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British Industrial History

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Arigna Iron Works

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of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

Iron works were established at Creevela and Arigna in Elizabethan times by Charles Coote. The ore used initially was in the form of local "ironstones". Charcoal was obtained from the surrounding forests. The first iron works in Arigna were destroyed during the 1641 rebellion. They were rebuilt and worked until 1690, when they were closed due to depletion of the forests. The iron works were re-opened by the O'Reilly brothers in 1788 following the discovery of coal locally. This was the first time in Ireland that coal was used in the smelting process of iron. The iron works closed in 1838 but coalmining continued in Arigna until 1990.

The above information is from the Arigna Mining Experience website, whose 'History' webpage includes a photo of an impressive masonry blast furnace.

'Henry Foxall and the Arigna Iron Works', published in 2003, provides valuable information about the works[1]. The Upper Works had a 44 ft high blast furnace, blown by a two cylinder blower worked by a 26 ft diameter overshot waterwheel. There was also a large boring mill, and a Boulton and Watt blowing engine for use when the water level was too low for the wheel. The Lower Works produced wrought iron by puddling, from which bar iron was rolled and slit. Power was from a 13 ft waterwheel, By 1790 more than 300 people were employed, with Henry Foxall as the superintendent.

1796 Advert: 'Steam-Engines.
MR. FENLON having fulfilled the chief part of his engagements for Steam-Engines, informs the public that he is now ready to engage in the erection of a few more Engines for any purposes whatever.
He thinks it proper to observe, that having built a powerful Blast Engine at the Arigna Iron Works, he has formed a connection there—from which he can be Supplied with Cylinders or Pumps of any dimensions,ready bored — and also other castings in the Steam-Engine, or Hydraulic line, with that exactness, dispatch, and at such moderate prices, as must give that satisfaction which the circumstances of the foundry business in this kingdom, could not hitherto afford.
It is from these favourable circumstances, together with the late improvements introduced in Steam Engines, that Mr. Fenlon is now enabled to promise general satisfaction; and, although an Irishman, he solicits no further preference from his countrymen than what his abilities and strict attention to business merit.
Letters, post paid, directed for Michael Fenlon, Engineer, either to Kilkenny, Carlow, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dungannon, Belfast, or No. 19, High-street, Dublin, will be duly attended to.'[2]

1797 Advert: 'ARIGNA IRON WORKS.
The Foundery at the above Works is now in the most perfect working order, & attended by the first moulders from England and in Ireland. Orders of every description in the Foundery line will be executed on the most reasonable terms, and with the best metal in Europe. Tho' it is the first manufactory of the kind ever established in Ireland, no preference is asked, except what reasonable terms, with good work and materials must ensure. Those who want heavy castings will find a particular advantage in dealing at Arigna, which is better enabled to execute heavy work than any other Foundery in the kingdom — besides which the Proprietors have resolved to accommodate those who order heavy castings, by sending them home to any part the kingdom on reasonable terms.
Letters directed to the Store-keeper, at the Arigna Works, Carrick-on-Shannon, will be punctually attended to.
N. B. After May next, there will be a constant supply of Rock Iron.'[3]

An 1800 report on the ironworks and coal and water supply may be found here

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] 'Henry Foxall and the Arigna Iron Works' by Jane Donovan, Methodist History, 41:4 (July 2003)
  2. Dublin Evening Post, 7 April 1796
  3. Dublin Evening Post - Saturday 07 January 1797