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127506 Don McConnell <DMCCONN@c...> 2004‑01‑14 Gilpin (was: Auger bits, makers ...)
Bob Nelson wrote:

>Roger [Birkhead] asked about some auger maker names ... .
>Gilpins - A William Gilpin & Co. is listed as a UK maker of plane irons
>1868-1946 and a W. Gilpin (no & Co.) is listed as a chisel maker there
>with no dates given.

This relatively large, diverse and long-lived Gilpin firm seems to
exist at the margins of our lore about English tool makers. Maybe
because it was not located in one of the major tool making centers?
In any event, I've been able to uncover some additional information
about the firm and this seems like a good time to "publish" it for
the edification of other porch dwellers.

The earliest relevant trade directory listings I've found, so far,
are from an 1834 Staffordshire directory. These listings are:

George Gilpin, Wedges Mill, manufacturer of edge tools, augers, &c.
George Gilpin, [Church Bridge] Great Wyrley, steel converters, and
      edge tool &c. manufacturer
[George Gilpin, coal master, Great Wyrley]

These locations and operations are also described in some general
commentary about the area in the same 1834 Directory. I think it
worth repeating here, as it reminds us of the importance of water
power for the siting of such works, gives a fuller idea of the
enterprise, and provides a rough idea as to when the firm may have
been established:

      "Church Bridge is a small village in Great Wyrley township, 1
mile S. of Cannock, on the Watling street, and on one of the tributary
streams of the Penk, where Mr. Gilpin established, about 35 years ago,
an extensive manufactory of edge tools, augers, hammers, &c., and a
forge, a tilt, rolling and grind-mills, and furnaces for converting
and refining iron and steel; all of which are now in a flourishing
state, and give employment to a considerable number of workmen. About
one mile to the west is Wedges Mill, a hamlet in Cannock township,
where Mr. Gilpin has another edge tool manufactory on the Hedgford

This description would place the establishment of the Church Bridge
works at about 1800. I would surmise that the Wedges Mill site had
less water power than the Church Bridge site, which raises the
question as to why George Gilpin would have had two separate works
in such close proximity? Possibly he had purchased the Wedges Mill
site from a smaller, competing, firm?

In any event, George Gilpin is also listed, in 1835, as an edge tool,
and bar iron and steel manufacturer at Wedges Mills and at Church

Ownership of the firm has changed by the 1842 listing:

William Gilpin & Co., Wedges Mills & Church Bridge, edge tool and
      bar iron and steel manufacturer (and brewer)
[William Gilpin & Co., coal masters, Great Wyrley & Pelsall]

By 1851, the listing reads:

William Gilpin & Co., steel converters, tilters, rollers, edge-
      tool mfrs., coal masters and brick makers, Church Bridge &
      Wedges Mills.
Bernard Gilpin (of William Gilpin & Co.), edge tool &c. mfr.

I've also been able to find listings from 1870 (William Gilpin & Co.),
1904 and 1912 (William Gilpin, Sen. & Co. Limited) - the latter two
providing a fairly extensive list of their products as well as
information that they had become "Contractors to His Majesty's
Government." The 1904 Directory, in a general description of the area
around Cannock, indicates that the firm was employing "hundreds of
workmen" at that time.

An 1876 "WM. GILPIN, SENr. & CO." advertisement gives a fairly
clear idea of the diversity of their products:

                         Patent Screw Augers
                            Boring Bits

                      Heavy & Light Edge Tools,
                     for the following purposes:-
        Agricultural & Garden      |  Coopers
        Bricklayers                |  Masons & Plasterers
        Carpenters & Joiners       |  Quarrying & Miners
        Contractors, Platelayers,  |  Ship Carpenters
        &c.                        |  Smiths & Farriers

                          Plantation Tools,
                Matchets or Cutlasses, Cane Bills, &c.
                 For all Colonial and Foreign Markets

                     Anvils, Vices, Lifting Jacks
               Cider Press and other Screws, Chains, &c.

                      Bar, Hoop, and Use Iron
                    Cart Arms, Axle Moulds, &c.
                    Steel of Every Description

Hoping this provides some useful information concerning this
relatively significant tool making firm.

Don McConnell
Knox County, Ohio

127511 Richard.Wilson@s... 2004‑01‑14 Re: Gilpin (was: Auger bits, makers ...)
Don gives us a most scholarly and fascinating summary regarding Gilpins, , 

(huge snip per FAQ) 

>An 1876 "WM. GILPIN, SENr. & CO." advertisement gives a fairly
>clear idea of the diversity of their products:

For our purposes I find it particularly noteworthy that it is only the 
augers which can be said to fairly fall into 'woodworking' if we regard it 
as being 'benchwork' 

What does not often get mentioned here are the plethora of agricultural 
edge tools such as slashers and billhooks of every kind which were made 
and used in huge numbers.  Amongst the coppicing fraternity the name 
'Gilpin' on an old tool is highly regarded and taken as a mark of quality. 

Whilst holidaying in Alice Frampton's county at the start of the year I 
was fortunate to visit a restored mill which had been a first to introduce 
trip hammers - powered by water.  The vast increase in productivity that 
this provided made its owner a fortune, and led to their travellers 
(salesmen) covering the country.  In a small workshop with 5 hearths it 
was said that near 30 men were working, two trip hammers had been 
installed by the end, and IIRC one was running over a 100 strokes per 
minute.  As a demo, the guide had a bar heated, and threw the lever to 
engage the hammer.  Let's just say that the skill needed to take a billet 
and produce from it a spade using a hammer which had a fast and fixed 
stroke must have been amazing.  If the place was closer I'd be a 
volunteer.  Final grinding was done by a man lying on a board atop a large 
slow stone wheel.  Atop it to get lots of weight.  It was extremely 
uncomfortable, and hugely dangerous - the guide demonstrated, and attested 
to the discomfort.

It's difficult now to comprehend the scale of these undertakings, largely 
before mass production, yet satisfying a demand for billhooks which was 
enormous - all agriculture done by hand, all hands needing an edge tool. 

Why, though the production of an auger - completely different 
manufacturing to smashing a bar flat and sharpening it.  Holes in wood are 
a very basic necessity - ships of the time needed hundreds for the 
trenails.  Woodworking needed hundreds for M&T's,.  perhaps Mr Gilpin 
spotted a market.  Don's details  specify only that one site was making 
augers, and perhaps this division explains the separate manufacturing 
sites - early specialisation=3F 

Seems as though some local research is indicated. 

Thanks Don

Richard Wilson
Yorkshireman Galoot in a snowy Northamptonshire 


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