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Industrial Biography by Samuel Smiles

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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

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 l0th 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.



"It may be averred that as certainly as the age of iron superseded
that of bronze, so will the age of steel reign triumphant over

"Aujourd'hui la revolution que devait amener en Grande-Bretagne la
memorable decouverte de Benjamin Huntsman est tout a fait
accomplie, et chaque jour les consequetces sen feront plus vivement
sentir sur le confinent."--LE PLAY, Sur la Fabricatio n de l' Acier
en Yorkshire.

Iron, besides being used in various forms as bar and cast iron, is
also used in various forms as bar and cast steel; and it is
principally because of its many admirable qualities in these latter
forms that iron maintains its supremacy over all the other metals.

The process of converting iron into steel had long been known among
the Eastern nations before it was introduced into Europe. The Hindoos
were especially skilled in the art of making steel, as indeed they
are to this day; and it is supposed that the tools with which the
Egyptians covered their obelisks and temples of porphyry and syenite
with hieroglyphics were made of Indian steel, as probably no other
metal was capable of executing such work. The art seems to have been
well known in Germany in the Middle Ages, and the process is on the
whole very faithfully described by Agricola in his great work on
AGRICOLA, De Re Metallica. Basle, 1621.
England then produced very little steel, and was mainly dependent for
its supply of the article upon the continental makers.

From an early period Sheffield became distinguished for its
manufacture of iron and steel into various useful articles. We find
it mentioned in the thirteenth century as a place where the best
arrowheads were made,--the Earl of Richmond owing his success at the
battle of Bosworth partly to their superior length, sharpness, and
finish. The manufactures of the town became of a more pacific
character in the following centuries, during which knives, tools, and
implements of husbandry became the leading articles.

Chaucer's reference to the 'Sheffield thwytel' (or case-knife) in his
Canterbury Tales, written about the end of the fourteenth century,
shows that the place had then become known for its manufacture of
knives. In 1575 we find the Earl of Shrewsbury presenting to his
friend Lord Burleigh "a case of Hallamshire whittells, being such
fruites as his pore cuntrey affordeth with fame throughout the
realme." Fuller afterwards speaks of the Sheffield knives as "for
common use of the country people," and he cites an instance of a
knave who cozened him out of fourpence for one when it was only worth
a penny.

In 1600 Sheffield became celebrated for its tobacco-boxes and
Jew's-harps. The town was as yet of small size and population; for
when a survey of it was made in 1615 it was found to contain not more
than 2207 householders, of whom one-third, or 725, were "not able to
live without the charity of their neighbours: these are all Begging
The Rev. JOSEPH HUNTER, History of Hallamshire.
It must, however, have continued its manufacture of knives; for we
find that the knife with which Felton stabbed the Duke of Buckingham
at Portsmouth in 1628 was traced to Sheffield. The knife was left
sticking in the duke's body, and when examined was found to bear the
Sheffield corporation mark. It was ultimately ascertained to have
been made by one Wild, a cutler, who had sold the knife for tenpence
to Felton when recruiting in the town. At a still later period, the
manufacture of clasp or spring knives was introduced into Sheffield
by Flemish workmen. Harrison says this trade was begun in 1650. The
clasp-knife was commonly known in the North as a jocteleg. Hence
Burns, describing the famous article treasured by Captain Grose the
antiquarian, says that--

"It was a faulding jocteleq,
Or lang-kail gully;"

the word being merely a corruption of Jacques de Liege, a famous
foreign cutler, whose knives were as well known throughout Europe as
those of Rogers or Mappin are now. Scythes and sickles formed other
branches of manufacture introduced by the Flemish artisans, the
makers of the former principally living in the parish of Norton,
those of the latter in Eckington.

Many improvements were introduced from time to time in the material
of which these articles were made. Instead of importing the German
steel, as it was called, the Sheffield manufacturers began to make it
themselves, principally from Dannemora iron imported from Sweden. The
first English manufacturer of the article was one Crowley, a
Newcastle man; and the Sheffield makers shortly followed his example.
We may here briefly state that the ordinary method of preparing this
valuable material of manufactures is by exposing iron bars, placed in
contact with roughly-granulated charcoal, to an intense heat,--the
process lasting for about a week, more or less, according to the
degree of carbonization required. By this means, what is called
BLISTERED STEEL is produced, and it furnishes the material out of
which razors, files, knives, swords, and various articles of hardware
are manufactured. A further process is the manufacture of the metal
thus treated into SHEAR STEEL, by exposing a fasciculus of the
blistered steel rods, with sand scattered over them for the purposes
of a flux, to the heat of a wind-furnace until the whole mass becomes
of a welding heat, when it is taken from the fire and drawn out under
a forge-hammer,--the process of welding being repeated, after which
the steel is reduced to the required sizes. The article called FAGGOT
steel is made after a somewhat similar process.

But the most valuable form in which steel is now used in the
manufactures of Sheffield is that of cast-steel, in which iron is
presented in perhaps its very highest state of perfection. Cast-steel
consists of iron united to carbon in an elastic state together with a
small portion of oxygen; whereas crude or pig iron consists of iron
combined with carbon in a material state.*
MUSHET, Papers On Iron and Steel.
chief merits of cast-steel consist in its possessing great cohesion
and closeness of grain, with an astonishing degree of tenacity and
flexibility,-- qualities which render it of the highest value in all
kinds of tools and instruments where durability, polish, and fineness
of edge are essential requisites. It is to this material that we are
mainly indebted for the exquisite cutting instrument of the surgeon,
the chisel of the sculptor, the steel plate on which the engraver
practises his art, the cutting tools employed in the various
processes of skilled handicraft, down to the common saw or the axe
used by the backwoodsman in levelling the primeval forest.

The invention of cast-steel is due to Benjamin Huntsman, of
Attercliffe, near Sheffield. M. Le Play, Professor of Metallurgy in
the Royal School of Mines of France, after making careful inquiry and
weighing all the evidence on the subject, arrived at the conclusion
that the invention fairly belongs to Huntsman. The French professor
speaks of it as a "memorable discovery," made and applied with
admirable perseverance; and he claims for its inventor the
distinguished merit of advancing the steel manufactures of Yorkshire
to the first rank, and powerfully contributing to the establishment
on a firm foundation of the industrial and commercial supremacy of
Great Britain. It is remarkable that a French writer should have been
among the first to direct public attention to the merits of this
inventor, and to have first published the few facts known as to his
history in a French Government Report,--showing the neglect which men
of this class have heretofore received at home, and the much greater
esteem in which they are held by scientific foreigners.*
M. Le Play's two elaborate and admirable reports on the manufacture
of steel, published in the Annales des Mines, vols. iii. and ix., 4th
series, are unique of their kind, and have as yet no counterpart in
English literature. They are respectively entitled 'Memoire sur la
Fabrication de l'Acier en Yorkshire,' and 'Memoire sur le
Fabrication et le Commerce des Fers a Acier dans le Nord de
Le Play, in his enthusiastic admiration of the discoverer of so
potent a metal as cast-steel, paid a visit to Huntsman's grave in
Atterclifle Churchyard, near Sheffield, and from the inscription on
his tombstone recites the facts of his birth, his death, and his
brief history. With the assistance of his descendants, we are now
enabled to add the following record of the life and labours of this
remarkable but almost forgotten man.

Benjamin Huntsman was born in Lincolnshire in the year 1704. His
parents were of German extraction, and had settled in this country
only a few years previous to his birth. The boy being of an ingenious
turn, was bred to a mechanical calling; and becoming celebrated for
his expertness in repairing clocks, he eventually set up in business
as a clock maker and mender in the town of Doncaster. He also
undertook various other kinds of metal work, such as the making and
repairing of locks, smoke-jacks, roasting-jacks, and other articles
requiring mechanical skill. He was remarkably shrewd, observant,
thoughtful, and practical; so much so that he came to be regarded as
the "wise man" of his neighbourhood, and was not only consulted as to
the repairs of machinery, but also of the human frame. He practised
surgery with dexterity, though after an empirical fashion, and was
held in especial esteem as an oculist. His success was such that his
advice was sought in many surgical diseases, and he was always ready
to give it, but declined receiving any payment in return.

In the exercise of his mechanical calling, he introduced several
improved tools, but was much hindered by the inferior quality of the
metal supplied to him, which was common German steel. He also
experienced considerable difficulty in finding a material suitable
for the springs and pendulums of his clocks. These circumstances
induced him to turn his attention to the making of a better kind of
steel than was then procurable, for the purposes of his trade. His
first experiments were conducted at Doncaster;*
There are several clocks still in existence in the neighbourhood of
Doncaster made by Benjamin Huntsman; and there is one in the
possession of his grandson, with a pendulum made of cast-steel. The
manufacture of a pendulum of such a material at that early date is
certainly curious; its still perfect spring and elasticity showing
the scrupulous care with which it had been made.
but as fuel was difficult to be had at that place, he determined, for
greater convenience, to remove to the neighbourhood of Sheffield,
which he did in 1740. He first settled at Handsworth, a few miles to
the south of that town, and there pursued his investigations in
secret. Unfortunately, no records have been preserved of the methods
which he adopted in overcoming the difficulties he had necessarily to
encounter. That they must have been great is certain, for the process
of manufacturing cast-steel of a first-rate quality even at this day
is of a most elaborate and delicate character, requiring to be
carefully watched in its various stages. He had not only to discover
the fuel and flux suitable for his purpose, but to build such a
furnace and make such a crucible as should sustain a heat more
intense than any then known in metallurgy. Ingot-moulds had not yet
been cast, nor were there hoops and wedges made that would hold them
together, nor, in short, were any of those materials at his disposal
which are now so familiar at every melting-furnace.

Huntsman's experiments extended over many years before the desired
result was achieved. Long after his death, the memorials of the
numerous failures through which he toilsomely worked his way to
success, were brought to light in the shape of many hundredweights of
steel, found buried in the earth in different places about his
manufactory. From the number of these wrecks of early experiments, it
is clear that he had worked continuously upon his grand idea of
purifying the raw steel then in use, by melting it with fluxes at an
intense heat in closed earthen crucibles. The buried masses were
found in various stages of failure, arising from imperfect melting,
breaking of crucibles, and bad fluxes; and had been hid away as so
much spoiled steel of which nothing could be made. At last his
perseverance was rewarded, and his invention perfected; and though a
hundred years have passed since Huntsman's discovery, the description
of fuel (coke) which he first applied for the purpose of melting the
steel, and the crucibles and furnaces which he used, are for the most
part similar to those in use at the present day. Although the making
of cast-steel is conducted with greater economy and dexterity, owing
to increased experience, it is questionable whether any maker has
since been able to surpass the quality of Huntsman's manufacture.

