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The Industrial History of East Bristol
The Kingswood History Forum was set up in 1986 to co-ordinate the work and interests of all the local history groups in the area. From the earliest days it was the intention to set up a local history museum so a sub-committee was formed. In March 1987 a Trust was formed mainly from the sub-committee and registered as a Charitable Trust and Company. When the Dalton Young Works in Tower Lane, Warmley became vacant and was purchased by Avon County, this became the preferred option of the Trust due to its association with William Champion and the existence of his house and gardens nearby. The Dalton Young Works includes some remains of the William Champion Brass and Zinc Works and substantial parts of Champion’s site are still identifiable. William Champion moved to the Warmley site in the 1740s after being driven out of Old Market, Bristol because of the pollution his Works were causing. His father Nehamiah owned the Warmley site and William set about creating one of the most important developments in the history of non-ferrous metals. It is difficult to write about the site without using superlatives. This is the site of the first commercial production of zinc in Europe. and the first integrated works bringing copper, zinc and brass production through to usable products, such as brass utensils and pins. It was, in the mid eighteenth century, probably the largest industrial site in Europe. It was the site of the largest atmospheric engine of its day and first use of an engine as a power source for industrial production, by circulating water over water wheels. The site also had one of the earliest examples of quality housing for its workers. Unfortunately these houses were demolished in the 1960s. Intruding into the museum building is approximately one quarter of an ice house which has a capacity of 480 tons. The ice stored here, it is thought, was for sale in nearby Bristol as a domestic ice house would have been much smaller. In his pleasure garden Champion built a large grotto mainly of zinc slag, a by-product of his industrial processes. The garden also boasts a 25 foot high statue of Neptune which stood in a 13 acre lake, now drained and used as a mobile home park. Kingswood Borough purchased the Dalton Young Building, one quarter of the ice house and the windmill tower for a nominal sum from Avon County in 1995. Kingswood Borough already owned Champion’s gardens, so the Museum Trust agreed to go into partnership with the Borough to develop the gardens and factory site as a museum and heritage site. Discussions have taken place with English Heritage who agree with the Trust that the site is of national importance and are considering making it a scheduled ancient monument. The former factory consists of 18th century buildings (Grade II listed), 19th and 20th century buildings totalling some 13,000 square feet, in floor area. The intention is that the buildings should be converted into a high quality museum, illustrating the history of the Champion works, the development of the zinc and brass industry, and the fascinating local history of the Kingswood area. This latter is a rare mixture of industrial, religious and social history. The museum will have hands-on exhibits featuring science and technology related to the site and district. A local history study room with access to archive material suitable for research and education related to the national curriculum is also planned. The museum must eventually become self financing, therefore some of the available space must generate income. This might be in the form of craft workshops or high quality office space. The Trust and Friends of the Museum and the local council have already raised ?20,000 to pay for basic repairs and to engage the architects, Ferguson and Mann, and other specialist consultants so that a bid for ?1 million can be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This bid means that matching funding of ?250,000 will have to be raised. Meanwhile, Conservation Area Partnership funding from English Heritage has been obtained amounting to ?40,000 in each of the next three years, added to which South Gloucestershire Council (the new Local Authority now that Kingswood Borough Council is no more) has allotted matching funding for this year. This initial joint funding of ?80,000 for the year 1996/97 can be spent only on repairs to the fabric of the building so it is planned to start at the top and use the money, with the advice of the architect, to repair and make good the roof. The Champion site is on the eastern edge of Bristol and is very close to the Ring Road, giving easy access to the motorway system. There is also a good bus service both from Bath and the centre of Bristol. There is always someone at the Museum on Tuesdays (except during January) from 9.30 to 4.30pm, as this is our working day. Telephone: 0117 960 5664 (Answerphone). Should you wish to write to us, the address is Kingswood Heritage Museum, Tower Lane, Warmley,Bolton Gill Engine Shaft
Part of the Hebden Moor Lead Mine. This shaft was sunk, after 1850, to drain workings below Bottle Level which was driven up from the bottom of Bolton Gill. The shaft housed pumps powered by a water wheel which due to the steepness of the valley had to be located a short distance away in Hebden Gill. The pump rods had to be turned through 59 degrees to run up Bolton Gill where they rested on stone piers, seen here. They then entered a short tunnel into the top of the shaft where they turned through 90 degrees this time to go down the shaft. Below the shaft is a small dressing floor that predates the shaft. Photographed by a camera lifted by a kite.
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