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Industrial Biography: Iron Workers and Tool Makers By Samuel Smiles Characters: 46485

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"The triumph of the industrial arts will advance the cause of civilization more rapidly than its warmest advocates could have hoped, and contribute to the permanent prosperity and strength of the country far move than the most splendid victories of successful war."-C. BABBAGE, The Exposition of 1851.

Dud Dudley's invention of smelting iron with coke made of pit-coal was, like many others, born before its time. It was neither appreciated by the iron-masters nor by the workmen. All schemes for smelting ore with any other fuel than charcoal made from wood were regarded with incredulity. As for Dudley's Metallum Martis, as it contained no specification, it revealed no secret; and when its author died, his secret, whatever it might be, died with him. Other improvements were doubtless necessary before the invention could be turned to useful account. Thus, until a more powerful blowing-furnace had been contrived, the production of pit-coal iron must necessarily have been limited. Dudley himself does not seem to have been able to make more on an average than five tons a-week, and seven tons at the outside. Nor was the iron so good as that made by charcoal; for it is admitted to have been especially liable to deterioration by the sulphureous fumes of the coal in the process of manufacture.

Dr. Plot, in his 'History of Staffordshire,' speaks of an experiment made by one Dr. Blewstone, a High German, as "the last effort" made in that county to smelt iron-ore with pit-coal. He is said to have "built his furnace at Wednesbury, so ingeniously contrived (that only the flame of the coal should come to the ore, with several other conveniences), that many were of opinion he would succeed in it. But experience, that great baffler of speculation, showed it would not be; the sulphureous vitriolic steams that issue from the pyrites, which frequently, if not always, accompanies pit-coal, ascending with the flame, and poisoning the ore sufficiently to make it render much worse iron than that made with charcoal, though not perhaps so much worse as the body of the coal itself would possibly do." [1] Dr. Plot does not give the year in which this "last effort" was made; but as we find that one Dr. Frederic de Blewston obtained a patent from Charles II. on the 25th October, 1677, for "a new and effectual way of melting down, forging, extracting, and reducing of iron and all metals and minerals with pit-coal and sea-coal, as well and effectually as ever hath yet been done by charcoal, and with much less charge;" and as Dr. Plot's History, in which he makes mention of the experiment and its failure, was published in 1686, it is obvious that the trial must have been made between those years.

As the demand for iron steadily increased with the increasing population of the country, and as the supply of timber for smelting purposes was diminishing from year to year, England was compelled to rely more and more upon foreign countries for its supply of manufactured iron. The number of English forges rapidly dwindled, and the amount of the home production became insignificant in comparison with what was imported from abroad. Yarranton, writing in 1676, speaks of "the many iron-works laid down in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and in the north of England, because the iron of Sweadland, Flanders, and Spain, coming in so cheap, it cannot be made to profit here." There were many persons, indeed, who held that it was better we should be supplied with iron from Spain than make it at home, in consequence of the great waste of wood involved by the manufacture; but against this view Yarranton strongly contended, and held, what is as true now as it was then, that the manufacture of iron was the keystone of England's industrial prosperity. He also apprehended great danger to the country from want of iron in event of the contingency of a foreign war. "When the greatest part of the iron-works are asleep," said he, "if there should be occasion for great quantities of guns and bullets, and other sorts of iron commodities, for a present unexpected war, and the Sound happen to be locked up, and so prevent iron coming to us, truly we should then be in a fine case!"

Notwithstanding these apprehended national perils arising from the want of iron, no steps seem to have been taken to supply the deficiency, either by planting woods on a large scale, as recommended by Yarranton, or by other methods; and the produce of English iron continued steadily to decline. In 1720-30 there were found only ten furnaces remaining in blast in the whole Forest of Dean, where the iron-smelters were satisfied with working up merely the cinders left by the Romans. A writer of the time states that we then bought between two and three hundred thousand pounds' worth of foreign iron yearly, and that England was the best customer in Europe for Swedish and Russian iron.[2] By the middle of the eighteenth century the home manufacture had so much fallen off, that the total production of Great Britain is supposed to have amounted to not more than 18,000 tons a year; four-fifths of the iron used in the country being imported from Sweden.[3]

The more that the remaining ironmasters became straitened for want of wood, the more they were compelled to resort to cinders and coke made from coal as a substitute. And it was found that under certain circumstances this fuel answered the purpose almost as well as charcoal of wood. The coke was made by burning the coal in heaps in the open air, and it was usually mixed with coal and peat in the process of smelting the ore. Coal by itself was used by the country smiths for forging whenever they could procure it for their smithy fires; and in the midland counties they had it brought to them, sometimes from great distances, slung in bags across horses' backs,-for the state of the roads was then so execrable as not to admit of its being led for any considerable distance in carts. At length we arrive at a period when coal seems to have come into general use, and when necessity led to its regular employment both in smelting the ore and in manufacturing the metal. And this brings us to the establishment of the Coalbrookdale works, where the smelting of iron by means of coke and coal was first adopted on a large scale as the regular method of manufacture.

