Nail-making in Audley from ca1550 to ca1750

JM & L Williams

            Iron nails were essential to the technology of the pre-modern period.  Amongst many uses they held together timber in industrial plant, buildings and ships; secured shoes to the hooves of draught animals; and protected footwear and castle doors.  In North Staffordshire they were produced in quantities by a local iron industry that was well developed by the time that nails and other iron ware were transported from Newcastle-under-Lyme to North Wales for the construction of Edwardian castles in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.1,2            Nailmaking at this time was a hand operation - iron bars were hammered into sheets which were split into rods of suitable dimensions, from which short lengths were cut.  The cross-sectional dimensions and lengths of the cut pieces were determined by the size and type of the finished nail.  The points were cut and the heads formed by hammering one end of the nail whilst it was hot.   Once the rod had been cut to width the tools required were minimal.  The essentials were a hearth with a bellows - similar to the hearths still used by blacksmiths - one or more hammers, an anvil, chisels for cutting, and tongs for handling the hot metal.  In the seventeenth century the value of these essentials was of the order of £1 0s 0d to £1 10s 0d.

            The process was therefore one that could easily be operated as a secondary trade alongside agriculture, in particular in those areas where the system of agriculture either resulted in under-employment of all or part of the population, or where there was insufficient disposable produce to provide cash.  North Staffordshire had a fairly large pastoral agriculture industry on ground that was not always highly productive.  Since working cattle and producing dairy products tended to be undertaken by women and children there would have been a surplus of male labour.  The other requirements for a nailmaking industry were an accessible supply of fuel, iron or and limestone for flux.  North Staffordshire had all three of these.  It was heavily wooded,3 which provided charcoal for both iron extraction and re-heating, and had accessible iron ore and limestone.  There were also outcrops of coal which were worked from at least the fifteenth century4 and which allowed the development of reheating processes that were not based on charcoal.

            Although nailmaking may have been a by-trade by the mid sixteenth century it had become of sufficient importance to be given as a trade description in the parish register when the baptism of Elizabeth daughter of Robert Smyth was recorded.5

            In the sixteenth century the production of rod from which the nails could be cut was modernized by the introduction of the slitting mill.  This was a form of rolling mill in which sheet could be produced and, more importantly, the sheet slit to make rod from which the nails could be cut and formed.  This mechanization required substantial capital investment, which helped to move the control of the iron industry in general and nail making in particular into the hands of people with control of capital.  It has been shown in other areas6that the persons with control of the iron gave credit to the smaller makers who made the nails.

            During the seventeenth century the industry in North Staffordshire became integrated in a trading network which extended from Warrington to the Black Country.  The trade was based on a system of partnerships in which the Foley family of Stourbridge had a major interest.7  The partnerships were able to exercise close control over the industry.  Part of the reason for this was the development of the production of iron in blast furnaces, which enabled high-grade cast iron to be produced in quantity.  These relied upon water-driven bellows to produce the blast.  Conversion of the cast iron to more malleable forms of iron was carried out in forges which used hammers driven by water wheels.

            In Audley the majority of the manufacture of nails appears to have been carried out by persons who purchased iron from the Foley partnership, chiefly from a slitting mill at Consall, either directly or through a warehouse at Normacott,8 although some was purchased from a slitting mill at Crannage.9

            A significant part of the population of Audley was engaged in the trade of nailing.  Fifteen persons were identified from Parrott as being engaged in nailing in 1733,10 although his anecdotal style leaves some doubt as to the activity of individuals resident in the village at any one time.  In addition, another four persons were identified from other sources as working at the trade in the village, suggesting that at least nineteen persons were so engaged.  The number of households in Audley at this time has been estimated at 325.11

            By making assumptions as to the life expectancy of the persons recorded in various documents, most importantly the parish registers, an estimate of the number of nailers in Audley, at various times, was made and compared with estimates of the number of households made by Speake.11  The estimates are set out in the table below:-

