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British Industrial History

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Samuel Walker of Rotherham

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Joseph Walker (1673–1729), nailmaker and farmer, of Grenoside, near Sheffield had 3 sons Jonathan, Samuel, and Aaron who established major businesses in iron, steel, and lead manufacture.

Samuel Walker (1715–1782) was a dissenter who founded the iron and steel works at Masbrough. He was the village schoolmaster at Grenoside, near Sheffield but supplemented his living by land surveying and making sundials.

1741 Samuel and Aaron built a reverberatory furnace in the nailer's smithy at the rear of Samuel's cottage in Grenoside. They were successful in remelting pig iron and scrap cast-iron, and in casting pots.

1745 as the business expanded they turned out annually about 5 tons of castings; Samuel resigned his teaching post.

1746 Samuel and Aaron moved a few miles to Masbrough, alongside the newly navigable River Don at Rotherham, where they built a casting house together with their brother in law, John Crawshaw. This was the foundation of what became one of the largest iron foundries in the country, which supplied most of the iron cannon used by the Government up to 1815, as well as the material for several iron bridges.

1746 Jonathan Walker (1710–1778), the eldest son of Joseph and Ann, became a partner in his brothers' ironworks on their move to Masbrough; he was in charge of transport and continued to manage the farms.

The three brothers entered a partnership with John Booth, a nail chapman

1748 They built a cementation steel furnace at Masbrough.

1749-50 Erected a similar furnace at Grenoside.

1754 On 29 September, Thomas Howard leased land at Masbrough to the Walker Brothers (Samuel and Aaron Walker of Masbrough, Jonathan Walker and John Crawshaw of Grenoside) for 21 years, where the Walkers built a water-powered forge.

1778 In partnership with Richard Fishwick and Archer Ward of Hull, Samuel Walker began a white lead manufacturing business at Elswick, near Newcastle upon Tyne. Walker provided most of the capital, while his partners contributed business and practical expertise. This enterprise was extended, producing not only white and red lead but also lead shot and pipes. Rising prices for lead encouraged many others to enter this trade about this time.

1782 Samuel Walker died. His four sons (Samuel (1742–1792), Joshua (1750–1815), Joseph (1752–1801), and Thomas (1756–1828)) opened premises at London (1785), new works at Derby (1792) and Chester (1800), and a warehouse at Liverpool (1801–2).

By 1787 the Walkers had five cementation steel furnaces at Masbrough, though the production of iron products remained their chief concern.

1792 Samuel (1742–1792) provided in his will for the purchase of his interests in the family company by his three brothers for £41,000, with authorization to sell shares to his heir when he came of age.

c.1800 The third Samuel (1779-1851) accordingly purchased a two-eighteenths interest in Joshua Walker and Co for £33,820. By 1819 his share was two-thirteenths and he was a partner in the London lead works and the Islington white lead factory, in which the family had invested most of its capital.

1802 the white lead business became Walkers, Parker and Co

1815 Cannon was manufactured at Rotherham until the end of the Peninsular War, when the Walkers concentrated on other activities, especially banking.

1815 Joshua Walker died; his share in the family iron and lead businesses passed to his eldest son, Henry, and younger son, Joshua[1].

1818 Samuel Walker purchased the electoral interest of Charles Fox Champion Crespigny at Aldeburgh for £39,000 and returned himself and his cousin Joshua at the general election.

1821 The Conisbrough foundry closed.

1822 Transfer of the ironworks to Gospel Oak in Staffordshire, producing cannon.

Other members of the firm carried on the blast furnaces, another took over the rolling-mills, a third set up a steel plant at Parkgate, whilst the general foundry work was relegated to a fourth.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • History of Walker's foundries [2]
  • Samuel Walker MP (1779-1851) [3]
  1. MP Biographies [1]