Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Bradford Ironworks

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Bradford Wire Works, Manchester

1857 Boiler explosion:
"Yesterday morning a serious boiler explosion occurred at Messrs. Johnson and Co's. ironworks at Bradford, near Manchester. The boiler was one of the largest in the works, being 22 feet in length and 5 feet in diameter, with a flue 2 feet 9 inches in diameter. It was mainly used as an assistant boiler of the others, numbering 15, that are in these extensive works, and at the time of the accident the engineer, Joseph Cash, was firing up, and was blown some 20 yards down the shed. The poor fellow is very seriously injured, his legs, body, and face being dreadfully scalded and burnt. David Gregson, who was at the time near to Cash, is also very seriously injured, having got a wound in the head and much scalded and burned. A boy named Hayes has also received injuries; his head, face, body, and legs were very much scalded and burned. Richard Fellowes is also scalded and burned, but not so seriously as Cash, Gregson, and Hayes. These four were at once conveyed to the Royal Infirmary, where the three last-named lie in a very precarious state. Other persons were injured by the explosion, but not seriously. Cash is said to have since died."[1]

1862 The first trial of Mr Bedson's system of continuous wire rod rolling was carried out at the Adelphi, Salford, following which a permanent installation was made at the Bradford Ironworks, which continued in use until 1884. There were 16 small roll stands in series, with the rolls being alternately horizontal and vertical. The drive was provided by two horizontal shafts, one alongside the roll train and one directly below, driving the horizontal and vertical rolls respectively. [2]. The two shafts were geared together and driven by a 'remarkable old steam engine'. As the rod diameter progressively reduced, the speed of each pair of rolls needed to faster than its predecessor, and this need was met by tailoring the ratio of the bevel gear pairs for each roll stand.

1867 'At the Bradford Ironworks, near Manchester, a telegraph wire rod of No. 3 guage, 281 lbs. weight, and 530 yards long, has been rolled without a weld or joint any part. This extraordinary length of wire was made from one bloom, and rolled into a 1 1/4-square billet 60ft, long. This at the same heat was bent in a serpentine form, that it might be more readily placed in the heating furnace, at the mouth of which is placed Mr. G. Bedson's patent serial wire-rolling mill The billet is placed in the furnace at the opposite end, and in a few minutes is sufficiently heated to enter the rolls, and is gradually drawn out of the furnace by the mill itself. During this operation one portion of the billet is leaving the furnace, whilst the other is being coiled finished wire, about 1/4 inch in diameter. The time occupied in heating the billet was only seven minutes, and in three minutes more was passed through the mill complete. It is to be sent to the Paris Exhibition.' [3]


The 1932 O.S. map[4] shows 'Bradford Iron Works (Wire)' bounded by Forge Lane on the west, Philips Park Road on the north, Mill Street on the east, and Bradford Colliery immediately to the south. The main works building was largely divided by the Colliery Arm of the Ashton Canal. Two railway lines connected the works with Beswick Goods Station across Forge Lane. Another part of the works was located to the west of Forge Lane [5]

1962 photo here shows the Richard Johnson and nephew Bradford Iron Works, with Bradford Colliery beyond [6]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Morning Post - Saturday 19 September 1857
  2. The Engineer 19 Sept 1924
  3. Norwich Mercury - Saturday 16 March 1867
  4. The Godfrey Edition: Old Ordnance Survey Maps: Manchester (Clayton) 1932: Lancashire Sheet 104.08
  5. The Godfrey Edition: Old Ordnance Survey Maps: Manchester (N.E) 1915: Lancashire Sheet 104.07
  6. [1] Manchester City Council local image collection