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British Industrial History

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Titanic Steel and Iron Co

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Not the most interesting photo on this website, but it shows one of the few remaining works buildings and the former office building, now 'Steel Works Cottage', at the northern corner of the site
One of the few remaining works buildings

Titanic Steel and Iron Co of Forest Steel Works, Coleford, Gloucestershire.

The company was named 'Titanic' because Robert Forester Mushet was experimenting with Titanium at that time

1862 Formed by Robert Mushet who was fundamental in solving the problems with the Bessemer steel making process

Robert Forester Mushet (1811 – 1891), a British metallurgist, was born April 8, 1811, in Coleford, Gloucestershire. He was the youngest son of Agnes Wilson and David Mushet, an ironmaster. Robert spent his formative years studying metallurgy with his father, formerly of the Clyde, Alfreton and Whitclift Ironworks.

In 1856 Mushet found an inexpensive way to make high quality steel by adding ferromanganese, or spiegeleisen brought from Rhennish Prussia. He explained that... "during the summer of 1848 Mr. Henry Burgess, editor of The Bankers' Circular, brought me a lump of white crystallized metal which he said was found in Rhenish Prussia, where, he was told, a mountain of it existed. He had merely confounded iron with iron ore, an error often committed. Being familiar with alloys of iron and manganese," says Mr. Mushet, "I at once recognized this lump of metal as an alloy of these two metals and, as such, of great value in the making of steel. Later, I found that the white metallic alloy was the product of steel ore, called also spathose iron ore, being, in fact, a double carbonate of iron and manganese found in the Rhenish mountains, and that it was most carefully selected and smelted in small blast furnaces, charcoal fuel alone being employed and the only flux used being lime. The metal was run from the furnace into shallow iron troughs similar to the old refiners' boxes, and the cakes thus formed, when cold and broken up, showed large and beautifully bright facets and crystals specked with minute spots of uncombined carbon. It was called, from its brightness, 'spiegel glanz' or spiegel eisen, i.e., looking-glass iron. Practically its analysis was: Iron, 86…25; manganese, 8…50; and carbon, 5…25; making a total of 100…00."

This improved the steel's malleability –- its ability to withstand rolling and forging at high temperatures –- without which the Bessemer process for making steel would not have been an economic success. Bessemer's method had only produced "burnt" wrought iron, lacking strength, but Mushet's innovation restored the quality of the steel.

1857 In 1857 Mushet was the first to make durable rails of steel rather than cast iron, providing the basis for the development of rail transportation throughout the world in the late Nineteenth century. The first of Mushet's steel rails was delivered to Derby Midland Station, where it was laid down early in 1857 at a heavily trafficked part of the line where the iron rails had to be renewed every six months, and occasionally every three." Six years later, in 1863, the rail seemed as perfect as ever, although some 700 trains had passed over it daily.

1857 In a second key advance in metallurgy, under a patent he applied for in 1857, Mushet produced the first commercial steel alloy in 1868 by adding a small amount (8%) of tungsten to the molten steel in the crucible. The steel hardened in the air, whereas previously the only way to make steel hard enough for machine tools had been to quench it, by rapid cooling in water. Self-hardening (or tungsten) steel machine tools could run much faster and were able to cut harder metals than had been possible previously. This resulted in a revolution in the design of machine tools and in the progress of industrial metalworking. High strength tool steels could be precision machined for the production of rifles, cutlery, surgical and other instruments.

This led to RMS (Robert Mushet's Special Steel). The manufacture of this was later transferred to Samuel Osborn and Co

Although Mushet filed many valid patents for his inventions, unreliable business partners allowed them to lapse. Mushet was rescued from insolvency and supported by Henry Bessemer, who had benefited by the free use of Mushet's lapsed patents.

Mushet died January 19, 1891 in Cheltenham.

STEEL AND IRONWORKS FOR SALE BY PRIVATE TREATY. The Liquidator of the above-named Company is prepared to TREAT for the SALE, by Private Arrangement, as a going Concern, of the whole of the Company's valuable FREEHOLD MANUFACTURING PEMISES, KNOWN AS THE "FOREST STEEL WORKS," Situate at COLEFORD, in the FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
Extending over an area of about Seven Acres.
Together with all the WORKSHOPS, ROLLING MILL, FORGE, WORKSHOPS, STOREHOUSES, OFFICES, PLANT and Machinery, also, some valuable PATENTS, LICENSES and LEASES, Including Lease of Darkhill and Shutcastle Collieries
The Liquidator is also prepared to treat separately for the SALE of the ROLLING MILL, with ENGINES, BOILERS, LATHES, SHEARS, &c., therein, which are all nearly new, and in first-class working order.
There are three trains of Rolls, viz., 10-inch, 12-inch, and 10-inch Wire Train, all driven by a 32 inch cylinder, horizontal, high-pressure, non-condensing Engine (76 horse-power nominal), by Davy Brothers, of Sheffield; Fly-wheel, 20 feet in diameter, weighing l0 tons.
Full particulars and orders to inspect the Works, can be obtained on application to Robert Fletcher, 2 Moorgate Street, London, E.C., the Liquidator; or to R.Woodward, Forest Steel Works, Coleford. The Business of the Company is, meanwhile, carried on at the Works.' [1]

The works closed in 1871. The premises remained neglected, and in 1908 the Office of Woods advertised the property for lease. There appear to have been no takers until 1926, when the property was leased to Lydney District Brickworks and Collieries Ltd, who sub-let to Milkwall Brickworks Ltd in 1928[2]

Many of the steelworks buildings stood, precariously, until they were demolished in the 1960s. The site has not been investigated, and little is known about the function of the various buildings. Some 1960s photos and a speculative drawing are presented in a book by Keith Webb, published in 2001[3]. Please note that there is no access beyond the site boundary, and there is little to see. Please respect the owner's privacy. The site is alongside the former Darkhill Iron Works, whose surviving structures may be viewed (vegetation permitting!)

1967 Titanic Steel Co was one of the larger steel makers not subject to nationalisation[4]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Birmingham Daily Post, 5 September 1871
  2. 'The Industrial History of Dean' by Cyril Hart: David & Charles, 1971
  3. 'Robert Mushet and the Darkhill Ironworks' by Keith Webb, Black Dwarf Publications, 2001
  4. The Times, Apr 26, 1967

[1] Wikipedia