Abraham Darby, the first of a succession of iron manufacturers who bore the same name, was the son of a farmer residing at Wrensnest, near Dudley. He served an apprenticeship to a maker of malt-kilns near Birmingham, after which he married and removed to Bristol in 1700, to begin business on his own account. Industry is of all politics and religions: thus Dudley was a Royalist and a Churchman, Yarranton was a Parliamentarian and a Presbyterian, and Abraham Darby was a Quaker. At Bristol he was joined by three partners of the same persuasion, who provided the necessary capital to enable him to set up works at Baptist Mills, near that city, where he carried on the business of malt-mill making, to which he afterwards added brass and iron founding.

At that period cast-iron pots were in very general use, forming the principal cooking utensils of the working class. The art of casting had, however, made such small progress in England that the pots were for the most part imported from abroad. Darby resolved, if possible, to enter upon this lucrative branch of manufacture; and he proceeded to make a number of experiments in pot-making. Like others who had preceded him, he made his first moulds of clay; but they cracked and burst, and one trial failed after another. He then determined to find out the true method of manufacturing the pots, by travelling into the country from whence the best were imported, in order to master the grand secret of the trade. With this object he went over to Holland in the year 1706, and after diligent inquiry he ascertained that the only sure method of casting "Hilton ware," as such castings were then called, was in moulds of fine dry sand. This was the whole secret.

Returning to Bristol, accompanied by some skilled Dutch workmen, Darby began the new manufacture, and succeeded to his satisfaction. The work was at first carried on with great secrecy, lest other makers should copy the art; and the precaution was taken of stopping the keyhole of the workshop-door while the casting was in progress. To secure himself against piracy, he proceeded to take out a patent for the process in the year 1708, and it was granted for the term of fourteen years. The recital of the patent is curious, as showing the backward state of English iron-founding at that time. It sets forth that "whereas our trusty and well-beloved Abraham Darby, of our city of Bristol, smith, hath by his petition humbly represented to us, that by his study, industry, and expense, he hath found out and brought to perfection a new way of casting iron bellied pots and other iron bellied ware in sand only, without loam or clay, by which such iron pots and other ware may be cast fine and with more ease and expedition, and may be afforded cheaper than they can be by the way commonly used; and in regard to their cheapness may be of great advantage to the poor of this our kingdom, who for the most part use such ware, and in all probability will prevent the merchants of England going to foreign markets for such ware, from whence great quantities are imported, and likewise may in time supply other markets with that manufacture of our dominions, &c….. grants the said Abraham Darby the full power and sole privilege to make and sell such pots and ware for and during the term of fourteen years thence ensuing."

Darby proceeded to make arrangements for carrying on the manufacture upon a large scale at the Baptist Mills; but the other partners hesitated to embark more capital in the concern, and at length refused their concurrence. Determined not to be baulked in his enterprise, Darby abandoned the Bristol firm; and in the year 1709 he removed to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, with the intention of prosecuting the enterprise on his own account. He took the lease of a little furnace which had existed at the place for more than a century, as the records exist of a "smethe" or "smeth-house" at Coalbrookdale in the time of the Tudors. The woods of oak and hazel which at that time filled the beautiful dingles of the dale, and spread in almost a continuous forest to the base of the Wrekin, furnished abundant fuel for the smithery. As the trade of the Coalbrookdale firm extended, these woods became cleared, until the same scarcity of fuel began to be experienced that had already desolated the forests of Sussex, and brought the manufacture of iron in that quarter to a stand-still.

It appears from the 'Blast Furnace Memorandum Book' of Abraham Darby, which we have examined, that the make of iron at the Coalbrookdale foundry, in 1713, varied from five to ten tons a week. The principal articles cast were pots, kettles, and other "hollow ware," direct from the smelting-furnace; the rest of the metal was run into pigs. In course of time we find that other castings were turned out: a few grates, smoothing-irons, door-frames, weights, baking-plates, cart-bushes, iron pestles and mortars, and occasionally a tailor's goose. The trade gradually increased, until we find as many as 150 pots and kettles cast in a week.

