Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 150,706 pages of information and 235,205 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bolton Iron and Steel Co

From Graces Guide

of Moor Lane and Blackhorse Street, Bolton.

Successor to the Bolton Steel and Iron Works, which in turn succeeded Bolton Forge? To be resolved.

A trade certificate showing an impression of the works and some of its activities is available online. Products included: rails, angles and bars, forgings in steel and wrought iron, boiler and firebox plates, steel tyres, decarbonised steel, steel castings including patent solid steel cast anvils[1]

1863 'Circulars have been to-day received by the principal business firms of this locality, in which Mr. Henry Sharp, of the Forge, announces that he just completing extensive works for the manufacture of steel by the Bessemer process, which will in future be carried in conjunction with his present business, by Messrs. John Hick and William Hargreaves, under the firm of "The Bolton Iron and Steel Company," and the members of the firm will Messrs. Henry Sharp, John Hick, and William Hargreaves.' [2]

1864 Part of the works that had been used by Rothwell and Co was taken over by the Bolton Iron and Steel Co

1865 'Monster Casting.— On Wednesday, at the works of the Bolton Iron and Steel Company, Bolton, Mr J. Ireland undertook the casting of the largest anvil block as yet made in England. The block, when finished, is estimated to weigh 210 tons. It was run out of two cupolas, the whole process occupying about eight hours, and being most successful in every respect. There were present on the occasion Messrs John Hick, Hargreaves, Bowler, Hill, T. B. Hetherington, W. J. Hetherington, Slayter, W. F. Hulton, Wren, Hopkinson, Eckersley, Sharp, &c. A collation was served during the proceeding, at which the Mayor of Bolton proposed success to the Bolton Iron and Steel Company, Messrs Hick, Sharp, and Hargreaves responding.'[3]


'A Monster Steam-Hammer — Many huge hammers have been made, but none have yet reached the size of the one now in process of erection at the Bolton Iron and Steel Works. This hammer is being made by Messrs Nasmyth & Co., of Patricroft, and will strike a blow equal to 75 tons. This of course will require an immense anvil block, and the process of casting one for it, weighing 200 tons, on Wednesday last, was a work of unusual interest. The iron was smelted in two large patent upper Tuyere cupola furnaces, 24 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter. The molten metal was run into the mould in a constant stream, supplied alternately from each furnace. The process occupied ten hours. The metal was kept in a state of fusion by means of burning charcoal until the whole quantity was poured in. The huge casting is likely to be perfectly cold at three months hence and it will certainly not be reduced to a sufficient temperature to be dealt with under two months.'[4]

1866 Serious Accident at Bolton.— On Thursday, about eleven o'clock, a serious accident occurred at the Bolton Steel and Iron Works which, however, fortunately resulted without loss of life, although a number of workmen were dangerously injured. A large number of men were engaged in sinking the foundation of an engine bed along that side of the forge which joins the London and North Western Railway, and having sunk about six feet below a stone wall, and only at few feet distance from it, the wall gave way, and about 14 or 15 yards in length and about 16 feet in height fell down, bringing with it some large cross beams and the roof which it supported, burying the workmen in the ruins. Four of them, the most injured, were removed to the infirmary, but after their wounds were dressed three of them were removed to their own homes. One of them, John Burke, residing in Bolton, remains in the hospital, having his shoulder blade broken, and otherwise seriously injured.'[5]

1866 Report on the new Siemens-Martin regenerative gas furnaces at the works [6]

1867 'The Bolton Steel and Iron Company has lately forged a Bessemer steel shaft 11 in. in diameter, and 30 ft. long, under their 25-ton steam hammer.'[7]

1869 Making steam hammers designed by Francis W. Webb [8]

1871 Francis William Webb was the Managing Director.[9]

1873 Article [10]

In the series of articles commenced in our last issue, relating to the important Lancashire manufacturing town of Bolton-le-Moors and its iron industries, we made frequent reference, not only of choice but of necessity, to the Bolton Iron and Steel Works and we have now to undertake the task endeavouring, within the limits a brief notice, to do justice to the characteristics and capabilities of these works, with which we were most strongly impressed on the occasion of our recent visit of inspection.

'These works of the Bolton Iron and Steel Company, situated in Blackhorse-street, occupy an urban area of more than four acres, giving employment at the present time to some 700 men. They comprise two portions, mainly devoted to the respective manufactures of iron and steel; the older portion of the works were originally established A.D. 1819, for the manufacture of iron forgings, and were subsequently enlarged and carried on by Messrs. Rushton and Eckersley, the works being then known the Bolton Forge. It was in this establishment that the first steam-hammer made by Messrs. Nasmyth and Co. was erected and put to work ; and the same original 5-ton hammer, substantially unchanged except in minor details, repairs, &c., is still at work, though not in the same position as we saw it in operation in the Steel Works, to which it has been removed. The works were afterwards extended so as to include in their operations the manufacture of wrought-iron bars and boiler-plates, for which, indeed, they have since obtained great celebrity.

