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Forging Ahead

John Wilkinson took control of Bersham Ironworks in 1763, with his brother William as junior partner and manager. Initially, the ironworks continued as before.

During the 1770s and 1780s Wilkinson won increased orders for cannon and engine parts. Building on his father's improvements to the ironworks, John was able to expand to the south and to open a new eastern ironworks on this site. It was during this period he built a new boring mill, air furnaces, an octagonal cannon foundry, and a series of cottages for his workforce. He also established a rolling mill here where boilers for the new steam engines were manufactured.

Bersham Ironworks received orders for its cast iron products from all around Britain. Wilkinson sent goods to Chester for loading onto ships, and to Preston Brook for deliveries via the canal system. Bersham Ironworks was a twenty-four hour operation, but it still struggled to meet its customers' demands. In 1792 Wilkinson purchased the Brymbo estate where he was able to establish a modern ironworks from scratch, with its own supplies of coal and iron on site. This new works heralded Bersham's decline.

The lease from Mr Myddelton comprehends the Cylinder and Gun Foundrys. The Boring Mill at the Place call'd the Rolling Mill and where we make Boylers, about 40 workmen's houses and the waterworks secured so as to need very few repairs. As to Bersham old furnace: There are Two Wheels - one of which we bore at, the other is for the Joiner & Turners Shops. Mr Turner, Mr Gilpin, Abraham Storey & John Clayton, moulder, have their houses and gardens upon this part. The counting house, stables and twenty acres of good land.

William Wilkinson, letter to James Watt Junior, 1796

John Westaway Rowe sketched Bersham Ironworks in c. 1780. Imagine you are on the dual carriageway (A483) and looking up the valley. This is what you would have seen.

Bersham Ironworks - the Western Site - view large version - © Wrexham Heritage Services

Bersham Ironworks - the Eastern Site. John Westaway Rowe sketched the eastern ironworks at its peak. It is difficult to be definite about the use of all the buildings in the picture.

Bersham Ironworks - the Eastern Site - view large version - © Wrexham Heritage Services