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.

Alongside the Coalbrookdale order archive, two recently discovered items have shed light on the Coalbrookdale Company, in particular, the role of photographers at the ironworks - a work diary dated 1889-1897 belonging to William Hewitt (1862-1930), a photographer at the Company; and the photography department order book dated 1892-1895.

Both the work diary and order book provide information on clients of the ironworks, what was being made, and where products were being sent. As seen in the order archive, clients were largely ironmongers and architects. Requests for photographs and printed material were frequently made via ‘L.S.R’, the London Showroom. Coalbrookdale ironwork was often sold via their showrooms, one of which was in London. The Company moved premises several times, but at the date of the diary and order book, it is likely that the showroom was located at De Keyser’s Royal Hotel Building, New Bridge St, Blackfriars.

Hewitt’s work diary shows what the day-to-day job of the photographer was, which largely involved dealing with all forms of printed material. Work started at 6am and Sundays were the only day off during the week. The diary entries are brief, but include the activities of photographing new products, printing blueprints, printing and toning photographs, taking care of printing blocks and glass plate negatives, and answering enquiries from clients and agents wanting photographs or catalogue pages of the latest Coalbrookdale items.

Hewitt spent much of his time printing blueprints. The blueprints were a vital part of the ironworks, which were produced from draughtsmen drawings and then sent to clients. The blueprints in the order archive are largely copies of working drawings, containing constructional details, measurements and annotations which a client would approve or amend. Blueprints were also used in workshops at Coalbrookdale, providing workers with essential information on what was to be cast, and the deadlines to meet.

To read the transcriptions of the photography department order book, click here

To read the transcriptions of Hewitt’s work diary, click here.