The process of making cast-steel, as invented by Benjamin Huntsman,
may be thus summarily described. The melting is conducted in clay
pots or crucibles manufactured for the purpose, capable of holding
about 34 lbs. each. Ten or twelve of such crucibles are placed in a
melting-furnace similar to that used by brass founders; and when the
furnace and pots are at a white heat, to which they are raised by a
coke fire, they are charged with bar steel reduced to a certain
degree of hardness, and broken into pieces of about a pound each.
When the pots are all thus charged with steel, lids are placed over
them, the furnace is filled with coke, and the cover put down. Under
the intense heat to which the metal is exposed, it undergoes an
apparent ebullition. When the furnace requires feeding, the workmen
take the opportunity of lifting the lid of each crucible and judging
how far the process has advanced. After about three hours' exposure
to the heat, the metal is ready for "teeming." The completion of the
melting process is known by the subsidence of all ebullition, and by
the clear surface of the melted metal, which is of a dazzling
brilliancy like the sun when looked at with the naked eye on a clear
day. The pots are then lifted out of their place, and the liquid
steel is poured into ingots of the shape and size required. The pots
are replaced, filled again, and the process is repeated; the red-hot
pots thus serving for three successive charges, after which they are
rejected as useless.

When Huntsman had perfected his invention, it would naturally occur
to him that the new metal might be employed for other purposes
besides clock-springs and pendulums. The business of clock-making was
then of a very limited character, and it could scarcely have been
worth his while to pursue so extensive and costly a series of
experiments merely to supply the requirements of that trade. It is
more probable that at an early stage of his investigations he
shrewdly foresaw the extensive uses to which cast-steel might be
applied in the manufacture of tools and cutlery of a superior kind;
and we accordingly find him early endeavouring to persuade the
manufacturers of Sheffield to employ it in the manufacture of knives
and razors. But the cutlers obstinately refused to work a material so
much harder than that which they had been accustomed to use; and for
a time he gave up all hopes of creating a demand in that quarter.
Foiled in his endeavours to sell his steel at home, Huntsman turned
his attention to foreign markets; and he soon found he could readily
sell abroad all that he could make. The merit of employing cast-steel
for general purposes belongs to the French, always so quick to
appreciate the advantages of any new discovery, and for a time the
whole of the cast-steel that Huntsman could manufacture was exported
to France. When he had fairly established his business with that
country, the Sheffield cutlers became alarmed at the reputation which
cast-steel was acquiring abroad; and when they heard of the
preference displayed by English as well as French consumers for the
cutlery manufactured of that metal, they readily apprehended the
serious consequences that must necessarily result to their own trade
if cast-steel came into general use. They then appointed a deputation
to wait upon Sir George Savile, one of the members for the county of
York, and requested him to use his influence with the government to
obtain an order to prohibit the exportation of cast-steel. But on
learning from the deputation that the Sheffield manufacturers
themselves would not make use of the new steel, he positively
declined to comply with their request. It was indeed fortunate for
the interests of the town that the object of the deputation was
defeated, for at that time Mr. Huntsman had very pressing and
favourable offers from some spirited manufacturers in Birmingham to
remove his furnaces to that place; and it is extremely probable that
had the business of cast-steel making become established there, one
of the most important and lucrative branches of its trade would have
been lost to the town of Sheffield.

The Sheffield makers were therefore under the necessity of using the
cast-steel, if they would retain their trade in cutlery against
France; and Huntsman's home trade rapidly increased. And then began
the efforts of the Sheffield men to wrest his secret from him. For
Huntsman had not taken out any patent for his invention, his only
protection being in preserving his process as much a mystery as
possible. All the workmen employed by him were pledged to inviolable
secrecy; strangers were carefully excluded from the works; and the
whole of the steel made was melted during the night. There were many
speculations abroad as to Huntsman's process. It was generally
believed that his secret consisted in the flux which he employed to
make the metal melt more readily; and it leaked out amongst the
workmen that he used broken bottles for the purpose. Some of the
manufacturers, who by prying and bribing got an inkling of the
process, followed Huntsman implicitly in this respect; and they would
not allow their own workmen to flux the pots lest they also should
obtain possession of the secret. But it turned out eventually that no
such flux was necessary, and the practice has long since been
discontinued. A Frenchman named Jars, frequently quoted by Le Play in
his account of the manufacture of steel in Yorkshire,*
Annales des Mines, vols. iii. and ix., 4th Series.
paid a visit to Sheffield towards the end of last century, and
described the process so far as he was permitted to examine it.
According to his statement all kinds of fragments of broken steel
were used; but this is corrected by Le Play, who states that only the
best bar steel manufactured of Dannemora iron was employed. Jars adds
that "the steel is put into the crucible with A FLUX, the composition
of which is kept secret;" and he states that the time then occupied
in the conversion was five hours.

It is said that the person who first succeeded in copying Huntsman's
process was an ironfounder named Walker, who carried on his business
at Greenside near Sheffield, and it was certainly there that the
making of cast-steel was next begun. Walker adopted the "ruse" of
disguising himself as a tramp, and, feigning great distress and
abject poverty, he appeared shivering at the door of Huntsman's
foundry late one night when the workmen were about to begin their
labours at steel-casting, and asked for admission to warm himself by
the furnace fire. The workmen's hearts were moved, and they permitted
him to enter. We have the above facts from the descendants of the
Huntsman family; but we add the traditional story preserved in the
neighbourhood, as given in a well-known book on metallurgy : --

"One cold winter's night, while the snow was falling in heavy flakes,
and the manufactory threw its red glared light over the
neighbourhood, a person of the most abject appearance presented
himself at the entrance, praying for permission to share the warmth
and shelter which it afforded. The humane workmen found the appeal
irresistible, and the apparent beggar was permitted to take up his
quarters in a warm corner of the building. A careful scrutiny would
have discovered little real sleep in the drowsiness which seemed to
overtake the stranger; for he eagerly watched every movement of the
workmen while they went through the operations of the newly
discovered process. He observed, first of all, that bars of blistered
steel were broken into small pieces, two or three inches in length,
and placed in crucibles of fire clay. When nearly full, a little
green glass broken into small fragments was spread over the top, and
the whole covered over with a closely-fitting cover. The crucibles
were then placed in a furnace previously prepared for them, and after
a lapse of from three to four hours, during which the crucibles were
examined from time to time to see that the metal was thoroughly
melted and incorporated, the workmen proceeded to lift the crucible
from its place on the furnace by means of tongs, and its molten
contents, blazing, sparkling, and spurting, were poured into a mould
of cast-iron previously prepared: here it was suffered to cool, while
the crucibles were again filled, and the process repeated. When cool,
the mould was unscrewed, and a bar of cast-steel presented itself,
which only required the aid of the hammerman to form a finished bar
of cast-steel. How the unauthorized spectator of these operations
effected his escape without detection tradition does not say; but it
tells us that, before many months had passed, the Huntsman
manufactory was not the only one where cast-steel was produced."*
The Useful Metals and their Alloys (p. 348), an excellent little
work, in which the process of cast-steel making will be found fully

However the facts may be, the discovery of the elder Huntsman proved
of the greatest advantage to Sheffield; for there is scarcely a
civilized country where Sheffield steel is not largely used, either
in its most highly finished forms of cutlery, or as the raw material
for some home manufacture. In the mean time the demand for Huntsman's
steel steadily increased, and in l770, for the purpose of obtaining
greater scope for his operations, he removed to a large new
manufactory which he erected at Attercliffe, a little to the north of
Sheffield, more conveniently situated for business purposes. There he
continued to flourish for six years more, making steel and practising
benevolence; for, like the Darbys and Reynoldses of Coalbrookdale, he
was a worthy and highly respected member of the Society of Friends.
He was well versed in the science of his day, and skilled in
chemistry, which doubtless proved of great advantage to him in
pursuing his experiments in metallurgy.*
We are informed that a mirror is still preserved at Attercliffe, made
by Huntsman in the days of his early experiments.
That he was possessed of great perseverance will be obvious from the
difficulties he encountered and overcame in perfecting his valuable
invention. He was, however, like many persons of strong original
character, eccentric in his habits and reserved in his manner. The
Royal Society wished to enrol him as a member in acknowledgment of
the high merit of his discovery of cast-steel, as well as because of
his skill in practical chemistry; but as this would have drawn him in
some measure from his seclusion, and was also, as he imagined,
opposed to the principles of the Society to which he belonged, he
declined the honour. Mr. Huntsman died in 1776, in his seventy-second
year, and was buried in the churchyard at Attercliffe, where a
gravestone with an inscription marks his resting-place.

His son continued to carry on the business, and largely extended its
operations. The Huntsman mark became known throughout the civilised
world. Le Play the French Professor of Metallurgy, in his Memoire of
1846, still speaks of the cast-steel bearing the mark of "Huntsman
and Marshall" as the best that is made, and he adds, "the buyer of
this article, who pays a higher price for it than for other sorts, is
not acting merely in the blind spirit of routine, but pays a logical
and well-deserved homage to all the material and moral qualities of
which the true Huntsman mark has been the guarantee for a century."*
Annales des Mines, vol. ix., 4th Series, 266.

Many other large firms now compete for their share of the trade; and
the extent to which it has grown, the number of furnaces constantly
at work, and the quantity of steel cast into ingots, to be tilted or
rolled for the various purposes to which it is applied, have rendered
Sheffield the greatest laboratory in the world of this valuable
material. Of the total quantity of cast-steel manufactured in
England, not less than five-sixths are produced there; and the
facilities for experiment and adaptation on the spot have enabled the
Sheffield steel-makers to keep the lead in the manufacture, and
surpass all others in the perfection to which they have carried this
important branch of our national industry. It is indeed a remarkable
fact that this very town, which was formerly indebted to Styria for
the steel used in its manufactures, now exports a material of its own
conversion to the Austrian forges and other places on the Continent
from which it was before accustomed to draw its own supplies.

Among the improved processes invented of late years for the
manufacture of steel are those of Heath, Mushet, and Bessemer. The
last promises to effect before long an entire revolution in the iron
and steel trade. By it the crude metal is converted by one simple
process, directly as it comes from the blast-furnace. This is
effected by driving through it, while still in a molten state,
several streams of atmospheric air, on which the carbon of the crude
iron unites with the oxygen of the atmosphere, the temperature is
greatly raised, and a violent ebullition takes place, during which,
if the process be continued, that part of the carbon which appears to
be mechanically mixed and diffused through the crude iron is entirely
consumed. The metal becomes thoroughly cleansed, the slag is ejected
and removed, while the sulphur and other volatile matters are driven
off; the result being an ingot of malleable iron of the quality of
charcoal iron. An important. feature in the process is, that by
stopping it at a particular stage, immediately following the boil,
before the whole of the carbon has been abstracted by the oxygen, the
crude iron will be found to have passed into the condition of
cast-steel of ordinary quality. By continuing the process, the metal
losing its carbon, it passes from hard to soft steel, thence to
steely iron, and last of all to very soft iron; so that by
interrupting the process at any stage, or continuing it to the end,
almost any quality of iron and steel may be obtained. One of the most
valuable forms of the metal is described by Mr. Bessemer as
"semi-steel," being in hardness about midway between ordinary
cast-steel and soft malleable iron. The Bessemer processes are now in
full operation in England as well as abroad, both for converting
crude into malleable iron, and for producing steel; and the results
are expected to prove of the greatest practical utility in all cases
where iron and steel are extensively employed.

