Hazeldine & Co., which was set up in Bridgnorth around 1792. The Hazeldine Foundry became famous for the construction of Richard Trevithick’s London rail locomotive Catch-Me-Who-Can, the world’s first fare paying passenger locomotive. Unfortunately, no trace of the foundry remains and the site is now mostly parkland.
Hazeldine (or Hazledine) & Co. was set up in Bridgnorth by three brothers of the Hazeldine family — John (1760-1810), Robert (1768-1837) and Thomas (1771-1842). The ironworks was located on a 0.8ha site between the east bank of the River Severn north of the bridge (Bridge Street, now the B4363) and Mill Street. The fourth brother, William Hazeldine (1763-1840), established a flourishing independent ironworks business in Shrewsbury and worked with engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834), among others.
At first the foundry produced agricultural machinery. Under John Hazeldine’s leadership the company gained a countrywide reputation for the quality of its castings. Though declared bankrupt in 1797, he reached some accommodation with his creditors and patented a mill for rolling metal bars in 1798.
At first, Trevithick (1771-1833) used the Coalbrookdale foundry (SJ665050) in Shropshire — initially for parts of his first road locomotive Puffing Devil. In about 1803 he decided to try Hazeldine & Co. They cast an engine for him to be used in a dredger, and by 1804 there were seven Trevithick engines being manufactured at the Bridgnorth foundry. In about 1805 they completed a stationary engine labelled “No.14”, now preserved at the Science Museum in London, and two more engines for steam dredgers — Blazer and Plymouth.
In 1807-8, the foundry built Trevithick’s third rail locomotive Catch-me-who-can, supervised by Northumberland engineer John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856) who joined the company after 1806. The two engineers were also working together on the Thames Driftway in London around the same time.
After 1807 problems with the foundry’s creditors resurfaced. Despite the financial difficulties, Rastrick ensured that the quality of the foundry’s work remained high. They carried out work for Simon Goodrich (1773-1847) of the Navy Board in 1811-12, including a copper rolling mill and a mine engine.
More work for Trevithick followed in October 1812 with rock breaking engines for Plymouth breakwater. The foundry also took over casting an engine destined for a West Indian sugar cane plantation in St Kitts from Harvey & Co. at Hayle in Cornwall. In 1814 this engine was sent to Peru rather than the West Indies, along with eight others built at Bridgnorth — the foundry’s first export order.
Trevithick later ordered several engines for threshing and pumping. In 1815 the foundry made a plunger pole engine for Herland mine in Cornwall. However, Hazeldine & Co.’s association with Trevithick ceased the next year, when he travelled to South America, and was not reactivated on his return in 1827.
The company was involved in the construction of Chepstow Bridge (ST536943) in 1815-16, which was designed by Rastrick, though William Hazeldine’s company did some of the casting. By this time, Rastrick and the Hazeldine brothers were not enjoying a good working relationship, and they disagreed about the bridge. Perhaps the situation was not helped by Rastrick’s habit of keeping coded design details of the various projects in a private notebook.
Senior partner John Hazeldine died on 28th October 1810, and Rastrick served as managing partner from July 1811 to February 1812. The firm was known as Hazeldine, Rastrick & Co. until 1814, when Thomas Davies (John’s brother-in-law) and Alexander Brodie (1732-1811) joined the partnership. Rastrick left in 1817 and worked on his own in West Bromwich before joining John Foster in business at Stourbridge. The Bridgnorth foundry reverted to Hazeldine & Co.
Work at the foundry stopped in the early 1820s — Davies and Robert Hazeldine were declared bankrupt in 1823. It re-opened in 1824 with trade resuming by 1827, undertaking work in the locality. Some of the foundry’s property was offered for sale in 1829 and 1830, and the remaining property was divided in half and sold in 1834 and 1835. There was a lawsuit in Chancery in 1837.
Robert’s son John Hazeldine (1796-1843) continued to work as an iron founder from premises facing Bridge Street until his death, when the Hazeldine firm finally came to an end. Members of the Pope family continued some foundry work on part of the original site until about 1914 but they had no connection with the Hazeldines.
In November 1949, Trevithick and Rastrick were commemorated on a bronze plaque attached to the red brick clock tower at the east end of the bridge (SO719930) over the River Severn on Bridge Street. The text reads —
“TO THE MEMORY OF TWO GREAT ENGINEERS RICHARD TREVITHICK B. 1771 – D. 1833 INVENTOR OF THE HIGH PRESSURE STEAM ENGINE AND JOHN URPETH RASTRICK B. 1780 – D. 1856 GREAT RAILWAY ENGINEER. NEAR THIS SPOT IN HAZELDINE’S FOUNDRY RASTRICK BUILT IN 1808 TO TREVITHICK’S DESIGN THE WORLD’S FIRST PASSENGER LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE”.
To mark the bicentenary of Catch-Me-Who-Can in July 2008 another plaque was unveiled in Bandon Lane. It carries an illustration of the locomotive and the text —
“ON THIS SITE STOOD HAZLEDINE’S FOUNDRY WHERE IN 1808 WAS BUILT THE WORLD’S FIRST STEAM LOCOMOTIVE TO HAUL FEE-PAYING PASSENGERS. THIS ENGINE WAS DESIGNED BY RICHARD TREVITHICK, ENGINEERED BY JOHN RASTRICK AND BUILT BY THE FOUNDRY WORKERS OF BRIDGNORTH. THIS PLAQUE WAS ERECTED BY BRIDGNORTH CIVIC SOCIETY FUNDED MAINLY BY MEMBER MRS. CHRISTINA HOLDER AND ADDITIONALLY BY: BRIDGNORTH TOWN COUNCIL, BRIDGNORTH DISTRICT COUNCIL, BRIDGNORTH TOURIST ASSOCIATION IN JULY 2008”.