Records of the Botfield Family

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Archive of the Botfield family businesses, including coal-mining and iron making in Shropshire.

The collection consists of a full range of business records including a large number of letter books (1802-1873) and letters received by the Botfield family. There are accounting records for various enterprises, ledgers, journals, account books for collieries and the Old Park, Stirchley, Dark Lane and Hinksay furnaces; wages records, receipt books sales delivery and production records (mostly for the mid-19th century). There are property records including inventories and valuations for the works and a small number of family account books.

The collection is significant for the industrial and economic history of Shropshire in the first half of the 19th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

The business activity of the Botfield family in Shropshire can be traced back to 1753 when Beriah Botfield, a collier of Great Dawley, became one of the four partners who leased land for mining at Lightmoor. Beriah's son, Thomas (1738-1801) became one of the partners of Lightmoor ironworks in 1758 and returned to Dawley in 1790 to build furnaces on Isaac Hawkins Browne's Old Park estate. By 1801 four blast furnaces had been erected as well as a new forge rolling mill powered by a 56 h.p. Boulton and Watt engine. Thomas Botfield developed collieries not only at Old Park and Clee Hill, but also in Flintshire and Staffordshire.

After Thomas's death in 1801 his estate passed to his three sons, Thomas, William and Beriah. William managed the Old Park works, but the three brothers met there each quarter to divided the profits. In 1806-1807 the output of pig iron there rose to 9200 tons, half of which was converted to wrought iron in the works forges. By this time the Old Park works was the largest ironworks in Shropshire and the second largest in Great Britain.

In 1815 the Old Park works consisted of four blast furnaces, a forge and associated collieries. Thereafter the business expanded considerably, as two pairs of blast furnaces at Hinksay and Stirchley, on either side of the Shropshire Canal, were brought into operation between 1825 and 1827. By 1830 the enterprise was producing 15,300 tons of pig iron a year, only slightly less than the Lilleshall company who were then the largest producers in Shropshire. In 1830 the forge at Stirchley came into operation and within the next few years two blast furnaces at Dark Lane were also completed.

The Botfield brothers, with the exception of William, had detached themselves from the day-to-day running of the ironworks, and had invested some of their handsome profits in landed property rather than ploughing it back into the family business. Thomas Botfield died in 1843, and his brother William in 1850, and control of the family business passed to their nephew Beriah, whose father, also Beriah, had died in 1813. Beriah Botfield (1807-1863) was MP for Ludlow 1840-1847, 1857-63 and a well known bibliographer who set up a private printing press at Norton Hall, Northamptonshire. The gradual decline of the Botfield family's business was symptomatic of the Shropshire iron trade's failure to adapt to modern methods. In 1856 the business was divided up after Beriah Botfield failed to agree terms for the renewal of the lease covering a large part of its territory. In 1877 the Old Park ironworks ceased operations, the consequent social distress being exacerbated by an outbreak of typhoid.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • BOT/1 - Corporate Records
  • BOT/2 - Accounting Records
  • BOT/3 - Sales, Delivery and Production Records
  • BOT/4 - Property Records
  • BOT/5 - Family Records
  • BOT/6 - Miscellaneous Records

Conditions Governing Access

Open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred to the University of Manchester Library (now JRUL) in 1936 from the British Library of Political and Economic Science. Its previous custodial history is unknown. (Library Committee minutes, 20 October 1936).

Other Finding Aids

Outline handlist; some parts of collection remain unlisted.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

A collection of deeds relating to Norton Hall, the home of Beriah Botfield MP, can be found at Northamptonshire Record Office. A single volume of William Botfield's household and farm accounts 1793-1809 relating to Malins Lee is in the British Library of Political and Economic Science (ref: Misc Coll 53).

Bibliography

A discussion of the Botfield family's industrial enterprises can be found in Barrie Trinder, The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire (London: Phillimore 1981).