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High Peak News
22 August 1891

Some uneasiness, we are informed, is felt by the workmen employed at the gunpowder mills, Fernilee, as to the effect the magazine question and the Ship Canal Company will have upon their works. A site for a magazine of the size required for the quantity of powder made by the Company at their Derbyshire Mills, will perhaps be difficult to find.

Glossopdale Chronicle
23 October 1891

improvements at the gunpowder mills.

We are pleased to hear that since the Fernilee Gunpowder Mills were taken over by the Chilworth Gunpowder Company, Limited, they have made very great improvements in the factory, having stripped out all the old machinery, and replaced it by machines for making gunpowder on a greatly improved principle.

They have also re-built many of the houses in which the explosive is manufactured, and at the present time are erecting a new charge house and magazine for further accommodation.

Under the able management of Mr Wallis, assisted by the foreman, Mr Dyer, there has been no explosion of any kind, and when Her Majesty’s Inspector visited the factory on Saturday last, he desired Mr Westfield (director of the company) to post up the following notice to the men. - Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Explosives, Col. Majendie, C.B., has inspected this factory today and has desired the undersigned to inform the officials and the workpeople that he is greatly pleased at the remarkable improvement in the condition of the factory, the cleanliness and smartness of the workmen, and the care and attention given to their work by all concerned which I confirm (signed) C. marcus westfield, managing director.

This is gratifying after the disastrous explosions which have occurred at this factory in former years.  
High Peak News
28 November 1891

the chilworth gunpowder COMPANY:
a curious case:

In the Queen’s Bench division on Friday last the case of In re arbitration between the Chilworth Gunpowder Company and the Manchester Ship Canal came before Justices Matthews and Smith. In August last a rule nisi was granted calling upon the Chilworth Gunpowder Company, who have extensive works at Fernilee, to show cause why the Manchester Ship Canal Company should not be at liberty to revoke their submissions to arbitration and make void the power of the umpire.
The Attorney General, on behalf of the Chilworth Gunpowder Company, submitted that the Canal Company, having admitted that his clients had a claim for compensation and having gone to arbitration, could not now quash the submission to arbitration. The Canal Company had given notice under the Lands Clauses Act to treat for some land occupied by the Chilworth Company.
Colonel Majendie, an inspector of the Home Office, having stated that the Chilworth Company’s magazine was too near to the canal to be used with safety.
The Canal Company entered into possession of this property in April last, and arbitrators and an umpire were appointed to assess the amount of compensation which should be paid to the Chilworth Company.
In the course of the proceedings before the arbitrators the objection was taken by counsel for the Ship Canal that the persons, who had the right to compensation, if any, were the Pulver Fabrik Company, because the interest of the Chilworth Company had been created subsequent to the notice to treat being given to the Pulver Fabrik.
The latter company were lessees from a Mr Yates for a term of 21 years from March 1874, with an option of extending to 42 years. Before notice to treat had been given the Chilworth Company had acquired the right to exercise that option.
Mr Moulton, on the other side, did not admit this.
The Attorney General said there was an arrangement whereby the Chilworth Company had the option of taking all the rights of the Pulver Fabrik under the option.
When the notice to treat was served on the Fabrik Company the Ship Canal were informed that the Chilworth Company had acquired the right to the property.
On 25th May 1888, the Chilworth Company gave notice that they were going to exercise the option to purchase the magazine and premises. A correspondence took place with the Canal Company and in April last the arbitrators were appointed, and the arbitrators chose an umpire. Having entered into possession of the land under the notice to treat for it, and having admitted a claim for compensation, the learned counsel submitted the Canal Company could not now revoke the submission to arbitration. Mr Moulton said his contention was not that there was nothing to arbitrate upon, but that the arbitrators were exceeding their jurisdiction. The notice to treat served on the Chilworth Company was for an interest apart from the interest covered by the notice served on the Pulver Fabrik, and the arbitrators were appointed to deal with that only.
The claim of the Chilworth Company, which had originally been for £10,000 had developed into a claim for £100,000 compensation. An option to acquire could not be exercised after the notice to treat had been served.
The Canal Company claimed the right to purchase from the Fabrik Company direct.
Mr Justice Mathew, in giving his judgement, said that the rule must be discharged.
It had been granted to the Ship Canal on the ground that the arbitrators were exceeding their jurisdiction.
On the evidence before him he could not see a shadow of ground for the objection.
Mr Justice Smith said it did not lie in the mouth of the Ship Canal Company, having entered upon the land under the notice to treat, to turn round and say that notice to treat was bad. There was not a tittle of evidence that the arbitrators in this matter had exceeded their jurisdiction, and no evidence had been put in to show that the Canal Company would have to pay a single penny of compensation to the Pulver Fabrik.
Therefore on both law and fact this application failed.
The rule was discharged, with costs against the Ship Canal.
High Peak News
28 January 1893

fernilee gunpowder mills.