The fuel used in the furnaces appears, from the Darby Memorandum-Book, to have been at first entirely charcoal; but the growing scarcity of wood seems to have gradually led to the use of coke, brays or small coke, and peat. An abundance of coals existed in the neighbourhood: by rejecting those of inferior quality, and coking the others with great care, a combustible was obtained better fitted even than charcoal itself for the fusion of that particular kind of ore which is found in the coal-measures. Thus we find Darby's most favourite charge for his furnaces to have been five baskets of coke, two of brays, and one of peat; next followed the ore, and then the limestone. The use of charcoal was gradually given up as the art of smelting with coke and brays improved, most probably aided by the increased power of the furnace-blast, until at length we find it entirely discontinued.

The castings of Coalbrookdale gradually acquired a reputation, and the trade of Abraham Darby continued to increase until the date of his death, which occurred at Madeley Court in 1717. His sons were too young at the time to carry on the business which he had so successfully started, and several portions of the works were sold at a serious sacrifice. But when the sons had grown up to manhood, they too entered upon the business of iron-founding; and Abraham Darby's son and grandson, both of the same name, largely extended the operations of the firm, until Coalbrookdale, or, as it was popularly called, "Bedlam," became the principal seat of one of the most important branches of the iron trade.

There seems to be some doubt as to the precise time when pit-coal was first regularly employed at Coalbrookdale in smelting the ore. Mr. Scrivenor says, "pit-coal was first used by Mr. Abraham Darby, in his furnace at Coalbrookdale, in 1713;" [4] but we can find no confirmation of this statement in the records of the Company. It is probable that Mr. Darby used raw coal, as was done in the Forest of Dean at the same time,[5] in the process of calcining the ore; but it would appear from his own Memoranda that coke only was used in the process of smelting. We infer from other circumstances that pit-coal was not employed for the latter purpose until a considerably later period. The merit of its introduction, and its successful use in iron-smelting, is due to Mr. Richard Ford, who had married a daughter of Abraham Darby, and managed the Coalbrookdale works in 1747. In a paper by the Rev. Mr. Mason, Woodwardian Professor at Cambridge, given in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for that year,[6] the first account of its successful employment is stated as follows:-"Several attempts have been made to run iron-ore with pit-coal: he (Mr. Mason) thinks it has not succeeded anywhere, as we have had no account of its being practised; but Mr. Ford, of Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, from iron-ore and coal, both got in the same dale, makes iron brittle or tough as he pleases, there being cannon thus cast so soft as to bear turning like wrought-iron." Most probably, however, it was not until the time of Richard Reynolds, who succeeded Abraham Darby the second in the management of the works in 1757, that pit-coal came into large and regular use in the blasting-furnaces as well as the fineries of Coalbrookdale.

Richard Reynolds was born at Bristol in 1735. His parents, like the Darbys, belonged to the Society of Friends, and he was educated in that persuasion. Being a spirited, lively youth, the "old Adam" occasionally cropped out in him; and he is even said, when a young man, to have been so much fired by the heroism of the soldier's character that he felt a strong desire to embrace a military career; but this feeling soon died out, and he dropped into the sober and steady rut of the Society. After serving an apprenticeship in his native town, he was sent to Coalbrookdale on a mission of business, where he became acquainted with the Darby family, and shortly after married Hannah, the daughter of Abraham the second. He then entered upon the conduct of the iron and coal works at Ketley and Horsehay, where he resided for six years, removing to Coalbrookdale in 1763, to take charge of the works there, on the death of his father-in-law.

By the exertions and enterprise of the Darbys, the Coalbrookdale Works had become greatly enlarged, giving remunerative employment to a large and increasing population. The firm had extended their operations far beyond the boundaries of the Dale: they had established foundries at London, Bristol, and Liverpool, and agencies at Newcastle and Truro for the disposal of steam-engines and other iron machinery used in the deep mines of those districts. Watt had not yet perfected his steam-engine; but there was a considerable demand for pumping-engines of Newcomen's construction, many of which were made at the Coalbrookdale Works. The increasing demand for iron gave an impetus to coal-mining, which in its turn stimulated inventors in their improvement of the power of the steam-engine; for the coal could not be worked quickly and advantageously unless the pits could be kept clear of water. Thus one invention stimulates another; and when the steam-engine had been perfected by Watt, and enabled powerful-blowing apparatus to be worked by its agency, we shall find that the production of iron by means of pit-coal being rendered cheap and expeditious, soon became enormously increased.

