Abraham Darby made scientific and industrial advances of such importance that he is directly responsible for the way we all live today. His advances have touched people in every part of the globe and played an important role in enabling Britain to become the World's most dominant industrial, military and colonial power in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
He is universally recognised as a person of World importance. This part of Living Easton's web site highlights the little known fact that he made many of his Business and Industrial advances at Baptist Mills, East Bristol.
The Bristol Brass Works Company he helped to establish at Baptist Mills was located at what is now the St Paul's roundabout, Junction 3 on the M32 Motorway. All traces of the Baptist Mills Brass Works, what was to become the large headquarters of the Bristol & Bath area's important brass and copper industry, was completely wiped out when the M32 Motorway was constructed in the 1960s.
We aim to help show the historical, industrial and political importance of the Baptist Mills area and to call for a commemoration of this important historical site and its African Slave Trade and Colonial connections through the establishment of artistic murals, plaques and statues created by local people.
Born at Wren's Nest near Birmingham, where he was later apprenticed as a metal worker, Abraham Darby was brought up and educated as a Quaker amongst Quakers
His work, inventions and innovations at his new factories at Cheese Lane (near Temple Meads in Bristol) and Baptist Mills were to prove of immense importance to the future British Industrial Revolution.
His important achievements during his 10 year stay in Bristol can be summarised as follows:
Developing a scientific understanding of the Brass making process. - thus transforming Britain into a Brass producer and exporter.
Personally going to Holland/The Low Countries and recruiting skilled, Catholic, brass workers who knew many of the industrial secrets of Brass production and the making of Brass Battery (This is the process of using water power to drive hammers which shaped cold brass plate into various types of hollowware).
He brought together the existing advances in iron casting technology and merged it with the expertise of brass founders who could make cast items which were more complex in shape and design
Casting Brass and Iron in sand moulds - a process which made production of cast iron and brass goods continuous. For the first time cast brass and ironware were not made on an individual basis. This was vital in being the first step towards 'factory-style' mass production and lead to massive increases in productivity, reduced unit costs and made 'goods' available to a wider geographical range of people. The advance of casting metals in sand was an important factor in stimulating consumer demand. The items produced were important in meeting the expanding export market - slave trade in West Africa and for industrial and domestic use in the new West Indian and American colonies.
Casting in sand allowed for more complex castings to be made - this was vital for the future production of steam engines and other machinery.
It can be safely said that he was the inventor of coke smelting. He used coal as a fuel for brass and cast iron manufactory. By 1700 there was a national scarcity of supplies of charcoal which was the fuel of metal making. Darby's successful experiments in using coal as a substitute for charcoal was a major factor in the future success of the British Industrial Revolution. [The year 1712 saw 250 tons of coal (400 horseloads a week) being used by the Baptist Mills Brass Works].
The Brass Works at Baptist Mills saw the creation of the World's first scientific Metallurgy Laboratory where, working with fellow Quaker, John Thomas, Darby made major advances in understanding the processes involved in producing, and maintaining the quality, of different types of brass.
Darby made significant advances in furnace design which were a result of his cross-over working in the fields of both Iron and Brass Manufacture.
After leaving the Bristol area in 1709 Darby set up Brass and Iron works in Shropshire. Here he continued to develop his revolutionary Industrial and Business Organisational methods. It was here, at Coalbrookdale , that he laid the foundations for what was to become the most important iron producing area in the world.
This further development, largely financed by Bristol Quakers, established what is now recognised as an Industrial Complex which is of World Importance. The area involved is now the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, on the banks of the River Severn and is designated a World Heritage Site.