Saltford Brass Mill

The Shallows Saltford BS31 3EY
Posted on 26th April 2016 / 1238 Listing verified as genuine
Site Type : Organisation
Industry Type : Power Generation, Manufacturing
Power Type : Water, Hydro Electric
Public or Private Site? : Public Access
Condition : Ruins and Remnants, Partially Restored

The Saltford Brass Mill is the only survivor of a group of 18th century mills involved in the brass and copper industry in the Avon Valley.

The mill was used for the manufacture of brass from 1721 until 1925.

The Saltford Brass Mill, an important industrial site comprising a battery mill and complete annealing furnace for the brass industry. The mill was established in the 1720s and ceased working in 1925. Water-powered at first, the battery mills were replaced by rolling mills between 1760 and 1830. The Saltford Mill site has been in use for milling, since the time of the Domesday Book, in 1086, when 2 watermills were recorded there.

Brass = Copper + Zinc

However, brass may also include small proportions of a range of other elements including arsenic, phosphorus, aluminium, manganese, and silicon.

In the Avon Valley, brass was made originally from copper ores, imported from Cornwall and smelted at Crews’ Hole or Conham on the outskirts of Bristol. The copper was alloyed with crushed ‘calamine’, a zinc ore mined on the Mendips, to produce brass.

The alloying process was carried out at Baptist Mills in Bristol and the brass slabs were transported to the battery mills at Saltford, Weston, Keysham and Woollard, and rolling mills at Keynsham and Saltford, where hollow-ware, sheet and wire was manufactured.

This area became the largest brass producing centre in the country during the 1700s.

Now a days, the Saltford Brass Mill is the only surviving building on the river island – still with a furnace and working waterwheel. There was once a group of 18th century mills, making copper and brass goods in the Avon Valley between Bristol and Bath.

The history of Saltford Brass Mill is inextricably linked with the fortunes of the Bristol Brass Co. In 1702, the Bristol Brass Co formed with its headquarters at Baptist Mills. The partners in the company were a group of Quaker merchants and businessmen. Shortly after, the business was managed by an Abraham Darby, who in 1708 went on to Coalbrookdale to famously pursue iron smelting. They say it was his experience of casting in sand with brass that led to his developments with casting enormous iron frames for the Ironbridge in Shropshire.

Interestingly, in 1738, William Champion, son of Nehemiah (elder) patented a process for zinc smelting.

At its height, Saltford Mill housed 5 undershot waterwheels: 2 were driving battery hammers, 2 driving rolls and 1 driving a grinding wheel. One of these wheels remains functional, driving a dynamo installed in 1928 after the mill ceased operation as a brass mill.

The smelting processes were driven and developed by wealthy Quaker industrialists, both here in Bristol with Brass in the the early 1700s and later in Ironbridge with Iron.

Production passed from smelter to smelter and finally ceased in 1925, although some sources say 1924. Sadly, by the 1970s the brass mill was derelict and alternatives were being considered for use of the site. English Heritage assessed the building and in 1975 listed the building Grade II*, because of its special historic interest.

Features include an annealing furnace, a working undershot water wheel and an exhibition on the history of the local brass industry and water power.

The Brass Mill will be open to visitors on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, from May to October. Check out their website for more details HERE!


Saltford Brassmill, The Shallows, Saltford, BS31 3EY

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