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The Scottish Connection

Brymbo ironworks were idle for a decade, but Scottish money and talent heralded a new era.  Robert Roy bought the Brymbo estate in 1841.  

In 1842 Scottish investors commissioned Henry Robertson, an ambitious Scottish engineer, to investigate if the ironworks were an investment opportunity.

Brymbo workmen, c.1850, at the Blast Pit repair shop © Flintshire Record Office, 86.133.24 – view larger version

Robertson reported that with improved transport links, the ironworks could be a very profitable business.  With the investors’ backing Robertson built a new foundry and machine shops, installed a new blowing engine for the blast furnace and sank the Blast Colliery.  In partnership with Robert Roy, Alexander MacKenzie Ross and William Betts, Robertson set up the Brymbo Mineral & Railway Company.  They opened the branch line connecting Brymbo to Britain’s growing railway network in 1845.  Finally, Robertson headhunted two talented industrialists, William and Charles Darby to manage the ironworks.

Brymbo Iron & Steel Works, c.1885 © Bersham Heritage Centre - view large version

Brymbo was once again a successful ironworks, but some of the directors were unhappy.  In 1854 the directors took each other to court to gain sole control of the company.  Local legend says Robert Roy and Henry Robertson decided to settle their dispute by a horse race to Brymbo.  The owner of the horse that reached the ironworks first could buy out the other.  According to tradition, the workforce favoured Robertson and ensured that his horse won the race.

Pipes being bored at Brymbo, 19th century © private collection

Henry Robertson could see that steel was the future of iron.  He encouraged John H. Darby and Peter Williams to trial steelmaking at Brymbo and in 1884 formed the Brymbo Steel Company.  A year later in January 1885 Brymbo produced its first steel.

Henry Robertson encouraged me to go to Russia. I learned how to make steel from the experts in St. Petersburg.

Henry Robertson encouraged me to go to Russia. I learned how to make steel from the experts in St. Petersburg.

Brymbo Steel Company – 1886 Product Catalogue

3 inch to 12 inch pipes, for factories, and water works

Girders, for railway bridges and commercial buildings, sizes to customers required specifications

Castings for machine and engine parts

Sharp edge tools and implements; agricultural, industrial and domestic.

We respectfully offer our new toughened steel to manufacturers at the price of 5 per ton.