Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Ambrose Crowley

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Sir Ambrose Crowley (1658-1713)

1658 Born the son of Ambrose Crowley (and Mary Hall), a Quaker Blacksmith in Stourbridge

Apprenticed at the age of 15 to a London Draper

From the 1680s he was in business for himself and established an ironware factory at Winlaton, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, from which he gradually expanded until by 1707 he had a whole complex of factories and warehouses, largely designed to service the naval contracts in which he specialized.

The Crowley Iron Works at Winlaton, Winlaton Mill, and at Swalwell, all in County Durham were probably, at the time, Europe's biggest industrial location and later, as he was owed so much money by the British Government, Ambrose became a director of the South Sea Company on its formation. Today, he is still known for his enlightened management methods. His workers had an elected works committee, sickness payments, company medical team and were treated with respect. These rules are set out in the 'Rules of the Crowley Iron'.

The main works at Winlaton mainly used imported iron and both iron and steel were worked by the Heyford process. Technologies and skills developed at Winlaton were to lead to the foundation of the Sheffield steel industry and to the ability to machine steel. British iron production was carried out at Ynyscedwyn in South Wales and in the Wealden area of Southern England. The business survived into the Victorian era and the 'Crowley Crew' were renowned for their skills with metal and their steadfast and resolute defence of their rights and freedoms in the face of government intimidation.

1704 Moved his London headquarters to Greenwich, where his neighbour was (Sir) Gregory Page, (1st Bt.), a Baptist and Whig, who acted as an intermediary in Crowley’s buy-out of a rival business in 1707. In December that year he stood godfather to a son of a fellow iron manufacturer, the Whig John Hanbury

1706 Appointed sheriff of London and he received the customary knighthood during his shrievalty.

1681 Married Mary Owen, daughter of Charles Owen. They had many children die young. His wife's memorial lists seven children who died as infants. The children that lived to adulthood were as follows:

  • John Crowley who married Theodosia Gascoigne;
  • Mary who married Sir James Hallett;
  • Lettice married Sir John Hynde Cotton, 3rd Baronet;
  • Sarah married Humphry Parsons;
  • Anna married Richard Fleming; and
  • Elizabeth to Lord St John of Bletsoe.

Sir Ambrose was buried at SS Peter and Paul's Church at Mitcham in Surrey where there is a monument

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