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British Industrial History

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Horseley Ironworks

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1827 'Old Turn' canal bridge by the Malt House in the centre of Birmingham
A simpler, straighter 1827 bridge in the centre of Birmingham, crossing the BCN Main Line as it enters Brindley Place
1833 engine at the National Railway Museum. Note that the information board at the museum spells the name 'Horsley'
Detail of 1833 Swannington engine showing high standards of workmanship and restoration

Horseley Ironworks or Horseley Iron Works of Tipton

See also Horsley Coal and Iron Co and Horseley Iron Co.

At the end of the 18th century, the Horseley estate was sold due to demand from engineers due to the construction of the BCN Main Line through the estate. 1813 The first record of The Horseley Company dates back to 1770, but it was not till 1813, when Mr Aaron Manby took control, that the real history of the company may be said to have begun.[1]

c.1815 The ironworks were built near the Toll End Communication Canal by Aaron Manby[2].

1817 Some large castings were made in those days, and in the case of one cylinder, cast in 1817, it was possible to drive a wagon and team of horses through its bore. [3]

1821 Famous for constructing the first iron steamer, the PS Aaron Manby, the first of a number of steamboats built on the "knock-down" principle. The boat was assembled at Rotherhithe [4].

1822 The PS Aaron Manby, the first iron vessel propelled by steam, was constructed at Tipton and put together in London. She subsequently went to France, and was followed by several other successful ships; but the situation of the works was naturally unsatisfactory for shipbuilding, and the business was left to works nearer the coast.[5]

The bridge building trade was actively pursued, and there are numerous cast iron bridges still in commission which were built by the company as long ago as 1820. A particularly notable example is the Galton Bridge at Smethwick.[6]

1834 Made a 30 HP non-condensing engine for the East Boston Sugar Refinery, Boston, Mass.[7]

1837 Locomotives were also built at the Tipton works somewhere about 1837, but few details of them have survived.[8]

1843 Horsley Coal and Iron Co was bankrupt

1843 Advertisement: 'TO CAPITALISTS. THE HORSELEY IRON WORKS, STEAM ENGINE & BOILER MANUFACTORY ATTACHED, TIPTON, near Birmingham. THE ASSIGNEES of the HORSELEY ESTATE are desirous of DISPOSING OF, in one lot, the Intirety of the MACHINERY and BUILDINGS connected with the above celebrated Works, of which a lease may be obtained from the Proprietors on very liberal advantageous terms.

'The Mines of Coal and Ironstone may be worked with them, if required, at Royalties, which would enable the holder to make Pig Iron at profit, and to compete with the productions of Wales and Scotland.

'The Works consist of two Cold Blast Furnaces, worked by a powerful Engine manufactured by Boulton and Watt, which blows, in addition, two Refineries, three Cupolas, and all the Smiths' Fires, which are numerous.

'There are also three Air Furnaces. The Stoves are of various sizes, and the Cranes so arranged to command the range of the whole Foundry, which is on a large scale, and capable of turning out from 100 to 150 tons of Castings per week.

'The Pattern Shop and Store Rooms are large and commodious, and the Fitting up Shops, Lathe, and Planing Machine Shops and Erecting Sheds are very conveniently arranged.

'The Smiths' Shop is large and airy, and the Boiler Yard is everything that could be desired. All the Premises are lighted with Gas, the House containing eight Retorts, and the Purifiers, Gasholder, and Fittings being quite complete.

'The Wharfs, Sheds, Cranes, Weighing Machines, Stables, Drawing Offices, Clerks' Offices, &c. are conveniently placed among the Works.

'The Machinery, which is of the very best description consists of a Water-wheel, with a good supply to which Steam Engine is attached in case of need. This power drives the Boring Bars, Roll-turning Slide Lathes, Drilling Machines, and Planing Machines, one of which is capable of planing a surface of about 20 feet by ten. In the Boiler Yard there is a small Engine, which drives the Punching, Shearing, and Remering Machines. There is also a good Horizontal Steam Engine the new Lathe Shop, which works a large and magnificent Lathe, also other Lathes, Slotting Machines, &c.

