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Woodside Ironworks and Foundry

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Woodside Ironworks and Foundry, of Dudley

1838 At a very early age, Alexander Brodie Cochrane became a partner of the late John Joseph Bramah, and started in business as an Ironfounder at Bilston.

1840 Alexander Brodie Cochrane, Senior together with his son and John Joseph Bramah started the Woodside Ironworks near Dudley, which was carried on with much success until the death of Mr. Bramah.

At the end of 1842: dissolution of the partnership of John Joseph Bramah, Alexander Brodie Cochrane, Senior and Alexander Brodie Cochrane, Junior of the Woodside Ironworks, Dudley, ironmasters, on the retirement of Alexander Brodie Senior[1].

1846 On the death of Mr Bramah, Mr. Charles Geach became a partner, as did Mr. Archibald Slate later. The business became Cochrane and Co. Mr Cochrane subsequently carried on these works in conjunction with his brother and son. They made castings for the Exhibition building of 1851, the Copenhagen gas and water works, pipes for the Melbourne water works, the large caisson and dock gates for the Victoria docks, London, and several large iron bridges, including Westminster Bridge, the Charing Cross Railway bridges, and the Rochester road bridge and swing bridge.

Presumably there is some connection between this enterprise and Bramah, Cochrane and Deeley

The Woodside Iron Works was associated with many important structures, including the Holborn Viaduct, Westminster Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Station, and Charing Cross Railway Bridge and Station, and the Runcorn Bridge over the Mersey. They also removed the Hungerford Suspension Bridge over the Thames and re-erected components of it on the Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol.

Later other works belonging to the firm at Middlesborough, known as the Ormesby Ironworks, were established.

1855 Alexander Cochrane's son, Charles Cochrane, at the age of 20, went to work for his father' business Cochrane and Co at Ormesby Ironworks.

1856 Charles became a partner with his father, Alexander Brodie Cochrane, in Ormesby Ironworks and the Woodside Iron Works.

1868 Well known for its cold blast pig and splendid iron castings. Made girders for the Runcorn Bridge and the Farringdon Street Viaduct in London[2]

1894 Boiler explosion. A report on the accident that took place on 7th July.[3]

1856 Report

'A DAY AT WOODSIDE IRON WORKS

"A sunny day at Woodside" would naturally suggest mossy banks, whispering leaves, and twittering birds, but the pleasant day spent at Woodside, last week, had no relation to any of these ; it was Woodside, black, grimy, and smoky. But a very few years ago, it was indeed veritable wood-side, but now tall chimneys stand for trees, the snort of the steam engine endlessly greets the ear instead of the cheery “gee whoo" of the plough-boy, and rows of iron pipes take the place of waving corn. That utility and wealth are served by the change none will deny, and beauty and poetry are served little less. Underlying that black dust, and those dark sheds full of grumbling wheels, are beauty and poetry requiring a subtler intellect and liner taste to perceive, but on that account having a higher value in the category of mental luxuries and pleasures. At this Woodside of which we write now stand the great ironworks of Messrs. Alex. Cochrane and Company, and in few places is a prouder illustration to be found of what may be achieved by united energy and enterprise. The gentlemen who comprise the firm are yet scarcely in the prime of life. Yet by the talent, the scientific knowledge, the unbounded determination and unremitting labour they have brought to bear on the most important of our manufactories, they have achieved immense success, sending out it is said between 800 and 900 tons of castings every week, principally in iron piping, for which they are now perhaps the most famous house in the world. When in full work some six miles of piping are turned out of these works in a week. Here were cast the first pillars for the Crystal Palace of 1851 ; and here the contract for the Melbourne water works, amounting to 18,000 tons has just been completed. The proprietors have now in hand amongst other heavy contracts, that for the Copenhagen water and gas works, and the pipes for the South Staffordshire water works. On Wednesday they invited the neighbouring gentry and their brother ironmasters to view their works, and especially to see some very interesting and important pieces of work which were on the eve of completion. We had the gratification of being of the party, and were not little surprised and pleased at seeing a number of the fairest daughters of the iron districts, clad rich and elegant dresses, moving about amongst the soot and grime as eagerly and intelligently peering into the operations of this great foundry as any of their male friends. Amongst the ladies and gentlemen we recognised were —

