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Brass works at Warmley

A Scheduled Monument in Siston, South Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.4535 / 51°27'12"N

Longitude: -2.4776 / 2°28'39"W

OS Eastings: 366909.447613

OS Northings: 172827.016255

OS Grid: ST669728

Mapcode National: GBR JW.MPGR

Mapcode Global: VH88Q.0QKN

Entry Name: Brass works at Warmley

Scheduled Date: 4 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015556

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28518

County: South Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Siston

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Warmley

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument includes buildings, garden features and other archaeological
remains representing Warmley brassworks, an area of industrial works, water
supply, worker's housing, manager's house and garden located in a bend of the
Siston Brook, a tributary of the River Avon, on the eastern outskirts of
The complex, founded by William Champion in 1743, was one of the largest
brassworks of its kind in the 18th century. It was centred on a 13 acre man-
made lake which, apart from its decorative function as a garden feature,
provided water-power for the wheels powering the industrial machinery of the
brass works. The lake forms the north west side of the complex. Immediately to
the south east of this are the gardens of Warmley House and the House itself,
while further south lie the elements of the industrial site. The lake is `L'
shaped, running north east-south west, and at the east end of its short side
were the water wheels which powered the battery mills, slitting mills and wire
drawing plant which were located here. These, and a number of other elements
of the industrial process now survive as buried archaeological remains. To the
east of the mills lay the Newcomen engine and triangular pond. The pond acted
as a sump for water from other parts of the complex, and the Newcomen engine
helped to circulate water around the system. At the southern apex of the
triangular pond lay an annealing furnace. The mills and the triangular pond
now lie beneath a modern factory, and the furnace lies partly under the
factory and partly under the roadside verge. To the north east of the
triangular pond are the sites of furnaces, a brass casting site and a zinc
smelting area. At the north end of the industrial complex, under what is now
the nursing wing of Warmley House, three brass furnaces were located, and
documentary evidence suggests a further 12 are present.
To the south of the battery mills, at the east end of the lake, was another
industrial building which has been interpreted as a further annealing site,
and to the west of this were 13 houses, part of the accommodation which
Champion provided for his workforce. Both the annealing site and foundations
of the row of houses survive as buried features.
Three buildings of the Champion era still stand: Warmley House, the Dalton
Young building, and the Clock Warehouse. Warmley House and its attached coach
house are Listed Grade II*, the entrance gates and adjoining walls at the
entrance to Warmley House are Listed Grade II. The House was built by William
Champion in the mid-18th century as his private residence. It has now been
extended and is a home for elderly people. The Dalton Young complex, on the
south west side of the site, comprises a number of buildings with industrial
origin, some of which are Listed Grade II. Attached to the east side of the
complex is a mid-18th century windmill tower, which is Listed Grade II,
originally topped by a revolving cap and sails, which may have aided the
circulation of water, or simply been used as a corn mill. The Ice House,
attached to the north side of the Dalton Young complex, is Listed Grade II.
This is of similar date to the windmill tower, and was one of the largest ice
houses in the country. Its shape indicates that it possibly originated as a
dome to cover the retorts of a zinc smelting furnace; however, no metallic
residues have been found in the structure. The Clock Warehouse, which lies
south of Warmley House, is Listed Grade II. It is a three storey building
which was originally Champion's pin factory. A granite casting mould for brass
lies close to the Clock Warehouse.
The garden, which extends downslope to the west of Warmley House, is
attributed to Champion. A sloping lawn stretches from the house to the semi-
elliptical `Echo Pond' at the edge of the lake. To the south of this are the
typical features of an 18th century garden including a ha-ha, the underground
passages and vaults of a grotto, and a raised mount which gives a view over
the garden and the walks. In addition there is a `Chequered Wall' made of
clinker, which appears contemporary with the earlier features of the garden.
