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British Industrial History

William Hazledine

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Cleveland Bridge, Bath

William Hazledine [1] (1763-1840), was a pioneering English Ironmaster whose ability for casting structural ironwork helped to realise the designs of engineers such as Thomas Telford and architects including Henry Goodridge and Charles Bage. Hazledine's expertise in manufacturing and testing large iron castings was critical to the success of these pioneering projects.

1763 April 6th.[2] Born the son of William Hazledine, a millwright, at Shawbury, Shropshire.[3] The Hazledine family lived at Moreton Forge, 2 km northeast of Shawbury, where relatives worked in the iron trade. His brother John was apprenticed as a millwright to his father. William was apprenticed to his uncle John Hazledine, also a millwright, in 1778.

After apprenticeship, John moved to the Bridgnorth area, later setting up his own foundry, where he was joined by younger brothers Robert (1768-1837) and Thomas (1771-1842).

1785 Completed apprenticeship and moved to Shrewsbury where he established a business in Wyle Cop making French millstones and doing millwrighting work.

1787 Hazledine began a life-long friendship with Thomas Telford when the latter moved to Shrewsbury. Telford became County Surveyor and publicised Hazledine’s millwrighting work. Hazledine built both water- and windmills to traditional designs with superior workmanship. There is documentary or structural evidence of his work on at least 21 watermills and 7 windmills in Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire, though none of those remaining are in working order. The best preserved are Broadstone water corn mill (1794) (SO547900) and Hawkstone Park windmill (?1795) (SJ566297)

Around 1787 he set up a cast-iron foundry in Knucking Street, Shrewsbury in partnership with Robert Webster (1755-1832), clockmaker and inventor.

1789 Leased Pitchford Forge (SJ533056) (for the production of wrought iron), till around 1810.

1792 First recorded ironwork, for St Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, for which the builder was John Simpson, another lifelong friend, and important associate of Thomas Telford.

1793 After the partnership with Webster was dissolved, Hazledine built a new foundry in the Shrewsbury suburb of Coleham, growing the works in stages till it became one of the largest in the country, employing several hundred workers.

1796–7 Cast the iron frame for Ditherington Flax Mill at Shrewsbury, the world's first iron-framed building, designed by Charles Bage.

1796 Leased the Plas Kynaston estate near Pontcysyllte, using the resources for the supply of coal and limestone. In 1803 he built the Plas Kynaston foundry on the estate, initially to supply the ironwork needed by Telford for the construction of the aqueducts on the Llangollen canal, and later for ironwork destined for the north of Britain (Plas Kynaston lease given up 1823).

1797 Built Vyrnwy Aqueduct on the Montgomery Canal with John Simpson.

1799 Hazledine and Simpson were appointed contractors Chirk Aqueduct (finished 1802), for which Hazledine cast the iron bed-plates

1800 Leased Upton Forge, which he developed into a significant operation for the supply of wrought iron, the most famous being the chains for the Menai and Conwy Bridges. Leased until his death.

1802 (March) won the contract for the supply of the iron trough for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, for which he presumably did the detailed drawings. The trough and other ironwork was cast at Plas Kynaston foundry and erected in 1804-5. Hazledine personally supervised the erection.

1809 Engineered Severn Towpath from Coalbrookdale to Shrewsbury

1811 Supplied ironwork for the first of a genre of small single span cast-iron bridges designed by Telford. These were Meole Brace, Shrewsbury (SJ491107), 1811; Long Mill, Shropshire (SJ617155), 1812; Cantlop, Shropshire (SJ517063), 1813; Cound, Shropshire (SJ558057), 1818; Dolforgan, Kerry (SO144901), 1818. Only Cantlop and Dolforgan survive intact.

1813 Supplied the ironwork for and erected the first of a genre of large single span cast-iron bridges designed by Telford - Bonar Bridge in Sutherland (NH 609917). This was followed by Craigellachie, Grampian (NJ 285452), 1814; ‘Waterloo’, Bettws-y-Coed, Gwynedd (SH 799557), 1816; River Esk, Cumbria (NY 354649), 1820; Mythe, Tewkesbury, Glos (SO 889337), 1826; and Holt Fleet, Ombersley, Worcs (SO 824634), 1828. Eaton Hall, near Aldford, Cheshire (SJ 418601), 1824, is of the same design, but Telford was not involved.

1815-1820 (approx) Supplied and fitted cast iron lock gates and turn bridges for the western half of the Caledonian Canal. Only Moy Bridge, Highland (NN162826), 1820, survives.

1817 Leased Calcutts Ironworks at Ironbridge, used for the production of pig iron, and the making of wrought and cast iron (lease given up 1831).

1820 Engineered and supplied ironwork for Kington Tramroad, Herefordshire.

1821 Contracted for the supply of wrought and cast iron for Telford’s suspension bridges at Menai (SH 556714) (1819 – 26) and Conwy (SH 785776) (1824-26). Hazledine was actively involved in the development of cutting edge design and technology for these structures.

1822 Cast-iron roof for Dublin Customs House

1827 Cast iron for Laira Bridge, Plymouth (TA 044882); three-arch bridge designed by James Meadows Rendel

1827 Contractor and supplier of cast iron for Cleveland Bridge, Bath (SO 753657); single arch bridge designed by Henry Goodridge

1830 Cast iron for Nantwich Aqueduct (SJ 641526) on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction canal, designed by Telford.

1832 Ironwork for Marlow Bridge (SU 851860), designed by William Tierney Clark, supplied and erected.

1833 Telford also designed and Hazledine built the Stretton Aqueduct, Staffordshire (SJ 871107)

1836 Lord Mayor of Shrewsbury

1840 October 25th. Died at Shrewsbury. His funeral brought the town to a standstill for half a day. Attempts to sell Coleham Foundry after his death were unsuccessful. The family continued to manage it until Hazledine’s foreman died in the 1860s, when it was sold. It remained a going concern until the 1930s

In their time, Hazledine's foundries were among the most important centres of iron-bridge building expertise in Britain but they are not known to have supplied large structural castings later than the 1830s and did not long survive his death


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Sources of Information

  1. Though the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) spells his name ‘Hazeldine’; he himself always spelled it ‘Hazledine’, as did his forbears and descendants. No foundry records survive, so most of the details of his life and work are from secondary sources. His personal life is recorded in Obituaries in the Shrewsbury Chronicle (30.10 & 6.11.1840), and a later appreciation in the Shrewsbury Chronicle (Nov 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, Dec 6th 1901). The most comprehensive modern study is in Pattison, A, 2012, William Hazledine, Shropshire Ironmaster and Millwright: A Reconstruction of his life, and his contribution to the development of Engineering, 1780-1840. M.Phil thesis, University of Birmingham, available at [1]. There is also a reasonably comprehensive list of his works in Skempton, A. and M. Chrimes, 2002. A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland. London, Thomas Telford. The detailed references for this article are cited in these sources.
  2. Memorial in St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury; the obituary in Shrewsbury Chronicle (SC) (30.10.1840) mistakenly recorded it as October 26th
  3. DNB mistakenly records his birth place as Waters Upton. This was the birth place of his grandfather John Hazledine (1694-1797), the first member of the family to be a millwright. He moved to Shawbury around 1720.