However ! Here is something I have dug up... A story linking all of this except the illusion perhaps caused by the financial institution The Hollow Blade Co etc etc This is a long chapter but in it are gems of detail not to be missed. From http://archive.li/8YXCY
THE GERMAN SWORDMAKERS Of SHOTLEY BRIDGE
by H. Raine
AMONGST the refugees who came to England about 1685 because of religious persecution, was a large number of German artificers and amongst them were a number of swordmakers, who settled in different parts of the country. One of these companies of swordmakers found its way into the Derwent Valley and settled at Shotley Bridge. A uniform tradition among the German descendants relates that the first German who fled from the persecution on the Continent, brought with them a Lutheran Minister who used to officiate for them after they settled in Shotley Bridge. This account is not improbable: the severe persecutions then raging, and the conditions of several families having to seek in a foreign land religious liberty are facts strongly presumptive that their minister would accompany them. The more severe the persecutions of people on account of religion, the greater are their exertions and closer their union, and but few statesmen estimate the strength of religious principles. The tradition, however, does not relate how long the Lutheran ministry continued. No vestige of the German priesthood remains. Their line of apostolical succession is certainly broken. At that date a couple of German towns occupied the highest position in the steel industry. These were Smalcald and Solignen. The former is situated in the province of Hesse-Nassau, some fifty miles south east of Cassel, and, with the village of Stahlberg near it, has long been celebrated for the manufacturing and tempering of steel made from excellent ironstone which exists in plenty in the neighbourhood. The latter is a city in the province of the Rhine standing upon the Wiffer, which flows into the Rhine from the East about half way between Dusseldorf and Cologne, and situated about 14 miles south-east of Dusseldorf. This place was celebrated for cutlery manufacture, and especially for its fine Damascene Sword-blades and bayonets.
Tradition says that it was from Solignen that the Shotley Bridge sword makers came to England bringing with them the art of tempering steel which was not thoroughly known in England before their arrival. The business of sword making was an important one in those days and on the outbreak of war against France in 1689, a company of sword cutters was erected by patent in the county of Cumberland and the adjacent counties for making hollow sword blades. A great number of German cutters were employed, and it was to this company of sword cutters that the Shotley Bridge sword makers, who settled in the Derwent Valley within twelve months of its foundation, were connected. The English, it is true, had implements of war, prior to this time and had done good service with them on the continent, but there was a general fault in them. The steel was defective in temper, and upon that quality in the weapon, the issue of the contest often depended. On the establishment of the company of sword cutters, these defects were remedied, and from thenceforth the German sword blades were second to none in the world in temper and execution.
The sword makers on the Derwent took up their residence at Shotley Bridge at the close of 1690, or the beginning of 1691. Before settling at the place they sought for a locality suited to their purpose in several other parts of England, and especially near London, but wanting to conceal the secrets of their trade, and especially that of this excellence in tempering, they left the metropolis, where prying eyes were ever ready to take advantage of every new invention, or the mysteries attached to their production, and came to the North of England, which they considered would be more remote and secluded for their industry. They first examined the banks of the Tyne, but not finding a place to their liking, they next commenced to explore the River Derwent. Under the direction of a guide they traced the winding river from its confluence with the Tyne, to Shotley Bridge, where, finding the water (one of their greatest considerations) particularly soft and suited to their purpose, the presence of excellent ironstone in the neighbouring hills, and the locality a secluded one, they finally settled, and commenced a flourishing industry, which existed for a little over a century. These German artisans were the first to introduce the manufacture of steel in the County of Durham and though their industry is now no more, we have an example of the saying that “history repeats itself” in the presence of the famous works of Consett Iron Company, which overlook the Derwent and which are foremost in the steel industry, with the exception that their products are not for the destruction of mankind. A much earlier date than 1690 has been mistakenly assigned as the date of their' settlement in the Derwent Valley. In 1840 the Rev. John Ryan, who married a descendant of the original settlers, published an interesting little volume, entitled “The History of Shotley Spa” and in it he fixed the date of the arrival of the German Swordmakers nearly a century earlier, from the supposed fact of the name Oley, the name of one of the German families being mentioned in the Ebchester Registers under the date 1628. Unfortunately he made an error in reading the almost illegible entry. He read the entry as, “Ellinor the daughter of Matthius Wrightson Oley was baptised the 11th day of June 1628,” and concluded that the Oleys and Wrightsons had either intermarried or were particular friends at that time, and that if the former, a sufficient time must have elapsed since their arrival to have allowed Matthius to have found matrimonial alliances with natives of the Derwent Valley. This statement, however, falls to the ground on close examination. The correct entry in the Parish Register in question is Ellinor the daughter of Matthius Wrightson Cler., baptised the 11th day of June 1628. The word Cler., being a contraction of Clericus, clerk, or clergyman, as we would now say.
