Bradley Works, of Bilston parish, near Wolverhampton.
Also see Bradley Iron Works
1766 John Wilkinson established the Bradley Works. Site of extensive experiments in getting raw coal to substitute for coke in the production of cast iron. At its peak, it included a number of blast furnaces, a brick works, potteries, glass works, and rolling mills, all adjacent to a wharf on the Shropshire canal.
1774 Among Wilkinson's products were cannon. These were difficult to cast as the presence of 'honeycombs' (blow holes) was unacceptable to the Board of Ordnance. Traditionally cannon had been cast with a core, but Wilkinson in 1774 proposed casting them solid and boring a barrel. Cannon had long been bored to remove imperfections in the casting, but casting solid made them much better.
1835 Advertisement: 'STAFFORDSHIRE. At the Swan Hotel, in Wolverhampton, in the county of Staffordshire, on Wednesday, the 9th day of December, 1835, at three o'clock in the afternoon :
The Celebrated BRADLEY IRON WORKS, situate at Bradley, In the township of Bilston, and county of Stafford, Coal and Iron Mines, Furnaces, Foundries, Pottery. Forge, Rolling and Slitting Mill, House for the residence of a principal or manager,- 120 Houses, for workmen. Land, and every requisite for an extensive Iron-making Establishment.
The property is in the midst of that part of Staffordshire where the iron trade is concentrated, and carried on to the great extent for which it has long been distinguished. These well known works were established by the late John Wilkinson, Esq., Iron-master. They are now in effective and full operation, partly by his family and partly by lessees, but owing to some recent domestic changes they are now submitted to public competition. The property is most eligibly situated as to roads and canals, by which it is intersected in various directions. The present flourishing state of the iron trade, with every prospect of its continuance, contributes to enhance the value of this important concern to any person or company engaged, or desirous of embarking, in the iron trade, in works of the first celebrity, and capable of being increased to almost any extent.
Also two Estates in the parishes of Wednesbury and Darlaston, with valuable mines under them.
The whole will be disposed of in the following or such other lots as may agreed upon at the time of sale, and Subject such conditions will be then produced.
Lot 1,The COLLIERY, which is called "Hallfield's Colliery," and is situate at Bradley. There are numerous good shafts already sunk through most of the measures or strata of mines, which, as far they have been explored, are proved to be of the best quality, especially the thick coal, of which a large portion (it is supposed least one third of the whole) remains ungotten. The gubbin ironstone, and heathen coal, are almost (if not entirely) untouched, and the new mines are all entire, with the exception of those lying under about twelve acres, which are at present opened in some of the measures, and are now in full work.
The IRON WORKS, which consist of the Furnace, called "Hallfield’s Furnace," with a good blast engine, of sufficient power for the ordinary casting house, double refinery, and cupola furnace, which are erected, and which, with the furnace, are all in full work. There is also a capacious Foundry, with stoves, air-furnace, crane, and other conveniences for carrying on the Iron Foundry business, which has hitherto been done, to some considerable extent, and to good profit, by the present proprietors.
Also TWO FURNACES, called the "Bradley Furnaces,' with blast engine capable of blowing two additional furnaces, with two refineries, and a cupola furnace, (which last is erected;) also another Foundry, with air furnace, stoves, cranes, and other conveniences for a foundry, in addition two casting houses, bridge houses, &c. &c.
There are TWO POTTERIES, for which the estate contains a supply of the different descriptions of clay for the manufacture of earthenware, for a longer term than that of the lease of the land upon which the potteries stand.
DWELLING-HOUSE, (at present temporarily divided into two,) suitable for the residence of a principal, (being formerly used by the late John Wilkinson, Esq.) with the gardens, outbuildings, and other conveniences. ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY DWELLING-HOUSES, suitable for agents and workmen, with out-buildings, gardens, and other appurtenances.
The FORGE, ROLLING and SLITTING MILL, consisting an excellent forge and mill lately erected the former is worked by a steam engine of 28 horses power, and the latter by one of 80 horses power; with suitable and commodious offices, warehouses, stabling, and other conveniences. The forge has a double camring, with two hammers, and the mill is capable, in its present state, of slitting and rolling every description of manufactured malleable iron. The forge and mill are at present held by Messrs. G. and E. Thorneycroft under an agreement for a lease, to expire at Christmas, 1843.
Also the MINES under about eight acres of land adjoining, belonging to Messrs. Brereton.
Lot 2. Valuable Freehold ESTATE, called Moxley, situate in the parish of Wednesbury, consisting of a good Dwelling.House, with stabling and other out-buildinga attached, several closes of Land, containing nearly fifteen acres of Land.
Lot 3. A MINERAL PROPERTY, called "Barebones and Heathfield,” situate in the parishes of Wednesbury and Darlston, containing about thirteen acres of land.
Both these lots are intersected by the Birmingham canal. They contain part of the thick coal, gubbin ironstone, and heathen coal, and is believed very little of the latter has been gotten. The new mines, which, in the adjoining quarries, have been proved to be of excellent quality, remain untouched under the whole of both estates, and there is a valuable bed of sand underneath. Mr. John Dunning, the Agent for the Bradley Works, will shew the property, from whom printed particulars, with lithographed plans, may be had ; and also at the Offices of Messrs. Edge and Parker, Solicitors, Manchester; Mr. Corser, Solicitor, Wolverhampton; Messrs. Taylor, Roscoe, and Turner, 41, Bedford-row, London; and Messrs. Fitchett and Wagstaff, Solicitors, Warrington, on and after the 20th. of November.'
Wilkinson's Middle Works
1799 area is described on map as Bradley Works.
With the advent of the canal Wilkinson was able to establish a second works on what is known as Bradley Lane
The site of the third of John Wilkinson's Bradley furnaces. Also was the site of first rotative engine (1783) by Watt, used for working rolling mill and forge hammers.
1812 "furnaces" shown on OS map, probably relate to this, marked "Fereday"
1832 A cluster of 5 buildings - Wilkinsons Middle Works - to S of canal. Further 4 buildings (incl 1 circ) to W.
1835 Another blast furnace was erected close to the canal at Upper Bradley.
By 1836 the bridge over the canal is said to be still there, but works not depicted.
North Site was cleared to make room for a vast new housing estate.
Hallfields Furnace - Upper Works
Not satisfied with having 2 works in production at Bradley John Wilkinson established a third works, or Upper Works, on the west side of the canal consisting of a completely new furnace
A number of different items were recovered during a very limited dig on the site of the Upper Bradley furnace in Wilkinson Ave about 1961 including cast iron piping, iron bar and iron bar test piece, angle iron and an axe like tool. The excavation also revealed what was probably the remains of the engine house stack. Underneath the gardens of nearby houses were discovered neat stacks of case ball size cinders, the type vernacularly used to build walls (finds now housed in Bilston Museum).
1966 A follow up of the excavation carried out in 1966 by Morton, discovered 2 inclined brick walls thought to be part of a ramp to transfer slag from furnace, 3 brick walls believed to be engine mountings and a well still containing 19 feet of water.
Sources of Information
- Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 21st November 1835
-  Black Country History