We are informed that through failing health Mr F.W. Wallis has deemed it advisable to resign his position as manager of the Fernilee Gunpowder Mills, belonging to the Chilworth Gunpowder Company, Limited, whose head offices are at 55, Charing Cross, London.

We are; however, glad to hear that the company have been pleased to promote Mr C. Beresford, their late cashier and book-keeper at this factory, to the vacancy caused by the above retirement. We feel sure his many friends will offer him their warm congratulations on his promotion, and heartily wish that the factory, under his management, will experience the same immunity from accidents it has enjoyed in the past years under the efficient supervision of his predecessor.

The Reporter
12 August 1893

the chilworth gunpowder Company.

On Monday the directors of this company paid a visit to their gunpowder works at Fernilee. Luncheon was served at the works.

Buxton Advertiser
28 April 1894.

accident at the powder mills.

An accident which might have been of a very serious nature occurred at the Fernilee Powder Mills, on Wednesday last. It appears that the manager, Mr Beresford, and a party of friends were making experiments in order to ascertain the strength of a dangerous explosive called emilite, and charged the gun, kept at the works for testing purposes, with five ounces of the explosive, emilite, with the result that it shattered the gun into several pieces, and sent the ball, which weighs 65 lbs, a distance of half-a-mile, where it buried itself about four feet in the ground, only just missing some cattle that were grazing close by.

The report of the explosion could be heard for miles around, and it very naturally caused great consternation amongst the employees at the factory for the time being.

Luckily for the gunner, a man named Smedley, he very wisely gave the cannon a wider berth than he usually does when testing the ordinary powder.
High Peak News
9 December 1893

The buildings connected with the Chilworth Gunpowder Company’s works, at Fernilee, have been considerably extended and new machinery of the latest and most approved type is being put down. The manager of the concern is Mr Beresford, who succeeded Mr Wallace. The output has largely increased, some thousands of tons of powder being manufactured in the course of a year.  
High Peak News
20 Aug 1898

We understand that the Chilworth Gunpowder Company at Fernilee is starting new machinery for the purpose of making its own kegs, barrels, and boxes, for the storage of powder. The number of employees has, therefore, been increased.
High Peak News
22 April 1899

chilworth gunpowder company

At the Buxton Sessions, on Saturday, Mr H. Mellor applied on behalf of this company for a license under the Explosives Act (Division B) to store at Dove Holes. Mr Hubbersty asked if there had been any alteration since the last was granted, and the applicant stated none whatever. Superintendent Gill said he was quite satisfied, and the application was granted.
Ashton Reporter
13 January 1900

Chilworth Gunpowder Company has received an order for 2,000 barrels of gunpowder to be sent to Woolwich Arsenal.
High Peak News
26 May 1900

The Fernilee Gunpowder Works, belonging to the Chilworth Company, are to be considerably enlarged. The contract for this, will, we understand, be let to Mr David Drinkwater, contractor, of Bridgemont.
High Peak News
30 June 1900

The proprietors of the Chilworth Gunpowder Company have engaged Mr David Drinkwater, of Bridgemont, Whaley Bridge to erect for them two new cartridge houses, besides other extensions rendered necessary by the increase in business.

The works are at Fernilee, and a new engine is being put in.
The Reporter
7th July 1900


A Gigantic Success

The Chilworth Gunpowder Works sent a brave show from their Fernilee Gunpowder Factory. Mr Harry Ramsden, the manager, responding in handsome fashion to the invitation of the committee by sending three crowded lurries. On one was a fire brigade and two brass cannons; on another were a number of men employed making gunpowder casks &c; and on the third was the Fernilee Gunpowder Band, with a medley of musical contrivances and considerable din but with no known tune, and on each lurry were the words "Contractors to Her Majesty's Government" and the Government the day before had sent an order for 700 barrels of gunpowder for bursting shrapnel shells, half of which is going to South Africa and the other half to China.
High Peak News
8 January 1910

work resumed.

