Bersham Ironworks

Bersham Ironworks

Bersham Ironworks

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Bersham Ironworks were large ironworks at Bersham, near Wrexham, North 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.


Ironworking first started at Bersham around 1640, and evidence shows that cannon for the Royalists in the English Civil War were made here. 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 cannon 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 the cannon were used in the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic wars. As well as cannon, the smooth bore machine could make cylinders for Boulton & Watt steam engines, and Wilkinson entered 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 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...
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