                                    Households      Estimated nailers

15372                                                    5

15632                            96                     12

15882                                                    15

1610                             131-1621                       

16132                                                        18

16382                                                        12

1650                             162-2001

16632                                                        15

1666                             291

1672                             308

1676                             357

16882                                                    14

1711                             182-2261

17132                                                    0

1733                             325                   153,194

17372                                                    4

1760                             297-3661

17632                                                        7

1772                             400                              

17872                                                    8

1780/90                        428-459

1801                             499-535

1  From Speake: Audley Demography 1971,74, Rickman estimates divided by 4.2 and 4.5

2  The year given is the midpoint for 25 year period used in estimating numbers of nailers active in Audley

3  Identified from Parrott 1733

4  Parrott together with those identified from other sources

            A partial check on the numbers employed is provided by the iron bought from the partnership by persons thought to have been working in Audley in the years 1703-1707.  This totalled approximately 61 tons - an average of 12 tons 4 cwt a year.  It is likely that this would have been increased by purchases, by persons who could not be identified, of small amounts purchased retail, and material obtained from outside the partnership.  Various estimates have been made of the weight of nails that each nailmaker could produce in a year.  These range in the later eighteenth century from 1 ton to 2 tons 16 cwt12 in areas where nailmaking was becoming a primary industry.  This would suggest that between 4 and 12 persons were engaged in nailmaking in Audley in the early eighteenth century, the latter figure allowing for probable underestimation, giving support to the figure of 19 already suggested.  It is also likely that, as with most trades at this time, women and children in the family would have taken part in the work.

            Nails need to be made from a material which is relatively ductile when heated so that they can be shaped, sufficiently hard when cold to hold an edge and not bend when hit with strength, but not so brittle that they will break when struck.  Before the development of a widespread trade in iron, the quality of nails was determined by the iron ore produced locally.  However, certainly by the end of the seventeenth century, when the Foley partnership was operating, iron produced from various ores was combined to make material that had the desired characteristics and was reasonably consistent in quality.   The relatively high cost of iron, of the order of £16 per ton, could absorb the cost of transport over long distances.  As an example, iron produced from ores found at Apedale and Red Street, and referred to as cold short iron, was said by Plott to be of cold sheet quality and to be suitable for the manufacture of short-shanked broad-headed nails suitable for fixing ships' timbers.13

            The reference to ships' timbers in relation to production of nails in an inland area is interesting.  Shipbuilding and, in particular, the naval dockyards were substantial users of nails in the early modern period.  The Foley Partnership held the remunerative naval contract for part of the seventeenth century, and from time to time, had difficulties over quality.  It would seem either that Plott was repeating information he had been provided with, or that he was using the circulation of his book to press the case for the Staffordshire partnership to supply nails to the navy.

            The other major factor in the production of ironware was the supply of fuel for the extraction of iron from the ore and the reheating of the iron to produce the finished nails.  Until the development of coke smelting in the eighteenth century, charcoal was the only fuel that could be used to produce satisfactory iron.  It was also the fuel used for reheating iron until the turn of the sixteenth century.

            In Audley charcoal was in general use at the end of the sixteenth century: John Blore, a yeoman, had "Cole" (usually the term used at this time for charcoal) to the value of xxs (20s) in his inventory in 1578.14  In 1581 John Rowley, yeoman, a member by marriage of the Parker family (see below), had in his inventory a record of transactions for charcoal with five persons to the value of  £3.12.0 (in a total inventory of £

            The only will of a collier (i.e. manufacturer of charcoal) identified was that of William Blore in 1635.16  However, there was no reference to charcoal.

            By the late seventeenth century coal was in common use for reheating iron.  In 1692 Andrew Beech had a one third interest in coal on Mr Kendrick's land.17  An Andrew Beech was also a purchaser of iron from the partnership, so that it is reasonable to assume that here we have a small-scale ironmaster.  With access to fuel as well as iron he would have been able to produce nails with a degree of freedom from control by the partnership.  He could also have let work out to small-scale producers, exercising control by virtue of his access to metal and ore.

            The value of coal by this period can be seen by the will of John Middleton, yeoman, who had £30.0.0 of coal "on the colepitt bank" compared with £9.0.0 worth of agricultural goods.  He also had £600 of "money in his coffer", the largest sum by far of money found in the Audley wills studied.18  This suggests that trade in coal was profitable.  His will also shows that he had connections with the nail trade, as one of his god-daughters was the daughter of Thomas Alsager, a nailer (see below).