An inscription over the doorway of the Oley cottage in Wood Street, Shotley Bridge, read: -
“The blessing of Heaven gives wealth without care,
Provided that you contribute your share,
Be faithful, also just and true,
And do what is commanded of you.”
A second inscription has been largely defaced by weathering. The first three imperfect lines indicate that the immigrants from the Fatherland came to this country in search of religious freedom and settled at Shotley Bridge, and the last two, though even more mutilated lines, is an invocation of the divine blessing on all who may enter the door.
“The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in,
from this time forth for evermore” - “PSALM cxxi. 8.”
From researches made, Mr. Fawcett found at least ten different German families had settled in the Derwent Valley. They were Bertram, Buske, Groates, Henkels, Moll or Mole, Oley, Shindlebrush, Vintner, Woper and Vooz.
The Bertrams were steel manufacturers and had the forge or steel mill at Blackhall Mil
l, about three and a half miles further down the Derwent from Shotley Bridge and other places in the Derwent Valley. They intermarried with other local families. The Buskes did not stay long at Shotley Bridge. The Groates were another family who soon left Shotley Bridge. The Moles were sword grinders
and their mill stood on the site of the offices of the Co-operative Flour Mill at Shotley Bridge
. One of them according to tradition, is stated to have come over from Germany to England covered up in a large cask or tub. Their descendants exist at the present day. The Oleys were sword cutters
at Shotley Bridge, and were the principal members of the colony, being large proprietors and employers. They possessed very remarkable skill in the production of swords, and were capable of following the weapon through all its processes, forging, grinding, engraving and polishing up to the hands of the cutter whose duty it was to add the hilt and scabbard. Their descendants also exist at the present day. The Shindlebrushes died shortly after settling at Shotley Bridge
. The Vinters were forgemen
and were connected with the Bertrams at Blackhall Mill.
They seem to have left the district about the middle of the eighteenth century. Some of them intermarried with local families. The Voozes were sword grindes
and also traded between Germany and England. At first the swordmakers manufactured their own iron which they obtained from ironstone pits, sunk to the thin bands of ironstone which occur on both sides of the Derwent. Some of these ironstone pits were at Hownsgill and the Delves. Those at the latter were known as Delfts or Delve Moles, hence the present place name. The ironstone was carried from the various pits by pack horses to the various roasting furnaces. One of these old furnaces is on the north side of the Derwent, between Allensford and Shotley Bridge, in the woods opposite Mole House. The shape of this furnace has been hexagonal, narrowing towards the top. The effects of the extreme heat can yet be traced on the glazed stones. A few yards up a steep declivity to the west of the furnace, are the ruined remains of three roasting kilns, where the ironstone appears to have been put through its first process. The shape of the roasting kilns is round, narrowing towards the bottom. The kilns and furnace are generally supposed to have been erected and used by the Bertrams.
A forge also belonging to the Bertrams existed on the north bank of the Derwent, about a mile further down the river, below the old furnace and kilns just named, a little above the High Paper Mill, but on the opposite side of the stream, on a site now occupied by a cottage, and known as the old forge.
From some old deeds of the place, containing a transfer of the property in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714) we learn that it was then an extensive manufacturing area and included various messuages, tenements, watercourses and dams and having a right of many roads, but no vestiges now remain. The Bertrams also had a forge and Smelt-Mill at Blackhall Mill
for the manufacture of steel, when they were associated with the Vintners, another German family. In the woods of Ravenside up Milkwell Burn, on the north side of the Derwent from Blackhall Mill and also in the neighbourhood of Hedley-on-the-Hill
, further west are several heaps of iron scoria or slag, the remains of smelting operations, generally attributed to the work of the Shotley Bridge Swordmakers.
In the later years owing to the local ironstone costing too much to work, the Swordmakers purchased the best Swedish iron from Danomora in Smoland, and out of this they produced their steel. The Shotley Bridge sword blades were the best tempered in Britain. The remarkable soft waters of the Derwent, one of the chief things which made the swordmakers settle in the district, were second to none in Europe for tempering steel, except that of the Tagus at Toledo in Spain, which is celebrated throughout the world for the best tempered sword blades, being equal in this respect to the famous sabre blades of Damascus, and the Spanish swordmakers long ago confessed that the only waters in the world equal to those of the Tagus were those of the Derwent, and their only rivals in the art of sword-making were the swordmakers of Shotley Bridge. The Shotley Bridge swords were perfectly formed and equal in finish, flexibility, strength and elegance to the distinguished blades of Damascus and Toledo, and thus in temper and execution, second to none in the world, were decidedly the most valuable in the British market, and they kept their reputation and maintained the very highest prices to the last. The manufacture of swords at Shotley Bridge was more varied than is commonly understood and the following kinds of weapons were made:
- a cutlass or broad carving sword.
