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Dudd Dudley

Dudd (Dud) Dudley (1600 – 1684), was an English metallurgist, who fought on the Royalist side in the English Civil War as a soldier, military engineer, and supplier of cannon. He was one of the first Englishmen to smelt iron ore with coke successfully.


Background and early life

Dudley was the illegitimate son of Edward Sutton, 5th Baron Dudley of Dudley Castle, and grandson of Edward Sutton, 4th Baron Dudley. Dudd was the fourth of Lord Dudley's eleven children by Elizabeth, the daughter of William Tomlinson (she died 3 July 1629). Strictly, he was called Dudd Dudley otherwise Tomlinson. His eldest brother was Robert Dudley of Netherton Hall. Dudd married Eleanor (nee Heaton), (1606-1675), on October 12, 1626, at St. Helen's Church, Worcester.

Lord Dudley, though he had legitimate heirs, seems to have attended to the up-bringing of his natural children by Elizabeth Tomlinson; educating he educated them and later employed in the management of his extensive property. As a youth, in his father's iron works near Dudley, Dudd begun his study of the various processes of iron manufacture. His speculations in the improvement of iron production were encouraged by his father, who gave him an education intended to enhance his practical abilities. He was raised at Himley Hall.


In 1618, at the age of 20, Dud left Balliol College, Oxford, to take over his father's furnace and forges on Pensnett Chase. There was little wood left in the area, so he resolved to use coal. First, however, he turned the coal into coke, a hard, foam-like mass of almost pure carbon made from bituminous coal. He did this via a process like that used for turning wood into charcoal. He soon claimed to have perfected the use of coal instead of charcoal for iron production.

Dudley modified his furnace to accommodate the new process, but the quantity of iron initially produced was reduced to about three tons a week from each furnace. Dudd wrote to his father, then in London, informing him of his success, desiring him to immediately seek a patent from King James. Dudley's patent, dated February 22, 1620, was taken out in the name of Edward, Lord Dudley.

Dudley proceeded with the manufacture of iron at Pensnett, and Cradley in Staffordshire, and a year after the patent was granted he was able to send a considerable quantity of the new iron for trial to the Tower of London. Under the King's command, many experiments were made with it: its qualities were fairly tested, and it was pronounced "good merchantable iron."

Dudley was already a center of iron production in England. With such an obvious abundance of coal, some places being found in seams up to ten feet thick, and ironstone four feet in depth immediately under the coal, and with limestone adjacent to both, Dudd Dudley was the first ironmaster to abandon charcoal burning in favour of experimenting with coal (coke) for the smelting of iron ore.

The Great Mayday Flood

The new works had been in successful operation little more than a year, when a flood swept away Dudley's principal works at Cradley, and otherwise caused considerable damage downstream.

"At the market town called Stourbridge," according to Dudd, "although the author sent with speed to preserve the people from drowning, and one resolute man was carried from the bridge there in the day time, the nether part of the town was so deep in water that the people had much ado to preserve their lives in the uppermost rooms of their houses."

Dudd, undaunted and with a passion, set to work repairing his furnaces and forges at some great cost; and in a short time was again back in full production.

His iron was disparaged by his rivals, the charcoal ironmasters. In order to ascertain the quality of the product by testing it on a large scale, the King commanded Dudd to send to the Tower of London, quantities of all the various sorts of bar iron made by him, fit for the "making of muskets, carbines, and iron for great bolts for shipping; which iron", records Dudd, "being so tried by artists and smiths, the ironmasters and ironmongers were all silenced until the 21st year of King James's reign." However, this did not prevent him being "outed of his works and inventions ... by the charcoal ironmasters and others", in circumstances that he did not explain.

Later Furnaces

He went on to use the furnace at Himley, but his father let this to Richard Foley. Afterwards he buily a new furnace, Hasco or Hascod Furnace near what is now Askew Bridge at Gornal. There he did not make more on an average than five tons a week, with seven tons at the outside. Ultimately, his father evicted him from this in 1631.

After ironmaking

Dud "claimed" the manor of Himley, because his father had at one point put this in his name, probably to avoid it being seized by his creditors. This led to Chancery proceedings, which he lost, spending a time in prison for contempt of court.

He obtained a new patent in 1638 for smelting metals with pitcoal, but was probably unable to exploit it.

He served as an army officer in the Bishops War and on the Royalist side in the English Civil War. In 1648, he and others were captured by Andrew Yarranton (a Parliamentary captain) in Boscobel woods, while they were planning a Royalist rising. He was sent to London and tried for treason. He and his fellow conspirators were condemned to death, but escaped during "sermon time" from the Gatehouse, the prison at Westminster where they were held.