The whole of the garden, including the 18th century features and later
additions, is awarded Grade II status in the Register of Parks and Gardens of
special historic interest. The `Chequered Wall' and grotto are Listed Grade
William Champion's works continued to expand from its foundation in 1743, and
in 1749 the Newcomen engine was installed to recycle water. By 1754 there were
15 copper furnaces, 12 brass furnaces and 4 spelter or zinc furnaces on site.
In addition there was a battery mill for making kettles, rolling mills for
making plates, and a wire mill for thick or drawn wire. By 1761 the works had
expanded to include the windmill for stamping ore and two horse mills. There
were 22 copper furnaces, 15 brass furnaces and 25 houses and tenements for
workers. However, by 1765 the company was in trouble, and by 1769 Champion had
lost control of the business. The works were put up for auction and bought by
the Bristol Brass Company. Production continued at Warmley, but on a less
intensive scale. Zinc smelting continued on site until the early 19th century,
but after the mid-19th century the site was converted to pottery production.
Much archaeological work was carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In
1986 foundation trenches revealed the calamine brass furnaces. Excavations in
1994 on land bordering Tower Road revealed further remains of Champion's
works. A survey of the site has also been completed.
Warmley House, the gateway and its adjoining wall together with the three cast
iron fluted lamp standards which flank the driveway, the Dalton Young complex,
apart from the windmill tower and ice house, the Clock Warehouse and the
modern factory which covers the central southern part of the site are excluded
from the scheduling, but the ground beneath all of these is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, may have been in small scale production in
the Romano-British period in England. After this the technical skills appear
to have been lost in England, and brass was imported from the continent
throughout the medieval period. Efforts in the 16th century to create an
English brass industry failed due to the poor quality of native calamine and
copper ore, but by the 1690s a number of water-powered brass mills were in
production in the London area. The London industry was superseded in the early
18th century by foundries in Bristol, which was closer to the sources of
calamine and of coal for smelting and which acquired its own copper mines and
smelting works. Commercial development also took place in the north Midlands.
By 1780 consumption of brass was estimated to be in the region of a thousand
tons per annum, purchased mainly from Bristol and Cheadle. By the end of the
18th century, Birmingham began to establish itself as a new centre of
production. The Birmingham area came to dominate production in the next
century through its access to Anglesey copper, cheaper imported zinc, the use
of simplified processes, and development of mass production. Six hundred firms
employed more than 40,000 workers in Birmingham by the 1890s. By the late 19th
century, brass foundries were a feature of many industrial towns, particularly
in the north, although the Midlands remained the heart of the industry.
General engineering workshops often possessed their own foundries using
bought-in-brass, during the early 20th century increasingly requiring alloys
produced to scientifically controlled specifications.

The Warmley complex was the largest of its kind in the country, and was the
first to integrate the production of copper, brass and zinc. It was also the
first works in England to produce zinc on a commercial scale. It is of
interest in containing the only recorded remains of a cementation furnace in
the brass industry in Europe and being the first place where all the processes
of the brass industry were carried out on one site. The Warmley site was
innovative in that it represented the first use of the Newcomen engine for
manufacturing purposes.
It contains one of the largest ice houses in the country. Part excavations and
a survey including documentary research, undertaken between the 1970s and
1990s, have contributed much to our understanding of the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
City of Hereford Archaeological Unit, , Warmley Brassworks, Warmley, Avon, (1995)
City of Hereford Archaeological Unit, , Warmley Brassworks, Warmley, Avon, (1995)
Erskin, J, Site specific Arch Eval of Tower Lane Warmley, Avon, (1995)
Parry, A H H, Arch Eval and Salvage recording of land off Tower Road North, (1994)
Day, J, 'Historical Metallurgy' in The Bristol Brass Industry: Furnace Structures And Assoc Remains, (1988), 24-41
Day, J, 'Historical Metallurgy' in The Bristol Brass Industry: Furnace Structures And Assoc Remains, (1988), 24-41

Source: Historic England

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