Yet, like every other invention, this of Mr. Bessemer had long been
dreamt of, if not really made. We are informed in Warner's Tour
through the Northern. Counties of England, published at Bath in l80L,
that a Mr. Reed of Whitehaven had succeeded at that early period in
making steel direct from the ore; and Mr. Mushet clearly alludes to
the process in his "Papers on Iron and Steel." Nevertheless, Mr.
Bessemer is entitled to the merit of working out the idea, and
bringing the process to perfection, by his great skill and
indomitable perseverance. In the Heath process, carburet of manganese
is employed to aid the conversion of iron into steel, while it also
confers on the metal the property of welding and working more soundly
under the hammer--a fact discovered by Mr. Heath while residing in
India. Mr. Mushet's process is of a similar character. Another
inventor, Major Uchatius, an Austrian engineer, granulates crude iron
while in a molten state by pouring it into water, and then subjecting
it to the process of conversion. Some of the manufacturers still
affect secrecy in their operations; but as one of the Sanderson
firm--famous for the excellence of their steel--remarked to a visitor
when showing him over their works, "the great secret is to have the
courage to be honest--a spirit to purchase the best material, and the
means and disposition to do justice to it in the manufacture."

It remains to be added, that much of the success of the Sheffield
manufactures is attributable to the practical skill of the workmen,
who have profited by the accumulated experience treasured up by their
class through many generations. The results of the innumerable
experiments conducted before their eyes have issued in a most
valuable though unwritten code of practice, the details of which are
known only to themselves. They are also a most laborious class; and
Le Play says of them, when alluding to the fact of a single workman
superintending the operations of three steel-casting furnaces--"I
have found nowhere in Europe, except in England, workmen able for an
entire day, without any interval of rest, to undergo such toilsome
and exhausting labour as that performed by these Sheffield workmen."



"I have always found it in mine own experience an easier matter to
devise manie and profitable inventions, than to dispose of one of
them to the good of the author himself."--Sir Hugh Platt, 1589.

Henry Cort was born in 1740 at Lancaster, where his father carried on
the trade of a builder and brickmaker. Nothing is known as to Henry's
early history; but he seems to have raised himself by his own efforts
to a respectable position. In 1765 we find him established in Surrey
Street, Strand, carrying on the business of a navy agent, in which he
is said to have realized considerable profits. It was while
conducting this business that he became aware of the inferiority of
British iron compared with that obtained from foreign countries. The
English wrought iron was considered so bad that it was prohibited
from all government supplies, while the cast iron was considered of
too brittle a nature to be suited for general use.*
Life of Brunel, p. 60.
Indeed the Russian government became so
persuaded that the English nation could not carry on their
manufactures without Russian iron, that in 1770 they ordered the
price to be raised from 70 and 80 copecs per pood to 200 and 220
copecs per pood.*
SCRIVENOR, History of the Iron Trade, 169.

Such being the case, Cort's attention became directed to the subject
in connection with the supply of iron to the Navy, and he entered on
a series of experiments with the object of improving the manufacture
of English iron. What the particular experiments were, and by what
steps he arrived at results of so much importance to the British iron
trade, no one can now tell. All that is known is, that about the year
1775 he relinquished his business as a navy agent, and took a lease
of certain premises at Fontley, near Fareham, at the north-western
corner of Portsmouth Harbour, where he erected a forge and an iron
mill. He was afterwards joined in partnership by Samuel Jellicoe (son
of Adam Jellicoe, then Deputy-Paymaster of Seamen's Wages), which
turned out, as will shortly appear, a most unfortunate connection for

As in the case of other inventions, Cort took up the manufacture of
iron at the point to which his predecessors had brought it, carrying
it still further, and improving upon their processes. We may here
briefly recite the steps by which the manufacture of bar-iron by
means of pit-coal had up to this time been advanced. In 1747, Mr.
Ford succeeded at Coalbrookdale in smelting iron ore with pit-coal,
after which it was refined in the usual way by means of coke and
charcoal. In 1762, Dr. Roebuck (hereafter to be referred to) took out
a patent for melting the cast or pig iron in a hearth heated with
pit-coal by the blast of bellows, and then working the iron until it
was reduced to nature, or metallized, as it was termed; after which
it was exposed to the action of a hollow pit-coal fire urged by a
blast, until it was reduced to a loop and drawn out into bar-iron
under a common forge-hammer. Then the brothers Cranege, in 1766,
adopted the reverberatory or air furnace, in which they placed the
pig or cast iron, and without blast or the addition of anything more
than common raw pit-coal, converted the same into good malleable
iron, which being taken red hot from the reverberatory furnace to the
forge hammer, was drawn into bars according to the will of the
workman. Peter Onions of Merthyr Tydvil, in 1783, carried the
manufacture a stage further, as described by him in his patent of
that year. Having charged his furnace ("bound with iron work and well
annealed") with pig or fused cast iron from the smelting furnace, it
was closed up and the doors were luted with sand. The fire was urged
by a blast admitted underneath, apparently for the purpose of keeping
up the combustion of the fuel on the grate. Thus Onions' furnace was
of the nature of a puddling furnace, the fire of which was urged by a
blast. The fire was to be kept up until the metal became less fluid,
and "thickened into a kind of froth, which the workman, by opening
the door, must turn and stir with a bar or other iron instrument, and
then close the aperture again, applying the blast and fire until
there was a ferment in the metal." The patent further describes that
"as the workman stirs the metal," the scoriae will separate, "and the
particles of iron will adhere, which particles the workman must
collect or gather into a mass or lump." This mass or lump was then to
be raised to a white heat, and forged into malleable iron at the

Such was the stage of advance reached in the manufacture of bar-iron,
when Henry Cort published his patents in 1783 and 1784. In dispensing
with a blast, he had been anticipated by the Craneges, and in the
process of puddling by Onions; but he introduced so many improvements
of an original character, with which he combined the inventions of
his predecessors, as to establish quite a new era in the history of
the iron manufacture, and, in the course of a few years, to raise it
to the highest state of prosperity. As early as 1786, Lord Sheffield
recognised the great national importance of Cort's improvements in
the following words: - If Mr. Cort's very ingenious and meritorious
improvements in the art of making and working iron, the steam-engine
of Boulton and Watt, and Lord Dundonald's discovery of making coke at
half the present price, should all succeed, it is not asserting too
much to say that the result will be more advantageous to Great
Britain than the possession of the thirteen colonies (of America);
for it will give the complete command of the iron trade to this
country, with its vast advantages to navigation." It is scarcely
necessary here to point out how completely the anticipations of Lord
Sheffield have been fulfilled, sanguine though they might appear to
be when uttered some seventy-six years ago.*
Although the iron manufacture had gradually been increasing since the
middle of the century, it was as yet comparatively insignificant in
amount. Thus we find, from a statement by W. Wilkinson, dated Dec.
25, 1791, contained in the memorandum-book of Wm. Reynolds of
Coalbrookdale, that the produce in England and Scotland was then
estimated to be

Coke Furnaces. Charcoal Furnaces.

In England ......73 producing 67,548 tons 20 producing 8500 tons
In Scotland......12 " 12,480 " 2 " 1000 "
---- ------ -- ----
85 " 80,028 " 22 " 9500 "

At the same time the annual import of Oregrounds iron from Sweden
amounted to about 20,000 tons, and of bars and slabs from Russia
about 50,000 tons, at an average cost of 35L. a ton!

We will endeavour as briefly as possible to point out the important
character of Mr. Cort's improvements, as embodied in his two patents
of 1783 and 1784. In the first he states that, after "great study,
labour, and expense, in trying a variety of experiments, and making
many discoveries, he had invented and brought to perfection a
peculiar method and process of preparing, welding, and working
various sorts of iron, and of reducing the same into uses by
machinery: a furnace, and other apparatus, adapted and applied to the
said process." He first describes his method of making iron for
"large uses," such as shanks, arms, rings, and palms of anchors, by
the method of piling and faggoting, since become generally practised,
by laying bars of iron of suitable lengths, forged on purpose, and
tapering so as to be thinner at one end than the other, laid over one
another in the manner of bricks in buildings, so that the ends should
everywhere overlay each other. The faggots so prepared, to the amount
of half a ton more or less, were then to be put into a common air or
balling furnace, and brought to a welding heat, which was
accomplished by his method in a much shorter time than in any hollow
fire; and when the heat was perfect, the faggots were then brought
under a forge-hammer of great size and weight, and welded into a
solid mass. Mr. Cort alleges in the specification that iron for
"larger uses" thus finished, is in all respect's possessed of the
highest degree of perfection; and that the fire in the balling
furnace is better suited, from its regularity and penetrating
quality, to give the iron a perfect welding heat throughout its whole
mass, without fusing in any part, than any fire blown by a blast.
Another process employed by Mr. Cort for the purpose of cleansing the
iron and producing a metal of purer grain, was that of working the
faggots by passing them through rollers. "By this simple process,"
said he, "all the earthy particles are pressed out and the iron
becomes at once free from dross, and what is usually called cinder,
and is compressed into a fibrous and tough state." The objection has
indeed been taken to the process of passing the iron through rollers,
that the cinder is not so effectually got rid of as by passing it
under a tilt hammer, and that much of it is squeezed into the bar and
remains there, interrupting its fibre and impairing its strength.

It does not appear that there was any novelty in the use of rollers
by Cort; for in his first specification he speaks of them as already
well known.*
"It is material to observe", says Mr. Webster, "that Cort, in this
specification, speaks of the rollers, furnaces, and separate
processes, as well known. There is no claim to any of them
separately; the claim is to the reducing of the faggots of piled iron
into bars, and the welding of such bars by rollers instead of by
forge-hammers."--Memoir of Henry Cort, in Mechanic's Magazine, 15
July, 1859, by Thomas Webster, M.A., F.R.S.
His great merit consisted in apprehending the value of certain
processes, as tested by his own and others' experience, and combining
and applying them in a more effective practical form than had ever
been done before. This power of apprehending the best methods, and
embodying the details in one complete whole, marks the practical,
clear-sighted man, and in certain cases amounts almost to a genius.
The merit of combining the inventions of others in such forms as that
they shall work to advantage, is as great in its way as that of the
man who strikes out the inventions themselves, but who, for want of
tact and experience, cannot carry them into practical effect.

It was the same with Cort's second patent, in which he described his
method of manufacturing bar-iron from the ore or from cast-iron. All
the several processes therein described had been practised before his
time; his merit chiefly consisting in the skilful manner in which he
combined and applied them. Thus, like the Craneges, he employed the
reverberatory or air furnace, without blast, and, like Onions, he
worked the fused metal with iron bars until it was brought into
lumps, when it was removed and forged into malleable iron. Cort,
however, carried the process further, and made it more effectual in
all respects. His method may be thus briefly described: the bottom of
the reverberatory furnace was hollow, so as to contain the fluid
metal, introduced into it by ladles; the heat being kept up by
pit-coal or other fuel. When the furnace was charged, the doors were
closed until the metal was sufficiently fused, when the workman
opened an aperture and worked or stirred about the metal with iron
bars, when an ebullition took place, during the continuance of which
a bluish flame was emitted, the carbon of the cast-iron was burned
off, the metal separated from the slag, and the iron, becoming
reduced to nature, was then collected into lumps or loops of sizes
suited to their intended uses, when they were drawn out of the doors
of the furnace. They were then stamped into plates, and piled or
worked in an air furnace, heated to a white or welding heat, shingled
under a forge hammer, and passed through the grooved rollers after
the method described in the first patent.

