Macclesfield Copper Company, Minute Book

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1344
  • Dates of Creation
      19 Aug 1774-1 Nov 1833
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English
  • Physical Description
      330 x 210 mm. 1 volume. 221 folios, foliated 205, i-vi, 1-199 numbered folios, 16 blank leaves, Binding: Parchment. The volume has been rebound, and part of the original cover has been bound into the volume. The volume is very tightly bound. There have been attempts to repair paper tears with sellotape.
  • Location
      Collection available at The John Rylands Library, Deansgate.
  • Direct Link

Scope and Content

Contents: The minute book records meetings of the Committee of Partners (as it was termed) of the Company from foundation to dissolution. This appears to have met regularly in the early days of the Company, but meetings were becoming less frequent after the 1790s. Most of the early meetings were held in Macclesfield, but increasingly the partners met at other locations, notably Liverpool, Congleton and Warrington. The Committee effectively ceased to conduct business after the meeting of 2 August 1813. On 8/9 November 1833, the company was wound up in a final meeting in Liverpool.

Although this appears to be the only surviving record of the firm, the minute book contains invaluable information about the workings of an 18th century firm, including relations between the directors, relations with rival firms, suppliers and customers, the issues relating to operating multiple enterprises across the United Kingdom, and the logistics by which the firm operated and was financed.

Administrative / Biographical History

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.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was purchased by the University of Manchester Library from Dr J F Smith from for £150 on 13 January 1969 (Library Accession Books, no. 553640).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

The records of the Cheadle Copper Company, a local rival of the Macclesfield Company, are held at Cumbria Record Office, Kendal branch (WDMM/122). University of Bangor Library has custody of two collections, Mona Mines MSS and Plas Newydd MSS of the Marquess of Anglesey, which include material relating to the Macclesfield Copper Company.

Bibliography

Dorothy Bentley Smith A Georgian gent & Co.: the life and times of Charles Roe (Ashbourne, 2005) is a detailed modern biography of Roe and his businesses, which used this minute book. There is also a Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Roe: - Â doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/52384

W H Chaloner, 'Charles Roe of Macclesfield (1715-1781): an eighteenth century industrialist' Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society 60 and 62, 1950 and 1952. J R Harris, the Copper King (Manchester 1964), although not mainly about the Company, discusses its rivalry with Thomas Williams.

Geographical Names