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British Industrial History

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William Keates

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William Keates (1801-1888) of Newton, Keates and Co was a key figure in establishing copper smelting in Lancashire.

1801 Born at Cheadle, Staffs

Employed by Cheadle Copper and Brass Co initially in the warehouse which was supervised by his father, John Ketaes, and then as an assistant to the chief smelter.

1819 Sent by the company to study chemistry at the Royal Institution in London where he became an assistant to Faraday.

1821 Given the task of closing down the Cheadle Co's Neath Abbey works.

1822 Left the Cheadle Co to become the manager of the Whiston copper works at Kingsley near Cheadle.

1824 Appointed by James Shears and Sons of London to restart the Spitty copper works near Loughor, Carmarthenshire.

1827 Married(1) Susan Penrose Andrew (died 1837) of Redruth whose father acted as an agent to supply Cornish copper ores ton the Spitty works.

1829 Moved to Lancashire and formed the St. Helens Smelting and Copper Co to erect the Ravenhead Copper Works to smelt copper ore from Arosa and copper cake from Colombia.

1832 Keates sold the Ravenhead works to the the Bolivar Mining Association though remained as agent to the works until 1835.

1832 British and Foreign Copper Co employed Keates to build the Sutton Oak smelting works near St Helens. The British and Foreign Copper Co was fifty per cent owned by Newton, Keates and Co. with the other fifty per cent owned by Waddington, Templeman and Co. of London aka Brownell and Co in Liverpool and sought to import and smelt copper ore and copper cake from South America. Keates became the agent/manager of the British and Foreign Copper Co and of Newton Lyon and Co in Liverpool. He lived on Huskisson Street in Liverpool.

1838 James Muspratt opened a chemical works at Flint to extract sulphur from pyrites. Keates had previously formed an association with Muspratt who then suppled blister copper which was a by-product of the sulphur production process to the Sutton Oak smelting works. Newton Keates subsequently built a works at Bagillt near Flint to process the blister copper.

1844 Withdrawal of the Lyon family from the Newton, Lyon and Co. Keates became the managing partner and the partnership was renamed Newton, Keates and Co. Keates in consequence also became the managing partner of the British and Foreign Copper Co.

1845 Married(2) Mary was also born in Redruth. They made the family home at Brookland House, Clifton Park, Birkenhead.

1848 John Bibby and Sons bought the Ravenhead Copper Works from Keates

1850 Keates family moved to Greenfield Hall, Flintshire. He became very involved in the political, social and judicial life of Flintshire. He was Sheriff of Flintshire 1874-5.

1862 He was a director and promotor of the Alliance Bank of London and Liverpool. He remained a director until 1867.

1865 He helped form the Runcorn Soap and Alkali Company to purchase the company of T & J Johnson with factories at Runcorn and Weston and to change its processes to concentrate on alkali production and so that blister copper was produced as a byproduct. He remained a director until 1874.

1866 His elder son, John, died.

1867 He moved to live at Pickhill Hall, near Wrexham and withdrew from direct management of the companies.

1872 Purchased the estate of the Manor of Bishop Nymphton in Devon though it did not have a manor house and he never lived in Devon.

1880-88 lived at various addresses in Leamington, Warwickshire.

1888 died at Hopton House, Newbold Terrace, Leamington.

His only son, Joseph Andrew Keates, continued the business

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Some founders of the Chemical Industry by J Fenwick Allen, 1907 [1]
  • Ken Davies, Newton Lyon/Newton Keates & Co, Liverpool 1806-1894, Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society 109 (2013) pp.166-197.
  • Ken Davies, William Keates of Cheadle (1801-1888) and the British Copper Industry in the Nineteenth Century, Staffordshire Studies 18 (2007) pp.37-62.