The processes described by Cort in his two patents have been followed
by iron manufacturers, with various modifications, the results of
enlarged experience, down to the present time. After the lapse of
seventy-eight years, the language employed by Cort continues on the
whole a faithful description of the processes still practised: the
same methods of manufacturing bar from cast-iron, and of puddling,
piling, welding, and working the bar-iron through grooved
rollers--all are nearly identical with the methods of manufacture
perfected by Henry Cort in 1784. It may be mentioned that the
development of the powers of the steam-engine by Watt had an
extraordinary effect upon the production of iron. It created a
largely increased demand for the article for the purposes of the
shafting and machinery which it was employed to drive; while at the
same time it cleared pits of water which before were unworkable, and
by being extensively applied to the blowing of iron-furnaces and the
working of the rolling-mills, it thus gave a still further impetus to
the manufacture of the metal. It would be beside our purpose to enter
into any statistical detail on the subject; but it will be sufficient
to state that the production of iron, which in the early part of last
century amounted to little more than 12,000 tons, about the middle of
the century to about 18,000 tons, and at the time of Cort's
inventions to about 90,000 tons, was found, in 1820, to have
increased to 400,000 tons; and now the total quantity produced is
upwards of four millions of tons of pig-iron every year, or more than
the entire production of all other European countries. There is
little reason to doubt that this extraordinary development of the
iron manufacture has been in a great measure due to the inventions of
Henry Cort. It is said that at the present time there are not fewer
than 8200 of Cort's furnaces in operation in Great Britain alone.*
Letter by Mr. Truran in Mechanic's Magazine.

Practical men have regarded Cort's improvement of the process of
rolling the iron as the most valuable of his inventions. A competent
authority has spoken of Cort's grooved rollers as of "high
philosophical interest, being scarcely less than the discovery of a
new mechanical Power, in reversing the action of the wedge, by the
application of force to four surfaces, so as to elongate a mass,
instead of applying force to a mass to divide the four surfaces." One
of the best authorities in the iron trade of last century, Mr.
Alexander Raby of Llanelly, like many others, was at first entirely
sceptical as to the value of Cort's invention; but he had no sooner
witnessed the process than with manly candour he avowed his entire
conversion to his views.

We now return to the history of the chief author of this great branch
of national industry. As might naturally be expected, the principal
ironmasters, when they heard of Cort's success, and the rapidity and
economy with which he manufactured and forged bar-iron, visited his
foundry for the purpose of examining his process, and, if found
expedient, of employing it at their own works. Among the first to try
it were Richard Crawshay of Cyfartha, Samuel Homfray of Penydarran
(both in South Wales), and William Reynolds of Coalbrookdale. Richard
Crawshay was then (in 1787) forging only ten tons of bar-iron weekly
under the hammer; and when he saw the superior processes invented by
Cort he readily entered into a contract with him to work under his
patents at ten shillings a ton royalty, In 1812 a letter from Mr.
Crawshay to the Secretary of Lord Sheffield was read to the House of
Commons, descriptive of his method of working iron, in which he said,
"I took it from a Mr. Cort, who had a little mill at Fontley in
Hampshire: I have thus acquainted you with my method, by which I am
now making more than ten thousand tons of bar-iron per annum." Samuel
Homfray was equally prompt in adopting the new process. He not only
obtained from Cort plans of the puddling-furnaces and patterns of the
rolls, but borrowed Cort's workmen to instruct his own in the
necessary operations; and he soon found the method so superior to
that invented by Onions that he entirely confined himself to
manufacturing after Cort's patent. We also find Mr. Reynolds inviting
Cort to conduct a trial of his process at Ketley, though it does not
appear that it was adopted by the firm at that time.*
In the memorandum-book of Wm. Reynolds appears the following entry on
the subject: --
"Copy of a paper given to H. Cort, Esq.
"W. Reynolds saw H. C. in a trial which he made at Ketley,
Dec. 17, 1784, produce from the same pig both cold short and tough iron
by a variation of the process used in reducing them from the state of
cast-iron to that of malleable or bar-iron; and in point of yield his
processes were quite equal to those at Pitchford, which did not
exceed the proportion of 31 cwt. to the ton of bars. The experiment
was made by stamping and potting the blooms or loops made in his
furnace, which then produced a cold short iron; but when they were
immediately shingled and drawn, the iron was of a black tough."

The Coalbrookdale ironmasters are said to have been deterred from
adopting the process because of what was considered an excessive
waste of the metal--about 25 per cent,--though, with greater
experience, this waste was very much diminished.

The quality of the iron manufactured by the new process was found
satisfactory; and the Admiralty having, by the persons appointed by
them to test it in 1787, pronounced it to be superior to the best
Oregrounds iron, the use of the latter was thenceforward
discontinued, and Cort's iron only was directed to be used for the
anchors and other ironwork in the ships of the Royal Navy. The merits
of the invention seem to have been generally conceded, and numerous
contracts for licences were entered into with Cort and his partner by
the manufacturers of bar-iron throughout the country.*
Mr. Webster, in the 'Case of Henry Cort,' published in the Mechanic's
Magazine (2 Dec. 1859), states that "licences were taken at royalties
estimated to yield 27,500L. to the owners of the patents." ...]
Cort himself made arrangements for carrying on the manufacture on a
large scale, and with that object entered upon the possession of a
wharf at Gosport, belonging to Adam Jellicoe, his partner's father,
where he succeeded in obtaining considerable Government orders for
iron made after his patents. To all ordinary eyes the inventor now
appeared to be on the high road to fortune; but there was a fatal
canker at the root of this seeming prosperity, and in a few years the
fabric which he had so laboriously raised crumbled into ruins. On the
death of Adam Jellicoe, the father of Cort's partner, in August,
In the 'Case of Henry Cort,' by Mr. Webster, above referred to
(Mechanic's Magazine, 2 Dec. 1859), it is stated that Adam Jellicoe
"committed suicide under the pressure of dread of exposure," but this
does not appear to be confirmed by the accounts in the newspapers of
the day. He died at his private dwelling-house, No.14, Highbury
Place, Islingtonn, on the 30th August,1789, after a fortnight's
defalcations were discovered in his public accounts to the extent of
39,676l., and his books and papers were immediately taken possession
of by the Government. On examination it was found that the debts due
to Jellicoe amounted to 89,657l, included in which was a sum of not
less than 54,853l. owing to him by the Cort partnership. In the
public investigation which afterwards took place, it appeared that
the capital possessed by Cort being insufficient to enable him to
pursue his experiments, which were of a very expensive character,
Adam Jellicoe had advanced money from time to time for the purpose,
securing himself by a deed of agreement entitling him to one-half the
stock and profits of all his contracts; and in further consideration
of the capital advanced by Jellicoe beyond his equal share, Cort
subsequently assigned to him all his patent rights as collateral
security. As Jellicoe had the reputation of being a rich man, Cort
had not the slightest suspicion of the source from which he obtained
the advances made by him to the firm, nor has any connivance whatever
on the part of Cort been suggested. At the same time it must be
admitted that the connexion was not free from suspicion, and, to say
the least, it was a singularly unfortunate one. It was found that
among the moneys advanced by Jellicoe to Cort there was a sum of
27,500L. entrusted to him for the payment of seamen's and officers'
wages. How his embarrassments had tempted him to make use of the
public funds for the purpose of carrying on his speculations, appears
from his own admissions. In a memorandum dated the 11th November,
l782, found in his strong box after his death, he set forth that he
had always had much more than his proper balance in hand, until his
engagement, about two years before, with Mr. Cort, "which by degrees
has so reduced me, and employed so much more of my money than I
expected, that I have been obliged to turn most of my Navy bills into
cash, and at the same time, to my great concern, am very deficient in
my balance. This gives me great uneasiness, nor shall I live or die
in peace till the whole is restored." He had, however, made the first
false step, after which the downhill career of dishonesty is rapid.
His desperate attempts to set himself right only involved him the
deeper; his conscious breach of trust caused him a degree of daily
torment which he could not bear; and the discovery of his
defalcations, which was made only a few days before his death,
doubtless hastened his end.

The Government acted with promptitude, as they were bound to do in
such a case. The body of Jellicoe was worth nothing to them, but they
could secure the property in which he had fraudulently invested the
public moneys intrusted to him. With this object the them Paymaster
of the Navy proceeded to make an affidavit in the Exchequer that
Henry Cort was indebted to His Majesty in the sum of 27,500L. and
upwards, in respect of moneys belonging to the public treasury, which
"Adam Jellicoe had at different times lent and advanced to the said
Henry Cort, from whom the same now remains justly due and owing; and
the deponent saith he verily believes that the said Henry Cort is
much decayed in his credit and in very embarrassed circumstances; and
therefore the deponent verily believes that the aforesaid debt so due
and owing to His Majesty is in great danger of being lost if some
more speedy means be not taken for the recovery than by the ordinary
process of the Court." Extraordinary measures were therefore adopted.
The assignments of Cort's patents, which had been made to Jellicoe in
consideration of his advances, were taken possession of; but Samuel
Jellicoe, the son of the defaulter, singular to say, was put in
possession of the properties at Fontley and Gosport, and continued to
enjoy them, to Cort's exclusion, for a period of fourteen years. It
does not however appear that any patent right was ever levied by the
assignees, and the result of the proceeding was that the whole
benefit of Cort's inventions was thus made over to the ironmasters
and to the public. Had the estate been properly handled, and the
patent rights due under the contracts made by the ironmasters with
Cort been duly levied, there is little reason to doubt that the whole
of the debt owing to the Government would have been paid in the
course of a few years. "When we consider," says Mr. Webster, "how
very simple was the process of demanding of the contracting
ironmasters the patent due (which for the year 1789 amounted to
15,000L., in 1790 to 15,000L., and in 1791 to 25,000L.), and which
demand might have been enforced by the same legal process used to
ruin the inventor, it is not difficult to surmise the motive for
abstaining." The case, however, was not so simple as Mr. Webster puts
it; for there was such a contingency as that of the ironmasters
combining to dispute the patent right, and there is every reason to
believe that they were prepared to adopt that course.*
This is confirmed by the report of a House of Commons Committee on
the subject Mr. Davies Gilbert chairman), in which they say, "Your
committee have not been able to satisfy themselves that either of the
two inventions, one for subjecting cast-iron to an operation termed
puddling during its conversion to malleable iron, and the other for
passing it through fluted or grooved rollers, were so novel in their
principle or their application as fairly to entitle the petitioners
[Mr. Cort's survivors] to a parliamentary reward." It is, however,
stated by Mr. Mushet that the evidence was not fairly taken by the
committee--that they were overborne by the audacity of Mr. Samuel
Homfray, one of the great Welsh ironmasters, whose statements were
altogether at variance with known facts--and that it was under his
influence that Mr. Gilbert drew up the fallacious report of the
committee. The illustrious James Watt, writing to Dr. Black in 1784,
as to the iron produced by Cort's process, said, "Though I cannot
perfectly agree with you as to its goodness, yet there is much
ingenuity in the idea of forming the bars in that manner, which is
the only part of his process which has any pretensions to novelty....
Mr. Cort has, as you observe, been most illiberally treated by the
trade: they are ignorant brutes; but he exposed himself to it by
showing them the process before it was perfect, and seeing his
ignorance of the common operations of making iron, laughed at and
despised him; yet they will contrive by some dirty evasion to use his
process, or such parts as they like, without acknowledging him in it.
I shall be glad to be able to be of any use to him. Watts
fellow-feeling was naturally excited in favour of the plundered
inventor, he himself having all his life been exposed to the attacks
of like piratical assailants.

