver's wide engineering focus produced a "spring wheel", designed to provide a more comfortable ride than the solid iron tyres of our early motor vehicles.
However, his popular invention was soon superseded by the arrival of solid rubber tyres, the first motor vehicle with them arriving in Tamworth around 1909.
William Silver died on October 3, 1926.
He is buried in the West Tamworth Cemetery.
His sons, William Charles Silver and Leslie Keith Silver, continued their father's general engineering business.
The first-mentioned later wrote of the continuing Silver business, "The nature of the business in later years was general engineering, together with blacksmithing and a cast iron foundry. After the horse and cart days, the firm were agents for Rover cars and Ruggles trucks."
Tamworth is fortunate to have a wonderful display of William Silver's shearing equipment set up by collector Alan Cameron at Calala Cottage.