Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Redbrook Copper Works

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at Redbrook, Forest of Dean, Glos.

Much of the following information is taken from 'The Industrial History of Dean' by Dr Cyril Hart[1]

Copper smelting started at Redbrook c.1690.

Upper Redbrook

Dr Hart states that a history of the Redbrook Copper Works by Rhys Jenkins does not give any reason why Redbrook was selected, there being no evidence of calamine or copper ore being found in the area. Wood, charcoal, coal and water power were readily available, and the navigable River Wye was alongside. However, Joan Day[2] stated that small deposits of copper ore had been discovered nearby in the Forest of Dean, and that the son of John Coster took responsibility for the new works at Upper Redbrook on a site which had previously been a paper mill. Coster's associates included William Dockwray (or Dockwra).

Dr Hart states that production at Upper Redbrook was started before c.1691 by John Coster, and was continued by his son Thomas Coster after John's death in 1718 (Thomas already being in charge of the Bristol Brass Company). In c.1730 he assigned the Redbrook works to the Brass Work Company of Bristol. Subsequently the company was accused of ruining the works, the buildings being damaged or destroyed and some equipment shipped to Bristol, and Viscount Gage took legal action. Coster died in 1739, and the action was not settled until 1744.

Regarding the dispute, Dr Hart records a statement made on behalf of Viscount Gage that the Brass Work Company had taken the works 'with no other view than to ruin them, they being then in great repute, and by that means bring their trade thence to their own work at Bristol.' In fact they established their main smelting activities at Melincryddan [3].

Lower Redbrook

Joan Day states that the English Copper Company set up copper works at Lower Redbrook, being assisted for a time by Gabriel Wayne, formerly with John Coster in the service of Sir Clement Clerke.

Dr Hart states that the Lower Works were started c.1691-2 by The Company of Copper Miners in England, in conjunction with Thomas Chambers, but adds that commencement may have been earlier, 50 tons of ore having been sent from Cornwall in 1690 (followed by 53 tons in 1691, 502 tons in 1692, 986 in 1697.

In c.1734 Swedenborg reported on the activities at Lower Redbrook, which included crushing the ore initially be stamping and then by grinding, smelting in reverbatory furnaces, refining, and producing plates by spreading or beating out.

Production probably ceased in the early 1740s, and in 1771 the Lower Works premises were leased to Townshend and Wood for tinplate production. The property was sold to David and William Tanner in 1790.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'The Industrial History of Dean' by Cyril Hart, David & Charles, 1971
  2. 'Bristol Brass: The History of the Industry' by Joan Day, David & Charles, 1973
  3. 'Copperopolis: Landscapes of the Early Industrial Period in Swansea' by Stephen Hughes, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2000