Manufacturing Industries - Iron Foundries

Tavistock's Foundries

Four iron foundries operated in and near Tavistock in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They served the town's burgeoning prosperity created by mining and other trades, and developed initially due to the construction of the Tavistock Canal from 1803 although the earliest foundry, developed from an earlier water-powered forge, opened in Parkwood Road at the eastern end of Tavistock in 1800.

Mount Foundry

The Mount Foundry or Tavistock Iron Works in Parkwood Road was the most closely associated with the canal, as its proprietors were its promoters and principal shareholders; manufacturing plant and equipment for them in the form of wrought iron boats, water wheels, plate railways and a cast iron aqueduct.

Bedford Foundry

The Bedford Foundry in Bannawell Street supplied the Tavistock Canal Company from the mid-1840s, particularly the edge railway between Lumburn and Mill Hill of 1844-46 and the replacement railways associated with the Canal Incline at Morwellham in 1855.

Its proprietors, Thomas Nicholls and Joseph Mathews were also preferred suppliers to the Bedford Estate and to the Devon Great Consols Mining Company.

This water wheel at Morwellham driving a domestic water pump, was supplied to the Bedford Estate in about 1856 and is still in working order.

Tavy Iron Works

The buildings which comprised the Tavy Iron Works were originally part of the Mount Foundry, but were sold off to JH Pearce after 1867, who made a variety of items including machinery such as water wheels. These patterns for a 45ft diameter water wheel of circa 1880 are believed to have come from Pearce's pattern store and are marked 'Wheal Friendship'. They are now in the collections of Tavistock Museum.

The premises were acquired by Budge in 1905, who specialised in domestic wares and drain covers, producing the latter for the local council until the 1940s. One of the buildings is still in industrial use.

Lumburn Foundry

The Lumburn Foundry on the Callington Road began life in the 18th century as a wayside blacksmiths' shop, and was essentially an agricultural supplier for much of its life, although it did supply the mining industry, producing at least one water wheel. Despite its location close to the Tavistock Canal, there is no evidence that it used canal water for power, instead having a stationary steam engine, whose coal was presumably brought via the Mill Hill branch of the Tavistock Canal, opened in 1819, which ran only 200 yards from the foundry.

Several generations of the Prout family who ran the business are buried in Tavistock Churchyard.

The four foundries' names, addresses, proprietors and dates are as follows:

Further details of the foundries' history can be found in Tavistock History Society's excellent leaflet on the subject, produced in conjunction with an exhibition in the town's museum in 2006.