Although the Cort patents expired in 1796 and 1798 respectively, they
continued the subject of public discussion for some time after, more
particularly in connection with the defalcations of the deceased Adam
Jellicoe. It does not appear that more than 2654l. was realised by
the Government from the Cort estate towards the loss sustained by the
public, as a balance of 24,846l. was still found standing to the
debit of Jellicoe in 1800, when the deficiencies in the naval
account's became matter of public inquiry. A few years later, in
1805, the subject was again revived in a remarkable manner. In that
year, the Whigs, Perceiving the bodily decay of Mr. Pitt, and being
too eager to wait for his removal by death, began their famous series
of attacks upon his administration. Fearing to tackle the popular
statesman himself, they inverted the ordinary tactics of an
opposition, and fell foul of Dundas, Lord Melville, then Treasurer of
the Navy, who had successfully carried the country through the great
naval war with revolutionary France. They scrupled not to tax him
with gross peculation, and exhibited articles of impeachment against
him, which became the subject of elaborate investigation, the result
of which is matter of history. In those articles, no reference
whatever was made to Lord Melville's supposed complicity with
Jellicoe; nor, on the trial that followed, was any reference made to
the defalcations of that official. But when Mr. Whitbread, on the 8th
of April, 1805, spoke to the "Resolutions" in the Commons for
impeaching the Treasurer of the Navy, he thought proper to intimate
that he "had a strong suspicion that Jellicoe was in the same
partnership with Mark Sprott, Alexander Trotter, and Lord Melville.
He had been suffered to remain a public debtor for a whole year after
he was known to be in arrears upwards of 24,000L. During next year
11,000L. more had accrued. It would not have been fair to have turned
too short on an old companion. It would perhaps, too, have been
dangerous, since unpleasant discoveries might have met the public
eye. It looked very much as if, mutually conscious of criminality,
they had agreed to be silent, and keep their own secrets."

In making these offensive observations Whitbread was manifestly
actuated by political enmity. They were utterly unwarrantable. In the
first place, Melville had been formally acquitted of Jellicoe's
deficiency by a writ of Privy Seal, dated 31st May, 1800; and
secondly, the committee appointed in that very year (1805) to
reinvestigate the naval accounts, had again exonerated him, but
intimated that they were of opinion there was remissness on his part
in allowing Jellicoe to remain in his office after the discovery of
his defalcations.

the report made by the commissioners to the Houses of Parliament in
Tenth Report of the Commissioners of Naval Inquiry. See also Report
of Select Committee on the 10th Naval Report. May, 1805.
the value of Corts patents was estimated at only 100L. Referring to
the schedule of Jellicoe's alleged assets, they say "Many of the
debts are marked as bad; and we apprehend that the debt from Mr.
Henry Cort, not so marked, of 54,000L. and upwards, is of that
description." As for poor bankrupt Henry Cort, these discussions
availed nothing. On the death of Jellicoe, he left his iron works,
feeling himself a ruined man. He made many appeals to the Government
of the day for restoral of his patents, and offered to find security
for payment of the debt due by his firm to the Crown, but in vain. In
1794, an appeal was made to Mr. Pitt by a number of influential
members of Parliament, on behalf of the inventor and his destitute
family of twelve children, when a pension of 200L. a-year was granted
him. This Mr. Cort enjoyed until the year 1800, when he died, broken
in health and spirit, in his sixtieth year. He was buried in
Hampstead Churchyard, where a stone marking the date of his death is
still to be seen. A few years since it was illegible, but it has
recently been restored by his surviving son.

Though Cort thus died in comparative poverty, he laid the foundations
of many gigantic fortunes. He may be said to have been in a great
measure the author of our modern iron aristocracy, who still
manufacture after the processes which he invented or perfected, but
for which they never paid him a shilling of royalty. These men of
gigantic fortunes have owed much--we might almost say everything-- to
the ruined projector of "the little mill at Fontley." Their wealth
has enriched many families of the older aristocracy, and has been the
foundation of several modern peerages. Yet Henry Cort, the rock from
which they were hewn, is already all but forgotten; and his surviving
children, now aged and infirm, are dependent for their support upon
the slender pittance wrung by repeated entreaty and expostulation
from the state.

The career of Richard Crawshay, the first of the great ironmasters
who had the sense to appreciate and adopt the methods of
manufacturing iron invented by Henry Cort, is a not unfitting
commentary on the sad history we have thus briefly described. It
shows how, as respects mere money-making, shrewdness is more potent
than invention, and business faculty than manufacturing skill.
Richard Crawshay was born at Normanton near Leeds, the son of a small
Yorkshire farmer. When a youth, he worked on his father's farm, and
looked forward to occupying the same condition in life; but a
difference with his father unsettled his mind, and at the age of
fifteen he determined to leave his home, and seek his fortune
elsewhere. Like most unsettled and enterprising lads, he first made
for London, riding to town on a pony of his own, which, with the
clothes on his back, formed his entire fortune. It took him a
fortnight to make the journey, in consequence of the badness of the
roads. Arrived in London, he sold his pony for fifteen pounds, and
the money kept him until he succeeded in finding employment. He was
so fortunate as to be taken upon trial by a Mr. Bicklewith, who kept
an ironmonger's shop in York Yard, Upper Thames Street; and his first
duty there was to clean out the office, put the stools and desks in
order for the other clerks, run errands, and act as porter when
occasion required. Young Crawshay was very attentive, industrious,
and shrewd; and became known in the office as "The Yorkshire Boy."
Chiefly because of his "cuteness," his master appointed him to the
department of selling flat irons. The London washerwomen of that day
were very sharp and not very honest, and it used to be said of them
that where they bought one flat iron they generally contrived to
steal two. Mr. Bicklewith thought he could not do better than set the
Yorkshireman to watch the washerwomen, and, by way of inducement to
him to be vigilant, he gave young Crawshay an interest in that branch
of the business, which was soon found to prosper under his charge.
After a few more years, Mr. Bicklewith retired, and left to Crawshay
the cast-iron business in York Yard. This he still further increased,
There was not at that time much enterprise in the iron trade, but
Crawshay endeavoured to connect himself with what there was of it.
The price of iron was then very high, and the best sorts were still
imported from abroad; a good deal of the foreign iron and steel being
still landed at the Steelyard on the Thames, in the immediate
neighbourhood of Crawshay's ironmongery store.

It seems to have occurred to some London capitalists that money was
then to be made in the iron trade, and that South Wales was a good
field for an experiment. The soil there was known to be full of coal
and ironstone, and several small iron works had for some time been
carried on, which were supposed to be doing well. Merthyr Tydvil was
one of the places at which operations had been begun, but the place
being situated in a hill district, of difficult access, and the
manufacture being still in a very imperfect state, the progress made
was for some time very slow. Land containing coal and iron was deemed
of very little value, as maybe inferred from the fact that in the
year 1765, Mr. Anthony Bacon, a man of much foresight, took a lease
from Lord Talbot, for 99 years, of the minerals under forty square
miles of country surrounding the then insignificant hamlet of Merthyr
Tydvil, at the trifling rental of 200L. a-year. There he erected iron
works, and supplied the Government with considerable quantities of
cannon and iron for different purposes; and having earned a
competency, he retired from business in 1782, subletting his mineral
tract in four divisions--the Dowlais, the Penydarran, the Cyfartha,
and the Plymouth Works, north, east, west, and south, of Merthyr

Mr. Richard Crawshay became the lessee of what Mr. Mushet has called
"the Cyfartha flitch of the great Bacon domain." There he proceeded
to carry on the works established by Mr. Bacon with increased spirit;
his son William, whom he left in charge of the ironmongery store in
London, supplying him with capital to put into the iron works as
fast. as he could earn it by the retail trade. In 1787, we find
Richard Crawshay manufacturing with difficulty ten tons of bar-iron
weekly, and it was of a very inferior character,*
Mr. Mushet says of the early manufacture of iron at Merthyr Tydvil
that "A modification of the charcoal refinery, a hollow fire, was
worked with coke as a substitute for charcoal, but the bar-iron
hammered from the produce was very inferior." The pit-coal cast-iron
was nevertheless found of a superior quality for castings, being more
fusible and more homogeneous than charcoal-iron. Hence it was well
adapted for cannon, which was for some time the principal article of
manufacture at the Welsh works.
-- the means not having yet been devised at Cyfartha for
malleableizing the pit-coal cast-iron with economy or good effect.
Yet Crawshay found a ready market for all the iron he could make, and
he is said to have counted the gains of the forge-hammer close by his
house at the rate of a penny a stroke. In course of time he found it
necessary to erect new furnaces, and, having adopted the processes
invented by Henry Cort, he was thereby enabled greatly to increase
the production of his forges, until in 1812 we find him stating to a
committee of the House of Commons that he was making ten thousand
tons of bar-iron yearly, or an average produce of two hundred tons a
week. But this quantity, great though it was, has since been largely
increased, the total produce of the Crawshay furnaces of Cyfartha,
Ynysfach, and Kirwan, being upwards of 50,000 tons of bar-iron

The distance of Merthyr from Cardiff, the nearest port, being
considerable, and the cost of carriage being very great by reason of
the badness of the roads, Mr. Crawshay set himself to overcome this
great impediment to the prosperity of the Merthyr Tydvil district;
and, in conjunction with Mr. Homfray of the Penydarran Works, he
planned and constructed the canal*
It may be worthy of note that the first locomotive run upon a
railroad was that constructed by Trevithick for Mr. Homfray in 1803,
which was employed to bring down metal from the furnaces to the Old
Forge. The engine was taken off the road because the tram-plates were
found too weak to bear its weight without breaking.
to Cardiff, the opening of which, in 1795, gave an immense impetus to
the iron trade of the neighbourhood. Numerous other extensive iron
works became established there, until Merthyr Tydvil attained the
reputation of being at once the richest and the dirtiest district in
all Britain. Mr. Crawshay became known in the west of England as the
"Iron King," and was quoted as the highest authority in all questions
relating to the trade. Mr. George Crawshay, recently describing the
founder of the family at a social meeting at Newcastle, said,--"In
these days a name like ours is lost in the infinity of great
manufacturing firms which exist through out the land; but in those
early times the man who opened out the iron district of Wales stood
upon an eminence seen by all the world. It is preserved in the
traditions of the family that when the 'Iron King' used to drive from
home in his coach-and-four into Wales, all the country turned out to
see him, and quite a commotion took place when he passed through
Bristol on his way to the works. My great grandfather was succeeded
by his son, and by his grandson; the Crawshays have followed one
another for four generations in the iron trade in Wales, and there
they still stand at the head of the trade." The occasion on which
these words were uttered was at a Christmas party, given to the men,
about 1300 in number, employed at the iron works of Messrs. Hawks,
Crawshay, and Co., at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. These works were founded
in 1754 by William Hawks, a blacksmith, whose principal trade
consisted in making claw-hammers for joiners. He became a thriving
man, and eventually a large manufacturer of bar-iron. Partners joined
him, and in the course of the changes wrought by time, one of the
Crawshays, in 1842, became a principal partner in the firm.