We are informed that it was while Richard Reynolds had charge of the Coalbrookdale works that a further important improvement was effected in the manufacture of iron by pit-coal. Up to this time the conversion of crude or cast iron into malleable or bar iron had been effected entirely by means of charcoal. The process was carried on in a fire called a finery, somewhat like that of a smith's forge; the iron being exposed to the blast of powerful bellows, and in constant contact with the fuel. In the first process of fusing the ironstone, coal had been used for some time with increasing success; but the question arose, whether coal might not also be used with effect in the second or refining stage. Two of the foremen, named Cranege, suggested to Mr. Reynolds that this might be performed in what is called a reverberatory furnace,[7] in which the iron should not mix with the coal, but be heated solely by the flame. Mr. Reynolds greatly doubted the feasibility of the operation, but he authorized the Cranege, to make an experiment of their process, the result of which will be found described in the following extract of a letter from Mr. Reynolds to Mr. Thomas Goldney of Bristol, dated "Coalbrookdale, 25th April, 1766":-

…. "I come now to what I think a matter of very great consequence. It is some time since Thos. Cranege, who works at Bridgenorth Forge, and his brother George, of the Dale, spoke to me about a notion they had conceived of making bar iron without wood charcoal. I told them, consistent with the notion I had adopted in common with all others I had conversed with, that I thought it impossible, because the vegetable salts in the charcoal being an alkali acted as an absorbent to the sulphur of the iron, which occasions the red-short quality of the iron, and pit coal abounding with sulphur would increase it. This specious answer, which would probably have appeared conclusive to most, and which indeed was what I really thought, was not so to them. They replied that from the observations they had made, and repeated conversations together, they were both firmly of opinion that the alteration from the quality of pig iron into that of bar iron was effected merely by heat, and if I would give them leave, they would make a trial some day. I consented, but, I confess, without any great expectation of their success; and so the matter rested some weeks, when it happening that some repairs had to be done at Bridgenorth, Thomas came up to the Dale, and, with his brother, made a trial in Thos. Tilly's air-furnace with such success as I thought would justify the erection of a small air-furnace at the Forge for the more perfectly ascertaining the merit of the invention. This was accordingly done, and a trial of it has been made this week, and the success has surpassed the most sanguine expectations. The iron put into the furnace was old Bushes, which thou knowest are always made of hard iron, and the iron drawn out is the toughest I ever saw. A bar 1 1/4 inch square, when broke, appears to have very little cold short in it. I look upon it as one of the most important discoveries ever made, and take the liberty of recommending thee and earnestly requesting thou wouldst take out a patent for it immediately…. The specification of the invention will be comprised in a few words, as it will only set forth that a reverberatory furnace being built of a proper construction, the pig or cast iron is put into it, and without the addition of anything else than common raw pit coal, is converted into good malleable iron, and, being taken red-hot from the reverberatory furnace to the forge hammer, is drawn out into bars of various shapes and sizes, according to the will of the workmen."

Mr. Reynolds's advice was implicitly followed. A patent was secured in the name of the brothers Cranege, dated the 17th June, 1766; and the identical words in the above letter were adopted in the specification as descriptive of the process. By this method of puddling, as it is termed, the manufacturer was thenceforward enabled to produce iron in increased quantity at a large reduction in price; and though the invention of the Craneges was greatly improved upon by Onions, and subsequently by Cort, there can be no doubt as to the originality and the importance of their invention. Mr. Tylor states that he was informed by the son of Richard Reynolds that the wrought iron made at Coalbrookdale by the Cranege process "was very good, quite tough, and broke with a long, bright, fibrous fracture: that made by Cort afterwards was quite different." [8] Though Mr. Reynolds's generosity to the Craneges is apparent; in the course which he adopted in securing for them a patent for the invention in their own names, it does not appear to have proved of much advantage to them; and they failed to rise above the rank which they occupied when their valuable discovery was patented. This, however, was no fault of Richard Reynolds, but was mainly attributable to the circumstance of other inventions in a great measure superseding their process, and depriving them of the benefits of their ingenuity.

Among the important improvements introduced by Mr. Reynolds while managing the Coalbrookdale Works, was the adoption by him for the first time of iron instead of wooden rails in the tram-roads along which coal and iron were conveyed from one part of the works to another, as well as to the loading-places along the river Severn. He observed that the wooden rails soon became decayed, besides being liable to be broken by the heavy loads passing over them, occasioning much loss of time, interruption to business, and heavy expenses in repairs. It occurred to him that these inconveniences would be obviated by the use of rails of cast-iron; and, having tried an experiment with them, it answered so well, that in 1767 the whole of the wooden rails were taken up and replaced by rails of iron. Thus was the era of iron railroads fairly initiated at Coalbrookdale, and the example of Mr. Reynolds was shortly after followed on all the tramroads throughout the Country.

