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Bristol, brass works

Bristol, brass works

Artist: Grimm, Samuel Hieronymus

Medium: Ink wash on paper

Date: 1788

Shelfmark: Additional MS 15540

Item number: f.172

Length: 189

Width: 270

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Manuscript

Although brass has been used in Britain since Roman times and throughout the Middle Ages, local attempts to manufacture the alloy always failed. Until the beginning of the 18th century, the majority of brass used in Britain came from the area which is now the Dutch-German borderlands. Apart from the lack of technical knowledge needed to produce the copper-zinc alloy, there were commercial reasons for Britain failing to create its own brass industry. Merchants in London held a monopoly on brass imports from Europe. They were understandably very reluctant to lose their hold on such a lucrative business.

The engineer Abraham Darby (1678-1717), helped pioneer the brass industry in Bristol. The local Mendip Hills yielded up the quantities of zinc required, and copper-ore was transported by river from Cornwall in the south. Between 1720-1790, the works at Bristol became the biggest brass producer in Europe.

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