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William Gawith’s Notebooks, the Ulverston Mining Company and Alexander Brogden

This article is published by kind permission of Peter Sandbach. It was first published in Cumbria Amenity Trust (CAT) Mining History Society newsletter No 75.

Introduction

There was an auction of documents at the Coot in Urswick in July 2000. I failed to buy two notebooks attributed to Harrison Ainslie, but obtained photocopies from the purchaser. One book lists 470 shipments of ore between 1856 and 1870. It also contains a list of customers and details of salary and expenses. The salary was £15 per quarter from 1856 to 1859, then £4 4s until 1872. The other notebook lists 309 shipments made between 1859 and 1864, with details of commission (1d per ton) and expenses. Many of the financial entries are addressed to A Brogden Esq., All are signed “settled, W G “ or “settled W Gawith”. Taken together, the two notebooks account for 67,000 tons of ore. William Gawith was the shipping agent to G B Ashburner, the Ulverston Mining Company and Stainton Mining Company. The latter two companies were controlled by Alexander Brogden at this time.

Destinations

The notebooks cover only a fraction of the ore from Brogden’s mines. Lindal Cote and Eure Pits produced 42,700 tons of ore in 1872, with a further 1,800 tons from Stainton. The bulk of it must have gone by rail. There are some pages concerned with railway traffic, 10,589 tons in 1856, and 1289 tons sent to the Haematite Iron Co. of Hindpool in 1862, but if William Gawith’s duties normally included handling railway shipments, then the records were kept elsewhere. Even so, the list of consignees gives some indication of the areas where Furness haematite was used.

Porthcawl was the destination for 262 shipments totalling 26,000 tons. The Llynvi Iron Co. took Eure pits ore and the Tondu Iron Co. required Lindal Cote No1 pit blast ore.

Other South Wales customers were the Dowlais Iron Co. via Cardiff. They used Eure Pits ore in some of their 17 blast furnaces and 161 puddling furnaces.

The Ebbw Vale Iron Co. shipped via Newport. They preferred Lindal Cote North Pit ore for their 237 puddling furnaces.

Several companies in Leeds were supplied through Morcambe and the North Western Railway namely:

  • J Witham and sons, who owned 40 puddling furnaces,
  • The Monks Bridge Iron Co. with 12 puddling furnaces,
  • The Kirkstall Forge Co. with 24 puddling furnaces,
  • E Darke of Swinton, Kilnhuish.

Rushton & Eckersley were supplied with puddling ore via Fleetwood. Shipments to Morecambe and Fleetwood ceased in August 1857, with the opening of the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway.

The West Midlands was supplied via the Shropshire Union Canal with ore transhipped at Ellesmere Port or Saltney, and via the Trent and Mersey with ore transhipped at Runcorn. Customers in this area included:
The Osier Bed iron Co., who made tin plate at Wolverhampton,
Brown & Freer, who had puddling furnaces at Brierley Hill,
Bradley & Co. who produced high class forge iron at Walsall from puddling ore shipped via Runcorn.
James Sanders of Oldbury, Wolverhampton. They took a cargo of North Pit and a cargo of puddling ore each fortnight.

Two other purchasers are worth mentioning: S Dalton of the Deeside ironworks, Saltney was a regular customer, and the Sheffield based mineral agents, Green Chaundy & Co. had 1000 tons of ore shipped to Mostyn. The Lancaster Iron Co. were building two furnaces at Mostyn in 1872, and this was probably the last major shipment handled by William Gawith.

The Brogden Family

The story of John and Alexander Brogden’s establishment as railway contractors, coal and ironmasters, land developers and their eventual failure is described in Leonard Higgins’ article, an abridged version of which appears in CATMHS newsletter No. 72. There is more on the subject at www.brogden.info. They were also shipowners. Lloyds Register includes the following entries:

  • Hermes of Swansea, a 93 ton brigantine built in 1823, acquired by J Brogden about 1867.
  • James Garstang of Swansea, a 548 ton iron screwsteamer built in 1866 for A Brogden. The entry in 1867 is marked “Wrecked”.
  • John Brogden of Swansea, another steamship of 548 tons from the same builders in the same year and owned by A Brogden.
  • Ogmore of Swansea, a 146 ton iron screwsteamer built in 1866 for A Brogden.
  • Saphire of Liverpool, a 70 ton schooner built in 1860 and owned by J Brogden.
  • Joseph and Mary of London, a 99 ton brigantine built in Yarmouth in 1846. She was owned by J Brogden in 1870.
  • Syren of Swansea, a 161 ton barque, built in Norway in 1867 as Rypen. She was bought by J Brogden in 1871.
    Alexander also had an iron paddle tug, The Thames built in 1866 to serve his new dock.

