Saltford Brass Mill Project
Copyright (C) 2010 Saltford Brass Mill Project. All Rights Reserved
Saltford Brass Battery Mill
The term 'Battery' is derived from the latin 'Battere', meaning to beat (Old French - 'Batteria'). A'Brass Battery Mill' is therefore a mill adapted for the manufacture of brass products (hollow-ware) by the beating of brass
slabs (naps) using water-driven hammers.
Little evidence survives today above ground of the battery
hammers [photograph (1)] although the leats that contained the waterwheels which drove the battery hammers are very much
in evidence. So how do we know what was here? We have a number of sources of evidence:
- The location of the waterwheels,
- An archeological excavation conducted in 1986;
- A description of the Saltford battery hammers given to Joan
Day in the 1960s by George Shellard, who worked in the mill in the early 1900s;
- A photograph of a similar mill in Stolberg, Germany,
taken in 1905;
- An inventory of Saltford mill, compiled in 1859;
- A description of Saltford mill in 1754 by Reinhold Angerstein,
a Swedish industrial spy; and
- A description of a similar mill in Namur, by Galon, a French industrial spy, written in 1749.
(1). Saltford Brass Battery Mill in 2014, showing the location of: the piles on which the anvils were wedged; the drive shaft
passing through the mill wall; and the outline of the waterwheel which drove the hammers.
(2). Atsch Brass Battery Mill, Stolberg c.1905. By courtesy of Dr Karl Schleicher Landeskonservator Rhineland.
The working conditions in Saltford battery mill are likely to have been similar to the conditions
shown in the photograph (2), taken in Stolberg c.1905. Several workers are shown manipulating slabs of brass
beneath water driven trip-hammers to produce hollow-ware basins, bowls and pans, seen stacked on the working floor next to each
The makings on the floor in photograph (1) indicate the location of the large oak piles driven into the ground
on which the anvils were wedged for working the brass plate, as clearly seen in photograph (2).
(3). Saltford Battery Mill c.1907. As described to Joan Day by George Shellard.
Drawing (3) is based on George Shellard's description of Saltford battery mill. Born in
1896, George was the son of Tom Shellard, one of the last people to produce battery pans at Saltford. George, who was 14
when the hammers last worked in 1908, remembered the hammers and described the arrangement to Joan Day in the late 1960s.
drawing shows: three hammers and their related anvils; the heavy frame driven into the ground into which were wedged the pivots
for the hammer shafts (helves); and the large, waterwheel-driven, rotating shaft on which is mounted three sets of cams
to lift and trip the battery hammers. A replica, truncated, drive shaft is shown in photograph (1).
mirrors the 1859 inventory of the mill which describes two battery mills at Saltford, each consisting of a waterwheel, 15 ft x 3 ft
6 in, driving three hammers.
The arrangement of hammers in sets of three also mirrors the description by Galon of a brass
mill at Namur in 1749.
(4). Cross-section of a Battery Hammer
Drawing (4) shows a cross-section of a battery hammer, based upon the various descriptions that have been obtained by
the Saltford Brass Mill Project, the key aspects of which are:
The anvil and toe-plate piles, sunk approx. 1 m in to the ground.
hammer frame, sunk approx. 2 m into the ground.
The hammer shaft (helve) approx. 2 m long.
The cams mounted on the waterwheel driven
As the waterwheel turned, the cams drove the heal of the helve on to the toe-plate. The heal bounced on the toe-plate, causing the hammer to
strike the anvil. This action was repeated at high speed - the waterwheel turned at approx. 18 rpm and there were between
13 and 20 cams on the shaft; hence the hammer struck between 4 and 6 blows per second.
This operation was not the slow
steady beat used when working iron, but a rapid hammering. People who have witnessed the operation describe the working
of the brass as being akin to a potter working clay.
A. The Art of Converting Red Copper to Brass by Means of Calamine Stone, its Casting into Slabs and Battery
Under Hammer. Messers Galon & Duhamel Du Manceau. 1749
B. RR Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753 - 1755.
Industry in England and Wales from a Swedish perspective.
C. Bristol Brass: A History of the Industry. Joan Day.
Saltford mill was leased by the Bristol Brass & Wire Company in 1721 and adapted to operate as a battery mill,
adding to the company's other battery mills at Keynsham (Chew Mill), Woollard (Woodborough Mill), and Weston. Angerstein described
Saltford mill in his diary of 1754:
(5). Postulated layout of Saltford Battery Mill, observed by RR Angerstein in 1754
Later in the 18th century, two sets of hammers were replaced with rolls for the manufacture of copper or brass sheet, the inventory
of 1859 identifying:
On the road between Keynsham and Bath there is... (a mill), comprising three workshops and twelve hammers
Battery Mill No 1: Waterwheel, 15 ft x 3 ft 6 in, driving three hammers.
Battery Mill No 2: Waterwheel, 15 ft x 3
ft 6 in, driving three hammers.
Rolling Mill: Waterwheel, 15 ft x 3 ft 6 in and Waterwheel, 15 ft x 3 ft 6 in driving 2 pairs
rolls, 5 ft 6 in and 3 ft 6 in wide.
The battery mill ceased operation in 1908; rolling, however,
continued until 1925.