Saltford Brass Mill Project
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In the Avon Valley, brass was made originally from copper ores imported from Cornwall, and smelted at Crews' Hole or Conham on the outskirts of Bristol. The copper was alloyed with crushed 'calamine', a zinc ore mined on Mendip, to produce brass. The alloying process was carried out at Baptist Mills in Bristol, from where the brass slabs were transported to the battery mills at Weston, Saltford, Keysham and Woollard, and rolling mills at Keynsham and Saltford, where hollow-ware, sheet and wire was manufactured. This area became the largest brass producing centre in the country during the 1700s.
By the early 1800s, local copper smelting had ceased and had been replaced by copper imported from Swansea.
From the mid 1800s, copper was being alloyed directly with zinc metal, instead of calamine ore, made possible by new techniques introduced by William Champion at Warmley in the previous century.
From the early 1800s, Bristol exeprienced competition from Birmingham brass works were more modern methods of production were introduced. The Bristol company ignored such development and so lost its complete supremacy in the trade.
Many of their mills closed but the old Saltford battery hammers continued working until 1908, the last in this country. Their rolling mills, still powered by waterwheels, kept working until 1925. Keynsham's Avon Mill finally closed in 1928, bringing local brass production to an end.