James owned the Plover of Swansea, a 22 ton iron screwsteamer which worked as a passenger ferry in the Severn estuary.

Alexander Brogden married Ann Garstang, daughter of James Garstang and was MP for Wednesbury from 1868 to 1885.

The Stainton Mining Company

Alexander Brogden took the lease of Stainton Mine in 1850. The mineral statistics indicate that it was owned by the Brogdens until 1890. About 3,000 tons of ore was raised annually until 1883.

The Ulverston Mining Company

The first reference to the Ulverston Mining company is in a lease dated July 1838, in which Lindal Cote mines were leased by the Duke of Buccleuch to George Huddleston (4 eighteenth shares), James park (4 shares), Thomas Petty (4 shares), Charles Storr Kennedy (2 shares), Richard Smith (2 shares) and Henry Kennedy (2shares), trading as the Ulverston Mining Company. The partnership was deemed to start at this time, but the lease implies that the partners were already in possession of the mines.

In 1839 the Company built the third jetty at Barrow. This would be the Northernmost pier in the 1846 map, marked as Kennedy & Co., but it was not the site where the Gawith shipments were loaded. The four old piers were replaced by the new railway pier in 1849.

In 1841, George Huddleston assigned his shares to Henry Kennedy of Brighton and for a time the company was known as Kennedy & Co. By 1850, a Cornish engine of 40 horsepower was used to drain the workings to 22Fm, but the ore was still raised by horse gin. In 1857, the lease was renewed in the name of John Brogden, Alexander Brogden and Henry Kennedy of Brighton. The next lease is dated 1872. Alexander Brogden, MP appears as the sole lessee, and it cannot have been long after this that the ground rent fell into arrears. This lease probably indicates the conversion to a limited company, as the tenth and last AGM was held in 1883.

By 1878, the Duke was becoming concerned. In October 1879, Alexander was called to a meeting with the Duke’s agents. Mr Wadham and Mr Manisty had previously agreed that Alexander Brogden was personally liable, but it was no use pursuing him for the debt because he was pressed by creditors on all sides, and had made over the furniture to his wife. They must pursue the company. Mr Brogden gave the first intimation that if money were forthcoming for investment, then the fortunes of the company would be revived and the debt repaid.

The list of shareholders for 1879 shows the company divided into 8000 £20 shares. The shareholders included Alexander Brogden, 506 shares, Henry Brogden, 376 shares, James Brogden, 210 shares, George W H Brogden, 200 shares and James Garstang Brogden, 420 shares. 21% of the company in all.

Other shareholders were Henry James Grieveson, coal proprietor of Saltburn by the Sea with 500 shares and John Grieveson, his agent with 100 shares. In November 1880, James Grieveson was appointed as manager and expected to be appointed Managing Director. Alexander Brogden or his son, James were to have no further part of the concern.

It was not just the rent and royalties which were in arrears. With the shortage of capital, vital exploration and development work had been neglected. Wadham reckoned that £10,000 of development would put the mines on a sound footing.

In 1882, Henry Grieveson signed an agreement whereby the Duke would convert £5,000 of debt into 4% debentures. The company would raise another £10,000 by issuing debentures and that money would be used to develop the mines. The debentures could not fail, because they were secured against the lease of the mine, valued at £33,000. A new lease was granted on the strength of this, but rent and royalties were to be paid monthly.

At the ninth AGM, on 6th April 1882. Alexander Brogden and Henry Grieveson were present as directors. There seems to have been a call on shares, though this was not mentioned.

Henry Grieveson worked hard to sell the debentures, writing to shareholders not present at the meeting that the capital was only needed to develop the property as it should have been years ago, by which dividends could have been steadily earned and paid. The lease is offered as security to the debenture holders and valued at £50,000. Notice had been given to Mr Brogden and others, that their shares were now forfeit.