- a short broad sword incurvated towards the point, or a short sabre shaped cutlass.
Both made for the Navy, and used by seamen when boarding an enemy ship.
- used by the Army.
Small Hollow Blade
Dirk or Dagger.
- a short sword with a convex edge or recurvated point.
- a two edged sword thirty-two inches in length.
The long swords made at Shotley Bridge, and used in the English Army were of such marvellous temper that the point might be bent and pressed back on the hilt, with the certainty that when released it would become as straight as if it had never been bent.
There was one kind of sword made at Shotley Bridge, called the Hollow Blade, which, it has been widely stated, none in England, but the Shotley Bridge sword-makers could make to perfection, and they required peculiar workmanship.
In the engraving and polishing department, the local swordmakers, however, though excellent, were frequently equalled and sometimes excelled, for they did not regard as much the polish as the temper of their swords, and they were unequalled in substantial qualities. Their swords were made for use and not for show, for the battlefield and not for the drawing room, for soldiers and not for courtiers. Much of, the work of engraving the blades for the swords was done by outsiders amongst those who were sometimes employed in this kind of work was Thomas Bewick, afterwards the celebrated engraver, who was apprenticed to Ralph Beilby
, engraver of Gateshead in October 1767, and who himself tells us that amongst the first jobs he was put to was that of “etching sword blades for William and Nicholas Oley
, sword manufacturers of Shotley Bridge”.
Another first-rate sword engraver was Robert Wilson
, who resided in the neighbourhood of Shotley Bridge, and who was best known as “Witch Wilson,” because of his seemingly supernatural powers and capabilities. He was generally employed by the Oleys to engrave their best ornamental blades. In time competition in the making of swords increased, and the art in tempering steel became no longer a secret. After the close of Napoleon's career as a man of war in 1815, the demands for swords diminished, and in time when the rifle began to take the place of the sword
, the once flourishing industry declined, and eventually ceased altogether, after having had a flourishing existence for about a century and a half.
The following notice appeared in the London Gazette in August 1690, “Whereas great industry hath been used for erecting a manufactory for making sword blades at Newcastle, by several able working men, brought over from Germany, which being now brought to perfection, the undertakers thereof have thought fit to settle a warehouse at Mr. Isaac Hadley's, at the Five Beds, in New Street, near Shoreham, London, where callers may be furnished with all sorts of sword blades at reasonable rates”.
Having an abundance of employment and great remuneration the sword makers enjoyed a long continued tide of prosperity. Though their workmen had large wages, their profits were very high, as the demand for their articles was insatiable. Their travelling expenses involved only a journey once a year to London, and they soon acquired considerable property.
William Oley was the person who in 1787 built the cottage called Cutlers Hall, and which has since given a name to the locality and the road. Over the doorway of the house in question was inscribed -
W. A. 1787
The initials were those of William and Ann Oley. This William Oley died in 1810 aged 73 years and his wife Ann in 1831 aged 94 years, and both are buried at Ebchester. He was a man of property and at his death owned nearly the whole of the village of Shotley Bridge, and the adjoining fields and gardens, which have however, passed into other hands.
This advertisement appeared in the Newcastle Courant, issue of 16th May, 1724
“To be sold, a sword grinding mill, with about eight acres of ground, a very good head of water, situated on Derwent Water in the County of Durham; also a very good house, etc., all now within possession of William Mohil at Shotley Bridge, who will treat with any about the same.”
There were several sword mills at Shotley Bridge
. The sword shops of the Oley family stood on either side of the house with the inscription over the door in Wood Street, and there generation after generation carried on a most ingenious and lucrative business. Another stood on the right bank of the Derwent, near the South side of the bridge, and a portion of it was built up in a house still standing, this mill being driven by water from the Derwent
. Along the rocks in the bed of this river on the west side of the bridge, just above the pool known as the “Bluther,” are a number of square holes in which stood the timbers which formed a dam to check the water into a mill-race which drove the sword mill. Another sword mill stood on the site of the Shotley Grove Paper Mills. It belonged to the Johnsons,
an English family, who had learned the art of sword cutlery from the German Swordmakers, and passed into the hands of the Annandales in 1812
, when it was transferred into a Paper Mill after an existence of half a century."Unquote.