Thomas Walmsley and Sons

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The Atlas Forge rolling mill Atlas Forge - - 404186.jpg
The Atlas Forge rolling mill

Thomas Walmsley and Sons was a company that manufactured wrought iron. It was founded in 1866 or 1869 by Thomas Walmsley at the Atlas Forge on a site bounded by Bridgeman Street and Fletcher Street in Bolton, then in Lancashire, England. The forge had at least 16 puddling furnaces and forging and rolling mills. [1]

Wrought iron iron alloy with a very low carbon content

Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content in contrast to cast iron. It is a semi-fused mass of iron with fibrous slag inclusions, which gives it a "grain" resembling wood that is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile, corrosion-resistant and easily welded. Before the development of effective methods of steelmaking and the availability of large quantities of steel, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron. It was given the name wrought because it was hammered, rolled or otherwise worked while hot enough to expel molten slag. The modern functional equivalent of wrought iron is mild or low carbon steel. Neither wrought iron nor mild steel contain enough carbon to be hardenable by heating and quenching.

Bolton town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England

Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester in North West England. A former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area in the 14th century, introducing a wool and cotton-weaving tradition. The urbanisation and development of the town largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. Bolton was a 19th-century boomtown, and at its zenith in 1929 its 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dyeing works made it one of the largest and most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. The British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War, and by the 1980s cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in Bolton.

Puddling (metallurgy) metallurgical process

Puddling was one step in one of the most important processes of making the first appreciable volumes of high-grade bar iron during the Industrial Revolution. In the original puddling technique, molten iron in a reverberatory furnace was stirred with rods, which were consumed in the process. It was one of the first processes for making bar iron without charcoal in Europe, although much earlier coal-based processes had existed in China. Eventually, the furnace would be used to make small quantities of specialty steels.


In 1874 a Rastrick boiler at the forge exploded, causing six fatalities. [2]

Boiler explosion catastrophic failure of a boiler

A boiler explosion is a catastrophic failure of a boiler. As seen today, boiler explosions are of two kinds. One kind is a failure of the pressure parts of the steam and water sides. There can be many different causes, such as failure of the safety valve, corrosion of critical parts of the boiler, or low water level. Corrosion along the edges of lap joints was a common cause of early boiler explosions.

Production lasted for more than 100 years until 1975 when it was the last plant in the United Kingdom to produce wrought iron. Much of the plant, the wrought iron rolling mill, the Rastrick boiler and the steam engine that powered it were preserved in working order by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust for its Blists Hill museum where it is used to demonstrate the process to visitors. [1] [3] A steam hammer supplied to the company by Nasmyth & Wilson of Patricroft is preserved outside Bolton University. [4]

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is an industrial heritage organisation which runs ten museums and manages 35 historic sites within the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England, widely considered as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

Steam hammer power hammer

A steam hammer, also called a drop hammer, is an industrial power hammer driven by steam that is used for tasks such as shaping forgings and driving piles. Typically the hammer is attached to a piston that slides within a fixed cylinder, but in some designs the hammer is attached to a cylinder that slides along a fixed piston.

Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company defunct British locomotive manufacturer

Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company, originally called The Bridgewater Foundry, specialised in the production of heavy machine tools and locomotives. It was located in Patricroft, in Salford England, close to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal. The company was founded in 1836 and dissolved in 1940.

Atlas Forge and the figure of Atlas, as steel stockholders in 1983 Atlas Forge, Bridgeman Street, Bolton - - 404170.jpg
Atlas Forge and the figure of Atlas, as steel stockholders in 1983

After 1975 the company became steel stockholders as 'Walmsley Steelstock' and closed in 1984.

