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British Industrial History

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Perran Foundry

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Cast iron lintel still in-situ at the derelict foundry (2009)
2019
2019
2019. The small building is the former time office. Weighbrige in foreground
2019. Cast iron footbridge over Kennall river near site entrance. This is presumably the 1843 bridge referred to in the text
2019. Detail of iron footbridge

Perran Foundry, of Perranarworthal, near Falmouth, Cornwall, was an innovative concern run by the Fox family of Falmouth and other Quaker business families.

Samuel Tregelles (1766–1831), merchant and rope maker, was one of the twelve partners from its establishment in 1791[1].

1791 The foundry was set up on the site of a tin smelting works by Robert Were Fox and John Williams of Scorrier to supply machinery to the Gwennap copper mines. Other shareholders were the Price and Tregelles families of Falmouth and Penryn.

1793 Acquired the Neath Abbey Iron Works.

Perran concentrated on the production of smaller components, larger items being constructed at the Neath Abbey ironworks.

Although Fox was anticipating the expiry in 1800 of Boulton and Watt's patent rights on the manufacture of steam engines, it was not until the 1830s that large Cornish engines were being built at the Perran foundry.

1825 Charles Fox became General Manager of the Perran Iron Foundry at Perranarworthal, taking over from George Fox the second; Charles was also a partner in the family shipping brokerage G. C. Fox at Falmouth.

1842 Charles Fox's nephew, Barclay Fox, became General Manager.

1843 'Perran-Arworthal.— Considerable enlargements are being made in the extensive foundry at this place. An elegant iron foot-bridge which is now being thrown across the stream opposite the Messrs. Fox's office, will present from the road a very ornamental effect.'[2]

The footbridge over River Kennall has two balustraded parapets, each evidently cast in one section. The walkway was cast in sections with a diamond pattern for grip and slots for drainage. Resited in the 20thC when the river was diverted.

The foundry was later operated in partnership with the Williams Family, and in 1858, it was sold to them.

The creek serving the factory silted up and mining in Cornwall declined. The wharf had been used to import timber for the mining industry from Scandinavia.

1851 Made cylinders for a massive blowing engine for Dowlais Ironworks

1857 Made cylinders for powerful rolling mill engines for Dowlais Ironworks

In the early 1860s the site covered 6 aces, and employed 400 people. A c.1860 plan shows four waterwheels fed from a leat.[3]

1865 Loam and Son of Perran Foundry produced the largest beam blowing engine ever built in Britain to the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co. This had a a 72" bore steam cylinder and a 144" bore air cylinder. [4]

1870s The slump in the mining industry during the 1870s hit Perran Foundry badly

1878 Supplied a beam pumping engine to Hodbarrow Iron Mines in Cumberland

1879 The foundry closed in March with the loss of 400 jobs, causing great distress in the parish.

1880 'HARVEY AND Co. made very considerable purchases at the Perran Foundry sale. Some of the best lathes, &c. and the stock of iron are about to be brought to Hayle, and we trust a revival of trade will make the purchase a bargain. Trade at present, is moderately good. A purchaser has been found in Scotland for one of the two fine iron ships in the yard. She will be finished and rigged straightway.'[5]

1881 Sale of the foundry included the following: 'the whole of the remaining PLANT, MACHINERY, PATTERNS, and STOCK-IN-TRADE thereon, comprising three powerful iron water-wheels, with launders, gear, fan, and shafting ; one strong iron water-wheel, 18 feet diameter, with large fly-wheel, 3 tilt hammers, anvils and tools, wood and iron cranes, several brick forges, with iron plates and blast pipes, grindstone and frame, shovel plating fire, iron cisterns, 2 crab winches, mangle and lifting gear, treble blocks and chains, beams, scales, and weights, railway metals and turntable, 3 trolleys, 2 and 4-wheel trucks, several wheelbarrows, about 10 tons coal, a quantity of elm, ash, teak, and other timber and firewood, an immense variety of wood patterns, about 150 tons of wrought and cast-iron, from 2 to 3 tons of brass, a useful flat-bottom barge and boat, useful office furniture, drawing tables and boards, a great number of valuable drawings, tracings, and elevations of engines and machines (which will be sold in lots), and other miscellaneous articles.'[6]



Note: There are extensive remains of the foundry buildings. The buildings were in very poor condition, but extensive restoration has been undertaken, converting some of the buildings for housing. Other parts await restoration (2019).

A detailed report and assessment of the site was published in 2002, and is available online [7]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Biography of Edwin Tregelles, ODNB [1]
  2. Royal Cornwall Gazette - Friday 28 April 1843, p.2
  3. 'The Cornish Beam Engine' by D. B. Barton (D Bradford Barton, new edition, 1966), pp.155-6
  4. 'The Cornish Beam Engine' by D. B. Barton (D Bradford Barton, new edition, 1966)
  5. The Cornish Telegraph - Thursday 14 October 1880
  6. Royal Cornwall Gazette - Friday 22 July 1881
  7. [file:///C:/Users/John/AppData/Local/Temp/THEPERRANFOUNDRYPERRANWORTHALCORNWALL%20ANHISTORICALREPORTANDASSESSMENTOFALATEEIGHTEENTH-CENTURYIRONFOUNDRYANDSTEAMENGINEMANUFACTORY.pdf] 'THE PERRAN FOUNDRY, PERRANWORTHAL, CORNWALL. AN HISTORICAL REPORT AND ASSESSMENT OF A LATE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY IRON FOUNDRY AND STEAM ENGINE MANUFACTORY' by Susie Barson. English Heritage, Historical Analysis & Research Team, Reports and Papers 71, 2002
  • Wikipedia (Misc)
  • The Steam Engine in Industry by George Watkins in two volumes. Moorland Publishing. 1978/9. ISBN 0-903485-65-6