Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Swalwell Works

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The Swalwell Works, otherwise known as Crowley's, supplied the Royal Naval Dockyards with various articles such as anchors, chains and cables and later had contracts with the Admiralty during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Swalwell works, occupying four acres, were the greatest on Tyneside early in the nineteenth century, and were said to be the largest iron making concern in Europe between 1725 and 1750. They prospered especially in times of war when their products were in great demand. But the economic advantages Crowley's once possessed were much reduced in the 19th century as new markets appeared which could be served better from the Midlands, and Swedish and Russian iron ore was supplanted by the convenient availability of English ore.

Initially, Crowley was not involved in preparing the iron for the later stages of manufacture of articles, but soon pig iron was being converted into bar iron in forges and thence into rod iron or steel, all using the water power readily available from the Derwent. High quality steel was produced and iron anchor-making was a speciality. Crowley's Swalwell forge was later famous for its chain-making skill, large and heavy anchor chains being produced here.

The canals favoured the new centres of production further south and technical advantages and competition both locally and elsewhere completed the conditions which led to the decline of the Crowley's works and eventual closure about 1853. By that time Crowley ownership had ceased and the establishment was called Crowley Millington's.

1863 The works were sold to Powe and Fawcus of North Shields for £780, auctioned in 1870, and later leased to Ridley and Co

c.1881 James Cartmell Ridley established the Swalwell Steel Works, which he ran for about thirty years.

1893 Ridley and Co established a steel foundry on the site with forges, hammers, smiths' shops and machine shops.

1911 The works finally closed.

The paper mills of William Grace and Co, later known as the Northumberland Paper Mills, also occupied part of the Crowley site in the late 19th and early 20th century. The large chimney in Swalwell remains as a landmark on the Crowley site. It was built as part of the paper mill which dates from late Victorian times. The precise date is unknown.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Swalwell Web Site