            The transport of raw material and nails must have been a substantial business by the late eighteenth century.  Up to twenty tons of iron a year were moved into Audley, either from the partnership slitting mills at Consall and Crannage, or from their warehouses, most probably at Normacott.  It is unlikely that the majority of the nails produced from this iron were used locally.  The nails, therefore, had to be moved, either to local markets such as Newcastle-under-Lyme or Nantwich, or to the partnership warehouses.  The partnership had, for example, warehouses at Uffington on the Severn, near Shrewsbury, and Warrington and possibly Frodsham on the Mersey.19,20  Water transport was much cheaper per ton mile than land transport, so that it was more economic to move goods by water as far as possible.  This was true even in the case of iron and nails which were of high value, so that they could absorb a relatively high level of transport costs.  It is probable that at least some of the nails produced in Audley eventually reached more distant markets by these routes.  It is certain that nails of unknown origin were being shipped from Chester in the late sixteenth century.21  Similarly, when the Weaver was made navigable for substantial vessels to Winsford, in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, iron nails and other ironware formed part of the mixed cargoes that were moved on it.22  The consignors of a significant quantity of nails moved on the Weaver correspond to names of persons recorded in the Foley Cheshire Works Accounts.  The Weaver records generally do not identify the place of destination of cargo.  However, three small consignments of nails from "partnership nailers" were destined for Kendal, indicating that at least some of their produce was moved over long distances.

            Although there were regular carrier wagons operating in Staffordshire, it is likely that the compact nature and high value of iron and nails made them suitable for transport by pack animals.  One carrier, Richard Beech of Red Street, was identified.23  His inventory included nine horses but no carts, suggesting that the animals were used for pack transport.  Pack saddles appear  in several inventories, indicating that pack transport was used regularly in the area.

            In Audley, as in most settled communities, one or more members of a family frequently followed their father's trade.  The most interesting cases are where wills exist for two or more members of the family, since these enabled a pattern of family relationships to be built up.  Although some 75 persons in total connected with nailing were identified from various sources only twelve wills were located.  There was, therefore, a "hidden" population whose possessions did not warrant formal disposal, or whose wills had disappeared.  Some of the families involved in nailing are discussed below.


            The family was established in the parish by 10th February 1568, when George Alsager baptised his daughter Margaret.24  Thomas Alsager is the only member of the Alsager family who has been identified as a nailer, from his will made 3rd March 1695/6.25  He was almost certainly the eldest son of Robert and Ellen, to whom a son Thomas was born and baptised on 3rd March 1621.26  Although there is no evidence in Robert's will that he was engaged in metal working, the witnesses to the will were Andrew Beech and Thomas Beech, both names associated with nailing in various other documents.27  It is possible that Thomas married Grace (Moras) of Muxton in 1658, although marriage at about 37 years of age raises doubts as to the accuracy of some of these hypotheses.28

            In 166729 the property occupied by Thomas Alsager at Knowle End was returned as having one hearth.  The inventory taken 5th June 1698 associated with his will indicates a house with a ground plan of at least four rooms: parlour, house place, kitchen and buttery.25  The house was held leasehold.

            Out of an inventory valued at £85.0s.6d, the value of tools in the smithy at £1.4s.0d suggests that no iron or nails were held as stock at the time of his death.  (The clock was worth £1.10s.0d.)  However, as he was probably 77 years of age when he died, this may indicate that the activity had been run down or, possibly, was being operated by someone else.

            Thomas Alsager purchased an estimated 9 tons of iron in the period 1689-97 from Consall mill.19  (Certain of the records of iron sales list Thomas Audier als Alsager.  No explanation of this has been found.  Therefore, in calculating the amount of iron sales to Thomas Alsager, those to Audier/Audyer have been included.) 

            It should be noted that, according to the will, his son Edward received only £0.1s.0d., the majority of the estate passing to his wife and daughter.  Assuming that the Edward Alsager who made a will on 1st February 1714 was the son referred to in Thomas' will, there is a possible explanation of the provisions of Thomas' will in relation to his son.30  Edward leaves land in Muxton with other bequests to his wife.  It is possible, therefore, that Thomas' property in Audley had been transferred to Edward before the former's death, and that the Muxton property reached him later.  There is no bequest in Edward's will to a son, suggesting that the male line may have ended at this time.  It is noticeable that Edward Alsager calls himself a yeoman, but as no inventory is associated with the will it is not possible to say whether he was engaged in nailing.

            The bequest of the Muxton lands supports the evidence for Thomas' marriage to someone from Muxton.

