Henry Pooley was born in West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool, on 4th of January, 1803. He was the third son of Mr Henry Pooley Snr., an iron founder of some note in Liverpool, and one who sought to excel in all that he undertook. But as his favourite maxim was "if a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well," profit was often lost sight of in the desire to attain this object. The subject of this notice was apprenticed to his father. Being trained in a thoroughly practical school, much under his father's eye, he soon became expert in the use of tools. His evenings, and almost all his spare hours, were devoted to scientific studies; he also acquired a knowledge of drawing at the classes formed by the father of the late Mr. Spence, Sculptor of Rome. His industry and talents enabled him, on the completion of his seven years' apprenticeship, to take an active part in the management of his fathers business. At this time the works were chiefly engaged in the production of stoves, heating and ventilating apparatus, small engines, and machinery of various kinds. Everything Mr. Pooley touched bore the impress of thought and skill, his designs being marked by a simple elegance, a fitness, and an accuracy of taste and judgment somewhat unusual in those early days, before School of Art had lent their aid to the student. Correctness of outline, strength of form, with lightness of of appearance, were aimed at and generally attained by him. About the year 1830 his father admitted him to a partnership, and the firm then took the style of 'Henry Pooley & Son'.
Trifles - at least what appear to be such at the time - often influence the whole course of men's lives : it was so in Mr Pooley's business career; for about the year of 1832, he was induced to commence the manufacture of weighing machines as a somewhat unimportant addition to his business, little thinking that this step would largely vary the character of his operations. But the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, quickly followed by the projection and completion of other lines, opened up a new business to Mr. Pooley's enterprise. These undertakings demanded novel contrivances for handling and rapidly weighing goods brought for conveyance : his quick perception and ready resource enabled him to anticipate the special requirements of this new trade, and to contrive appliances for weighing the goods, etc, traffic, which railway engineers and managers were not slow to appreciate and to use. His apparatus served as models, which others copied and imitated; but nevertheless his business extended rapidly. By his father's death, in the year 1841, he was left at the head of a large concern, which in its management drew heavily on his energy and activity.
About this time his friend, Mr. Joseph Franklin, the then surveyor to the corporation of Liverpool, requested his advice and assistance in preparing the engineering plans and details required for the erection of the public baths and washhouses, Frederick Street, Liverpool, and these were freely given. It is believed that this establishment, built in 1842, was regarded as somewhat as an experiment, and was the first of its kind ever erected in the United Kingdom. Proving to be entirely successful, the corporation resolved on the erection of the larger and more important institution in Paul Street, the centre of a poor and squalid district in Liverpool. Again Mr. Franklin asked Mr. Pooley's services, and the arrangements connected with water service, tanks, boilers, drying closets, distribution of steam, hot water, and many of the details connected with the private and plunge baths, were planned and afterwards executed by him. He entered into this work, con amore, for sanitary science and reform had early been studied and advocated by him. For some years after the erection of these baths his advice was frequently sought in reference to similar projects. He planned and carried out the whole of the works in the erection of the public baths and washhouses at Chester, including the water supply, filtering beds and storage. The Chester plunge bath was that time in 1848 the largest in the UK. The engineering details of the first Macclesfield and other public baths were also his work.
In 1846 Mr. Richard Trevithick, the then locomotive superintendent at Crewe, consulted him on the subject of balancing locomotive engines by actual weight; and he arranged and made the first multiple weighing apparatus ever used for this purpose. It was embodied in the patent taken out by him in 1847, ‘‘ for improvements in weighing machines.” The railway wagon weighbridge was greatly simplified and improved by him; the parts were framed together in a new and very secure manner, thus reducing its cost and the cost of its foundation work. A weighing crane was also invented by him, but this was not a very successful application. In 1848 he commenced to take a prominent part in public affairs within his own parish of Wallasey, a large one, on the Cheshire side of the Mersey; and not long afterwards he was elected to the Improvement Commissioners Board of this important district.. The Commissioners were entitled to send one of their body to represent them on the original Birkenhead Dock Board, and Mr. Pooley for a time occupied the position of representative. Road communication within the parish was formerly in a deplorable state, and he early stimulated his colleagues into action; roads were made, a system of main drainage was devised, a public water supply projected, which was carried out under the professional direction of Mr. Robert Rawlinson, M. Inst. C.E.; gas works were established, ferry rights acquired, and communication with Liverpool much improved. The landing pier at New Brighton was completed by Mr. W. Carson, M. Inst. C.E., from whose designs the Egremont ferry was also reconstructed. The foregoing works were not carried out without much ignorant opposition; but his indomitable energy, his excellent and persuasive manner and address, materially aided his colleagues to overcome all obstacles. He was several times elected chairman of the Wallasey Local Board. Mr. Pooley was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 21st of January, 1851.
A few papers were written and published by him; among them one of considerable interest on “ The Public Health.” Always an ardent friend of education, he was elected as a member of the first School Board for Liverpool. After serving his term of office he retired from the Board, but he did not cease from work. His friend, Mr. C. Bushel1 (the chairman of the first School Board), conceived and carried out a scheme for connecting the primary and higher class public schools of the town; and, under the direction of a council, called the Liverpool Council of Education, this comprehensive arrangement was put into operation. Mr. Pooley served on this council, and in connection with it he founded a science scholarship. He retired from active business life in 1872. In 1876 he celebrated his golden wedding by the gift of a new school to the village of Seacombe (parish of Wallasey), in connection with the Wesleyan church, of which he was a member.
Mr. Pooley was a man of large heart and catholic spirit, and was always ready to aid with brain and purse the cause of religion, science, and education. He was an excellent and fluent speaker. As chairman of the Ferry Works Committee of the Wallasey Local Board, he was engaged in his duties up to four days before his death, when he discussed with the Board’s Engineer, Mr. Carson, the progress of the new ferry works now in construction at Seacombe-works of a comprehensive and important character, whether viewed as the main outlet from the parish, and therefore its chief public work, or in the light of the large expenditure involved. As one of the principal promoters of these works, Mr. Pooley’s clearness of perception, firmness of grasp, and readiness of resource, came prominently into view. It might be said that he died literally in harness, having lived a most un-selfish life, earnestly desiring and contributing to the improvement of his fellows, more particularly in the parish of Wallasey, in which he resided for thirty-four years. His early opportunities for self-improvement were small, but he used them well; and, firmly believing in a life of continued and progressive education, always learning himself, he was ever ready with some new views, wide and far-sighted ideas, often much in advance of his time. In his habits he was simple; always an early riser, he spent the first hours of each day in his study. He died at his residence, Home Croft, Liscard, Wallasey, on the 1st of September, 1878.