| Home | Research Home | Dud Dudley Home|


His Work “Metallum Martis," first printed in the year 1665, and written by "Dud Dudley," a member of the ancient and honourable family of the Lords of Dudley, is most curious in its composition and most valuable to the antiquarian, and all engaged in the manufacture of iron and steel, and all their varied products, showing the indefatigable efforts of this enterprising artificer in metals, “Dud Dudley," to make iron by the liberal use of coal, so abundant in this neighbourhood. The noble forests of timber in England were fast disappearing from our hills and valleys to meet the demand of household fuel; but the increased demand, yearly becoming greater, for the purpose of smelting iron ore with charcoal, became a matter of very serious consideration to all classes, for the King and Parliament were loudly called upon to prevent the total destruction of our noble forests. Acts of Parliament were ultimately passed for that object, for Symon Sturtevant, in his “Metallica,” says “That there was then in the 12th year of King James in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, 800 furnaces, forges, or iron mills making iron with charcole.” Dud Dudley says "Now what loads of wood or charcole is spent in Great Britain and Ireland annually ? In one furnace, that makes 15 tuns per week of pig iron for 40 weeks: I shall give you the table, and leave you to judge of the rest of the furnaces.”
15 tun per week spends
30 loads
60 loads
For 40 weeks its spends
1200 loads
2400 loads

Also for one forge that makes three tuns of bar iron weekly for 50 weeks.

For making 3 tuns per week of bar iron
9 loads
18 loads
Per annum
450 loads
900 loads

“Yet,” he says. “by this barring of iron alone with pit-cole, by his invention 30,000 loads of wood have been preserved for the general good, which otherwayes must have been had and consumed.”

This early pioneer of our now immense coal and iron trade was no mean uneducated inventor, for our “Dud Dudley was the natural son of Lord Dudley, of Dudley Castle. In the pedigree of the family his mother is described as ‘Elizabeth, daughter of William Tomlinson, of Dudley, concubine of Edward, Lord Dudley.’ His eldest brother is referred to as ‘Robert Dudley, Squire, of Netherton Hall’ and we are told that all the children, though born out of wedlock, held a good position in the neighbourhood, and were regarded with respect. Dud is frequently alluded to in the ‘History of Staffordshire,’ by Plot, who always described him as the ‘Worshipful Dud Dudley.’ He was held in great respect and esteem by all contemporaries, except rival iron-masters and political opponents. He was the special favourite of the Earl, his father, who appointed him manager of his ironworks. From Balliol College, Oxford, he was sent for by the Earl, in 1619, to take charge of an iron furnace and two forges in the Pensnett Chase. It was here that, finding difficulty on account of the exhaustion of the Woodlands, in producing large quantities of iron by the old process, that he commenced experiments for carrying out a method of manufacture which had been unsuccessfully attempted by Simon Sturtevant, John Rouenzon, and others. After patient efforts, Dud Dudley succeeded in making iron with pit coal, and he carried on the manufacture not only at Pensnett, but also at Cradley, from whence, having obtained a patent of James 1., he was enabled to send up to the Tower, by the King’s command, a quantity of new iron for trial. After experiments had been made with it, and its qualities fairly tested, it was pronounced ‘good merchantable iron.’ It is appropriate that the locality where this great problem was practically solved by Dud Dudley, should be visited by the members of the Iron and Steel Institute, and it may not be an uninteresting fact to mention that it was near the spot at Cradley where Dud Dudley’s works stood, that the late lamented Noah Hingley, Esq., J.P., commenced his remarkable career. There, we understand, it was that he began life as a working chain maker; there he afterwards rented a few chain shops, and, making progress, ultimately opened an iron-work, and, became one of the largest employers of labour in South Staffordshire. The works at Cradley, which were under the management of Dud Dudley, were swept away by a flood about two months after they had been in operation. Notwithstanding the great loss he had sustained, he repaired his furnaces and forges, and, according to his own account, ‘went on with his invention cheerfully, and made annually great store of iron, good and merchantable, and sold it unto divers men, at £12 per ton.’ He adds: ‘I also made all sorts of cast-iron wares, as brewing cisterns, pots, mortars, &c., better and cheaper than any yet made in these nations with charcoal.’ He further states that he was able to make 5 or 7 tons of iron a week, and to sell his pig iron at £4 per ton, and his bar iron £12 per ton, whilst his charcoal iron cost in pigs £6 or£7, and in bars £15 or £18. He met, however, with strong opposition, and was at length ousted from his works at Cradley. With his wonted energy, however, he set up a pit-coal furnace at Himley, which is also situate near Dudley. Subsequently he erected large furnaces at the adjoining village of Sedgley. but these were scarcely finished when we learn that ‘a mob of rioters, instigated by the charcoal iron-masters, broke in upon them, cut in pieces the new bellows, destroyed the machinery, and laid the results of that deep-laid ingenuity and persevering industry in ruins, and from that time forward Dudley was allowed no rest nor peace. He was attacked by mobs, worried by lawsuits, and eventually overwhelmed, with debts.’ To disengage his involved affairs, he married his grand-daughter and heiress, Frances, to Humble Ward, the only son of ‘William Ward (jeweller to the Queen of Charles I,), who was descended from an ancient family of that name in Norfolk, by which means the estates came into the possession of the present noble family.

It is well known to the antiquarian and searcher after “curiosities” that the basement foundations of Dud Dudley’s iron works can be distinctly traced, laying betwixt Dudley and Pensnett’ only two miles apart, and the four ancient forges not far from the inventors dwelling, known as Greens-forge, Swine-forge, Heath-forge, and Cradeley-forge, were known to put in practice his invention early in 1600, and continued making iron with coal after his death.

This persecuted and ill-requited gentleman, like many other inventors of great and distinguished renown, “lived before his time;” his prophetic soul saw the dawn of other days; and the incentives which men of science and wealth put into the development of iron making, culled from the genius this man foreshadowed, has resulted in such marvellous proportions as to pass man’s understanding, and make the coal and iron trade the foremost industry in the land. That this ingenious and scientific son of Tubal Cain was a persecuted, misrepresented, and illused man, amidst all the blessings he was trying to shower upon his fellow men, cannot be denied; and we now leave the forerunner of the Black Country’s wealth and greatness to tell the story of his own doings, in his own language.

Dudley, 1881.

The Cover