Revealing Research: The Coalbrookdale Company orders archive

In a project made possible through a Headley Fellowship with Art Fund, a little-known part of the archive has been brought to light. The archive contains some 730 orders undertaken by the Coalbrookdale Company ironworks in the late 19th - early 20th century for decorative and architectural work such as gates, railings, verandas, and fountains. The orders include original draughtsman drawings, blueprints, costings and correspondence with clients. 

  1. The Project

    The project took place over the course of a year. During that time, the archive was condition checked, catalogued, researched, and then re-housed in new archival-grade materials. 

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  2. The Products

    From fountains to tomb railing and vases, take a look at what was being made. 

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  3. The Clients

    Clients included sculptors, engineers, builders, architects and district councils. Take a closer look at who was ordering ironwork from Coalbrookdale.  

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  4. The Workers

    ’Many workmen and boys were dubbed with nicknames; here are just a few: Raspass, MagpieIron Mike, Teddy-lol-lol, Cottage Tom, Spot Tom and 6ft Tom…’  [Charles Peskin, c. 1900] 

    By the middle of the 19th century, the Coalbrookdale Company employed between 3,000 and 4,000 men. Little is known about them, although census and archival research has shed light on a handful. Below, you can meet a few of the workers who were directly referenced in the order archive. 

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  5. Artistry, delight and the ‘working drawings’

    The Coalbrookdale Company relied on a team of skilled draughtsmen to produce special drawings called technical drawings. These drawings were used to make, display, and record the Company’s products.

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  6. Photography Department

    The Coalbrookdale Company was working with photographers as early as 1855 and had a dedicated photographic studio from at least 1862. The photography department took photographs of new iron products being made at the ironworks, as well as dealing with other printed material such as blueprints and trade catalogues.

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