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Ketley Iron Works

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Ketley Iron works, of Ketley, Shropshire, now part of Telford.

In 1754 Abraham Darby (1711-1763) had recently become lessee of the coal and ironstone near Ketley. Soon afterwards the Horsehay and Ketley ironworks began production.

1756 Abraham Darby (1711-1763) and Thomas Goldney leased land next to Watling Street for an ironworks. The first furnace came into blast in 1757 and a second in 1758.

1757 Darby's son-in-law Richard Reynolds joined the partnership and seems to have become manager.

1775 Reynolds bought Goldney's shares

1777 Reynolds was one of the first ironmasters to install Boulton and Watt engines at his works, at Ketley.

c.1789 Reynolds passed his interests to his sons, William and Joseph.

William Reynolds (the ironmaster of the works in the late 18th century), undertook to construct three tub boat canals - the Wombridge Canal, the Ketley Canal and the Shropshire Canal.

1796 the interests of the Darby and Reynolds families were separated - William and Joseph Reynolds took charge of the Madeley Wood and Ketley ironworks.

1796 Joseph Reynolds was the managing partner of the Ketley Iron Works, Shropshire. He and William were sole partners.

1797 William and Joseph renewed the lease. Under the Reynolds brothers Ketley was the fifth largest ironworks in Britain.

Joseph's son, John, became familiar with the working of minerals and the various processes of iron-making at an early age.

c.1800 A large blast furnace was built at Queenswood in Wombridge by the Coalbrookdale partners to supply the Ketley works with pig iron. By 1802 iron was being made that Boulton and Watt 'found to answer very well'. The works' subsequent history is not known[1].

1804 there were six blast furnaces. The foundry made large castings for civil and mechanical engineers and the forge made plates and rods.

c.1812 John was placed in the counting house of Messrs. Rathbone, of Liverpool,

In a few years John moved to management of the Ketley Works.

1816 Joseph closed the iron works because of falling demand.

1818 The Reynolds gave up the Ketley ironworks, and probably did not seek renewal of the mineral lease.

1818 The mineral lease was granted to the Ketley Co (Richard Mountford, Henry Williams, William Shakeshaft, John Ogle, and William Hombersley), new lessees of the ironworks, to whom it was renewed from 1839 and 1860.

1850s pig and bar iron remained the chief products.

1874 The Ketley Co. remained profitable until 1874

1876 liabilities exceeded assets by at least £12,000.

c.1879 The iron and brick works were sold, and the company surrendered its coal and ironstone lease

1879 the coal and ironstone were leased to Nettlefolds Ltd., purchasers of the brickworks.

1881 The Ketley Co was dissolved

1882 Mining was concentrated immediately east and south-east of Ketley town.

1886 Nettlefolds left Shropshire but their manager at Ketley (formerly manager of the Ketley Co.) continued mining until 1895

1903 Engineering resumed at the site when Duncan Sinclair, former manager of the Coalbrookdale works, established the Sinclair Iron Co. Ltd. to make light castings for the building trade.

Small independent mines continued to operate in the coal-bearing parts.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'Wombridge: Economic history', A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11: Telford (1985), pp. 291-296 [1]
  • 'Ketley: Economic history', A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11: Telford (1985), pp. 269-273 [2]