            A second Alsager line may be represented by John Alsager, yeoman, as nothing linking him to Thomas or Edward has been found.  His will, made on 18th August 1733, shows neither evidence of a male heir nor of nailmaking.31

            The apparent ending of these lines is also interesting as, although Alsager is a name derived from a local settlement, no persons of that name now appear in the local telephone directory.

            The Alsager line demonstrates how at least some nailers in Audley moved amongst the yeoman "class" and increased their status by judicious marriage.


            Parrott identified the Beeches as an extensive nailing family, with at least one member, Thomas, active in Wrexham.32  The name appears frequently in the records of Audley parish and those of the iron trade.  However, it would seem that there were either several families, or branches of families, with this surname.  In the late sixteenth, and through the seventeenth centuries, the name Beech was linked with nailing and the church.33,34,35  Unfortunately, the repetitive use of Andrew and Thomas in the families as Christian names makes reconstruction difficult.

            The earliest reference to nailing in regard to Beech was John Beech33 who left £23.15s.0d. in 1619, of which "one payre of belows" represented 5s.0d, whilst the lease of his house appeared to represent a capital value of £13.6s.8d. (56.1% of the inventory - the first figures of the entry are smudged.)  Agriculture was represented by four kine valued at £4.6s.0d (8% of inventory).  In the will he leaves only a 4d childespart to his eldest son, Andrew, the rest going to his wife and then to two sons, Thomas and John.  Somewhat similar entries have been noted in other wills and it is suggested that provision may have been made for the eldest son some time before the father made the will.

            In 1634/5 an Andrew Beeche, nailer, presumably John's son, left an estate valued at £42.11s.0d., including £3 for tools and iron.35  He was also owed £7.18s.6d on speciality, none of the debtors being identified as nailers.  His smythie was to pass, on death of his wife, to his eldest son, Thomas, whilst Andrew, the younger son, received money and accommodation.

            Parrott states that 60 years before he wrote, i.e. in about 1673, Thomas Beech, an Anabaptist preacher, had a house at Hough Wall which passed to his younger son, Andrew, with a rent of 40s 0d (presumably annually) to the elder son Thomas.  By 1666, only one Beech, Andrew, is listed in the Hearth Tax return with a house of one hearth at Halmerend.36   He also states that Andrew Beech the elder purchased a house at the Hollins which he sold to his, Andrew's, brother, an ironmonger in Wrexham.

            An Andrew, described as a yeoman, died in 169237 and left an estate by inventory of £34.6s.0d.  There is no statement of debts owed by him, or owing to him, although there is a reference in general terms to the former in the will.  Although a yeoman, he owned the "bellows and other tools of a nailer" valued at £1.0s.0d, which were left to his son, Andrew, together with a third interest in coals on a Mr Kendrick's land.  His personal holding of land included two tenements and "several pieces or p[a]rcells of Land" which passed to his son, if the latter could discharge outstanding debts without selling them.  He was also requested to provide the widow with a convenient room in the house and a place by the fire.

            The house in which he was living had at least 5 rooms on the ground floor: two parlours, houseplace, kitchen and buttery.  Only two first floor rooms are listed in the inventory, suggesting that possibly some rooms on this floor were used by other persons.  The names associated with the will again show links with other iron workers.  Thus he makes his brother Thomas of Wrexham a "feoffee in respect of selling the messuages".

            Both Andrew Beech and Thomas Beech of Wrexham were purchasers of iron from the partnership.  The will and inventory were both signed by John Rowley.  The Rowley family were associated with nail making earlier in the seventeenth century, but a continued connection has not been demonstrated.  The will was also signed by Joseph Beech whose relationship with the testator has not been demonstrated, although a Joseph Beech is associated with an Andrew Beech in the purchase of iron from the partnership.  The second signature, or rather, mark, on the inventory was of Thomas Podmore, a name thought to be associated with nailing, but for which a specific connection has not yet been demonstrated.  The purchases of iron would suggest that the Beeches may have been "employing" other nailers, of whom Podmore was one.  No wills for Andrew Beech in the eighteenth century have been found.  This is disappointing as an Andrew Beech continued to appear in the Foley records until at least 1710, possibly the "Andrew the younger" implied by Parrott's use of "the elder"

            Persons with the surname Beech continued to live in the Audley area until the end of the period.