Illustrations of a like kind might be multiplied to any extent,
showing the growth in our own time of an iron aristocracy of great
wealth and influence, the result mainly of the successful working of
the inventions of the unfortunate and unrequited Henry Cort. He has
been the very Tubal Cain of England--one of the principal founders of
our iron age. To him we mainly owe the abundance of wrought-iron for
machinery, for steam-engines, and for railways, at one-third the
price we were before accustomed to pay to the foreigner. We have by
his invention, not only ceased to be dependent upon other nations for
our supply of iron for tools, implements, and arms, but we have
become the greatest exporters of iron, producing more than all other
European countries combined. In the opinion of Mr. Fairbairn of
Manchester, the inventions of Henry Cort have already added six
hundred millions sterling to the wealth of the kingdom, while they
have given employment to some six hundred thousand working people
during three generations. And while the great ironmasters, by freely
availing themselves of his inventions, have been adding estate to
estate, the only estate secured by Henry Cort was the little domain
of six feet by two in which he lies interred in Hampstead Churchyard.



"Were public benefactors to be allowed to pass away, like hewers of
wood and drawers of water, without commemoration, genius and
enterprise would be deprived of their most coveted distinction."--Sir
Henry Englefield.

The account given of Dr. Roebuck in a Cyclopedia of Biography,
recently published in Glasgow, runs as follows: -- "Roebuck, John, a
physician and experimental chemist, born at Sheffield, 1718; died,
after ruining himself by his projects, 1794. Such is the short shrift
which the man receives who fails. Had Dr. Roebuck wholly succeeded in
his projects, he would probably have been esteemed as among the
greatest of Scotland's benefactors. Yet his life was not altogether a
failure, as we think will sufficiently appear from the following
brief account of his labours: --

At the beginning of last century, John Roebuck's father carried on
the manufacture of cutlery at Sheffield,*
Dr. Roebuck's grandson, John Arthur Roebuck, by a singular
coincidence, at present represents Sheffield in the British
in the course of which he realized a competency. He intended his son
to follow his own business, but the youth was irresistibly attracted
to scientific pursuits, in which his father liberally encouraged him;
and he was placed first under the care of Dr. Doddridge, at
Northampton, and afterwards at the University of Edinburgh, where he
applied himself to the study of medicine, and especially of
chemistry, which was then attracting considerable attention at the
principal seats of learning in Scotland. While residing at Edinburgh
young Roebuck contracted many intimate friendships with men who
afterwards became eminent in literature, such as Hume and Robertson
the historians, and the circumstance is supposed to have contributed
not a little to his partiality in favour of Scotland, and his
afterwards selecting it as the field for his industrial operations.

After graduating as a physician at Leyden, Roebuck returned to
England, and settled at Birmingham in the year 1745 for the purpose
of practising his profession. Birmingham was then a principal seat of
the metal manufacture, and its mechanics were reputed to be among the
most skilled in Britain. Dr. Roebuck's attention was early drawn to
the scarcity and dearness of the material in which the mechanics
worked, and he sought by experiment to devise some method of smelting
iron otherwise than by means of charcoal. He had a laboratory fitted
up in his house for the purpose of prosecuting his inquiries, and
there he spent every minute that he could spare from his professional
labours. It was thus that he invented the process of smelting iron by
means of pit-coal which he afterwards embodied in the patent
hereafter to be referred to. At the same time he invented new methods
of refining gold and silver, and of employing them in the arts, which
proved of great practical value to the Birmingham trades-men, who
made extensive use of them in their various processes of manufacture.

Dr. Roebuck's inquiries had an almost exclusively practical
direction, and in pursuing them his main object was to render them
subservient to the improvement of the industrial arts. Thus he sought
to devise more economical methods of producing the various chemicals
used in the Birmingham trade, such as ammonia, sublimate, and several
of the acids; and his success was such as to induce him to erect a
large laboratory for their manufacture, which was conducted with
complete success by his friend Mr. Garbett. Among his inventions of
this character, was the modern process of manufacturing vitriolic
acid in leaden vessels in large quantities, instead of in glass
vessels in small quantities as formerly practised. His success led
him to consider the project of establishing a manufactory for the
purpose of producing oil of vitriol on a large scale; and, having
given up his practice as a physician, he resolved, with his partner
Mr. Garbett, to establish the proposed works in the neighbourhood of
Edinburgh. He removed to Scotland with that object, and began the
manufacture of vitriol at Prestonpans in the year 1749. The
enterprise proved eminently lucrative, and, encouraged by his
success, Roebuck proceeded to strike out new branches of manufacture.
He started a pottery for making white and brown ware, which
eventually became established, and the manufacture exists in the same
neighbourhood to this day.

The next enterprise in which he became engaged was one of still
greater importance, though it proved eminently unfortunate in its
results as concerned himself. While living at Prestonpans, he made
the friendship of Mr. William Cadell, of Cockenzie, a gentleman who
had for some time been earnestly intent on developing the industry of
Scotland, then in a very backward condition. Mr. Cadell had tried,
without success, to establish a manufactory of iron; and, though he
had heretofore failed, he hoped that with the aid of Dr. Roebuck he
might yet succeed. The Doctor listened to his suggestions with
interest, and embraced the proposed enterprise with zeal. He
immediately proceeded to organize a company, in which he was joined
by a number of his friends and relatives. His next step was to select
a site for the intended works, and make the necessary arrangements
for beginning the manufacture of iron. After carefully examining the
country on both sides of the Forth, he at length made choice of a
site on the banks of the river Carron, in Stirlingshire, where there
was an abundant supply of wafer, and an inexhaustible supply of iron,
coal, and limestone in the immediate neighbourhood, and there Dr.
Roebuck planted the first ironworks in Scotland,

In order to carry them on with the best chances of success, he
brought a large number of skilled workmen from England, who formed a
nucleus of industry at Carron, where their example and improved
methods of working served to train the native labourers in their art.
At a subsequent period, Mr. Cadell, of Carronpark, also brought a
number of skilled English nail-makers into Scotland, and settled them
in the village of Camelon, where, by teaching others, the business
has become handed down to the present day.

The first furnace was blown at Carron on the first day of January,
1760; and in the course of the same year the Carron Iron Works turned
out 1500 tons of iron, then the whole annual produce of Scotland.
Other furnaces were shortly after erected on improved plans, and the
production steadily increased. Dr. Roebuck was indefatigable in his
endeavours to improve the manufacture, and he was one of the first,
as we have said, to revive the use of pit-coal in refining the ore,
as appears from his patent of 1762. He there describes his new
process as follows: -- "I melt pig or any kind of cast-iron in a
hearth heated with pit-coal by the blast of bellows, and work the
metal until it is reduced to nature, which I take out of the fire and
separate to pieces; then I take the metal thus reduced to nature and
expose it to the action of a hollow pit-coal fire, heated by the
blast of bellows, until it is reduced to a loop, which I draw out
under a common forge hammer into bar-iron." This method of
manufacture was followed with success, though for some time, as
indeed to this day, the principal production of the Carron Works was
castings, for which the peculiar quality of the Scotch iron admirably
adapts it. The well-known Carronades,*
The carronade was invented by General Robert Melville [Mr. Nasmyth
says it was by Miller of Dalswinton], who proposed it for discharging
68 lb, shot with low charges of powder, in order to produce the
increased splintering or SMASHING effects which were known to result
from such practice. The first piece of the kind was cast at the
Carron Foundry, in 1779, and General Melville's family have now in
their possession a small model of this gun, with the inscription: --
"Gift of the Carron Company to Lieutenant-general Melville, inventor
of the smashers and lesser carronades, for solid, ship, shell, and
carcass shot, &c. First used against French ships in 1779."
or "Smashers," as they were named, were cast in large numbers at the
Carron Works. To increase the power of his blowing apparatus,
Dr.Roebuck called to his aid the celebrated Mr. Smeaton, the
engineer, who contrived and erected for him at Carron the most
perfect apparatus of the kind then in existence. It may also be
added, that out of the Carron enterprise, in a great measure, sprang
the Forth and Clyde Canal, the first artificial navigation in
Scotland. The Carron Company, with a view to securing an improved
communication with Glasgow, themselves surveyed a line, which was
only given up in consequence of the determined opposition of the
landowners; but the project was again revived through their means,
and was eventually carried out after the designs of Smeaton and

While the Carron foundry was pursuing a career of safe prosperity,
Dr. Roebuck's enterprise led him to embark in coal-mining, with the
object of securing an improved supply of fuel for the iron works. He
became the lessee of the Duke of Hamilton's extensive coal-mines at
Boroughstoness, as well as of the salt-pans which were connected with
them. The mansion of Kinneil went with the lease,and there Dr.
Roebuck and his family took up their abode. Kinneil House was
formerly a country seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, and is to this day
a stately old mansion, reminding one of a French chateau. Its
situation is of remarkable beauty, its windows overlooking the broad
expanse of the Firth of Forth, and commanding an extensive view of
the country along its northern shores. The place has become in a
measure classical, Kinneil House having been inhabited, since Dr.
Roebuck's time, by Dugald Stewart, who there wrote his Philosophical
Wilkie the painter once paid him a visit there while in Scotland
studying the subject of his "Penny Wedding;" and Dugald Stewart found
for him the old farm-house with the cradle-chimney, which he
introduced in that picture. But Kinneil House has had its imaginary
inhabitants as well as its real ones, the ghost of a Lady Lilburn,
once an occupant of the place, still "haunting" some of the
unoccupied chambers. Dugald Stewart told Wilkie one night, as he was
going to bed, of the unearthly wailings which he himself had heard
proceeding from the ancient apartments; but to him at least they had
been explained by the door opening out upon the roof being blown in
on gusty nights, when a jarring and creaking noise was heard all over
the house. One advantage derived from the house being "haunted" was,
that the garden was never broken into, and the winter apples and
stores were at all times kept safe from depredation in the apartments
of the Lady Lilburn.
When Dr. Roebuck began to sink for coal at the new mines, he found it
necessary to erect pumping-machinery of the most powerful kind that
could be contrived, in order to keep the mines clear of water. For
this purpose the Newcomen engine, in its then state, was found
insufficient; and when Dr. Roebuck's friend, Professor Black, of
Edinburgh, informed him of a young man of his acquaintance, a
mathematical instrument maker at Glasgow, having invented a
steam-engine calculated to work with increased power, speed, and
economy, compared with Newcomen's; Dr. Roebuck was much interested,
and shortly after entered into a correspondence with James Watt, the
mathematical instrument maker aforesaid on the subject. The Doctor
urged that Watt, who, up to that time, had confined himself to
models, should come over to Kinneil House, and proceed to erect a
working; engine in one of the outbuildings. The English workmen whom
he had brought; to the Carron works would, he justly thought, give
Watt a better chance of success with his engine than if made by the
clumsy whitesmiths and blacksmiths of Glasgow, quite unaccustomed as
they were to first-class work; and he proposed himself to cast the
cylinders at Carron previous to Watt's intended visit to him at

