Warmley Heritage Story

Warmley Heritage Story

This article is about William Champion

Did you know that the first commercial production of Zinc (or Spelter as it was originally called) in Europe was pioneered by William Champion (Metallurgist) during the 1730’s… in Warmley no less!!  Prior to this, Zinc had to be imported from India or China which, of course, was expensive.  As a direct result, Bristol became Europe’s biggest Brass producer, given that Zinc and Copper are the two major components of Brass.

William Champion Factory
The site of William Champion’s Brass and Zinc works, Warmley

In, or around 1730, William experimented with smelting Calamine, developing a method similar to those in use at the Zawar mines in India (on a much smaller scale).  However, a temperature of 10000C is required to reduce Zine Oxide to Zinc, but Zinc vaporises at just 9070C.  Therefore, it is necessary for the furnace to provide a means of condensing the vapour.

Of course, William developed this process and obtained a patent in 1738.

The Champion Works grew from there.  In the early days of the industrial revolution, this complex was one of the biggest industrial sites in Europe and a major factor in the rapid development of most industries within the UK.

This didn’t help William when his patents ran out and his competitors rapidly took a hold over his design.  Subsequently, William became bankrupt.

William Champion died at the age of 84 at Somerset Street, Bristol.  He left 5 children, including a son, John, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a manufacturer in the Bristol Brass industry.  John developed and patented a refined process in 1758 for the calcination of Zinc Sulfide (Zinc Blende) to oxide for use in the retort process.

The Kingswood Heritage Museum holds more in-depth information about William Champion and his Works – it’s well worth a visit when you have some time on your hands!

Also of local interest is Warmley House.  Built in 1750 for William Champion and is a Grade II listed building.  Warmley House is now a care home for the elderly and its partly surviving grounds make use of existing features from earlier industrial works.

A diagram showing the interior of William Champion’s zinc-smelting furnace

The Kingswood Heritage Museum

The Kingswood Heritage Museum holds more in-depth information about William Champion and his Works – it’s well worth a visit when you have some time on your hands!

Kingswood Heritage Museum

Warmley House

Also of local interest is Warmley House.  Built in 1750 for William Champion and is a Grade II listed building.  Warmley House is now a care home for the elderly and its partly surviving grounds make use of existing features from earlier industrial works.

Warmley House Care Home

Credits:

Marcus Palmen

Museums.bristol.gov.uk/narratives

Choo’n in for some more ‘Warmley Awareness’ in our facts about the Midland Railway line which used to run through the village until the 1960’s.

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