South Staffordshire Ironmasters by Ray Shill
Several generations have now passed since iron making and working was an important trade in the Black Country. It was started by itinerant bloomers, who moved their bloomeries around the district to make use of local supplies of ore, smelting it with charcoal made from forest wood. Water-powered bloomeries were eventually replaced by blast furnaces, which in turn were replaced by coke-fired smelting furnaces. Black Country ironmasters had their share of success and failure, profits and loss, wealth and bankruptcy. Such is the nature of the trade that supply and demand created periods of expansion and then through over production an inevitable slump. Political factors also had influence. Wars created increased demand for iron for ordnance. When the battles were over and the wars won or lost, the bigger losers were the ironmasters and their workforce. However matters changed through the mid-nineteenth century, during the reign of Queen Victoria, when innovation and invention reached new heights.