'And there is a large and commodious House, with suitable Out-offices, for Partner or Manager. In fact, the Horseley Works are too well known to need any comment, and being now disencumbered of a heavy and unprofitable stock, a most favourable opportunity presents itself for the employment of capital, with every prospect of realizing a good income.

'For all further particulars and terms of treaty for the Works and Machinery, apply to John Williams, Esq., the Friery, Handsworth, or to Messrs. Jonah and George Davies, Albion Foundry, Tipton, the latter of whom will show the Machinery; and for further particulars and terms of treaty, in regard to the Colliery, apply to Mr. Benjamin Shorthouse, of Horseley Heath, Tipton. There may be an arrangement for the Machine and Works to be let together for a term of years, if thought more desirable, without sustaining the outlay of purchasing the Machinery.'[9]

1844 Advertisement: 'PEREMPTORY SALE AT THE HORSELEY IRON WORKS, TIPTON. TO IRONMASTERS, MANUFACTURERS, IRONFOUNDERS, ENGINEERS, MILLWRIGHTS, WHARFINGERS, AND OTHERS - MR. THOMAS DANKS has the honour to announce that he has been favoured with positive instructions from the Assignees to SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION, without the least reserve, on the 18th and 19th days of March inst.

'The whole of the truly valuable and important MACHINERY, ENGINES, CRANES, FORGE MILL, and ENGINE PATTERNS, GASOMETER, &c. at those celebrated Works known as the Horseley Iron Works, Tipton. The Machinery, Engines, &c. comprise a 20-horse horizontal high-pressure Engine cylinder, 17 in. diameter, three feet stroke, with one boiler, and the whole of its apparatus complete; a large face-plate Lathe, capable of turning 20 feet diameter, with planed iron beds; one single and two double-sliding Rests, Driving Apparatus, &c. complete, Nasmith and Co.; Drilling Machine, with double iron planed beds, 14 feet long, each intended to bore beams, cranks, &c. by Nasmith ; powerful Slotting Machine, with circular and single-slide motion driving apparatus, by Sharp, Roberts, and Co.; Slide Lathe, 18 feet bed, with single and double-slide rests, face-plates, chucks, steady and change wheels for screw-cutting, by Whitsmith {Whitworth?}; Blast Engine, cylinder 42 inches diameter, 8-feet stroke, with three boilers, blowing apparatus, &c. complete ; Ten horse Portable Bright Engine, without boiler, which has been used for winding up the materials to furnaces, and is nearly new; a six-horse House engine, cylinder 14 inches diameter; Boring and Turning Mills, Drilling Machines, Punching Engines, Loam and Blacking Mills, double and single Weighing Machines, large and powerful Planing Machines, with the driving apparatus complete, by Sharp, Roberts and Co.; Drilling and Screwing Machines, Travelling Winches, with rotchet tramways, &c for moving and lifting heavy weights; large and double-sided Iron Foundry Cranes of immense power, with double gears, blocks and chain complete; a very large and power Wood Wharf Crane with iron column, gear, and chain complete, capable of lifting 20 tons. Small Portable Iron Cranes, &c.; together with an immense quantity of other valuable Machinery. Also the valuable Engine, Mill and Forge, Wood Patterns, the whole of the immense ranges of SHOPPING, SHEDS, &c all of which will be sold to be removed from the premises.'[10]

