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Wilden Ironworks

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1850. The Wilden Works.

of Wilden, Stourport

1511 A mill was built on the River Stour in 1511 by William Baylly, a fuller

c.1633 The mill was bought by Richard Foley, who converted it to include a slitting mill, and subsequently gave it to his son Thomas.

In 1647, it was referred to as having (or rather having had) six walk stocks and two corn mills. Thomas built a finery forge there.

1669 Operation of the ironworks passed with the rest of the older Thomas's Midlands ironworks to his youngest son Philip Foley, and he operated them until 1679, when he arranged for his brother to lease the works to Richard Avenant and John Wheeler, who had been his managers.

1681 Thomas Foley, who was deceased and had been the owner of Wilden Forge, had indemnified inhabitants against any charge for forge workers; the new tenants, Richard Avenant and John Wheeler, would not do so[1].

1685 Thomas's eldest son, another Thomas, renewed the lease; the site was described as having a slitting mill and two forges.

1692 Richard Avenant and John Wheeler ran the ironworks until 1692 when a new partnership, 'Ironworks in Partnership', was formed between Philip Foley, his brother Paul, Avenant, Wheeler, and Wheeler's brother Richard, with John Wheeler as managing partner. This was one of a number of ironworks in the lower Stour valley that depended on pig iron brought up the River Severn from the Forest of Dean and elsewhere. It produced bar iron and wrought iron for manufacture into finished iron goods, such as nails, in the Black Country.

Richard withdrew in 1698, taking over certain other ironworks on his own.

In 1705, the partnership gave up its last ironworks in the Midlands

The forge lease was transferred to Richard Knight of Bringewood for its final years. When it expired in 1708, the landlord used it himself. He was the third Thomas Foley of Great Witley, who was in 1712 created Lord Foley to enable Robert Harley to have a majority in the House of Lords. His son Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron Foley (1703–1766) operated it until his death in 1766, when it passed with the rest of the Great Witley estates to his distant cousin (descended from Paul Foley), Thomas Foley of Stoke Edith, who was created Lord Foley in 1776, the year before he died.

1776 Lord Foley probably leased the forge to Thomas Hill and Co. from Michaelmas 1776.

1788 Thomas Baldwin (1751–1823) moved from Shrewsbury to Stourport to take advantage of its location on the emerging canal system[2]. At some point, he established the company Baldwin, Son and Co. The successful iron foundry which he established there was expanded by his sons George Pearce Baldwin (1789–1840) and Enoch Baldwin (1793–1857).

In 1789, Thomas Hill and Co leased coal and ironstone mines at Blaenavon in Monmouthshire, and built Blaenavon Ironworks, from which they presumably supplied pig iron to Wilden Forge. At that time, the firm comprised Thomas Hill of Stourbridge, Thomas Hopkins of Canckwood Forge near Rugeley, and Benjamin Pratt of Great Witley.

1791, Wilden Forge was occupied by Thomas Hill but still owned by the Foley family. On a map of this date, Thomas Hill is recorded as occupying a tin-mill.

1801 Thomas Hill was granted a lease to the ironworks for 21 years.

1812 Wilden Forge was bought by a Mr Farmer, with Thomas Hill remaining as leaseholder.

Thomas Hill and Co. remained tenants until 1825, but by 1820 the works were in a partnership distinct from Blaenavon consisting of Thomas Hill and Thomas Barnet.

In 1826 Henry Turner became tenant and was still in occupation in 1837, but became insane the following year.

By 1830 it had been taken over by a Mr. Lewty, who traded under the name of Wilden Iron and Tin Plate Co. Mr.Lewty employed about fifty men and in 1832 a friendly society was set up, caring for workers in sickness and for holidays, but demanding strict standards of behaviour.

1840 W. T. Lewty was in business there in 1840 but was then declared bankrupt. Stourport ironmaster, George Pearce Baldwin, took over the Wilden Iron and Tin Plate Co.

1840 After George Pearce Baldwin's death in 1840, Enoch went into partnership with his two eldest nephews, Pearce (1813–1851) and William (1817–1863). The family also ran Baldwin Brothers, Worsted Spinning Mills at Stourport, a carpet manufacturing company at Bridgnorth and a tinplate works at Wolverhampton[3].

1845 Thomas Weaver Lewty was referred to as "of Wilden Ironworks" in 1845 in relation to the Shropshire Mineral Railway[4] and Northern Trunk Railway[5].

W. T. Lewty was referred to as "of Wilden Ironworks" in 1845; he was also director of railway companies[6].

1848 The Baldwin partnership established E. P. and W. Baldwin[7].

1850 E. P. and W. Baldwin were Tin-plate manufacturers of Horsley Fields, Wolverhampton but no presence in/around Stourport was recorded[8].

1854 The Baldwins acquired the wrought iron and tin plate works at Wilden in 1854, Wilden Iron and Tin Plate Co.

In 1870, Alfred Baldwin bought out his relatives to become the sole proprietor of E. P. and W. Baldwin but continued to trade under the old name.

1879 the Wilden Ironworks was damaged by flooding when a wall collapsed at Stourport[9]

1879 Enoch Baldwin was chairman of Wilden Ironworks[10].

1886 Major changes were needed at Wilden Ironworks because of the depression of trade, not least due to the wider use of steel. The firm had a reputation for tinplate, made at Wilden as well as at Swindon Ironworks near Dudley. New works had been erected in South Wales, because of the better transport links. Notices of dismissal were given to all employees of Wilden Ironworks in order to re-arrange the workforce. The forge would close and manufacture of coke iron for tinplate would cease at Wilden but all other parts of the works would remain open (i.e. manufacture of steel tin plates, button plates and other special brands); coke and charcoal iron sheets, as well as steel sheets, would continue to be made at Swindon[11].

In 1888, Alfred brought his 21 year old son Stanley Baldwin, afterwards Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, into E. P. and W. Baldwin.

1902 E. P. and W. Baldwin was incorporated in Baldwins, which also included a number of other businesses in South Wales.

In 1945, Baldwins amalgamated with Richard Thomas and Co to form Richard Thomas and Baldwins. They decided to close the Wilden Works (by then a tinplate works), declaring the workforce, many of whom lived in the village of Wilden, redundant.

The works were acquired in 1964 by Wilden Industrial Estates Ltd, and it became an industrial estate, which it remains today.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. National Archives [1]
  2. Biography of Stanley Baldwin, by Stuart Ball, ODNB
  3. Berrow's Worcester Journal, 27 May 1882
  4. The Times, 29 September 1845
  5. The Times, 23 October, 1845
  6. North Wales Chronicle, 21 October 1845
  7. Times, 18 July 1889
  8. Post Office Directory of Birmingham, Staffordshire & Worcestershire, 1850
  9. The Times, 19 August 1879
  10. Berrow's Worcester Journal, 6 December 1879
  11. Berrow's Worcester Journal, 11 September 1886
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • Wilden Works History [3]