To expand and collapse the navigation please click on the headingsGo to other Related Subject areas
The Bridgnorth Foundries
In the course of the 19th Century there were four foundries in Bridgnorth. The most important of these was the first, established by John Hazledine.
The Hazledine Foundry, Bridgnorth
John Hazledine was born in 1760, the son of a millwright, William. He was the eldest of four children. He was apprenticed to his uncle in 1774 and it was from him that he probably learnt the rudiments of engineering. In 1782 he married one Ann Davies of Eardington and it is possible that he was employed at Eardington Forge, which opened in about 1777. At forges such as Eardington, pig iron, the product of blast furnaces, was processed to turn it into wrought iron, for use by blacksmiths. The pig iron could also be sold to foundries, where it was remelted and used for castings.
Although John was probably gaining experience of the iron trade after his marriage, the first reference to him in Bridgnorth, in 1791 when he purchased a tenement in Low Town, described him as a maltster i.e., a person who supplied malt to brewers. However, by 1794, Dr Peter King, has shown that he was in partnership with one Hallen in Bridgnorth and was purchasing pig iron; he had now established his foundry at Bridgnorth. ďHallenĒ was probably William Hallen of Upton Forge; by 1797 this William with his partner at Upton, John Wheeler, was in business with Hazledine. As both William Hallen and John Wheeler had previously been partners at Eardington, it is easy to see how a connection with Hazledine might have been established.
John Hazledine appears to have remained the senior partner at Bridgnorth Foundry for the rest of his life, during which time it established a national reputation for the quality of its castings. However, Hazledine does not seem to have benefited much from the success of the foundry. In 1797 he was declared bankrupt. He was involved in a web of business dealings; with John Wheeler and William Hallen in the iron trade, William Hallen and his brother George Hallen in a spinning mill at Eardington and also with Robert Thompson, a tanner of Bridgnorth. Hazledine, the Hallens and Wheeler, all went bankrupt at the same time, suggesting some kind of collective failure. Hazledine seems to have come to some accommodation with his creditors fairly rapidly and was able to continue at the foundry, although his insolvency would later come back to haunt him. The year after his bankruptcy, Hazledine took out a patent on an improved mill for rolling iron and other metals into bars; this was an essential piece of equipment at any iron forge. It is likely that the Bridgnorth Foundry supplied castings to many ironworks; in 1800 it equipped a furnace at Aberdare in South Wales, partly owned by John Thompson who was also partner in a forge at Hampton Loade. Within a short period, Hazledine himself became a partner with Thompson, firstly at Hampton Loade forge and then the Stanley Colliery in Highley, which opened around 1803. Hazledine soon abandoned his interest in Stanley but quickly appears to have become the senior partner at Hampton Loade forge, whilst maintaining his share in Bridgnorth Foundry.
Bridgnorth Foundry was at its most productive in the early years of the 19th Century. It was during this period that it came to the attention of Richard Trevithick, the pioneer of high-pressure steam engines. Trevithick placed regular orders for engines with Bridgnorth from 1802/3 onwards. Mostly these were stationary engines but in 1807/8 the locomotive Catch-me-who-can was built at Bridgnorth. Part of the attraction of Bridgnorth is likely to have been the presence of the up-and-coming engineer, John Urpeth Rastrick. Rastrick was from Morpeth in Northumberland, the son of a millwright and engineer of some ability in his own right. After first working for William Reynolds at Coalbrookdale, Rastrick arrived in Bridgnorth about 1807. He seems to worked as an engineer, supplying steam engines and perhaps also threshing machines. This may have been independent of the foundry but it seems that the castings for the engines were normally done in there.
The financing of the foundry and the exact relationship between Hazledine, Rastrick and other individuals in the first decade on the 19th Century is not altogether clear. From 1805 onwards there are references to Thompson, Hazledine & Co or Thompson Shuttleworth and Hazledine taking iron at Bridgnorth (information from Dr Peter King). It seems as though Hazledineís creditors had never properly been paid and after 1807 there appear to have been renewed problems with them. John Hazledine died in October 1810 and at this point the key players in the foundry seem to have been Joel Shuttlewood, Johnís executor; Robert Hazledine, Johnís brother and Thomas Davies, his brother-in-law. There seems to have been some tension between Shuttlewood on the one hand and Davies, Robert Hazledine and Rastrick on the other. By 1814 a new partnership was established involving Hazledine, Rastrick and Davies and also Alexander Brodie of the Calcutts Ironworks near Broseley. This lasted until 1817 when Rastrick left, eventually to go into business with John Foster at Stourbridge.
Whilst Rastrick was associated with the foundry, it retained its reputation for excellence. Once he had gone, there was no one who replace the engineering flair that he contributed. Additionally, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the iron trade went into depression. It was probably a combination of both of these factors that lead to the bankruptcy of Davies and Hazledine in 1823. This may explain why the Shropshire Gazette for 1824 reported that the foundry was just restarting. The foundry continued, but it no longer attracted orders from leading engineers for steam engines for export. It now had a strictly local market, supplying, for example, pipes to Bridgnorth water works in 1827. Robertís bankruptcy proved as difficult to settle as that of his brother and the foundry and other property in his ownership was offered for sale in 1829 and again 1830. The properties were sold in two portions in 1834 and 1835. It seems that the Hazledine foundry continued in some form as John Hazledine, Robertís son was described as an iron founder in a trade directory of 1840 as well as the census of 1841. However, this seems to have been on a site facing Bridge Street rather than the on the site of the works established by his uncle, which was at, least in part, occupied by a carpet factory in 1835. The Hazledine connection came to end with the death of John, son of Robert, in 1843.
The other foundries at Bridnorth
Although the Hazledine foundry closed in the early 1840s, it was followed by three others.
The ironworks of William and Alexander Pope stood in Mill Street alongside the Severn, close to the site of the Hazledine Foundry. The Popes had once worked at the Hazledine foundry but by 1839 they were in business by themselves as smiths and living in St Johnís Street. By 1850 they were described as iron founders and their works was close to Bridge Street; quite possibly the same foundry that had previously been occupied by John, son of Robert Hazledine. It remained in work throughout the rest of the 19th Century; in 1901, Maria Pope, the daughter-in-law of Alexander, was still in Bridgnorth and described as a blacksmith.
Charles Barker is listed as an iron founder living in Bridgnorth in the 1841 census. He may have initially worked for Hazledine, but it is said that he set up in trade himself on his marriage. He died in 1849 but his iron and brass foundry in Cartway was continued by his widow Johanna , her son-in-law, Charles Rushton and his son Samuel until around 1914.
In Underhill Street, by 1861 James Roden was an iron and brass founder; in 1865 his partnership with one Henry Knott was dissolved. Rodenís developed into a light engineering firm under the ownership of Jamesís son, James Aston Roden and again survived until around 1926.