It is also worthy of note that the first iron bridge ever erected was cast and made at the Coalbrookdale Works-its projection as well as its erection being mainly due to the skill and enterprise of Abraham Darby the third. When but a young man, he showed indications of that sagacity and energy in

business which seemed to be hereditary in his family. One of the first things he did on arriving at man's estate was to set on foot a scheme for throwing a bridge across the Severn at Coalbrookdale, at a point where the banks were steep and slippery, to accommodate the large population which had sprung up along both banks of the river. There were now thriving iron, brick, and pottery works established in the parishes of Madeley and Broseley; and the old ferry on the Severn was found altogether inadequate for ready communication between one bank and the other. The want of a bridge had long been felt, and a plan of one had been prepared during the life time of Abraham Darby the second; but the project was suspended at his death. When his son came of age, he resolved to take up his father's dropped scheme, and prosecute it to completion, which he did. Young Mr. Darby became lord of the manor of Madeley in 1776, and was the owner of one-half of the ferry in right of his lordship. He was so fortunate as to find the owner of the other or Broseley half of the ferry equally anxious with himself to connect the two banks of the river by means of a bridge. The necessary powers were accordingly obtained from Parliament, and a bridge was authorized to be built "of cast-iron, stone, brick, or timber." A company was formed for the purpose of carrying out the project, and the shares were taken by the adjoining owners, Abraham Darby being the principal subscriber.[9]

The construction of a bridge of iron was an entirely new idea. An attempt had indeed been made at Lyons, in France, to construct such a bridge more than twenty years before; but it had entirely failed, and a bridge of timber was erected instead. It is not known whether the Coalbrookdale masters had heard of that attempt; but, even if they had, it could have been of no practical use to them.

Mr. Pritchard, an architect of Shrewsbury, was first employed to prepare a design of the intended structure, which is still preserved. Although Mr. Pritchard proposed to introduce cast-iron in the arch of the bridge, which was to be of 120 feet span, it was only as a sort of key, occupying but a few feet at the crown of the arch. This sparing use of cast iron indicates the timidity of the architect in dealing with the new material-his plan exhibiting a desire to effect a compromise between the tried and the untried in bridge-construction. But the use of iron to so limited an extent, and in such a part of the structure, was of more than questionable utility; and if Mr. Pritchard's plan had been adopted, the problem of the iron bridge would still have remained unsolved.

The plan, however, after having been duly considered, was eventually set aside, and another, with the entire arch of cast-iron, was prepared under the superintendence of Abraham Darby, by Mr. Thomas Gregory, his foreman of pattern-makers. This plan was adopted, and arrangements were forthwith made for carrying it into effect. The abutments of the bridge were built in 1777-8, during which the castings were made at the foundry, and the ironwork was successfully erected in the course of three months. The bridge was opened for traffic in 1779, and proved a most serviceable structure. In 1788 the Society of Arts recognised Mr. Darby's merit as its designer and erector by presenting him with their gold medal; and the model of the bridge is still to be seen in the collection of the Society. Mr. Robert Stephenson has said of the structure: "If we consider that the manipulation of cast-iron was then completely in its infancy, a bridge of such dimensions was doubtless a bold as well as an original undertaking, and the efficiency of the details is worthy of the boldness of the conception." [10] Mr. Stephenson adds that from a defect in the construction the abutments were thrust inwards at the approaches and the ribs partially fractured. We are, however, informed that this is a mistake, though it does appear that the apprehension at one time existed that such an accident might possibly occur.

To remedy the supposed defect, two small land arches were, in the year 1800, substituted for the stone approach on the Broseley side of the bridge. While the work was in progress, Mr. Telford, the well-known engineer, carefully examined the bridge, and thus spoke of its condition at the time:-"The great improvement of erecting upon a navigable river a bridge of cast-iron of one arch only was first put in practice near Coalbrookdale. The bridge was executed in 1777 by Mr. Abraham Darby, and the ironwork is now quite as perfect as when it was first put up. Drawings of this bridge have long been before the public, and have been much and justly admired." [11] A Coalbrookdale correspondent, writing in May, 1862, informs us that "at the present time the bridge is undergoing repair; and, special examination having been made, there is no appearance either that the abutments have moved, or that the ribs have been broken in the centre or are out of their proper right line. There has, it is true, been a strain on the land arches, and on the roadway plates, which, however, the main arch has been able effectually to resist."

The bridge has now been in profitable daily use for upwards of eighty years, and has during that time proved of the greatest convenience to the population of the district. So judicious was the selection of its site, and so great its utility, that a thriving town of the name of Ironbridge has grown up around it upon what, at the time of its erection, was a nameless part of "the waste of the manor of Madeley." And it is probable that the bridge will last for centuries to come. Thus, also, was the use of iron as an important material in bridge-building fairly initiated at Coalbrookdale by Abraham Darby, as the use of iron rails was by Richard Reynolds. We need scarcely add that since the invention and extensive adoption of railway locomotion, the employment of iron in various forms in railway and bridge structures has rapidly increased, until iron has come to be regarded as the very sheet-anchor of the railway engineer.