It is pleasing to learn that the men who went on strike employed by the Chilworth Gunpowder Co., resumed work last week on the management’s terms. The works are busy and everything is going on in the usual business-like manner.

High Peak News
10 June 1911

serious accident at the gunpowder works.

While unloading a lurry-load of planks on Thursday at the above works, Mr James Boothby had the misfortune to let one fall on his leg, causing serious injury. He was taken home and attended by the doctors, but it is not known yet as to what extent the injuries are, owing to extreme swelling of the limb.  
High Peak News
1 February 1919

A number of workpeople are now being discharged from the powder mills, war pressure being over. It is expected the works will continue to produce powder for commercial purposes such as blasting &c.

Hyde Reporter
28 February 1920

a firm’s appreciation

Mr E. Thomas, who was employed for 31 years by the Chilworth Gunpowder Co., at Fernilee, has received from Mr H.S. Cox (managing director) a letter enclosing a cheque for £25 “as a slight token of their appreciation of your long and faithful service to the company. For my part I cannot find words to express my sorrow at our having to cease our always friendly relations as master and employee, and can only wish you the very best of good fortune in the future.”

On the occasion of the closing of the Fernilee Powder Mills the firm have made a number of such gifts, which are greatly appreciated by the employees.
High Peak News
13 August 1921

The powder works at Fernilee, which have lately been acquired by a large combine, who have also taken over similar works up and down the country, are to be closed down.

This announcement brings to mind the many historical associations of the old works.

Whaley Bridge has always been patriotic and has given its quota of sons and material to most of the wars in which this country has been involved.
It may not, however, be generally known that when England was threatened by the vaunted Armada of Spain, Whaley Bridge did its bit to blow the huge ships to “Davy Jones Locker.

” Powder for the English guns on that occasion was supplied by the Fernilee works.

Again, when Wellington finally vanquished Napoleon, the works again fed the guns.
Daily Dispatch
16 August 1921

News in Brief

The old powder mills at Fernilee, near Whaley Bridge, are to be closed. Powder for the English ships, when meeting the Spanish Armada, and for Wellington during the Peninsular War, was supplied from these mills.

Buxton Advertiser
27 August 1921

fernilee gunpowder works

To the Editor of the Buxton Advertiser
I noticed in a daily newspaper a short time ago a statement that the Fernilee Gunpowder Works were about to be closed, and that they had existed from times well back to the period of the discovery of gunpowder.
The same authority remarked that powder used in the fight against the Spanish Armada was made here.
Perhaps somebody on the spot can say if these particulars are correct, and may be add to them.
If there is an authenticated history of this secluded factory it would be most interesting to have it published.
Yours, etc.
querist Buxton, August 26th, 1921.

Buxton Advertiser
3 September 1921

fernilee gunpowder works

To the Editor of the Buxton Advertiser
I reply to your querist’s inquiry as to the above. On the 13th January, 1801, Peter Knowles, farmer, of Lymm, in Cheshire, and Thomas Williamson, millwright, of Fernilee, Derbyshire, applied at Derby Quarter Sessions for a license or authority to erect gunpowder mills, and such licence was granted on the above-mentioned date.

The two men obtained a lease for 42 years from the 25th March 1801, and then proceeded to erect the nucleus of the present extensive works at Fernilee held by the Chilworth Gunpowder Company, of Godalming, in Surrey, for the last 22 years.

The work of dismantling the works - owing to the capture of the African market for gunpowder by American firms - has been proceeding for some months, and was completed on the 25th March last, or exactly 120 years after the granting of the original lease.
The paragraph in a Manchester paper about gunpowder being sent from the Goyt Valley for use by ships engaged in the fight against the Spanish Armada has evidently been inspired by the same gentleman who recently intimated that the new and massive chimney at the Gunpowder Factory, 90 feet in height, has been sold for telescopic use to the Lick Observatory in the United States. The dismantling of the works has caused a considerable displacement of labour in the Goyt Valley, and a valuable works site with immense water power is rendered unoccupied. Yours, etc,

Joshua Bury Portland Hotel, Buxton August 29th, 1921.  

Fernilee Powder Mills