'In the year 1862 very considerable extensions and additions, in buildings and plant, were made by the present firm of proprietors, for the purpose of undertaking the manufacture of steel by the Bessemer process, which they were among the first practically to adopt after it was made known, and which was fairly commenced in the following year 1868. In this branch of their operations the firm has attained the highest possible repute, and for completeness, perfection of appliances, and quality, size, and kind, of finished products they may fairly claim to rival any similar industrial establishment. The Siemens-Martin process for the manufacture of steel is also carried on here; and indeed such is the enterprise and energy of the management, that it would seem to be a point of honour with them to supersede everything old and obsolete by the most approved and successful modern processes, machinery, and appliances.

'The general features, arrangement and operations of similar works are sufficiently well known ; and we shall therefore content ourselves with brief detailed statement and summary of the leading points of interest in the example under notice.

'The most important feature of the works is naturally the Bessemer plant, which comprises four converters, arranged and worked in pairs in two pits, and served by four large cupolas for the iron, and four small cupolas for the Spiegeleisen, the charges being six tons each, of which five are worked off each pit per day of twelve hours, there being two shifts for day and night, operations being continuous. The blast is supplied a pair of 60 horse-power engines, and the hydraulic power by duplicate pumping engines, which feed accumulator sufficiently large to do all the work required during the conversion of one charge, in case of accident to the engine, and in addition to the hydraulic power required by the Bessemer plant and cranes, it also supplied a tyre mill, and all the cranes throughout the works, which are fitted with hydraulic action, including one 40 and one 20-ton crane; there is also an excellent labour-saving appliance in connection with the cupolas, namely, a hydraulic lift for raising the trucks containing the charges.

'We next notice a large building containing a powerful mill and train for rolling steel plates of the largest sizes, and driven by very fine duplicate 60 horse-power reversing engines. These steel plates are, it may be remarked, coming into great demand for boiler work, &c., see our illustration last week, and for ship-building purposes, the British Government using them in the national dockyards, and most of the eminent builders of swift steam-yachts, launches, and other vessels, are also supplied with plates of suitable size and thickness from these works. Adjoining the plate-mill is a mill and train for rolling steel rails, also driven by a similar pair of 55 horse-power reversing engines. These engines are new, having been recently constructed for the firm of Messrs. Hick, Hargreaves and Co., of the neighbouring Soho Iron Works, previously noted by us; the reversing gear is worked by hydraulic power, regulated by the attendant through a lever-handle; of course the moving parts are counterbalanced, and the action is admirably perfect, effective, and under control. In other parts of the works there are: a plate-mill for rolling iron plates, a sheet-mill for rolling steel sheets, and two bar-mills for rolling iron and steel bars of any size and description. Prominent in ingenuity and importance is the hydraulic tyre-mill, whereby are rolled steel tyres of any desired dimensions, and also the excellent steel expansion rings for boiler flues, of which we gave description and illustration in our last (vide Iron, No. 21, p. 648). Attached to and associated with this tyre-mill are Siemens' patent regenerative gas furnaces. There are also two large Siemens-Martin furnaces for the manufacture of steel by that special process.

'In the older portion of the works there are the usual puddling furnaces, eight in number, with a forge-train in connection for rolling puddled bars. Here also are the necessary repairing and fitting shops, with all customary appurtenances and appliances. As may be supposed, scattered about the works in suitable and convenient places are to be found a strong contingent of hydraulic cranes, steam hammers, circular saws for cutting steel rails, &c., and other minor machine tools, with steam-engines as prime motors, and boilers, mostly located over the mill furnaces, the waste heat of which is thus utilised in generating steam. There are in all eight steam hammers, the largest of which is a 25-ton hammer, with an anvil-block weighing 215 tons, the largest casting ever made in this country, cast, turned over, and fitted in situ by the firm. The others comprised two of 8 tons, one 6-ton, one 5-ton, one 2 1/2-ton, one 2-ton, and one 1-ton ; these are principally employed on steel forgings, which are a speciality of this firm, which has obtained a high reputation for forgings of the largest size. A large business is also done in steel castings, anvils, mill-gear, spur and bevel wheels and the like, which are in great favour. In conclusion we may note that, in general arrangement and convenience, every needful facility is provided the works are in direct communication, by a siding, with the London and North-Western Railway, and branch lines are laid throughout the works, for the transport of the raw materials to the cupolas and furnaces, and the removal of the heavy forgings and other finished products of iron and steel.

'We say nothing here of the minor commercial and industrial details that fill in and complete this outline sketch; these are necessary links, and obviously in no way neglected. Taken as a whole, there can be nothing more interesting than to make a tour of this extensive industrial establishment. Instruction, as well as interest, is the inevitable accompaniment such a visit of inspection to the Bolton Iron and Steel Works.'