'The Earl and Countess of Dartmouth, Lord Hatherton, Lord Overstone. J. H. H. Foley, Esq., M.P., H. W. Foley, Esq., J. E. Esq., M.P., Lady C. Denison, Sir Thos. E. Winnington, Bart., M.P., C. Forster Esq., M.P., T. W. Giffard, Esq., Chillington, Lady Lucy Vaughan, Miss Giffard, Mr. Davenport, Major Acton, Aid. and Sheriff Rose, Revds. Dr. Browne, Geo. Lewis, F. C. Clarke, and J. W. Grier, and lady, W. J. Beale, Esq., and lady, John Leigh, Esq., O. Foster, Esq., B. Littlewood, Esq., and lady, Wm. Matthews, Esq., E. Dixon, and lady, S. H. Blackwell, Esq., Charles Bagnall, Esq.. Samuel Thornton, Esq., Chas. May, Esq., C.E., John Fowler, Esq., C.E., W. B. Collis, Esq., and the Misses Coilis, John Whitton, Esq., C.E., Wm. Swann, Esq., John Vernon, Esq., Geo. Lee, Esq., C.E., James Holcroft, Esq., and Miss Holcroft, Cornelius Cartwright, Esq.. J. A. Ransome, Esq., Richard Smith, Esq., Fredk. Smith, Esq., George Thomson, Esq., and lady, J. E. Swindell, Esq., C. E. Swindell, Esq., W. Trow, Esq., and Miss Trow. G. Hamilton, P. Baldwin, Esq., W. P. Marshall, Esq., C.E.. M. Grazehrook, Esq., Messrs. Branson and Gwyther, W. Akroyd, Esq., W. H. Baldwin, Esq., John Saunders, Esq., M. Heath, Esq., John Watson, Esq., W. Warden, Esq., and lady, John Wheeley, Esq..Joseph Walker, Esq., W. H. Brooke, Esq., R. Jobson, Esq., John Hornblower, Esq., F. Giles, Esq., and lady, Richard Freer, Esq., T. W. Fletcher, Esq., Jos. Barrows, jun., Esq., Mrs. Barrows, George Robinson, Esq., Dr. Bancks and lady, Job Haines, Esq., B. Pargeter, Esq , H. M. Wainwright, Esq., and lady, G. H. Bond, Esq., and ladies, Messrs. Lee and Bolton, H. Corser, Esq., Messrs. H. and C. King and Miss King, Messrs. Keep and Watkin, E. Hollier, Esq., J. E. Clift, Esq.. G. Downing, Esq., and lady, H. O. Firmstone, Esq., Rev. J. and Miss Davies, J. Underhill, Esq., and lady, &c. [&c.!]

'The Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton railway running for a considerable distance along the side these works, drops down into their midst the green sand for the moulds, the Staffordshire ironstone, the unctuous red haematite from Cumberland, the limestone for the flux, and the Derbyshire cokes. The coal is raised from pits upon the premises, and in very few hours the raw material thus handed on the one side may be smelted, converted into pigs, cast into pipes, proved by the hydraulic press, smoothed, cut, and drilled, by machines of singular ingenuity and power, and shipped at the other side of the works upon the canal, to borne from canal to river, from river to sea, and so to the Antipodes, to minister to the wants of rich and populous Australian cities, which in the memory of the present generation, had no name, or to complete the civilisation of communities planted few years since in spots where forests grew, and New Zealand cannibals roamed. What an illustration of human progress!

'Several of Messrs. Cochrane's relations and friends were distinguished by a white ribbon in their buttonhole, and escorted the various visitors through the works, showing them every process of iron manufacture and founding. The grinding of the sand for moulds, the curious processes of making, baking, and smoothing those moulds, the powerful steam engine for supplying cold blast to the two melting furnaces, the hydraulic lift raising the " burden " or supply of food to these huge retorts, whose fires never cease to devour day or night; the other engines for working the beautiful machinery of the fitting-room, where iron is planed, and drilled, and cut, with the same nicety, and almost the same facility, as if it had been deal, were all inspected in turn. But nothing attracted more attention than some machinery for making bolts and rivets, and afterwards for using these same rivets in the construction of boilers. Half a dozen imps of fire and darkness attend to the first of these —one supplying a guillotine, constantly in motion, with rods to cut up into the proper length for the rivets, another casting these pieces into a fire and throwing them while at white heat to third, who hammers one into a hole in a block, which he then pushes under another part of the machine, which descends upon the hot bolt and flattens down the head. The imp turns his block round, hammers in another piece at the other side, so knocking out the first, and subjects it to the same processes as its predecessor, so that these three boys make thousands of rivets to hundreds as formerly made by hand. The rivets thus headed at one end are once again heated and handed to man standing inside the boiler tube, which they are intended to rivet, and which is swung from the ceiling for this purpose. He pushes it with the head already formed innermost, through the holes it is intended to occupy, and places the head against an iron standard, firm and strong enough resist great pressure. A die is then slowly pressed by steam against the outside of the heated bolt, and makes a head outside. The die draws back in an instant, and then with a force equal to some tons weight strikes the rivet tremendous blow ; such an one as absolutely to make the rivet and the surrounding metal of the boiler practically homogeneous. The work infinitely superior to that done by the old method of hand hammering, and turned out a great deal more expeditiously. The results of such interesting and ingenious contrivances were seen the great works underhand, about the yards, and especially in the gigantic Liverpool landing place, which is to cost 14,000/., and the centre arch of the new iron bridge intended to span the Medway, at Rochester. These attracted the special attention of the visitors, and nothing could surpass the exactness and sharpness of the castings in the elegant bridge, some of the girders of which were cast in pieces weighing no less than ten tons each. We were very much struck by the beautiful contrivance by which it is intended that the swing bridge at Rochester should be opened. Messrs. Cochrane happen just now to be casting some new rollers for that disgraceful structure, Upton Bridge; the opening part of that bridge weighs 80 tons, and after a few months' use—two men always being required to toil at pushing it under the roadway— it has broken down. The 50 feet opening at Rochester will weigh 200 tons, and will be easily swung round by one ; and long before that breaks down, new Upton Bridge will have slept with its fathers.

