Staffordshire Working Lives
Two pages from an out-letter book of Samuel Barnett & Co of Kings Bromley, tinplate manufacturers, 1798

Two pages from an out-letter book of Samuel Barnett & Co of Kings Bromley, tinplate manufacturers, 1798.

(© Staffordshire Record Office:6702/1 )

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The supply of tinplate

Tinplating is the coating of iron sheets with tin to protect them from corrosion. The manufacture of tinplate began in Staffordshire in the 18th century: a tinplate works had been built at Oakamoor by 1777 and the manufacture of tinplate was also established at Kings Bromley by 1796, by the firm Samuel Barnett and Co. Their works had been relocated there because Kings Bromley was ideally situated on the River Trent. The river had already been made navigable earlier in the 18th century, with access also to the recently constructed Trent and Mersey Canal. The company supplied tinplate to customers all over England.

Some letters show that there was concern in 1798 about other manufacturers selling below the market price. There were also complaints made about the quality of the iron, it being brittle, or “so full of coal dust and other filth as to be quite unfit for the purpose of tin plates” – such samples of iron were returned. Each batch of iron had to be tested before plating, because the client would not pay if the metal was of poor quality. The company was very cautious at accepting large orders from customers who were unknown to them, and they might ask for some sort of security in payment or goods, or ask for a recommendation from someone else known to them.

They were dependant upon the canal transport system. In August 1798 they had to make enquiries at a canal company in Stone about a missing order, to be told that the boats destined for Manchester had been full of another cargo, and that then the canal had then been drained for repairs, so the tinplate had been left sitting in a warehouse. They also ran the risk of thefts by “villainous Water Men”. An apparent theft is mentioned in this example.

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