Saltford Brass Mill Project
Copyright (C) 2010 Saltford Brass Mill Project. All Rights Reserved
Saltford Rolling Mill
(1). Saltford Rolling Mill in 2014
As both waterwheels turned in the same direction, it was necessary to employ a reversing gear to one of the rolls
to enable the two rolls to rotate in counter directions. This was achieved by means of the two large gear wheels on the
left of photograph (3). The right-hand wheel is mounted on the waterwheel shaft which runs in a leat behind the wall to the
left of the picture.
(5). Artist's Impression of the Saltford 'Breaking-In' Rolls
Techniques for rolling brass were introduced into the Avon valley around 1709, when the Bristol Brass Company entered
into a partnership with the Esher Brass Wire Company, which was eventually to lead to the Bristol company being named the Bristol
Brass & Wire Company. The types of rolls were probably very similar to those shown in (2) and (3).
1n 1754, the
Swedish industrial spy, RR Angerstein, reported observing:
A. RR Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753 - 1755. Industry in England and Wales from a Swedish
B. Bristol Brass: A History of the Industry. Joan Day. 1973
An 1859 inventory of Saltford mill lists two waterwheels driving a rolling mill, the entry stating:
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.
ft = 4.6 m. 5 ft 6 in = 1.7 m. 3 ft 6 in = 1.0 m)
In an interview with Joan Day in the late 1960s, George Shellard described the rolls as he remembered them in operation in the
early 20th century. The rolling mill contained two set of rolls: a heavier set of 'breaking-in' rolls and a lighter set of 'finishing-rolls'.
The replica rolls on display at Saltford (1) show the arrangement of the 'breaking-in' rolls, with the upper and lower rolls being
driven by separate waterwheels to provide the power needed for the initial steps of rolling the cast metal slabs, initially
6 to 8 mm thick.
The replica is based upon evidence of a set of rolls that were installed at the Avon Mill, Keysham; Saltford
Mill and Avon Mill being operated by the same company and employing similar technology.
Photograph (2), taken in 1928 as the
Avon Mill rolls were being dismantled, clearly shows the dual drive. The lower roll was driven a shaft connected to
a waterwheel to the left of the photograph. The upper roll was driven by the shaft connected to the large gear-wheel,
turned by a second waterwheel behind the wall on the right of the photograph.
(2). Avon Rolling Mill in 1928, with the rolls in the process of being dismantled.
(3). Avon Rolling Mill in 1928, showing the rolls in (2) before dismanting.
(4). Saltford Rolling Mill, 2014. Replica reversing gear.
Avon Mill specialized in the manufacture of wire. The Avon Mill rolls were therefore relatively narrow, being
only 1 ft 6 in (0.45 m) wide. These were designed to produce long lengths of 10 cm wide brass strip, seen coiled up in
the foreground of photograph (3), before being slit into strings and then drawn into wire.
mill specialized in the production of metal sheet requiring much wider rolls. (5) shows an artist's impression of what
the wide, 'breaking-in', rolls would have looked like, the rolling bed width being 5 ft 6 in (1.7m).
By the town of Keynsham, five miles from Bristol on the way to Bath, there are two specially-built brass-works, belonging to the Bristol
Brass Wire Co, comprising rolling and slitting mills for brass wire, and rolling mills for large brass sheets for Guinea pans and
kettles. There is also a wire drawing mill for brass wire here.
Saltford Rolling Mill
Angerstein describes Saltford in 1754 as being purely a Battery Mill, but this was to change later in the
century as the demand for sheet grew, not only for the production of brass pans for the Guinea trade, but also to produce copper sheet
for the sheathing of merchant ships built in Bristol for trade with North Africa, the West Indies and America. Copper sheathing
of merchant ships to protect them from the toredo navalis shipworm starting in the 1780s, by which time the brass company had
expanded and was known at the United Brass Battery, Wire & Copper Company of Bristol.