info on the Warmley zinc and brass industry
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It was at Warmley
that William Champion (1709-89) first pioneered the commercial
production of zinc in Europe. Today the site is
the only remaining 18th century integrated industrial
complex in the country to have encompassed a full
range of industrial processes from the smelting
of metal to the production of finished goods.
In addition to
the zinc and brass mill (windmill tower, ranges
and ice house) and clocktower, the estate also comprises
Champion's former home - Warmley House and surrounding
gardens. The garden is a rare example of an 18th
century industrialist's garden and includes many
unusual features, some of which are constructed
using recycled waste from the works. These features
include the grottos, echo pond, former 13 acre lake,
statue of Neptune, the mound, chequered walled garden,
boathouse and summerhouse.
Champion a skilled metallurgist who made numerous
improvement in brass manufacture, patented a production
method on the preparation of Zinc from ore, which
he had developed at Hanham. He was the first man
to make zinc in Britain and established an important
This was an important
development as zinc prices were rising extremely
fast. However, due to importers over-importing zinc
to take advantage of this high price, the price
of Zinc dropped dramatically. Champion was left
with 200 tons of high quality zinc produced by his
newly patented method.
He is thought to
have lost about £4,000 in this venture. His appeals
to the House of Commons for compensation were turned
down through the combined opposition of rival traders
The Company established
a brass warehouse in central Bristol. This was near
St Philip's Church and backed onto old Queen's Street.
Thus, the company had access to shipping and barge
traffic. One of the numerous names given to the
Company was 'The Brass Warehouse Company', it was
also spoken of locally as 'The Brass Wire Company'
or just BWCo.
leaves the BWCo to set up a new Company at Warmley
to make 'copper and brass, spelter (zinc) and various
utensils of copper and brass'. He had been dismissed
by the BWCo and felt a bitterness towards it which
increased over the following years.
His partners in
the new concern were, once again, Quaker families
and bankers, inc. - Gouldney , Lloyd, Crosby,
Harford. This company employed about 800 people
making it one of biggest industrial concerns of
1749 A modern
steam engine was installed at the brass works. Everything
was done on one site, from smelting to beating out
pots and pin-making. Investors in the works included
members of the Goldney and Harford families, local
families with many financial and trading interests.
The company exported
"Guinea" cooking pots. The outward trading
voyages from Bristol were made with trinkets, beads,
copper rods, cotton goods, guns and alcohol (and
the pots) which were traded for slaves off the coast
of West Africa.
Men employed were
receiving wages of 50p a week for melters with some
of the more skilled men receiving 75 - 90p a week.
It was reported
in 1754 that the Warmley works of Champion
had '15 copper furnaces, 12 brass furnaces, 4 spelter
or zinc furnaces, a battery mill, rolling mills
for making plates, rolling and cutting mills for
wire, and a wire mill both of thick and fine drawn
At this time it
was producing about a quarter the amount of copper
as the BWCo.
of the Company is put at £200,000 with a profit
of £8,000 annually.
Warmley Company faces financial collapse. It is
undertaking brass pin making on a considerable scale.
It tried to make a massive expansion in its capacity
which would seriously threaten the Bristol Brass
Company's existence and also that of pin makers
now called 'The Brass Battery, Wire & Copper
Company of Bristol', along with three other brass
producers and manufacturers challenge this expansion
stating that the ensuing monopoly and the massive
extension of debt involved would threaten this vital industry should the Warmley site collapse
In March 1768
the Brass Battery, Wire & Copper
Company of Bristol wins its case before the Lord's
Committee of the Privy Seal. Champion is dismissed
from the Warmley Company by his partners (he was
discovered trying to get out his financial share
of the company because he expected the inevitable
Champion is declared
Warmley works put up for auction and
purchased by the Brass Battery, Wire & Copper
Company of Bristol but never reaches
its old level of output again.
Around this time
in Gloucester a child pin maker of 9 to 11 years
of age earned 1p a day. Journeymen (those
who had completed their apprenticeship) were paid
35 - 40p a week while a few skilled men received
50p- - 75p a week. The rates at Warmley were about