            John and Simon Cole, either singly or in partnership, were regular purchasers of iron from the Staffordshire partnership.  However, although some probate documents exist for a John Cole,38 there is no will.  The inventory of 3rd July 1697 identifies him as a nailer, but it does not contain any items that relate to nailing.  In the absence of this will and any others relating to the Cole families, it is not possible to see how the goods were distributed or how the Cole family developed.  However, he had retained some degree of financial interest, as out of an inventory of £31.14s.10d, £24.10s.0d was due to money on bond and desperate debts.  As in other families there was a repetition of Christian names, in this case John and Simon, which leads to difficulty in reconstructing the family.  However, it seems probable that John was the son of a Simon Cole baptised on 5th November 1628.39  He married a Mary Widders on 26th July 1656, that is, when he was 30.40  He would have been approximately 71 years old when he died.  His age could explain this lack of nailing equipment in the inventory, as it might have been passed to his son or sons.

            That the family worked closely together may also be reflected in the Hearth Tax, 1667, where Symon Cole is recorded as occupying a single hearth property in Yeardley, whilst John appears in the next entry.41  These records suggest that the Cole family occupied neighbouring properties.  Support for the close connection between the two branches of the family is given by Parrott,42 who records a family called the Coals [sic] as having houses and farms called Great Oak in Eardley End.

            Inventory entries show that the house occupied by John Cole had in plan at least three rooms: house place, parlour and buttery, with chambers over the houseplace and parlour.  Kitchen equipment is listed, but not specifically in a kitchen, leaving open the question of whether the houseplace or buttery doubled as kitchen.

            The Coal family identified by Parrott comprised a father, Simeon [sic] and two sons, John and Simeon.  Although the 1733 Christian names correspond with those in the earlier records, an absolute link has not been established.  The parish registers give some support for a connection: the John whose inventory was taken in 1697 almost certainly had a son Semion [sic] in 1657.38,43  A Simon Cole had a son John in 1697 and a son Simon, whose date of birth is uncertain.44,45  The dates of birth would be reasonable for a father with working sons, but the link has not been established.

            There is nothing in the documentation which shows a connection between the Coles and other known nailers of the period, although one witness, Thomas Bentley, has a surname which appears in other records related to nailing.



            The formal record for this family opens with the burial of Joanna, widow of William Drury, in 1666 and so far no records of the birth of any children to the couple have been traced.47

            As to his residence in the village, his will records that the lease of his cottage was granted on 1st March 1655 for a rent of 6s.8d. for three lives.  Parrott places the Drewreys [sic] in a cottage behind the mill at Parkend.48  The 1667 Hearth Tax shows this as having one hearth.49

            He bequeathed the cottage and tools of his trade to his son Gabriel, making provision for his other son, Richard, to have a bed and a place by the fire.  Richard also received the money owed to William on bonds and bills (£33.10s.0d.)  with the proviso that the interest was for his use, at the discretion of the executors, without any term being placed on the control by the executors.  These provisions suggest that Richard had some form of disability and was effectively provided with a pension and accommodation.

            A will was not among the probate documents for Richard and his inventory was short, as, although described as a naylor, he left:


                        Imprimis  His wearing apparell one chayre

                                                and a Cettle                            £1.1s.0d   

                        Item         Money due upon specialtye        £24.0s.0d

                                                                        Totell             £25.1s.0d50

This suggests  that he had, in fact, lived with his brother, as provided in their father's will, and that the executors had drawn upon the capital to the extent of rather more than £8.0s.0d., hopefully to help in his support.

            Gabriel died in 1704, when at his burial he was recorded as "agric", although described in his inventory as a nailer.51 

            In his will he made bequests to various people, none of whom was his wife and child, suggesting that he and his brother had maintained a bachelor establishment.  His inventory was brief, with no implements of trade, and out of a total value of £24.6s.11d, the sum of £22.9s.11d. was in the form of money or specialtye.

            There is no record that the Drurys ever bought iron from the partnership.  This suggests that they worked for a nailmaster who cannot be clearly identified.  An indication that this might be so is that one of the signatories of the inventory of Wm Drury was Richard Eardley, and that of Gabriel Drury, Joseph Eardley.  A Joseph Eardley was a regular purchaser of iron from the partnership.

            No trace of the family has been found in other documents of the period relating to Audley.