1845 Advertisement: 'SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE. THE HORSELEY IRON WORKS, TIPTON. TO IRONMASTERS, IRON-FOUNDERS, ENGINEERS, &c. &c TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr. T. DANKS, on Monday the day of November, 1845, at the Dudley's Arms Hotel, in Dudley, at four o'clock in the afternoon subject to such conditions as will be then and there produced—the ENTIRETY and LEASE of those well-known and justly celebrated WORKS, situated at TIPTON, in the county of Stafford, formerly carried on for many years by Messrs. York, Harrison, and Co., and lately by Messrs. Bramah, Cochrane, and Deeley (by whom great improvements and additions have been made), and known as the "HORSELEY IRON WORKS". The Entirety comprises immense Foundries, calculated to carry on that department to any extent, and fitted with large and small double and single-sided Iron Cranes, with blocks and chains complete; Stoves, Air Furnaces, Cupolas, Pipe Pits, &c.; to these are connected two Blast Furnaces, with a most powerful Engine, cylinder 42 inches diameter, 8 feet stroke, with three oblong Flue-boilers, 24 feet by 6 feet 6 inches long, with blowing apparatus complete; a portable bright Ten-horse Engine, which has been used for drawing up the materials to the Furnaces ; extensive Smiths' Shops, with numerous Hearths, double and single Cranes, Boshes, Bellows, &c.; four-horse portable Engine and regulating damper complete, three large Punching Presses. Gasometer, Punching Press and Counter-sinking Machine, immense and powerful Wood Wharf Crane, with iron column, gear, and chain complete. Bed and Side {slide?} Lathes, Boring Mill, large and small Planing Machines, Drilling Machines, with driving apparatus complete ; a Marine Engine. Slotting Machines, Screwing Machines, Travelling Winches, with Rotchet Tramways for lifting great weights, to which are annexed immense Pulley Blocks, with ropes complete; a twenty horse power horizontal high-pressure Engine, with cylinder 17 inches diameter, large face-plate Lathe, capable of turning twenty feet diameter, with planed iron beds; one single and two double Sliding Rests, Driving Apparatus complete; six-horse House Engine, Boring and Turning Mill, double and single Weighing Machines, Cranes, Loam and Blacking Mills, Refineries, Pattern-makers' Shops and Lathes, immense range of Fitting and Workshops, which are fitted up with work-benches, vices, &c.; extensive Warehouses and Sheds, Pipe-proving Machine, Stables, most convenient and extensive Offices, which are fitted up with every convenience; Furnace and Foundry Wharfs and Yards ; also very large Inner Yard for engineering purposes, surrounded by Workshops and Warehouses, with large entrance folding-doors. In the centre of the Works is a Gasometer for making gas for lighting the whole premises. The whole of these extensive Works are inclosed by a wall, excepting such parts as are bounded by the canal, and are capable of any extent of business, either in the Foundry or Engineering departments, and are most complete all respects, and may be put in full operation in few days.

'There will also be included in this Sale the HORSELEY HOUSE, which is in every way fit for the residence of Principal Manager. It comprises dining, drawing, and breakfast-rooms, kitchens, entrance-hall, numerous bed-rooms, ale and wine cellars. Garden, Vinery, and Pleasure Grounds, Stables and Coach-houses, and about fourteen Acres of Meadow Land. The approach by a handsome carriage-drive from the main road leading from Tipton to Walsall, &c. The principal part of the Machinery was manufactured Messrs. Sharp, Roberts, and Co. and by Nasmyth and Co. More full descriptive particulars will be given in catalogues, which will be ready in a few days, and will be sent to any part of the kingdom on application. The whole of the said Works, House, Land, and Premises, are held for a term of 21 years from the 25th day of March, (determinable at the option of the Lessee at the end of the first seven or fourteen years), at the low rent of per annum. The whole of the said Works, House Land, and Premises will be offered for sale in the first instance as an Entirety, and if not sold, the Foundries, with the House and Land, will then be put up separately, and if the same shall be sold, the Machinery, Engines, Shop Fittings, and Erections belonging to the Engineering Department, will be Sold by Auction, on the premises, on the 8th day of December next, in lots. For further information apply to William Wills, Esq., Solicitor, Waterloo-street, Birmingham ; Samuel Dalton, Esq., Solicitor. Dudley ; or to the Auctioneer. [11]

1845 Mr Danks of Dudley succeeded in selling by auction as one lot Horseley Ironworks. They were purchased by John Joseph Bramah of Ashwood House who will put them into full operation, according to the Wolverhampton Chronicle[12].

1846 Death of John Joseph Bramah

c.1847 Mr Robert Broad became proprietor of Horseley Ironworks, which subsequently became the Horseley Co

1865 The firm moved to a site on Dixon's Branch off the BCN New Main Line near the South Staffordshire Railway line [13].

