The Info List - Bersham Ironworks

--- Advertisement ---

Ironworks were large ironworks at Bersham, near Wrexham, Wales. They are most famous for being the original working site of John Wilkinson. They were also the first site in the world to use a new way of boring holes in cannon and steam engine cylinders.


1 History 2 Excavation and debate 3 Restoration and preservation 4 External links

History[edit] Ironworking began at Bersham
around 1640, and evidence shows that the cannon for the Royalists in the English Civil War
English Civil War
were made there.[dubious – discuss] In the 18th century, Isaac Wilkinson bought the ironworks and ran it for a considerable number of years. The main product was cannon, although the process to make them in iron was difficult, and cannonballs often became stuck in the barrel, leading to explosions. When Isaac's son John Wilkinson took over, he employed a boring machine to accurately make a smooth bore cannon, which became so popular that cannons produced using this technique were used in the American War of Independence
American War of Independence
and the Napoleonic wars. As well as cannon, the smooth bore machine could make cylinders for Boulton & Watt steam engines, leading Wilkinson to enter into a partnership with Watt to make the cylinders. However, Watt discovered Wilkinson had been marketing his own black market steam engines on the side, and the partnership was therefore terminated. With Europe and the world returning to peace, the market for cannon was lost. The space to expand at Bersham
had run out, and Wilkinson needed to move on. He bought a house and estate at nearby Brymbo
and built a blast furnace there, at what would later become Brymbo Steelworks. John Wilkinson had fallen out with his brother William, who raised a small gang to destroy Bersham
Ironworks. Upon hearing this, John Wilkinson also raised a gang and helped the destruction: he was only too happy to destroy the mill which was causing him a loss. Only three structures survived: the mill building; the building which housed the smooth bore machine; and a lime kiln. After this, the site was leased to a family who opened a paper mill on the site. This did not last a long time, however, and the site was left derelict. The site on the southern bank of the River Clywedog
River Clywedog
had been completely destroyed, while the original works were in a state of decay. The site passed into agricultural use, and the "Mill building" became a mill, complete with a water wheel, still intact today. Most of the mill building has new red brick roof built on the old sandstone walls.

The octagonal building is where the casting of cannon took place, as well as the iron production for them

Excavation and debate[edit] Between 1987 and 1991, extensive excavations were carried out on the site, and revealed all the foundations of the original buildings and the rear wall of the engine house. They also revealed a lime kiln, with lime on the walls. Another excavation showed it was a blast furnace, as pig iron was found around it. This opened debate to what it actually was, and the debate is taught in local schools[why?]. Another find during the excavations was a wooden railway. The world's first excavated wooden waggonway[citation needed], that led from a site near Minera Limeworks
Minera Limeworks
to a shelf above the works, presumably for tipping of lime, needed for the ironmaking process. The piece of track, carbonised, still rests at the museum inside the mill building. Restoration and preservation[edit] Now that the historical importance of Bersham
was recognised, Wrexham Council put the site forward for preservation as the Bersham
Heritage Centre. The nearby Bersham
School was reopened as an extensive museum dedicated to local history and Bersham
Ironworks, and holds the remaining smooth bore cutting piece from the machine. The Mill building was restored and opened as a secondary museum, and contains artefacts such as the wooden waggonway and several pieces from the excavations, with a guided tour of them all. Most recently, the building that made the cannon's smooth bores was given a new roof and internal scaffolding to reinforce the structure. Now the site is earmarked for more funding by the Welsh Government.[when?] External links[edit]

Council Minisite Wrexham
Council - Bersham
Heritage Centre

v t e

Museums and art galleries in Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

National Museum Cardiff St Fagans National Museum of History Big Pit National Coal Museum National Wool Museum National Roman Legion Museum National Slate Museum National Waterfront Museum

Natural history

National Museum Cardiff Swansea Museum Tenby Museum and Art Gallery Newport Museum
Newport Museum
and Art Gallery

Ancient history

Roman Baths Museum

Galleries and art

Dylan Thomas Boathouse Dylan Thomas Centre Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre MOMA, Wales Oriel Mostyn Oriel Ynys Môn Turner House Gallery


Ironworks Blaenavon Ironworks Cefn Coed Colliery Museum Kidwelly Industrial Museum Llechwedd Slate Caverns Newtown Textile Museum Pierhead Building South Wales
Miners' Museum Sygun Copper Mine


Monmouth Museum South Wales
Borderers Museum Museum of the Welsh Soldier Pembroke Dock Flying Boat Centre

Local history

Abergavenny Museum Brecknock Museum Cardiff Story Museum Carmarthenshire County Museum Ceredigion Museum Chepstow Museum Haverfordwest Town Museum Lampeter Museum Llancaiach Fawr Radnorshire Museum Llanidloes Museum Menai Heritage Bridges Exhibition Milford Haven Museum National Coracle Centre Narberth Museum Newport Museum Parc Howard Museum Pontypool Museum Powysland Museum Scolton Manor Swansea Museum Tenby Museum and Art Gallery Wrexham
County Borough Museum

Bus and Motoring

Llangollen Motor Museum Pembrokeshire Motor Museum Pendine Museum of Speed Swansea Bus Museum


Conwy Valley Railway Museum Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum


Holyhead Maritime Museum


National Cycle Collection Welsh Sports Hall of Fame

Coordinates: 53°02′10″N 03°01′42″W / 53.03611°N 3.02833°W / 53.036