Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 146,681 pages of information and 232,152 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
1560 At a time of shortage of gunpowder, the water mill at Waltham Abbey, which had been used for making vegetable oil, was converted to make gunpowder and later became the first Royal Gunpowder Factory.
1665 the mill was acquired by Ralph Hudson, who used saltpetre made in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
By end of the century William Walton had acquired the mill, which was then expanded. The Waltham Abbey Mills became an any early example of an industrialised factory system.
1780s The Deputy Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich, Sir William Congreve, advocated that the Waltham Abbey Mills should be purchased by the Crown to ensure secure supplies.
1787 the Crown purchased the Mills from John Walton for £10,000; they were renamed the Royal Gunpowder Factory. Under Congreve, manufacturing of gunpowder moved from what had been a black art into a technology.