Learn about Cast Iron
Cast iron is produced by heating iron with a high carbon content until it liquefies, and then casting the iron into moulds of compressed sand.
Cast iron was invented in China in the 5th century BC and poured into moulds to make ploughshares and pots as well as weapons and pagodas. Although steel had been invented, was in use, and was more desirable, cast iron was cheaper and thus was more commonly used for warfare in ancient China.
In the west, cast iron did not become available until the 15th century, and its earliest uses included cannon and shot, and later, cast iron cannons, which, while heavier than the existing bronze cannons, were much cheaper to manufacture and enabled more to be produced..
Cast iron pots were made at many English blast furnaces from about the 17th century. In 1707, Abraham Darby patented a method of making pots and kettles thinner and thus cheaper than his rivals could. This meant that his Coalbrookdale furnaces became dominant as suppliers of pots, an activity in which they were joined in the 1720s and 1730s by a small number of other coke-fired blast furnaces. more...
Learn about Coalbrookdale Company
The Coalbrookdale Company was founded in 1709 by Abraham Darby, who was originally involved in the making of brass pots and began experiments in 1707 that finally led to the patent for casting iron bellied pots in dry sand and in particular, to the art of casting them in thin section.
He leased a furnace at Coalbrookdale, and from there the company expanded rapidly to meet demand for its castings and forgings. Additonal furnaces were established locally and in surrounding towns, and by about 1750 the company was the largest in England.
Coalbrookdale had a growing reputation among engineers, and by 1778 the Company had cast more than 100 steam cylinders and many complete engines, including Boulton and Watt engines, under licence.
At this time the company commenced building the world's first cast iron bridge, completed in 1781, and which gained Abraham Darby III (grandson of the founder) the Gold Medal of the Society of Arts in 1790.
In the 1840s, the company was in the hands of Francis Darby, the son of Abraham Darby III, and it began developing lines of decorative furniture. more...