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British Industrial History

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Philip Foley (1648-1716)

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Ironmaster, one of the younger sons of Thomas Foley (1616-1677)

With his brother Paul they became the principal managers of the family works, bringing the partnerships to their widest extension in 1692.

His father’s mantle as a capitalist entrepreneur seems to have descended upon Philip Foley.

When the great ironmaster’s industrial empire was divided, the two younger sons, Philip and Paul, who had been the more active in developing and expanding their manufacturing interests, were given their shares of the patrimony principally in ironworks rather than land.

c. 1667 At the age of 19, Philip took over the Stour valley and south Staffordshire works, then comprising 4 furnaces, 13 forges, and the Bewdley warehouse, the stock and debts of which were estimated as £68,830. Philip entered into a bond to pay £60,000 to his father. There was a full assessment in 1667–8 of every mill in respect of its productivity and profitability, and the workmen were appraised in detail for their skills, diligence, and reliability.

1670 He married Penelope, daughter of William Paget, bringing the Cannock group of forges into the family, and his father settled the Prestwood estate in Kingswinford parish on them. They had 2 sons and 5 daughters.

1674 There was a rift with his brother Paul. Philip was both Paul's chief customer and his main competitor. Paul had expanded his output of pig iron in the Forest works and needed to expand his market in the midlands, but he also raised the price of the best quality Forest iron. Their father had to intervene in what threatened to become a bitter quarrel between the brothers. An agreement was drawn up which gave Philip one third of the Forest works but gave Paul access to the midland market for iron. It was an uncomfortable, strained partnership and Paul was never satisfied that he was receiving his brother's support nor a fair return from his mills.

1685 There were constant alterations in the arrangements and although Paul received a steady profit from the Forest works he was now anxious to persuade Philip and other ironmasters to buy him out. This may have been a negotiating ploy, for Paul continued to operate the Forest works in close association with Philip.

At the same time Philip was establishing links with other partners in the Stour valley and in Shropshire, strengthening his own position and making himself less dependent upon Paul for pig iron. His agent and partner, John Wheeler of Wollaston, became important both in the practical management of the Stour valley and of the north Staffordshire works, and in his personal support for Philip.

By 1691, Wheeler was also active in the Forest works. The partnerships included other ironmasters who held shares of ⅙, or ¼, contributing to the large capital required, and they also created an active link with partnerships in other parts of the country.

1692 As the leases of the ironworks were usually for short periods, and without right of survivorship, there was a continual need for adjustment and change of personnel. Paul and Philip, together with John and Richard Wheeler and Richard Avenant, drew up a new agreement for 7 years, which created a supervisory group of 6 partners. Again, this brought together the Forest, Stour, and Staffordshire works. Paul and Philip paid in cash; the others were deemed to have put in the stock and debts from the mills which they had been operating for some years. The Stour ironworks were similarly reorganized with 5 partners. John Wheeler was the chief agent and salaried cash-holder for both partnerships.

1692 Even after the two brothers had eventually merged their holdings with others in "the ironworks in partnership", the largest iron-manufacturing company in the country, established in 1692 and controlling production in south Staffordshire, Worcestershire and the Forest of Dean, Philip continued to increase his involvement in industrial enterprises, in contrast to Paul, who gave himself up to a career in politics. Philip owned a sixth share in "the ironworks in partnership" at the company’s inception

By 1711 Philip's share in "the ironworks in partnership" had shrunk to approximately one-eighth, when the stock totalled £27,000.

He also held a seventh share in the next largest iron-manufacturing company, the "Staffordshire works", set up in 1693 and incorporating most of the remaining ironworks in the county, north of the Trent valley, and participated in similar partnerships in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Philip was less involved in politics than his brother, but was elected MP for Bewdley in 1679, for Stafford in 1689, 1695, and 1698, and for Droitwich in 1690 and 1701.

His electoral influence at Stafford continued to be deployed to benefit his family, though he may not always have agreed with his various nephews in their politics.

1716 Foley died shortly before 11 Dec.

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