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pit coal, to the smelting of the iron ore, was the question. To this end a more powerful blast was necessary—one stronger than the bellows moved by a water-wheel could supply; and slowly, and by degrees, this was also being developed. The Marquis of Worcester, in 1663, had noticed and written upon the power of steam. Only one original copy of the interesting book in which his lordship recorded his various experiments is known to be in existence, and that is in the British Museum. Upon Lord Worcester's primitive attempt, Captain Savary, in 1698, made some improvements, and applied the power of steam to the draining of mines.* But to the great and comprehensive genius of the late Mr. Watt, we are indebted for those improvements, which have rendered the steam engine the present powerful agent of our ironworks, and herein he was assisted by the late Mr. Wilkinson, who, indeed, was the first, in Staffordshire, to apply the steam engine to blow the blast furnace, at the old furnace, near the Fire Holes, Bilston.
The regular and increased efforts of the blast furnace were soon felt in all the ironmaking districts, and the produce of the furnaces greatly increased. In 1740, just before the time of which we are now speaking, the total annual quantity of iron produced in Great Britian was 17,350 tons, whereas about the year 1608f the quantity was 180,000 tons, thus showing a very great falling off. In 1788, the total annual make was 68,300 tons, being an increase of 50,950 tons; whereas in 1796, the annual quantity exceeded 124,000 tons, which in 1820 was computed to be 400,000 tons; and in 1827, 690,000 tons. In the year 1846, the make had reached 1,750,000 tons; in 1851, 2,500,000
* See page 104, et seq.
+ Sturtevant's Metallica.
tons; and the estimate for 1852 is 2,750,000 tons; whilst the number of hands, including colliers and miners, engaged in the iron business, is about 650,000.
In the year 1740, Gloucestershire produced a much greater quantity of iron than any other county in Britain, whilst Sussex contained the greatest number of furnaces. With a few in Kent, the residue required to make up the annual complement of iron were scattered sparingly throughout the midland counties and along the Welsh borders. Forty-eight years afterwards we find the coal counties begin to assume that rank in connection with iron, which for ages had been more particularly acceded to the woodland districts, and then it was that Staffordshire and Shropshire began to make those rapid strides towards importance as ironmaking counties that they have ever since maintained.
Many improvements have been made of late years in the various processes of the manufacture of iron. To Mr. Cort the country is indebted for the invention of puddling the pig iron, and rolling bars, in 1785; and, in 1829, to Mr. Neilson, of Glasgow, for the invaluable process of heating the blast previous to its entering the furnace. This produced a revolution next in importance to the application of the blast engine, for by it the weekly quantity made was increased from 80 or 90 tons to 120, 30, 40, 50, 60, and even in some instances to 200 tons per week. Scotland is greatly indebted to this discovery, for to it is mainly owing the development of the iron trade there. There is also another important feature connected with hot blast that must not be overlooked, which is this—that owing to its application furnaces worked better, both as to yield and quantity, and to so great an extent that it was deemed practicable, and proved since to be advantageous, to stop them working on the Sabbath; and there is no doubt that blast furnaces have made much more iron with standing on the Sunday than they used to do when working on that day, the rationale of which apparent paradox must be obvious to every mind. The late excellent Bishop of Lichfield, Dr. Ryder, addressed a letter of remonstrance to the ironmasters of his diocese on this subject, and some, acting upon his spiritual counsel, endeavoured to comply with his request; but the stopping of the furnaces on the Lord's Day was then found to be impracticable, as hot blast was not used. With all these great improvements and discoveries the iron trade has become one of the greatest manufacturing interests of the country, and it is now as it were the main spring, from which motion is given to our other improvements in steam engines, railroads, and machinery of all sorts.
art of manufacturing earthenware vessels appears to have been known at a very early date, as is proved by the specimens of late years discovered in Egypt, Pompeii, Etruria, and Assyria; and that the ancient Britons were also acquainted with it is evidenced by the various remains found in their burial places. Some were rudely wrought, others more neatly fashioned, and many burnt in a kiln or furnace.
In all probability the art was imported by the first colonists of the country, and the Britons gradually improved the manufacture of it afterwards. The Roman invasion served to introduce many improvements, whereby the inhabitants would learn to model their vessels with a lathe, to give them the polish of a glazery, flourish them with carvings, and to emboss them with figures. This country occupies a prominent position in the history of the manufacture, from the ingenious discovery of Mr. Wedgwood, by which his pottery in Staffordshire was extended to a variety of curious compositions, subservient not only to the ordinary purposes of life, but to the arts, antiquity, history, &c, and thereby rendered a very important branch of commerce both foreign and domestic.
About the year 1650 there were several potteries in Wednesbury. The following account of them is transcribed from Dr. Plot:—" At Darlaston, near Wednesbury, there is tobacco pipe-clay found, but of late disused, because of better and cheaper found in Monway Field, between Wednesbury and Willingsworth, which is of a whitish colour, and makes excellent pipes. Besides this clay there is found in the same Monway Field two other sorts, one of a yellowish colour, mixed with white, the other bluish; the former stiff and weighty, the other more friable and light, which, mixed together, work better than apart; of these they make divers sorts of vessels at Wednesbury, which they paint with slip, made of a reddish earth, got at Tipton* Also at Darlaston, near Wednesbury, is found a sort of blue clay, which is beaten up upon boards into oval cakes, and are sold to the glovers for about 4d. per dozen ; these they use to give their wares an ash colour." The "slip" before mentioned is explained as "being clay of a more loose and friable nature, which, when mixed with water, is made into a consistence thinner than syrup, so that being put into a bucket it will run out through a quill, and with this they paint their wares. Before the clay is brought to the wheel, it is prepared by
* Some of these vessels were dug up in "Potter's Lane," at Wednesbury, in excavating for the South Staffordshire Railway.