Accident, 1873

'THE EXTRAORDINARY ACCIDENT AT BOLTON. The accident which was caused by the bursting of a fly wheel at the Bolton Iron and Steel Works, on Wednesday, proves to be more disastrous in damage to property than was at first supposed. In addition to the demolition of two of the furnace chimneys, and the great gulf in the enclosure occasioned by their fall, two other stacks have been greatly damaged. One of them appears as if it had been subject to a cannonade, there being in the base of the brickwork a large "dint" some six or eight feet in length, laying bare the iron plates with which the chimney in braced. This stack will have to be pulled down, while the other one has been so battered and chipped as to necessitate its partial re-erection. About nine or ten bays of the boundary wall have also been partly destroyed. The body of Joseph Foster, the engine-tenter, was not discovered until half-past one yesterday afternoon. It was buried beneath the debris of the fallen chimneys. It is presumed the deceased, after he had started the engines, went to the boilers to see to the injectors, and that whilst standing there the fly-wheel burst. Two of the workmen, named John Mulloy and James Smith, noticed that the engines were working at an extraordinary speed, and they ran into the engine-house to ascertain the cause. Not finding the engine-tenter there, Mulloy placed his hand on the valve to stop the engines, when he heard a terrific crash, and the next instant both he and his companion were knocked down. Altogether some dozen men were injured ; but fortunately with one exception, none of them were seriously hurt. Patrick Walsh has sustained a fracture of the skull, and he now lies in a critical condition. The damage is estimated at from .£2000 to £3000. The accident will cause a stoppage of the rail mill department for at least three months, and throw nearly one hundred persons out of employment.[11]

'THE FLY-WHEEL ACCIDENT AT BOLTON. An inquest was held yesterday at Bolton as to the death of Joseph Foster, aged 20 years, engine tenter, who was killed at the Bolton Iron and Steel Works, on the previous Wednesday, by the bursting of a flywheel. —James Unsworth, the day engine tenter, stated that when he left work at six o'clock on Wednesday evening, the engines were working at a pressure of 45lb. In such circumstances witness considered that Foster might safely have left the engine and have gone to see to the boiler injectors. Witness could not account for the engines running away. He had known the governor strap to slip off, and the engines to run away; but on Wednesday the strap appeared to him to be in good order. —The strap was produced, and a juryman remarked that it had evidently been in use a very long time. Another juryman said, the strap was out of order; it contained a worn flaw. —Unsworth, in reply to questions, said he could not say whether the strap had broken and so caused the accident; but had the governor been in proper working order, the accident could certainly not have occurred. He also stated that if the deceased had been in the engine house when the engines ran away, he could have controlled the engines immediately; by turning off the valve. —John Potter, overlooker of the machinery, said the safety valves of the engines were in proper working order. Foster had been in charge of the engines for nearly 12 months. The governor strap was about six months old. —Verdict, accidental death.[12]

1879 Henry Sharp (of Bolton) was the Manager [13]

1883 '.... Mr. Rushton was also about the year 1835 in partnership with Mr. Eckersley in the iron trade, and, shortly after, they built the Forge in Moor-lane. The firm of Rushton and Eckersley continued until 1858, when the concern was disposed of, and ultimately became the well-known works of the Bolton Iron and Steel Company, Limited, of which Mr. Henry Sharp (Mrs. Rushton's brother) is one of the largest shareholders and most active proprietors. ....' [14].

1889 'A shocking accident occurred at Bolton early on Wednesday morning to a labourer named John Henry Fearnley, employed on the night shift of the Bolton Steel and Iron Company. Fearnley had occasion to cross the yard of tbe forge in the dark, and fell into a well of boiling water, which had been casually left uncovered. He was at once rescued, but was terribly scalded all over the body, and had to be removed to the Infirmary in great agony, and in a precarious condition.'[15]

1903 The Bolton Works was acquired by Henry Bessemer and Co.[16]


The 1893 25" O.S. map here shows the Bolton Iron & Steel Works located on the east side of Moor Lane, bounded on the north by Railway Stret, on the east by Blackhorse Street, and on the south by New Street. The LNWR branch to Bolton Deansgate Goods Station ran from north to south through the centre of the works site. The site covered an area of about 130 by 240 yds.

By 2018 the southern end of the site housed Bolton Market, while an abandoned bus terminus covered the northern end. It is now hard to imagine that an area so completely devoid of any character was once the scene of the most dramatic iron and steel working activities.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1]Bolton Archives website
  2. Bolton Chronicle - Saturday 11 April 1863
  3. Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, Saturday 10 June 1865
  4. John o' Groat Journal, 22 June 1865
  5. North Devon Journal - Thursday 14 June 1866
  6. Bolton Chronicle - Saturday 29 December 1866
  7. Bell's Weekly Messenger, 2 December 1867
  8. 'Engineering' 6th August 1869
  9. Cheshire Observer, 7 October 1871
  10. Bolton Evening News - Tuesday 17 June 1873
  11. Bradford Observer, Friday 10th January 1873
  12. Manchester Evening News - Saturday 11 January 1873
  13. Rochdale Observer - Saturday 29 March 1879
  14. Bolton Evening News, 8 February 1883
  15. Huddersfield Chronicle - Saturday 25 February 1888
  16. The Engineer 1924/08/08