At the tenth AGM, the managing director, Henry Grieveson had to say that the issue of debentures had been only partially successful. In fact, there were few takers other than the Duke, and the holders of 2647 shares forfeited them rather than answer the call on capital. Mr Wadham remained optimistic. He felt able to tell the shareholders that they had the most valuable mining property in Furness, but a large portion of it is wholly untried. The debentures were still on offer.

By the end of 1883, the company was clearly bankrupt. The Duke would have liked to sell the lease to Barrow Haematite Steel. or failing that, Sir James Ramsden, but they did not come forward. No doubt Myles Kennedy was also glad to be out of it.

The company’s debts in July 1885 amounted to £26,327, and the main creditor was the Duke. He was owed £2,049 in rent and royalty, £5,000 for the debentures and £488 interest on the debentures. The other creditors give an indication of the expenses of a mining company. There were unpaid bills for auditors, tar, advertising, coal, stationary, corn and bran, castings, manure, surface damages, inspection and insurance of boiler, saddlery, spades, soft soap, red lead, flannel, leather, signal wires, water rates, ropes, glass, straw, lamps, lime, fuse, rubber goods, capstan rope, tallow and candles, dynamite, timber, paper and spent hops. Perhaps the soft soap and flannel were for use on the auditors and boiler inspectors.

The mines were sold in three lots on 15th October 1885. The only taker was Harrison Ainslie. Along with the lease, they bought:
At High Crossgates: an office , store house and smithy, cap house, a pumping and winding engine house with a horizontal pumping engine and a winding engine, an engine house at Derby pit with a portable winding engine, a joiner’s shed, dynamite store and labourer’s cottage. (The finger of land near Tytup Farm which is excluded from the 1872 lease was a Derby royalty, worked on a different lease.)

At Eure pits: a dry house, a large engine house and boilerhouse with a large Cornish pumping engine, a watchman’s cottage, locomotive shed, store house, smithy, and a narrow gauge locomotive.

At James Pit: a large engine house with a compound differential horizontal pumping engine, a winding engine house with it’s winding engine, a smithy, boilerhouse and 60 ft chimney.

At Bercune: an incomplete engine house and a portable drawing engine.

At Lindal Cote: the engine houses for No1 and No2 Cornish pumping engines, with the engines, winding engine sheds at No2 pit, No15 pit and Pindar Ring, all with engines. Also a smithy, engineer’s shop, sawmill, weighbridge, dry house, coach house, stables for 7 horses, an office with three rooms, store house, joiner’s shop, cap house, dynamite store, and a pump gear house.

At Grieveson pit: headgear.

At No 50 pit, No51 pit and No44 pits: a headgear and horse gin.

Harrison Ainslie were in no position to take on a mine set in need of development. Only two of their charcoal iron furnaces were still working. Besides which, Lindal Cote was the lowest point in the area, and water pumped from the surrounding mines, particularly Harrison Ainslie’s Lindal Moor mines, drained towards Lindal Cote. By 1890 they were pleading for a reduction in rent and royalties. In 1893 they were obliged to convert to a limited company which went bankrupt in 1903 and again in 1914. In spite of this the Lindal Cote royalty continued to produce ore. The Crossgates pits were worked until 1902 and Lindal Cote until 1911.

The Sites Today

On the road from Crooklands to Urswick, there is a stone pillar. It was built to support the gantry which took spoil from Grieveson pit. The smithy at James Pit survives as a barn. Some of the Eure Pits buildings survive, close to the Melton roundabout, but very modified. The sops at High Crossgates were filled with spoil from the bypass.

The railway pier at Barrow was abandoned in the next phase of development, about 1860. Morrisons supermarket now occupies that site, and the next phase of development could see the last of the Furness Railway buildings demolished

Alexander Brogden’s dock at Porthcawl was closed by the GWR in 1906.

The Tondu ironworks closed in 1896. It has recently been excavated and has been the subject of a “Time team” dig. It has become an industrial heritage centre, and is supposed to be the best preserved Victorian ironworks in Wales.

References

The Gawith Notebooks: These were bought by the Honiton Old Bookshop, Devon in 2000. The photocopies have been deposited in the CAT library.

Guide to the Iron Trades of Great Britain, Samuel Griffiths, 1873

The Lancashire and Westmorland Mineral Statistics, Roger Burt et al, 1983

CRO, Barrow, Buccleuch records

The Iron Moor, A McFazdean

British Archaeology magazine, June 2001

[Go to History]

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