Walmsley family

Thomas Walmsley was born in 1812 and became an iron agent and tinplate worker in 1845 in Oxford Street, Bolton. In 1869 he was an agent for the Grosmont pig iron and Bowling Iron Company from the Phoenix Ironworks in Crook Street. He had set up his own iron works by 1869. [1] He was Mayor of Bolton from 1869 to 1871. [5] He died in 1890 and the business passed to his son, Richard and subsequently to Richard's sons, Reginald and Ernest. [1]

Pig iron iron alloy

Pig iron is an intermediate product of the iron industry, also known as crude iron, which is first obtained from a smelting furnace in the form of oblong blocks. Pig iron has a very high carbon content, typically 3.8–4.7%, along with silica and other constituents of dross, which makes it very brittle and not useful directly as a material except for limited applications. Pig iron is made by smelting iron ore into a transportable ingot of impure high carbon-content iron in a blast furnace as an ingredient for further processing steps. The traditional shape of the molds used for pig iron ingots was a branching structure formed in sand, with many individual ingots at right angles to a central channel or runner, resembling a litter of piglets being suckled by a sow. When the metal had cooled and hardened, the smaller ingots were simply broken from the runner, hence the name pig iron. As pig iron is intended for remelting, the uneven size of the ingots and the inclusion of small amounts of sand caused only insignificant problems considering the ease of casting and handling them.

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James Foster was a prominent Worcestershire ironmaster, coalmaster and senior partner in the important iron company of John Bradley & Co, Stourbridge, which was founded by his elder half-brother but greatly enlarged under his direction. As well as the Stourbridge ironworks, the business owned a number of coal and ironstone mines, furnaces, forges and other works in the Black Country and near Ironbridge. The business continued long after James Foster's death, ultimately being incorporated as John Bradley (Stourbridge) Ltd in the early 20th century. In the late 19th century, the company was a member of the Marked Bar Association, whose members were the makers of the highest quality bar iron of the time. Foster was also a partner in other companies including the engineering firm Foster, Rastrick and Company, which built the first steam locomotive to run on rails in the USA. He was also a banker and landowner as well as being elected Member of Parliament and appointed as Improvement Commissioner for Stourbridge, and High Sheriff of Worcestershire.

B. Hick and Sons, subsequently Hick, Hargreaves & Co, was a British engineering company based at the Soho Ironworks in Bolton, England. Benjamin Hick, a partner in Rothwell, Hick and Rothwell, later Rothwell, Hick & Co., set up the company in partnership with two of his sons, John (1815–1894) and Benjamin (1818–1845) in 1833.

John Musgrave & Sons

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W & J Galloway & Sons

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Low Moor Ironworks

The Low Moor Ironworks was a wrought iron foundry established in 1791 in the village of Low Moor about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Bradford in Yorkshire, England. The works were built to exploit the high-quality iron ore and low-sulphur coal found in the area. Low Moor made wrought iron products from 1801 until 1957 for export around the world. At one time it was the largest ironworks in Yorkshire, a major complex of mines, piles of coal and ore, kilns, blast furnaces, forges and slag heaps connected by railway lines. The surrounding countryside was littered with waste, and smoke from the furnaces and machinery blackened the sky. Today Low Moor is still industrial, but the pollution has been mostly eliminated.

John Bradley & Co was a company established in 1800 by John Bradley at Stourbridge in the West Midlands area of England. The company developed into a large industrial concern with furnaces, ironworks and mines. Under James Foster, John Bradley's half brother, it was instrumental in bringing the first commercial steam locomotive into the Midlands area in 1829. The firm stayed under family control until the early years of the 20th century when first the mining (1913) and then the ironworks (1919) were sold off. Part of the business continued to trade under the name John Bradley & Co. (Stourbridge) Ltd until after the Second World War.



  1. 1 2 3 4 Townley (1995) , p. 56
  2. McEwen, Alan (2009). Historic Steam Boiler Explosions. Sledgehammer. pp. 8–11. ISBN   978-0-9532725-2-5.
  3. Highlights, Ironbridge Gorge Museums, retrieved 29 March 2012
  4. Heritage steam hammer moves home, Bolton University, retrieved 29 March 2012
  5. Thomas Walmsley, Bolton Council, retrieved 29 March 2012


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