1868 According to a list of blast furnaces in S. Staffordshire and E. Worcestershire, there was still a furnace at Horseley at this time, owned by J. Colbourn and Sons [14].

1873 The Horseley Co was registered on 18 December, to take over the business of engineers, of a firm carried on under the same title. [15].

Cast Iron Bridges

The company produced handsome cast iron footbridges for canal companies. Examples:-

Gallows Bridge (Brentford), 1820

Oxford Canal: Bridge Number 32: Abandoned Brinklow Arm bridge, c.1832. More information here.

Oxford Canal: Bridge Number 39: Abandoned Fennis Fields Arm bridge, c.1832. More information here.

Oxford Canal: Newbold Arm Bridge. [16]

Oxford Canal: Rugby Wharf Arm Bridge. [17]

Oxford Canal: Footbridge 91A at Braunston. See Geograph entry.

Oxford Canal: Footbridges 93 & 94 at the Braunston Turn (junction of the Grand Union, Oxford and Grand Junction Canals).[18] See also Geograph entry.

Oxford Canal: Turnover Bridge 137A.[19]

Grand Union Canal: Footbridges 3 & 4.[20]

Grand Union Canal: Footbridge at Aston Junction[21]

Grand Union Canal: Footbridge at Bordesely[22]

Grand Union Canal: Footbridge 110 at Salford Junction, Birmingham.[23]

1827 'Old Turn' canal bridge by the Malt House in the centre of Birmingham (see photo above).

1827 Footbridge crossing the BCN Main Line as it enters Brindley Place in the centre of Birmingham (see photo above).

Footbridge at Farmers Bridge Locks on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Photos here.

Two 1828 footbridges at Smethwick Junction, the division of the BCN Main Line into the New and Old Main Line Canals near Smethwick,[24]

1829 Canal Footbridge over Old Main Line at Bromford Junction, Birmingham Canal, Wolverhampton Level[25]

1829 Ogley Junction Footbridge on the Wryley and Essington Canal.[26]

'Toll End' Bridge, Dudley No. 2 Canal, Windmill End Junction, Netherton [27]

NOTE: It has not been confirmed that all of the above bridges were made by the Horseley Co.

A number of canal footbridges with later dates (e.g. 1848, 1855) identify the company as HORSELEY COMPANY TIPTON.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1923/06/15
  2. Horseley Ironworks:
  3. The Engineer 1923/06/15
  4. Horseley Ironworks:
  5. The Engineer 1923/06/15
  6. The Engineer 1923/06/15
  7. [1] 'Steam Engines: Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury' by United States Dept. of the Treasury, 1838, p.41
  8. The Engineer 1923/06/15
  9. Birmingham Gazette, 27th November 1843
  10. Birmingham Gazette, 4th March 1844
  11. Birmingham Gazette, 17th November 1845
  12. The Standard 5 December 1845
  13. Horseley Ironworks:
  14. Birmingham Daily Post 15 February 1868
  15. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  16. [2] The Oxford Canal in England - Brinklow and through Rugby: photo of Newbold Arm Bridge
  17. [3] The Oxford Canal in England - Brinklow and through Rugby: photo of Rugby Wharf Arm Bridge
  18. [4] The Oxford Canal - between Braunston and Folly Bridge: photos of bridges 93 & 94
  19. [5] The Oxford Canal between Priors Hardwick and Hay Bridge: photo of turnover Bridge 137A
  20. [6] The Grand Union Canal - Bascote to Braunston towpath walk - with photos.
  21. [7] The Grand Union Canal, England - the route from Ashted Locks to Bordesley: photo of Aston Jc. bridge
  22. [8] The Grand Union Canal, England - the route from Ashted Locks to Bordesley: photo of bridge at Bordesley
  23. [9] The Grand Union Canal in England - Salford Junction to Aston Junction, photo of Bridge 110
  24. [10] Wikipedia
  25. [11] Flickr photo by Mark Wilson
  26. [12] Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust: LICHFIELD CANAL HERITAGE TOWPATH TRAIL
  27. [13] Black Country History Group website: 'Toll End' Bridge