            Parker as a surname is relatively common in the records for Audley in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, of the order of 78 entries in various documents of all types between 1545 and 1645.  It is, therefore, not surprising that the name is represented several times among persons engaged  in the nailing industry.  It does, however, make it difficult to establish the family relationships of any of such persons, given the repetitive nature of the Christian names.  A repetition which suggests some degree of linkage, even if only that of a cadet branch of the family which named a child after a member of the senior branch.

            The first two probate records of nailers in this name group comprise only the inventories.52,53

            The earliest of these is for Randall Parker who was buried on the 16th May 1594.  His estate totalled £60.6s.7d, of which £5 represented tools and iron.   Unfortunately, the entries do not allow the amount of iron in his possession to be estimated.  The appraisers did not include anyone who could be identified as a member of the Parker family.

            The second, for Randall Parker, buried 29th November 1598, amounted to £9.2s.0d., of which £5.8s.0d. represented goods related to the iron trade.  Again, there was nothing in the document to identify family connections.

            In 1581 another link between part of the Parker family and the iron-working trade can be established by the will of John Rowley, a yeoman, whose inventory included equipment and supplies relating to a smythie totalling £26.13s.4d.54  The relevant items, however, are bequests to his daughter Alles Parker and debts owing to him from his "sonne in law" Richard P(ar)ker and Richard Parker the elder.  The marriage linking the families had taken place on 8th November 1576.55  These debts are associated with others relating to trading activities, a juxtaposition suggesting that they  may have been trading rather than family transactions.  That Richard Parker was also considered an important member of the family is suggested by his appointment as overseer of the will.

            The question of whether there was one or more Richard Parkers at this time is left open by the will of Richard Parker, yeoman, made 21st February 1584.56  Neither his wife, Eliyn, nor his sons Robert and Thomas fit with the Parkers linked to John Rowley.  However, a bequest is made to his "Godsonne" Richard Parker, suggesting a close link with another Parker family with a child named Richard.  The witnesses list , which includes Humphrey and John Parker as well as Robert, presumably a son, indicates links with other branches of the family which have not been identified as engaged in nailing.

            The last of the Parker wills examined which suggested evidence of a connection with the iron trade is that of Richard Parker, Gentleman, made 23rd September 1695.57  He was a man of substance owning lands in Chester as well as Audley, although the value of the inventory is perhaps not totally consistent with this, being £76.0s.10d.  This is comprised mainly of household goods and husbandry equipment.  However, at "the house at Diglake in the Chambre over ye Kitchen a Press and 3 Barrs of Iron" with a total value of 4s6d were found, whilst in the main house there were 42 lbs of old iron at 1d./(lb) with a value of 3s.6d, and 19 lbs iron at 2d./(lb) with a value of 3s.2d.  These quantities in total of iron may relate to some trading in iron, or indicate a careful family which accumulated material for disposal.

            It has to be noted that, given the apparent importance of the Parker family, it could be expected that they would have been purchasing iron in some quantity.  However, no record of such purchases has been found in the period 1686-1710.  It would seem, therefore, that either the Parker families moved out of the nailing trade because they had attained a higher status, or else the trade was carried out at a low level which did not appear in the records.



            Parrott identified two Sinderland families, one of which before c.1653 occupied the cottage tenanted by the Drewrys.  He does not give a trade for this one.  The other family lived near Baddeley's Lane and before 1653 one of them, Richard, was a nailer.  Another member of this family became an ironmonger in Newcastle-under-Lyme and died c.1713.58

            Two wills relating to Sinderlands in Audley were found (both calendered as Sunderland).  The first of these, for Richard Sinderland, in 1585, identified him as a "neilor".59 It is of interest because the inventory total is small, only iiijli vis (£4.6.0), of which the necessaries and implements in the smythie were valued at xxvjs viijd (26s 8d.).  That is, they represented 31% of the total inventory.  A schedule of debts, both owed to and by the testator, is also given.  These are not totalled in the original, but the former amounted to £2.6s.8d. and the latter to £2.19s.2d.  No pattern has been established for the type of persons who were creditors or debtors, although at least one trading debt is represented by that of Willi(am) Boulton, who owed "half a bagge of [?] neles and in money xiis xd (12s.0d.)."

            The will provides evidence that the nailing trade was carried on by both families and that more than one person could work in a single smithy.  The smithy was left to one son, John, with the proviso that another son, Robert, should have the use of it for two years after the death of the testator.  Provision was also made for the widow to receive a "Pension".

