The Macclesfield Copper Company was an important English firm in copper smelting and brass manufacture during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The Company was largely the creation of Charles Roe (1715-1781), a Macclesfield businessman, who had originally been involved in the silk industry. In the 1750s, Roe moved into mineral extraction, primarily copper mining, at Alderley Edge, near Macclesfield and at Coniston in the Lake District. Copper was used in the textile industries to make equipment such as carding tools, and Roe's success allowed him to give up his silk interests in 1764.
Originally, Roe was in private partnership with Brian Hodgson, a former inn-keeper. The partners spent the 1760s and 1770s developing copper processing enterprises in the Macclesfield area, as well as buying mining interests elsewhere in the U.K. In 1774, the business was reconstituted as the Macclesfield Copper Company, a new partnership, which included Roe, his old associate Brian Hodgson, and eleven other partners (John Busfield, Charles Caldwell, Legh Dickenson, Francis Fernyhough, Edward Hawkins, Brian Hodgson jr., Robert Hodgson, John Jeffries, William Roe, Thomas Smyth, Thomas Weaver).
A copper smelter was built at Macclesfield, and manufacturing works set up at Havannah, near Eaton, and at Bosley, both to the south of Macclesfield. Copper ore was sourced from Ecton Hill in Staffordshire, and most importantly from Parys Mountain in Anglesey, which became the largest copper mine in Britain. The business also undertook brass founding, and had interests in calamine mining, used in making brass. The Company produced a range of objects, including copper sheeting, which became a lucrative source of income, as it was used for the protective sheathing of ships' hulls, and both the Royal Navy and East India Company were customers of the Company (the Company manufactured the bolts used to attach the copper sheets, made of a copper alloy). The Company also minted its own coins under licence. The Royal Mint, which made the country's gold and silver coin, contracted with private firms to produce brass coinage (of which there was a growing shortage). In 1789, Macclesfield Copper Company issued brass coins bearing Roe's head, which were payable at Liverpool, Macclesfield and Congleton; these were considered to be of good quality.
As the Macclesfield enterprises were detached from both the sources of ore and from consumer markets, Roe tried to improve communications by building a canal which would link to the River Mersey, and ultimately to Liverpool. Successful resistance by the Duke of Bridgewater prevented this, and instead Roe developed a copper smelters closer to trade routes, building one near Liverpool in 1767, and after this closed due to legal problems, at Toxteth Park, Liverpool. Macclesfield, however, remained important as a manufacturing base (by the time the Macclesfield Canal opened, the Company had run down its interests there).
Charles Roe died in 1781, and his son William (1746-1827) became managing director of the company. During the 1780s, sourcing copper ore became an important issue. Like many other companies, the Company came into conflict with the dominant copper miner and processor, Thomas Williams (1737-1802). Copper mining continued at Parys until a lease expired in 1785. Copper ore was sourced from other parts of North Wales (Llanberis, Llandudno) Cornwall (until the mid-1780s), Ireland (co.Wicklow until 1811), and the Lake District (Coniston until 1795).
During the 1790s, the firm's centre of gravity shifted away from Macclesfield and Liverpool, with new interests developing in South Wales. The Liverpool smelter was closed, and a new smelter built at Neath, south Wales in 1792 (which the Company continued to operate until 1811). Between 1798 and 1801, the Company ran down its main interests in the Macclesfield area, with some of its mills being turned over to textile production, although Macclesfield remained its administrative base. After 1803, the Company was largely inactive, and mostly confined its work to selling off or leasing assets. In August 1813, the firm was essentially wound up, and became known as the late Roe and Co. The firm retained a few interests including a lead mine at Holywell Level, in north Wales. On 9 November 1833, the partnership was finally dissolved, and a trust set up to dispose of any remaining assets.