In the mean time the works at Coalbrookdale had become largely extended. In 1784, when the government of the day proposed to levy a tax on pit-coal, Richard Reynolds strongly urged upon Mr. Pitt, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as on Lord Gower, afterwards Marquis of Stafford, the impolicy of such a tax. To the latter he represented that large capitals had been invested in the iron trade, which was with difficulty carried on in the face of the competition with Swedish and Russian iron. At Coalbrookdale, sixteen "fire engines," as steam engines were first called, were then at work, eight blast-furnaces and nine forges, besides the air furnaces and mills at the foundry, which, with the levels, roads, and more than twenty miles of iron railways, gave employment to a very large number of people. "The advancement of the iron trade within these few years," said he, "has been prodigious. It was thought, and justly, that the making of pig-iron with pit coal was a great acquisition to the country by saving the wood and supplying a material to manufactures, the production of which, by the consumption of all the wood the country produced, was formerly unequal to the demand, and the nail trade, perhaps the most considerable of any one article of manufactured iron, would have been lost to this country had it not been found practicable to make nails of iron made with pit coal. We have now another process to attempt, and that is to make BAR IRON with pit coal; and it is for that purpose we have made, or rather are making, alterations at Donnington Wood, Ketley, and elsewhere, which we expect to complete in the present year, but not at a less expense than twenty thousand pounds, which will be lost to us, and gained by nobody, if this tax is laid upon our coals." He would not, however, have it understood that he sought for any PROTECTION for the homemade iron, notwithstanding the lower prices of the foreign article. "From its most imperfect state as pig-iron," he observed to Lord Sheffield, "to its highest finish in the regulating springs of a watch, we have nothing to fear if the importation into each country should be permitted without duty." We need scarcely add that the subsequent history of the iron trade abundantly justified these sagacious anticipations of Richard Reynolds.

He was now far advanced in years. His business had prospered, his means were ample, and he sought retirement. He did not desire to possess great wealth, which in his opinion entailed such serious responsibilities upon its possessor; and he held that the accumulation of large property was more to be deprecated than desired. He therefore determined to give up his shares in the ironworks at Ketley to his sons William and Joseph, who continued to carry them on. William was a man of eminent ability, well versed in science, and an excellent mechanic. He introduced great improvements in the working of the coal and iron mines, employing new machinery for the purpose, and availing himself with much ingenuity of the discoveries then being made in the science of chemistry. He was also an inventor, having been the first to employ (in 1788) inclined planes, consisting of parallel railways, to connect and work canals of different levels,-an invention erroneously attributed to Fulton, but which the latter himself acknowledged to belong to William Reynolds. In the first chapter of his 'Treatise on Canal Navigation,' published in 1796, Fulton says:-"As local prejudices opposed the Duke of Bridgewater's canal in the first instance, prejudices equally strong as firmly adhered to the principle on which it was constructed; and it was thought impossible to lead one through a country, or to work it to any advantage, unless by locks and boats of at least twenty-five tons, till the genius of Mr. William Reynolds, of Ketley, in Shropshire, stepped from the accustomed path, constructed the first inclined plane, and introduced boats of five tons. This, like the Duke's canal, was deemed a visionary project, and particularly by his Grace, who was partial to locks; yet this is also introduced into practice, and will in many instances supersede lock canals." Telford, the engineer, also gracefully acknowledged the valuable assistance he received from William Reynolds in planning the iron aqueduct by means of which the Ellesmere Canal was carried over the Pont Cysylltau, and in executing the necessary castings for the purpose at the Ketley foundry.

The future management of his extensive ironworks being thus placed in able hands, Richard Reynolds finally left Coalbrookdale in 1804, for Bristol, his native town, where he spent the remainder of his life in works of charity and mercy. Here we might leave the subject, but cannot refrain from adding a few concluding words as to the moral characteristics of this truly good man. Though habitually religious, he was neither demure nor morose, but cheerful, gay, and humorous. He took great interest in the pleasures of the young people about him, and exerted himself in all ways to promote their happiness. He was fond of books, pictures, poetry, and music, though the indulgence of artistic tastes is not thought becoming in the Society to which he belonged. His love for the beauties of nature amounted almost to a passion, and when living at The Bank, near Ketley, it was his great delight in the summer evenings to retire with his pipe to a rural seat commanding a full view of the Wrekin, the Ercall Woods, with Cader Idris and the Montgomeryshire hills in the distance, and watch the sun go down in the west in his glory. Once in every year he assembled a large party to spend a day with him on the Wrekin, and amongst those invited were the principal clerks in the company's employment, together with their families. At Madeley, near Coalbrookdale, where he bought a property, he laid out, for the express use of the workmen, extensive walks through the woods on Lincoln Hill, commanding beautiful views. They were called "The Workmen's Walks," and were a source of great enjoyment to them and their families, especially on Sunday afternoons.

