Rowley Regis Industry in 1859
Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis - 1859
ROWLEY REGIS: The parish comprises a considerable number of hamlets, with various clusters of houses in other parts, all of which are principally inhabited by persons engaged in the collieries and different works in the parish, and upon the river Stour, which rises within two miles of the place, and, within a distance of four miles from its source, gives motion to no less than nine mills and forges, of which several have overshot water-wheels of very large diameter. The iron trade appears to have been carried on at a very early period; and previously to the introduction of steam, all the mill power employed in it throughout the district was derived from the Stour and one or two tributary streams, to which, in his England's Improvements, published in 1677, Yarrington says that all the iron from the Forest of Dean was brought for the purpose of being manufactured. The stratum of coal lies at a depth of from 80 to 200 yards below the surface, varying from ten to thirteen in thickness; and there are numerous collieries in full operation.
The Withymoor Works for the making of spades, shovels, and scythes, were established about a century ago by the ancestors of the present proprietor, James Griffin, Esq., by whom 200 hands are employed. The Brades Iron and Steel Works were erected about fifty years since, by Mr. William Hunt, and are now continued under the firm of William Hunt and Sons. The Windmill-End Works, the property of Sir Horace St. Paul, were erected about 30 years since for the making of pig-iron from the iron-stone, which is calcined in large heaps, and smelted in powerful furnaces. The Corngreaves Works, for converting bar-iron into steel, are among the oldest in the neighbourhood, and contain powerful furnaces and several forges, which are driven by the water of the river Stour. The Cradley forges are now chiefly for converting pig-iron into bars and rods: in these works the experiment was first made of manufacturing iron with pit coal instead of charcoal, which had been previously used for that purpose; and in the 19th of James I., Mr. Dudley, then proprietor, obtained a patent for that mode of operation. Of these forges, one is situated on the river Stour, within the county of Worcester, and the other on the opposite side of the river, worked by the water of New Pool, and by a powerful steam-engine.
Near Corngreaves some very extensive iron and steel works were erected in 1818, by Mr. John Attwood, consisting of forges and rolling-mills, capable of manufacturing 300 tons of bar and rod iron, and 20 tons of various sorts of steel, per week; they are worked by four large steam-engines, and, together with the collieries connected with them, afford employment to about 500 persons. In 1825, these works, together with the Corngreaves estate, comprising about 250 acres, of which 205 are in the parish of Rowley-Regis, and the remainder in the county of Worcester, and certain other works, were, with the exception of the mines under seventy-five acres in this parish reserved by the inclosure act to the lord of the manor, purchased by the British Iron Company for £550,000. After paying a part of this sum, proceedings were instituted in the court of exchequer by the company, to set aside the contract, which, after a trial of twenty-one days, was annulled by Lord Chief Baron Lyndhurst in favour of the company; but on an appeal to the house of lords this judgment was reversed. The present proprietors are the New British Iron Company. The manufacture of nails, in which nearly all the women and girls are engaged, is extensively carried on; the making of chains of various kinds, and of gun-barrels, occupies a considerable number of persons, and the manufacture of Jews' harps is also a source of employment to many.
[Description(s) from The Topographical Dictionary of England (1859) by Samuel Lewis - Transcribed by Mike Harbach ©2020]