            It may be that this combination of the debts and credits and the conditions relating to the disposal of the assets resulted in a "poor" nailer making a will rather than being lost to sight.

            No wills for the immediate family were found, the next Sinderland being that of John Sinderland in 1682.60  He was identified as a yeoman and there was no evidence in the will and inventory of nailing equipment.  The inventory was entirely that of a yeoman, with agricultural items forming some 66% of the inventory.

            In 1667 a John Sunderland was listed as having one hearth in Parke End, whilst a Richard Sunderland had two hearths in Talke. 61

            A Richard Sinderland was not identified among the purchasers of iron from the partnership.  On the other hand, a Richard Sunderland of Newcastle-under-Lyme was a regular purchaser who ended his connection with them on a list of bad debts, with an outstanding bill of £20.9s.0d (the equivalent of one and a quarter tons of iron at an average price of £16).61  Parrott suggests that Richard Sunderland of Newcastle -under-Lyme lost his money as a result of the failure of someone to whom he had given financial support.


            Smith, with its spelling variations, was a common name in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries as it is today.  This made tracing family links unrewarding in this study.  But as early as 1540 when "Robert Smyth nayler" baptised his daughter at least one person with the surname was engaged in nailing in Audley.62   A series of references to George Sm(i)th, which, if we assume that the Christian names were repeated from generation to generation, suggest a family connection.  In 1599 "George Smyth Nayler" was charged at Quarter Sessions with discharging a fowling piece charged with nail shot at the conies on Mr Egerton's land at Wrinehill, and two years later was declared an outlaw.63  A George Smyth - it is tempting to suggest, the son - was charged on 8th November 1635 in the Apedale Manor Court with felling trees without permission.64 The outcome of this case has not been determined.

            In the interim, a daughter, Margery, of George Smithe, nealer, was baptised on 1st September 1616.65

            The last record of a George Smith shows that on 17th March 1641/2 his holding of 3 acres was confirmed in the Manor Court Roll.66  The records of the size of holding and of the offences committed suggest, perhaps, a poor family with a small holding, able to feed themselves with difficulty, and supplementing their income, rather than an out-and-out rogue.  Indeed, if such court records as have been studied are a reasonable sample, Audley nailers appear to have been law abiding when compared with their fellows in the south of the county, who were accused regularly of defrauding merchants in relation to the supply of iron.

            It can be seen that, until the latter part of the eighteenth century, hand-made nailmaking was a significant part of the economy of Audley.  It was carried on, not only by small holders, but also by substantial yeomen.  The growth of coal mining and larger ironworks reduced its importance, whilst the mechanization of the manufacture of nails in the early nineteenth century made the hand-made product less competitive.  However, some handmaking, in which the Brindley family dominated, continued until at least the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  The industry of this later period is worthy of a study in its own right.


Audley Parish Registers (APR) Registers of the Parish Church of St James the Great, Audley, North Staffordshire 1538-1712. Birmingham & Midlands Society for Genealogy and Heraldry

Foley Archive  Hereford Record Office.  E/12 Iron Works  Accounts and Family Papers of the Foley Family, 1600-1730.  1981 ed. EK Victor Pearce

S.H.C  Collections for a History of Staffordshire. Staffordshire Record Society, formerly William Salt Archeological Society






1.  Private communication, David Barker, Archeological Dept, Hanley Museum

2.  Kennedy (ed), Madeley: A History of a Staffordshire Parish, Keele, 1970, p.16  

3.  J.Morris (ed), Domesday Book 24, Staffordshire, Text and Translation, Chichester, 1976,                    entry 17,13

4.  Stafford Record Office, Swynnerton Manuscripts, Firth Transcript, D1850/2/14, Document               1279 Account of Madeley f21 2Hvi - 1442/4

5.  Audley Parish Registers, Baptisms, 22 June 1540

6.  Hey, David, Rural Metalworkers of the Sheffield Region in Department of English Local    History Occasional Papers Second Series No.5 ed. Alan Everitt, Leicester 1972, 33

7.  B.G. Awty, Charcoal Ironmasters of Cheshire and Lancashire 1600-1785 in Transactions   of the Historical society of Lancashire and Cheshire  Vol 109, 1957, 111