Watt paid his promised visit in May, 1768, and Roebuck was by this
time so much interested in the invention, that the subject of his
becoming a partner with Watt, with the object of introducing the
engine into general use, was seriously discussed. Watt had been
labouring at his invention for several years, contending with many
difficulties, but especially with the main difficulty of limited
means. He had borrowed considerable sums of money from Dr. Black to
enable him to prosecute his experiments, and he felt the debt to hang
like a millstone round his neck. Watt was a sickly, fragile man, and
a constant sufferer from violent headaches; besides he was by nature
timid, desponding, painfully anxious, and easily cast down by
failure. Indeed, he was more than once on the point of abandoning his
invention in despair. On the other hand, Dr. Roebuck was accustomed
to great enterprises, a bold and undaunted man, and disregardful of
expense where he saw before him a reasonable prospect of success. His
reputation as a practical chemist and philosopher, and his success as
the founder of the Prestonpans Chemical Works and of the Carron Iron
Works, justified the friends of Watt in thinking that he was of all
men the best calculated to help him at this juncture, and hence they
sought to bring about a more intimate connection between the two. The
result was that Dr. Roebuck eventually became a partner to the extent
of two-thirds of the invention, took upon him the debt owing by Watt
to Dr. Black amounting to about 1200L., and undertook to find the
requisite money to protect the invention by means of a patent. The
necessary steps were taken accordingly and the patent right was
secured by the beginning of 1769, though the perfecting of his model
cost Watt much further anxiety and study.

It was necessary for Watt occasionally to reside with Dr. Roebuck at
Kinneil House while erecting his first engine there. It had been
originally intended to erect it in the neighbouring town of
Boroughstoness, but as there might be prying eyes there, and Watt
wished to do his work in privacy, determined "not to puff," he at
length fixed upon an outhouse still standing, close behind the
mansion, by the burnside in the glen, where there was abundance of
water and secure privacy. Watt's extreme diffidence was often the
subject of remark at Dr. Roebuck's fireside. To the Doctor his
anxiety seemed quite painful, and he was very much disposed to
despond under apparently trivial difficulties. Roebuck's hopeful
nature was his mainstay throughout. Watt himself was ready enough to
admit this; for, writing to his friend Dr.Small, he once said, "I
have met with many disappointments; and I must have sunk under the
burthen of them if I had not been supported by the friendship of Dr.

But more serious troubles were rapidly accumulating upon Dr. Roebuck
himself; and it was he, and not Watt, that sank under the burthen.
The progress of Watt's engine was but slow, and long before it could
be applied to the pumping of Roebuck's mines, the difficulties of the
undertaking on which he had entered overwhelmed him. The opening out
of the principal coal involved a very heavy outlay, extending over
many years, during which he sank not only his own but his wife's
fortune, and--what distressed him most of all--large sums borrowed
from his relatives and friends, which he was unable to repay. The
consequence was, that he was eventually under the necessity of
withdrawing his capital from the refining works at Birmingham, and
the vitriol works at Prestonpans. At the same time, he transferred to
Mr. Boulton of Soho his entire interest in Watt's steam-engine, the
value of which, by the way, was thought so small that it was not even
included among the assets; Roebuck's creditors not estimating it as
worth one farthing. Watt sincerely deplored his partner's
misfortunes, but could not help him. "He has been a most sincere and
generous friend," said Watt, "and is a truly worthy man." And again,
"My heart bleeds for him, but I can do nothing to help him: I have
stuck by him till I have much hurt myself; I can do so no longer; my
family calls for my care to provide for them." The later years of Dr.
Roebuck's life were spent in comparative obscurity; and he died in
1794, in his 76th year.

He lived to witness the success of the steam-engine, the opening up
of the Boroughstoness coal,*
Dr. Roebuck had been on the brink of great good fortune, but he did
not know it. Mr. Ralph Moore, in his "Papers on the Blackband
Ironstones" (Glasgow, 1861), observes: -- "Strange to say, he was
leaving behind him, almost as the roof of one of the seams of coal
which he worked, a valuable blackband ironstone, upon which Kinneil
Iron Works are now founded. The coal-field continued to be worked
until the accidental discovery of the blackband about 1845. The old
coal-pits are now used for working the ironstone."
and the rapid extension of the Scotch iron trade, though he shared in
the prosperity of neither of those branches of industry. He had been
working ahead of his age, and he suffered for it. He fell in the
breach at the critical moment, and more fortunate men marched over
his body into the fortress which his enterprise and valour had mainly
contributed to win. Before his great undertaking of the Carron Works,
Scotland was entirely dependent upon other countries for its supply
of iron. In 1760, the first year of its operations, the whole produce
was 1500 tons. In course of time other iron works were erected, at
Clyde Cleugh, Muirkirk, and Devon--the managers and overseers of
which, as well as the workmen, had mostly received their training and
experience at Carron--until at length the iron trade of Scotland has
assumed such a magnitude that its manufacturers are enabled to export
to England and other countries upwards of 500,000 tons a-year. How
different this state of things from the time when raids were made
across the Border for the purpose of obtaining a store of iron
plunder to be carried back into Scotland!

The extraordinary expansion of the Scotch iron trade of late years
has been mainly due to the discovery by David Mushet of the Black
Band ironstone in 1801, and the invention of the Hot Blast by James
Beaumont Neilson in 1828. David Mushet was born at Dalkeith, near
Edinburgh, in 1772.*
The Mushets are an old Kincardine family; but they were almost
extinguished by the plague in the reign of Charles the Second. Their
numbers were then reduced to two; one of whom remained at Kincardine,
and the other, a clergyman, the Rev. George Mushet , accompanied
Montrose as chaplain. He is buried in Kincardine churchyard.
Like other members of his family he was brought up to metal-founding.
At the age of nineteen he joined the staff of the Clyde Iron Works,
near Glasgow, at a time when the Company had only two blast-furnaces
at work. The office of accountant, which he held, precluded him from
taking any part in the manufacturing operations of the concern. But
being of a speculative and ingenious turn of mind, the remarkable
conversions which iron underwent in the process of manufacture very
shortly began to occupy his attention. The subject was much discussed
by the young men about the works, and they frequently had occasion to
refer to Foureroy's well-known book for the purpose of determining
various questions of difference which arose among them in the course
of their inquiries. The book was, however, in many respects
indecisive and unsatisfactory; and, in 1793, when a reduction took
place in the Company's staff, and David Mushet was left nearly the
sole occupant of the office, he determined to study the subject for
himself experimentally, and in the first place to acquire a thorough
knowledge of assaying, as the true key to the whole art of

He first set up his crucible upon the bridge of the reverberatory
furnace used for melting pig-iron, and filled it with a mixture
carefully compounded according to the formula of the books; but,
notwithstanding the shelter of a brick, placed before it to break the
action of the flame, the crucible generally split in two, and not
unfrequently melted and disappeared altogether. To obtain better
results if possible, he next had recourse to the ordinary smith's
fire, carrying on his experiments in the evenings after office-hours.
He set his crucible upon the fire on a piece of fire brick, opposite
the nozzle of the bellows; covering the whole with coke, and then
exciting the flame by blowing. This mode of operating produced
somewhat better results, but still neither the iron nor the cinder
obtained resembled the pig or scoria of the blast-furnace, which it
was his ambition to imitate. From the irregularity of the results,
and the frequent failure of the crucibles, he came to the conclusion
that either his furnace, or his mode of fluxing, was in fault, and he
looked about him for a more convenient means of pursuing his
experiments. A small square furnace had been erected in the works for
the purpose of heating the rivets used for the repair of steam-engine
boilers; the furnace had for its chimney a cast-iron pipe six or
seven inches in diameter and nine feet long. After a few trials with
it, he raised the heat to such an extent that the lower end of the
pipe was melted off, without producing any very satisfactory results
on the experimental crucible, and his operations were again brought
to a standstill. A chimney of brick having been substituted for the
cast-iron pipe, he was, however, enabled to proceed with his trials.

He continued to pursue his experiments in assaying for about two
years, during which he had been working entirely after the methods
described in books; but, feeling the results still unsatisfactory, he
determined to borrow no more from the books, but to work out a system
of his own, which should ensure results similar to those produced at
the blast-furnace. This he eventually succeeded in effecting by
numerous experiments performed in the night; as his time was fully
occupied by his office-duties during the day. At length these patient
experiments bore their due fruits. David Mushet became the most
skilled assayer at the works; and when a difficulty occurred in
smelting a quantity of new ironstone which had been contracted for,
the manager himself resorted to the bookkeeper for advice and
information; and the skill and experience which he had gathered
during his nightly labours, enabled him readily and satisfactorily to
solve the difficulty and suggest a suitable remedy. His reward for
this achievement was the permission, which was immediately granted
him by the manager, to make use of his own assay-furnace, in which he
thenceforward continued his investigations, at the same time that he
instructed the manager's son in the art of assaying. This additional
experience proved of great benefit to him; and he continued to
prosecute his inquiries with much zeal, sometimes devoting entire
nights to experiments in assaying, roasting and cementing iron-ores
and ironstone, decarbonating cast-iron for steel and bar-iron, and
various like operations. His general practice, however, at that time
was, to retire between two and three o'clock in the morning, leaving
directions with the engine-man to call him at half-past five, so as
to be present in the office at six. But these praiseworthy
experiments were brought to a sudden end, as thus described by
himself: --

"In the midst of my career of investigation," says he,*
Papers on Iron and Steel. By David Mushet. London, 1840.
"and without a cause being assigned, I was stopped short. My
furnaces, at the order of the manager, were pulled in pieces, and an
edict was passed that they should never be erected again. Thus
terminated my researches at the Clyde Iron Works. It happened at a
time when I was interested--and I had been two years previously
occupied--in an attempt to convert cast-iron into steel, without
fusion, by a process of cementation, which had for its object the
dispersion or absorption of the superfluous carbon contained in the
cast-iron,--an object which at that time appeared to me of so great
importance, that, with the consent of a friend, I erected an assay
and cementing Furnace at the distance of about two miles from the
Clyde Works. Thither I repaired at night, and sometimes at the
breakfast and dinner hours during the day. This plan of operation was
persevered in for the whole of one summer, but was found too
uncertain and laborious to be continued. At the latter end of the
year 1798 I left my chambers, and removed from the Clyde Works to the
distance of about a mile, where I constructed several furnaces for
assaying and cementing, capable of exciting a greater temperature
than any to which I before had access; and thus for nearly two years
I continued to carry on my investigations connected with iron and the
alloys of the metals.