'We have been favoured by Messrs. Cochrane with the following technical description of these great works :—

"The Rochester bridge is of cast iron, measuring in length about 485 feet by 40 feet wide, and is composed of three arches, viz., two side arches of 140 feet span each, and one centre one 170 feet span ; the rise or versedsine of the former being 14 feet, and of the latter, 17 feet. Each arch consists of eight main ribs, which in the smaller arches are cast in five pieces, and the larger one six. The ends of all these castings are planed by machinery made expressly for the purpose, and are connected by strong wrought iron bolts, accurately fitted to their respective places. All the ribs are firmly braced together with cast-iron frames fitted at intervals between them. The spandrils of the arches are filled in with ornamental cast iron work, which also serves to carry the covering plates of the roadway ; the whole is surmounted by a heavy and handsomely moulded cast iron cornice and parapet railing, the former intersecting with the moulded stone work of the piers and abutments. The roadway and footpaths are carried entirely by cast iron plates, bolted to the tops of the spandril castings, and made perfectly watertight with iron cement ; these plates are overlaid with 3-inch planking, upon which granite pitching is placed. The total weight of cast-iron is two thousand five hundred tons, and about two thirds of this is already fixed in place. The foundations upon which this superstructure is being erected have been completed other contractors, and are of a most substantial character; they are formed of cast-iron hollow cylinders, sunk through the bed of the river to the rock, which was accomplished by closing the top of the cylinder and injecting air at a greater pressure than that due to the surrounding water, thus expelling the water from within the cylinder, and enabling workmen to enter and remove all soft material. These cylinders or piles are all filled with concrete and brickwork, and firmly bound together a cast-iron curtain plate and covering plates, of the same material, on which the masonry of the piers and abutments is placed. In addition to the main road bridge, a wrought iron swing bridge in course of construction also by Messrs. Cochrane and Co., with a clear opening of fifty feet, the object being to allow masted ships of heavy burthen to pass up the Medway as far as Maidstone. This bridge consists of six wrought-iron girders carried by, and turning upon, a cast-iron roller path, thirty feet diameter, furnished with thirty cast-iron rollers: in the centre is a wrought-iron pin, eleven inches diameter, screwed and fitted with apparatus for elevating the centre. The gearing is arranged, and the whole weight is so perfectly in equilibrium, that a very small force will be required to open and close the bridge, although its total weight, with roadway complete, will exceed 300 tons. The whole of the works for this bridge have been, since their commencement, under the able superintendence of Mr. John Wright, the resident engineer.

"The new landing stage for Liverpool, is very similar to the one at present in use. but is of much larger dimensions, its total length being 1,000 feet and its width 80 feet, thus giving an area of deck equal to nearly two acres. The materials principally used in the construction of this great floating pier are wrought-iron and timber—the quantity of the former, in plates and bar iron, amounting to upwards of 2,700 tons, and the latter to 100,000 cubic feet. The stage consists of sixty-three pontoons, upon which are laid wrought-iron box girders or kelsons running its entire length, and supporting the main deck beams, to which is fastened four and half inch planking, and this again is covered with one and a half inch boarding, fastened with treenails. The stage, when complete, will be moored off Prince’s-parade, and connected to the shore by wrought iron bridges similar to the present ones. In carrying out this contract, Messrs. Cochrane and Co. have obtained the assistance of Messrs. Fairbairn and Sons, of Manchester, and Messrs. Vernon and Son, of Liverpool, the former whom are making the bridges, and the latter the pontoons. Sir Wm. Cubitt is the consulting engineer to this undertaking, and Mr. John B. Hartley, of the Liverpool docks, is the resident engineer.

'The visitors were now invited by their hosts to enter a tent, which had been set near the entrance of the works, and in which Lisseter, of Birmingham, had set out elegant collation. About a hundred ladies and gentlemen found seats, but some fifty others were obliged to stand until those who had been fortunately first had satisfied their appetites, and were ready to make way for successors to their places. Champagne was freely handed round, besides the wines which customarily grace our tables.....' [There followed a lengthy report of the speeches] [4]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent 13 August 1842
  2. The Engineer 1868
  3. The Engineer 1894/11/23 p452
  4. Worcestershire Chronicle, 2 April 1856