When Mr. Reynolds went to London on business, he was accustomed to make a round of visits, on his way home, to places remarkable for their picturesque beauty, such as Stowe, Hagley Park, and the Leasowes. After a visit to the latter place in 1767, he thus, in a letter to his friend John Maccappen, vindicated his love for the beautiful in nature:-"I think it not only lawful but expedient to cultivate a disposition to be pleased with the beauties of nature, by frequent indulgences for that purpose. The mind, by being continually applied to the consideration of ways and means to gain money, contracts an indifferency if not an insensibility to the profusion of beauties which the benevolent Creator has impressed upon every part of the material creation. A sordid love of gold, the possession of what gold can purchase, and the reputation of being rich, have so depraved the finer feelings of some men, that they pass through the most delightful grove, filled with the melody of nature, or listen to the murmurings of the brook in the valley, with as little pleasure and with no more of the vernal delight which Milton describes, than they feel in passing through some obscure alley in a town."

When in the prime of life, Mr. Reynolds was an excellent rider, performing all his journeys on horseback. He used to give a ludicrous account of a race he once ran with another youth, each having a lady seated on a pillion behind him; Mr. Reynolds reached the goal first, but when he looked round he found that he had lost his fair companion, who had fallen off in the race! On another occasion he had a hard run with Lord Thurlow during a visit paid by the latter to the Ketley Iron-Works. Lord Thurlow pulled up his horse first, and observed, laughing, "I think, Mr. Reynolds, this is probably the first time that ever a Lord Chancellor rode a race with a Quaker!" But a stranger rencontre was one which befel Mr. Reynolds on Blackheath. Though he declined Government orders for cannon, he seems to have had a secret hankering after the "pomp and circumstance" of military life. At all event's he was present on Blackheath one day when George III. was reviewing some troops. Mr. Reynold's horse, an old trooper, no sooner heard the sound of the trumpet than he started off at full speed, and made directly for the group of officers before whom the troops were defiling. Great was the surprise of the King when he saw the Quaker draw up alongside of him, but still greater, perhaps, was the confusion of the Quaker at finding himself in such company.

During the later years of his life, while living at Bristol, his hand was in every good work; and it was often felt where it was not seen. For he carefully avoided ostentation, and preferred doing his good in secret. He strongly disapproved of making charitable bequests by will, which he observed in many cases to have been the foundation of enormous abuses, but held it to be the duty of each man to do all the possible good that he could during his lifetime. Many were the instances of his princely, though at the time unknown, munificence. Unwilling to be recognised as the giver of large sums, he employed agents to dispense his anonymous benefactions. He thus sent 20,000L. to London to be distributed during the distress of 1795. He had four almoners constantly employed in Bristol, finding out cases of distress, relieving them, and presenting their accounts to him weekly, with details of the cases relieved. He searched the debtors' prisons, and where, as often happened, deserving but unfortunate men were found confined for debt, he paid the claims against them and procured their release. Such a man could not fail to be followed with blessings and gratitude; but these he sought to direct to the Giver of all Good. "My talent," said he to a friend, "is the meanest of all talents-a little sordid dust; but as the man in the parable who had but one talent was held accountable, I also am accountable for the talent that I possess, humble as it is, to the great Lord of all." On one occasion the case of a poor orphan boy was submitted to him, whose parents, both dying young, had left him destitute, on which Mr. Reynolds generously offered to place a sum in the names of trustees for his education and maintenance until he could be apprenticed to a business. The lady who represented the case was so overpowered by the munificence of the act that she burst into tears, and, struggling to express her gratitude, concluded with-"and when the dear child is old enough, I will teach him to thank his benefactor." "Thou must teach him to look higher," interrupted Reynolds: "Do we thank the clouds for rain? When the child grows up, teach him to thank Him who sendeth both the clouds and the rain." Reynolds himself deplored his infirmity of temper, which was by nature hasty; and, as his benevolence was known, and appeals were made to him at all times, seasonable and unseasonable, he sometimes met them with a sharp word, which, however, he had scarcely uttered before he repented of it: and he is known to have followed a poor woman to her home and ask forgiveness for having spoken hastily in answer to her application for help.

