Barnett Letter Book
The manufacture of tinplate, that is the coating of iron sheets with tin to protect them from corrosion, 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. The Kings Bromley works belonged to Samuel Barnett and Co.
The works were located to take advantage of the recently constructed Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Trent, which had already been made navigable in the early 18th century.
The letter book of Samuel Barnett and Co is a significant piece of evidence of the progress of the Industrial Revolution in England. It also illustrates the growing sophistication of business practice. This company supplied tinplate to customers all over England. However the out-letters, recorded in this volume, show not only the extent of their own customer base but also help to provide evidence of other developing businesses in the country. For example Barnetts supplied large quantities of tinplate to a Miss Florry, a successful Midlands businesswoman, transporting the tinplate from Kings Bromley wharf by canal to her warehouse in Birmingham. Few other records of her commercial practice survive. The letters also show that Barnett's company was importing iron from Russia as these letters about the sourcing of old sable iron in 1796 show.
This letter book was originally deposited in the Staffordshire Record Office many years ago but sadly was withdrawn by its owner in 1977. Last year it re-surfaced in a sale at a London auction house. Thanks to the combined generosity of The Friends of the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service (FoSSA) and Kings Bromley Historians, the Archive Service was able to secure the volume at auction and it is now safely back at Staffordshire Record Office.
The image below is of one page from the letter book (reference 6702/1, Staffordshire Record Office). A transcript of the page is also provided.
Kings Bromley, near Lichfield May 3 1796
Messrs Thompson Peters and Co of London have informed us that they have transmitted to you a commission from us to purchase for us 100 tons of Peter Demidoff's old Sable Iron, but they seem to be uncertain whether you may have it in your power to do so or not & this uncertainty throws a difficulty on us in regard to lastage, we will try if we can prevail with some ship owner at Hull to load that quantity for us should you have procured it when called for without engaging that it shall be ready, & either we or Mr Joseph Wilkinson of Hull to whom it must be consigned will write to you if we succeed by such ship; at all events you will pray purchase so much for us of the fabrick above named if it be not disposed of, or if it be, if such a quantity can be procured without extra cost- In regard to payment you may draw on Messrs Coney Wilson & Co London for the amount at such time after the purchase if made, as you may deem most favourable in the exchange- We are Yours etc
SB & Co
Messrs Thomson Peters Bonar & Co
K Bromley May 3rd 1796
We have ordered of Messrs Thomson Peters Bonar & Co of St Petersburg 100 Tons of Peter Demidoff's old Sable Iron but have not any assurance that they can purchase it- Can any vessel or vessels be procured at Hull to Load it should it be ready & what is the price demanded for freight of Iron- If on these uncertain conditions any owner can be prevailed upon to bring it, it will be proper a Letter should go by the ship & as it is possible there may not be time before such vessel may sail (if to be had) for exchange of Letters with you, we enclose one to them which may be sent or detained according to the want- We sent you 28th April Bills for £288-16-6. I am Yours
SB & Co
Mr Jos. Wilkinson