The principal products of brass battery were pans, kettles, basins and bowls, collectively known as Hollowware. The names of the vessels produced were recorded by Samuel Timmins in 1866, describing the brass industry in Birmingham, but recalling its Bristol origins:
"the articles manufactured are produced by the same processes, as neptunes, guinea pans and kettles, Lisbon pans, &c, viz., that of "battery," or hammering".
Industrial History of Birmingham, 1866
The demand and destination for such items is evident from the following extract from the journal of Thomas Phillip, a member of the Royal Africa Company in the late C17th and captain of the Hannibal, an English slave ship:
A Voyage from England to Africa and so forward to Barbados
"Cowries were essential, the smaller the more esteem'd. The next in demand are brass neptunes or basons, very large, thin and flat. Certain textiles were also acceptable, but only to a limited extent; near half the cargo value must be cowries and brass basons to set off the other goods".
Thomas Phillips, Whydah, Gold Coast of Africa, 1694
Writing in his 1754 travel diary, RR Angerstein described the hollowware destined for the Guinea trade:
"The largest dishes that are sent to Guinea are 4 ft in diameter and the smaller, 1 foot, and there are in addition 50 to 60 various sizes in between. It was said that of this article alone, Guinea uses 80 to 90 tons per year".
RR Angerstein, 1754
The largest dishes to which Angerstein refers were Neptunes, large shallow pans, over 1 m in diameter and around 8 cm deep. A number of uses have been suggested for the Neptune, including salt crystallization.
A 'kettle' was a straight sided vessel with an iron or brass handle to enable it to be hung over an open fire. A Guinea Kettle, as the name implies, was a hollowware kettle manufactured for the Guinea trade.
A 'pan' was a bowl or basin shaped vessel, having no handle. Lisbon pans were hollowware manufactured for the Lisbon trade or copied from designs traded out of Lisbon. Portugal had been engaged in trade with the Gold Coast of Africa since the 15th century, trading brass for gold, ivory, pepper and slaves. Portugal had no indigenous brass industry; hence bought brass from metal manufacturers in the Low Countries and later from Bristol.
An additional piece of hollowware in the brass mill's collection is a compass bowl. This is a dome shaped vessel to which a handle has been attached. The design of the vessel is such that it possibly originated for holding a ship's compass, brass being non-magnetic, again alluding to sea-trade.
Brass hollowware was also supplied to local markets, particularly from the later 18th century onwards, as the focus of the brass industry moved to Birmingham and Liverpool overtook Bristol as Britain's second port. Large Lisbon type pans are known to have been used by Welsh dairy farmers, calling them milk pans. There are also records of brass hollowware being sold at local fairs in the 1740s, such as at Norton St Phillip May Fairs.
In the later 18th century, two of the Saltford waterwheels were converted to power a rolling mill to enable the production of copper and brass sheet. Metal sheet was sold as a raw material in its own right, rather than a finished product.
In the early 19th century, the musical instrument firm of Boosey were purchasing sheet brass from Saltford for their products.
In 1872, J.B Bowler set up a business in Bath as a brass founder and general engineer, selling, among other products, brass and copper sheets. J.B. Bowler's now forms the basis of the Museum of Bath at Work.
Manillas are penannular armlets, made mostly in copper or bronze, which served as currency among West African peoples, in particular on the Guinea Coast, the Gold Coast, Calabar and parts of Nigeria. Although not produced in battery mills, the Bristol Brass Company did cast metals at Baptist Mills, including manillas. Samuel Timmins, in his 1866 description of the brass industry, refers to the production of manillas by the Harford & Bristol Brass Company:
"Manillas, once made in tons, are the circulating medium of the natives of the Gold Coast... Immense quantities of a species of money, known as Manillas, were at one time produced... by casting. It... was exported to the Spanish settlements on the New and Old Calabar, and the Bonny Rivers in Africa. In addition to that produced in this town (Birmingham), it was largely manufactured by the Bristol house of Harfords... and was cast of a metal composed of copper, with a very large proportion of lead as an alloy and hardened by arsenic".
Industrial History of Birmingham, 1866
A. A Voyage from England to Africa and so forward to Barbados. Journal of Thomas Phillips. 1694
B. RR Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753 - 1755. Industry in England and Wales from a Swedish perspective.
C. The Resources, Products and Industrial History of Birmingham and the Midland Hardware District. Samuel Timmins. 1866
D. Bristol Brass: A History of the Industry. Joan Day. 1973
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