"Though operating in a retired manner, and holding little
communication with others, my views and opinions upon the RATIONALE
of iron-making spread over the establishment. I was considered
forward in affecting to see and explain matters in a different way
from others who were much my seniors, and who were content to be
satisfied with old methods of explanation, or with no explanation at
all..... Notwithstanding these early reproaches, I have lived to see
the nomenclature of my youth furnish a vocabulary of terms in the art
of iron-making, which is used by many of the ironmasters of the
present day with freedom and effect, in communicating with each other
on the subject of their respective manufactures. Prejudices seldom
outlive the generation to which they belong, when opposed by a more
rational system of explanation. In this respect, Time (as my Lord
Bacon says) is the greatest of all innovators.

"In a similar manner, Time operated in my favour in respect to the
Black Band Ironstone.*
This valuable description of iron ore was discovered by Mr. Mushet,
as he afterwards informs us (Papers on Iron and Steel, 121),in the
year 1801, when crossing the river Calder, in the parish of Old
Monkland. Having subjected a specimen which he found in the river-bed
to the test of his crucible, he satisfied himself as to its
properties, and proceeded to ascertain its geological position and
relations. He shortly found that it belonged to the upper part of the
coal-formation, and hence he designated it carboniferous ironstone.
He prosecuted his researches, and found various rich beds of the
mineral distributed throughout the western counties of Scotland. On
analysis, it was found to contain a little over 50 per cent. of
protoxide of iron. The coaly matter it contained was not its least
valuable ingredient; for by the aid of the hot blast it was
afterwards found practicable to smelt it almost without any addition
of coal. Seams of black band have since been discovered and
successfully worked in Edinburghshire, Staffordshire, and North
The discovery of this was made in 1801, when I was engaged in
erecting for myself and partners the Calder Iron Works. Great
prejudice was excited against me by the ironmasters and others of
that day in presuming to class the WILD COALS of the country (as
Black Band was called) with ironstone fit and proper for the blast
furnace. Yet that discovery has elevated Scotland to a considerable
rank among the iron-making nations of Europe, with resources still in
store that may be considered inexhaustible. But such are the
consolatory effects of Time, that the discoverer of 1801 is no longer
considered the intrusive visionary of the laboratory, but the
acknowledged benefactor of his country at large, and particularly of
an extensive class of coal and mine proprietors and iron masters, who
have derived, and are still deriving, great wealth from this
important discovery; and who, in the spirit of grateful
acknowledgment, have pronounced it worthy of a crown of gold, or a
monumental record on the spot where the discovery was first made.

"At an advanced period of life, such considerations are soothing and
satisfactory. Many under similar circumstances have not, in their own
lifetime, had that measure of justice awarded to them by their
country to which they were equally entitled. I accept it, however, as
a boon justly due to me, and as an equivalent in some degree for that
laborious course of investigation which I had prescribed for myself,
and which, in early life, was carried on under circumstances of
personal exposure and inconvenience, which nothing but a frame of
iron could have supported. They atone also ,in part, for that
disappointment sustained in early life by the speculative habits of
one partner, and the constitutional nervousness of another, which
eventually occasioned my separation from the Calder Iron Works, and
lost me the possession of extensive tracts of Black Band iron-stone,
which I had secured while the value of the discovery was known only
to myself."

Mr. Mushet published the results of his laborious investigations in a
series of papers in the Philosophical Magazine,--afterwards reprinted
in a collected form in 1840 under the title of "Papers on Iron and
Steel." These papers are among the most valuable original
contributions to the literature of the iron-manufacture that have yet
been given to the world. They contain the germs of many inventions
and discoveries in iron and steel, some of which were perfected by
Mr. Mushet himself, while others were adopted and worked out by
different experimenters. In 1798 some of the leading French chemists
were endeavouring to prove by experiment that steel could be made by
contact of the diamond with bar-iron in the crucible, the carbon of
the diamond being liberated and entering into combination with the
iron, forming steel. In the animated controversy which occurred on
the subject, Mr. Mushet's name was brought into considerable notice;
one of the subjects of his published experiments having been the
conversion of bar-iron into steel in the crucible by contact with
regulated proportions of charcoal. The experiments which he made in
connection with this controversy, though in themselves unproductive
of results, led to the important discovery by Mr. Mushet of the
certain fusibility of malleable iron at a suitable temperature.

Among the other important results of Mr. Mushet's lifelong labours,
the following may be summarily mentioned: The preparation of steel
from bar-iron by a direct process, combining the iron with carbon;
the discovery of the beneficial effects of oxide of manganese on iron
and steel; the use of oxides of iron in the puddling-furnace in
various modes of appliance; the production of pig-iron from the
blast-furnace, suitable for puddling, without the intervention of the
refinery; and the application of the hot blast to anthracite coal in
iron-smelting. For the process of combining iron with carbon for the
production of steel, Mr. Mushet took out a patent in November, 1800;
and many years after, when he had discovered the beneficial effects
of oxide of manganese on steel, Mr. Josiah Heath founded upon it his
celebrated patent for the making of cast-steel, which had the effect
of raising the annual production of that metal in Sheffield from 3000
to 100,000 tons. His application of the hot blast to anthracite coal,
after a process invented by him and adopted by the Messrs. Hill of
the Plymouth Iron Works, South Wales, had the effect of producing
savings equal to about 20,000L. a year at those works; and yet,
strange to say, Mr. Mushet himself never received any consideration
for his invention.

The discovery of Titanium by Mr. Mushet in the hearth of a
blast-furnace in 1794 would now be regarded as a mere isolated fact,
inasmuch as Titanium was not placed in the list of recognised metals
until Dr. Wollaston, many years later, ascertained its qualities. But
in connection with the fact, it may be mentioned that Mr. Mushet's
youngest son, Robert, reasoning on the peculiar circumstances of the
discovery in question, of which ample record is left, has founded
upon it his Titanium process, which is expected by him eventually to
supersede all other methods of manufacturing steel, and to reduce
very materially the cost of its production.

While he lived, Mr. Mushet was a leading authority on all matters
connected with Iron and Steel, and he contributed largely to the
scientific works of his time. Besides his papers in the Philosophical
Journal, he wrote the article "Iron" for Napiers Supplement to the
Encyclopaedia Britannica; and the articles "Blast Furnace" and
"Blowing Machine" for Rees's Cyclopaedia. The two latter articles had
a considerable influence on the opposition to the intended tax upon
iron in 1807, and were frequently referred to in the discussions on
the subject in Parliament. Mr. Mushet died in 1847.



"Whilst the exploits of the conqueror and the intrigues of the
demagogue are faithfully preserved through a succession of ages, the
persevering and unobtrusive efforts of genius, developing the best
blessings of the Deity to man, are often consigned to oblivion."--
David Mushet.

The extraordinary value of the Black Band ironstone was not at first
duly recognised, perhaps not even by Mr. Mushet himself. For several
years after its discovery by him, its use was confined to the Calder
Iron Works, where it was employed in mixture with other ironstones of
the argillaceous class. It was afterwards partially used at the Clyde
Iron Works, but nowhere else, a strong feeling of prejudice being
entertained against it on the part of the iron trade generally. It
was not until the year 1825 that the Monkland Company used it alone,
without any other mixture than the necessary quantity of limestone
for a flux. "The success of this Company," says Mr. Mushet, "soon
gave rise to the Gartsherrie and Dundyvan furnaces, in the midst of
which progress came the use of raw pit-coal and the Hot Blast--the
latter one of the greatest discoveries in metallurgy of the present
age, and, above every other process, admirably adapted for smelting
the Blackband ironstone." From the introduction of this process the
extraordinary development of the iron-manufacture of Scotland may be
said to date; and we accordingly propose to devote the present
chapter to an account of its meritorious inventor.

James Beaumont Neilson was born at Shettleston, a roadside village
about three miles eastward of Glasgow, on the 22nd of June, 1792. His
parents belonged to the working class. His father's earnings during
many laborious years of his life did not exceed sixteen shillings a
week. He had been bred to the trade of a mill-wright, and was for
some time in the employment of Dr. Roebuck as an engine-wright at his
colliery near Boroughstoness. He was next employed in a like capacity
by Mr. Beaumont, the mineral-manager of the collieries of Mrs.
Cunningham of Lainshaw, near Irvine in Ayrshire; after which he was
appointed engine-wright at Ayr, and subsequently at the Govan Coal
Works near Glasgow, where he remained until his death. It was while
working at the Irvine Works that he first became acquainted with his
future wife, Marion Smith, the daughter of a Renfrewshire bleacher, a
woman remarkable through life for her clever, managing, and
industrious habits. She had the charge of Mrs. Cunningham's children
for some time after the marriage of that lady to Mr. Beaumont, and it
was in compliment to her former mistress and her husband that she
named her youngest son James Beaumont after the latter.

The boy's education was confined to the common elements of reading,
writing, and arithmetic, which he partly acquired at the parish
school of Strathbungo near Glasgow, and partly at the Chapel School,
as it was called, in the Gorbals at Glasgow. He had finally left
school before he was fourteen. Some time before he left, he had been
partially set to work, and earned four shillings a week by employing
a part of each day in driving a small condensing engine which his
father had put up in a neighbouring quarry. After leaving school, he
was employed for two years as a gig boy on one of the winding engines
at the Govan colliery. His parents now considered him of fit age to
be apprenticed to some special trade, and as Beaumont had much of his
father's tastes for mechanical pursuits, it was determined to put him
apprentice to a working engineer. His elder brother John was then
acting as engineman at Oakbank near Glasgow, and Beaumont was
apprenticed under him to learn the trade. John was a person of a
studious and serious turn of mind, and had been strongly attracted to
follow the example of the brothers Haldane, who were then exciting
great interest by their preaching throughout the North; but his
father set his face against his son's "preaching at the back o'
dikes," as he called it; and so John quietly settled down to his
work. The engine which the two brothers managed was a very small one,
and the master and apprentice served for engineman and fireman. Here
the youth worked for three years, employing his leisure hours in the
evenings in remedying the defects of his early education, and
endeavouring to acquire a knowledge of English grammar, drawing, and

On the expiry of his apprenticeship, Beaumont continued for a time to
work under his brother as journeyman at a guinea a week; after which,
in 1814, he entered the employment of William Taylor, coal-master at
Irvine, and he was appointed engine-wright of the colliery at a
salary of from 70L. to 80L. a year. One of the improvements which he
introduced in the working of the colliery, while he held that office,
was the laying down of an edge railway of cast-iron, in lengths of
three feet, from the pit to the harbour of Irvine, a distance of
three miles. At the age of 23 he married his first wife, Barbara
Montgomerie, an Irvine lass, with a "tocher" of 250L. This little
provision was all the more serviceable to him, as his master, Taylor,
becoming unfortunate in business, he was suddenly thrown out of
employment, and the little fortune enabled the newly-married pair to
hold their heads above water till better days came round. They took a
humble tenement, consisting of a room and a kitchen, in the
Cowcaddens, Glasgow, where their first child was born.

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