Brass works at Warmley


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015556

Date first listed: 04-Mar-1997


Ordnance survey map of Brass works at Warmley
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: South Gloucestershire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Siston

National Grid Reference: ST 66890 72849


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, may have been in small scale production in the Romano-British period in England. After this the technical skills appear to have been lost in England, and brass was imported from the continent throughout the medieval period. Efforts in the 16th century to create an English brass industry failed due to the poor quality of native calamine and copper ore, but by the 1690s a number of water-powered brass mills were in production in the London area. The London industry was superseded in the early 18th century by foundries in Bristol, which was closer to the sources of calamine and of coal for smelting and which acquired its own copper mines and smelting works. Commercial development also took place in the north Midlands. By 1780 consumption of brass was estimated to be in the region of a thousand tons per annum, purchased mainly from Bristol and Cheadle. By the end of the 18th century, Birmingham began to establish itself as a new centre of production. The Birmingham area came to dominate production in the next century through its access to Anglesey copper, cheaper imported zinc, the use of simplified processes, and development of mass production. Six hundred firms employed more than 40,000 workers in Birmingham by the 1890s. By the late 19th century, brass foundries were a feature of many industrial towns, particularly in the north, although the Midlands remained the heart of the industry. General engineering workshops often possessed their own foundries using bought-in-brass, during the early 20th century increasingly requiring alloys produced to scientifically controlled specifications.

The Warmley complex was the largest of its kind in the country, and was the first to integrate the production of copper, brass and zinc. It was also the first works in England to produce zinc on a commercial scale. It is of interest in containing the only recorded remains of a cementation furnace in the brass industry in Europe and being the first place where all the processes of the brass industry were carried out on one site. The Warmley site was innovative in that it represented the first use of the Newcomen engine for manufacturing purposes. It contains one of the largest ice houses in the country. Part excavations and a survey including documentary research, undertaken between the 1970s and 1990s, have contributed much to our understanding of the monument.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes buildings, garden features and other archaeological remains representing Warmley brassworks, an area of industrial works, water supply, worker's housing, manager's house and garden located in a bend of the Siston Brook, a tributary of the River Avon, on the eastern outskirts of Bristol. The complex, founded by William Champion in 1743, was one of the largest brassworks of its kind in the 18th century. It was centred on a 13 acre man- made lake which, apart from its decorative function as a garden feature, provided water-power for the wheels powering the industrial machinery of the brass works. The lake forms the north west side of the complex. Immediately to the south east of this are the gardens of Warmley House and the House itself, while further south lie the elements of the industrial site. The lake is `L' shaped, running north east-south west, and at the east end of its short side were the water wheels which powered the battery mills, slitting mills and wire drawing plant which were located here. These, and a number of other elements of the industrial process now survive as buried archaeological remains. To the east of the mills lay the Newcomen engine and triangular pond. The pond acted as a sump for water from other parts of the complex, and the Newcomen engine helped to circulate water around the system. At the southern apex of the triangular pond lay an annealing furnace. The mills and the triangular pond now lie beneath a modern factory, and the furnace lies partly under the factory and partly under the roadside verge. To the north east of the triangular pond are the sites of furnaces, a brass casting site and a zinc smelting area. At the north end of the industrial complex, under what is now the nursing wing of Warmley House, three brass furnaces were located, and documentary evidence suggests a further 12 are present. To the south of the battery mills, at the east end of the lake, was another industrial building which has been interpreted as a further annealing site, and to the west of this were 13 houses, part of the accommodation which Champion provided for his workforce. Both the annealing site and foundations of the row of houses survive as buried features. Three buildings of the Champion era still stand: Warmley House, the Dalton Young building, and the Clock Warehouse. Warmley House and its attached coach house are Listed Grade II*, the entrance gates and adjoining walls at the entrance to Warmley House are Listed Grade II. The House was built by William Champion in the mid-18th century as his private residence. It has now been extended and is a home for elderly people. The Dalton Young complex, on the south west side of the site, comprises a number of buildings with industrial origin, some of which are Listed Grade II. Attached to the east side of the complex is a mid-18th century windmill tower, which is Listed Grade II, originally topped by a revolving cap and sails, which may have aided the circulation of water, or simply been used as a corn mill. The Ice House, attached to the north side of the Dalton Young complex, is Listed Grade II. This is of similar date to the windmill tower, and was one of the largest ice houses in the country. Its shape indicates that it possibly originated as a dome to cover the retorts of a zinc smelting furnace; however, no metallic residues have been found in the structure. The Clock Warehouse, which lies south of Warmley House, is Listed Grade II. It is a three storey building which was originally Champion's pin factory. A granite casting mould for brass lies close to the Clock Warehouse. The garden, which extends downslope to the west of Warmley House, is attributed to Champion. A sloping lawn stretches from the house to the semi- elliptical `Echo Pond' at the edge of the lake. To the south of this are the typical features of an 18th century garden including a ha-ha, the underground passages and vaults of a grotto, and a raised mount which gives a view over the garden and the walks. In addition there is a `Chequered Wall' made of clinker, which appears contemporary with the earlier features of the garden. The whole of the garden, including the 18th century features and later additions, is awarded Grade II status in the Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest. The `Chequered Wall' and grotto are Listed Grade II. William Champion's works continued to expand from its foundation in 1743, and in 1749 the Newcomen engine was installed to recycle water. By 1754 there were 15 copper furnaces, 12 brass furnaces and 4 spelter or zinc furnaces on site. In addition there was a battery mill for making kettles, rolling mills for making plates, and a wire mill for thick or drawn wire. By 1761 the works had expanded to include the windmill for stamping ore and two horse mills. There were 22 copper furnaces, 15 brass furnaces and 25 houses and tenements for workers. However, by 1765 the company was in trouble, and by 1769 Champion had lost control of the business. The works were put up for auction and bought by the Bristol Brass Company. Production continued at Warmley, but on a less intensive scale. Zinc smelting continued on site until the early 19th century, but after the mid-19th century the site was converted to pottery production. Much archaeological work was carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1986 foundation trenches revealed the calamine brass furnaces. Excavations in 1994 on land bordering Tower Road revealed further remains of Champion's works. A survey of the site has also been completed. Warmley House, the gateway and its adjoining wall together with the three cast iron fluted lamp standards which flank the driveway, the Dalton Young complex, apart from the windmill tower and ice house, the Clock Warehouse and the modern factory which covers the central southern part of the site are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath all of these is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 28518

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
City of Hereford Archaeological Unit, , Warmley Brassworks, Warmley, Avon, (1995)
City of Hereford Archaeological Unit, , Warmley Brassworks, Warmley, Avon, (1995)
Erskin, J, Site specific Arch Eval of Tower Lane Warmley, Avon, (1995)
Parry, A H H, Arch Eval and Salvage recording of land off Tower Road North, (1994)
Day, J, 'Historical Metallurgy' in The Bristol Brass Industry: Furnace Structures And Assoc Remains, (1988), 24-41
Day, J, 'Historical Metallurgy' in The Bristol Brass Industry: Furnace Structures And Assoc Remains, (1988), 24-41

End of official listing