8.  Hereford Record Office, Foley Archive, E12 Fvi MAF 25f6

9.  HRO, Foley Archive, E12 Fvi MDF 25f8

10. R. Parrott,  An account who hath enjoyed the severall estates in the parish of Audley   and the Hamlett of Talke in the county of Stafford for 200 years past.  1733

11. R. Speake, The Historical Demography of the Ancient Parish of Audley 1583-1801 in         North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies, vol 11, Keele 1971, pp.65-80

12. Marie B. Rowlands Masters and Men in the West Midlands Metalward Trade before the              Industrial Revolution, Manchester 1975, p.159

13. Victoria County History of Staffordshire, vol 2, p116-7

14. Lichfield Joint Record Office (LJRO): Probate John Blore, Audley, 5th June 1578

15. LJRO: Probate John Rowley, Audley, 30th June 1681

16. LJRO: Probate William Rowley, Audley, 18th August 1635

17. LJRO: Probate, Andrew Beech, Audley, 11th November 1692

18. LJRO: Probate John Middleton, Audley, 2nd September 1691

19. Hereford Record Office (HRO) E/12/F/vi/MAF Staffordshire Works Accounts, various        entries

20. HRO: E/12/F/vi/MDF Cranage Works Accounts, various entries

21. D.M. Woodward, The Trade of Elizabethan Chester,  Occasional Papers in Economic   and Social History, No.4, John Saville (ed), Hull, 1970, p18

22. Chester Record Office, LNW 17/3, Winsford Tonnage Book 1748-1750, various entries

23. LJRO: Probate Richard Beech, Audley, 25th September 1690



24. Audley Parish Registers (APR), Baptisms 10th February 1568

25. LJRO: Probate Thomas Alsager, Audley, 2nd February, 1698/9

26. APR, Baptisms, 3rd March 1621

27. LJRO: Probate Robert Alsager, 12th June 1667

28. Newcastle-under-Lyme, St Giles Parish Register Transcripts Vol 1, Staffordshire Parish        Register Society, Marriages                 27th September, 1658

29. "The Staffordshire Hearth Tax 1667" SHC 1921, Audley,  p.115

30. LJRO: Probate Edward Alsager, Audley, 27th October 1715

31. LJRO: Probate John Alsager, Audley, 31st October 1735



32. R. Parrott 1733, op. cit.

33. LJRO: Probate John Beech, Audley, 28th May 1619

34. APR, Baptisms, 13th December 1568

35. LJRO: Probate Andrew Beech, Audley, 11th February 1634/5

36. S.H.C 1921, op. cit. p.114

37. LJRO: Probate Andrew Beech, Audley, 11th November 1692



38. LJRO: Probate, John Cole, Audley, 19th October 1697

39. APR, Baptisms, 5th November 1628

40. APR, Marriages, 26th July 1656

41. S.H.C 1921, op. cit. p.112

42. Parrott, op. cit. p.49

43. APR, Baptisms, 24th May 1657

44. APR, Baptisms, 25th July 1697

45. APR, Baptisms, 9th August 1687



46. APR, Burials, 19th June 1666

47. LJRO, Probate, William Drury, Audley, 22nd September 1686

48. Parrott, op. cit. p.19

49. S.H.C 1921, op. cit. p.113

50. LJRO, Probate, Richard Drewry [sic] 16th April 1701

51. APR, Burials, 27th June 1704



52. LJRO, Probate, Randle Parker, Audley, 7th August 1594

53. LJRO, Probate, Randle Parker (Ranulph in will), 23rd June 1598

54. LJRO, Probate, John Rowley, Audley, 30th June 1581

55. APR, Marriages, 8th November 1576

56. LJRO, Probate, Richard Parker, Audley, 3rd July 1585

57. LJRO, Probate, Richard Parker, Audley, 11th June 1696



58. R.Parrott, op. cit. p.80

59. LJRO, Probate, Richard Sunderland, Audley, 9th October 1587

60. LJRO, Probate, John Sunderland, Audley, 31st July, 1682

61. S.H.C 1921, op. cit.

62. HRO, Foley Archive, FviMDF f18/Memorandum



63. R.Speake, Audley, Keele, 1972

64. Apedale Court Roll, 18th November 1635, Private Communication from David Dyble    of Chesterton

65. APR, Baptisms, 1st September 1616

66. Stafford Record Office, Aqualate Paprer D(W) 1788 Vol 74, 14.  Extract of Manor Court Roll, 17th March 1641/2

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