This "great good man" died on the 10th of September, 1816, in the 81st year of his age. At his funeral the poor of Bristol were the chief mourners. The children of the benevolent societies which he had munificently supported during his lifetime, and some of which he had founded, followed his body to the grave. The procession was joined by the clergy and ministers of all denominations, and by men of all classes and persuasions. And thus was Richard Reynolds laid to his rest, leaving behind him a name full of good odour, which will long be held in grateful remembrance by the inhabitants of Bristol.

[1] Dr. PLOT, Natural History of Staffordshire, 2nd ed. 1686, p. 128.

[2] JOSHUA GEE, The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain considered, 1731.

[3] When a bill was introduced into Parliament in 1750 with the object of encouraging the importation of iron from our American colonies, the Sheffield tanners petitioned against it, on the ground that, if it passed, English iron would be undersold; many forges would consequently be discontinued; in which case the timber used for fuel would remain uncut, and the tanners would thereby be deprived of bark for the purposes of their trade!

[4] History of the Iron Trade, p. 56.

[5] See Mr. Powle's account of the Iron Works in the Forest of Dean (1677-8), in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. ii. p. 418, where he says, "After they have pounded their ore, their first work is to calcine it, which is done in kilns, much after the fashion of ordinary lime-kilns, These they fill up to the top with coal and ore, stratum super stratum, until it be full; and so setting fire to the bottom, they let it burn till the coal be wasted, and then renew the kilns with fresh ore and coal, in the same manner as before. This is done without fusion of the metal, and serves to consume the more drossy parts of the ore and to make it friable." The writer then describes the process of smelting the ore mixed with cinder in the furnaces, where, he says, the fuel is "always of charcoal." "Several attempts," he adds, "have been made to introduce the use of sea-coal in these works instead of charcoal, the former being to be had at an easier rate than the latter; but hitherto they have proved ineffectual, the workmen finding by experience that a sea-coal fire, how vehement soever, will not penetrate the most fixed parts of the ore, and so leaves much of the metal unmelted"

[6] Phil. Trans. vol. xliv. 305.

[7] Reverberatory, so called because the flame or current of heated gases from the fuel is caused to be reverberated or reflected down upon the substance under operation before passing into the chimney. It is curious that Rovenson, in his Treatise of Metallica of 1613, describes a reverberatory furnace in which iron was to be smelted by pit-coal, though it does not appear that he succeeded in perfecting his invention. Dr. Percy, in his excellent work on Metallurgy, thus describes a reverberatory furnace:-"It consists essentially of three parts-a fireplace at one end, a stack or chimney at the other, and a bed between both on which the matter is heated. The fireplace is separated from the bed by a low partition wall called the fire-bridge, and both are covered by an arched roof which rises from the end wall of the fireplace and gradually dips toward the furthest end of the bed connected with the stack. On one or both sides of the bed, or at the end near the stack, may be openings through which the ore spread over the surface of the bed may be stirred about and exposed to the action of the air. The matter is heated in such a furnace by flame, and is kept from contact with the solid fuel. The flame in its course from the fireplace to the stack is reflected downwards or REVERBERATED on the matter beneath, whence the name REVERBERATORY furnace."

[8] Mr. TYLOR on Metal Work-Reports on the Paris Exhibition of 1855. Part II. 182. We are informed by Mr. Reynolds of Coed-du, a grandson of Richard Reynolds, that "on further trials many difficulties arose. The bottoms of the furnaces were destroyed by the heat, and the quality of the iron varied. Still, by a letter dated May, 1767, it appears there had been sold of iron made in the new way to the value of 247L. 14s. 6d."

[9] Among the other subscribers were the Rev. Mr. Harris, Mr. Jennings, and Mr. John Wilkinson, an active promoter of the scheme, who gave the company the benefit of his skill and experience when it was determined to construct the bridge of iron. For an account of John Wilkinson see Lives of the Engineers, vol. ii. 337, 356. In the description of the first iron bridge given in that work we have, it appears, attributed rather more credit to Mr. Wilkinson than he is entitled to. Mr. Darby was the most active promoter of the scheme, and had the principal share in the design. Wilkinson nevertheless was a man of great energy and originality. Besides being the builder of the first iron ship, he was the first to invent, for James Watt, a machine that would bore a tolerably true cylinder. He afterwards established iron works in France, and Arthur Young says, that "until that well-known English manufacturer arrived, the French knew nothing of the art of casting cannon solid and then boring them" (Travels in France, 4to. ed. London, 1792, p.90). Yet England had borrowed her first cannon-maker from France in the person of Peter Baude, as described in chap. iii. Wilkinson is also said to have invented a kind of hot-blast, in respect of which various witnesses gave evidence on the trial of Neilson's patent in 1839; but the invention does not appear to have been perfected by him.

[10] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8th ed. Art.

[11] PLYMLEY, General View of the Agriculture of Shropshire. "Iron Bridges."

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