He escaped to Bristol and lived in hiding as "Dr Hunt", a medical doctor. In 1651, shortly before the 1638 patetn was due to expire, he set up lead smelting works in partnership with connections of a medical patient, using an "old belhouse for the bloomery" at Clifton, Bristol. This was probably a reverberatory furnace and the first known use of such for this purpose. This did not work out, but it is possible that he was associated with a later venture at Stockley Slade (now Nightingale Valley on the other side of the Avon.

Metallum Martis

After the Restoration, Dudd's lands reverted to him, having been sold by "usurping powers" in about 1652. Metallum Martis (1665) is Dudd Dudley's personal view of his discovery, when he had unsuccessfully petitioned King Charles II, to restore his public offices and patents.

He writes:

"The Authour Erected a new large Furnace on purpose, 27 foot square, all of stone for his new Invention, at a place called Hasco Bridge, in the parish of Sedgley, and County of Stafford; the Bellows of which Furnace were larger then ordinary Bellows are, in which work he made 7 Tuns of Iron per week, the greatest quantity of Pit-cole-Iron that ever yet was made in Great Brittain; near which Furnace, the Author discovered many new Cole-mines 10 yards thick, and Iron-mine under it, according to other Cole-works; which Cole-works being brought unto perfection, the Author was by force thrown out of them, and the Bellows of his new Furnace and Invention, by riotous persons cut in pieces, to his no small prejudice, and loss of his Invention of making of Iron with Pit-cole, Sea-cole, &c. So that being with Law-Suites, and Riots, wearied and disabled to prosecute his Art and. Invention at present, even until the first Pattent was extinct: Nothwithstanding the Author his sad. Sufferings, Imprisonments wrongfully for several thousand pound in the Counter in London, yet did obtaine a new Pattent, dated the 2d of May, Anno 14. Caroli Primi of ever Blessed Memory, not only for the making of Iron into cast-works, and bars, but also for the Melting, Extracting, Refing and Reducing of all Mines, Minerals and. Mettals, with Pit-cole, Sea-cole, Peat, and Turf, for the preservation of Wood and Timber of this Island; into which Pattent, the Author, for the better support and management of his Invention, so much opposed formerly at the Court, at the Parliament, and at the Law, took in David Ramasey, Esquire, Resident at the Court; Sir George Horsey, at the Parliament; Roger Foulke, Esquire, a Counsellour of the Temple, and an Ingenious Man; and also an Iron Master, my Neighbour, and one who did well know my former Sufferings, and what I had done in the Invention of making of Iron with Pit-cole, etc."[1]

Later life

Metallum Martis may be regarded as a prospectus, seeking investors to exploit his invention of coke smelting. This appears to have been successful as a furnace was built at Dudley (whose existence is recalled by the street name "Furnace Road". In subsequent litigation, Sir Clement Clerke (one of the partners) stated

"Dud Dudley did heretofore build a furnace for making iron or melting ironstone to be blown or set on work by the strength of men and horses without the help of water."

This melted down "ironstone with charcoal made of wood and pitcoal". Such a horsemill-powered blast furnace is almost certainly unique, and only operated for a few years.

Dudley's last years are obscure. He probably lived in Friar Street, Worcester, where he had a house derived from his first wife's family. He may have practised as a doctor there. He married again and had a son in his old age. He died in 1684, at age 85. He was buried in the parish church St. Helen's, Worcester, where he had erected a monument to his first wife, bearing the following Latin inscription:

"Dodo Dudley chiliarchi nobilis Edwardi nuper domini de Dudley filius, patri charus et regiae Majestatis fidissimus subditus et servus in asserendo regein, in vindicartdo ecclesiam, in propugnando legem ac libertatem Anglicanam, saepe captus, anno 1648, semel condemnatus et tamen non decollatus, renatum denuo vidit diadaema hic inconcussa semper virtute senex."

Strangely, no one added the date of his own to the monument.


The existence of Metallum Martis meant that many historians have noted his achievements. Dudd has been seen as the forerunner of later success by Abraham Darby and others in smelting iron with coke in the 18th century. However it remains unclear to what extent he was its technological ancestor (rather than a mere precuror). In Metallum Martis, he named a relative of his first wife to whom he would leave his knowledge, but nothing came of that. However, there are two possible linkages to later developments:

  • Abraham Darby, who took over the ironworks at Coalbrookdale in 1709 was descended from Dudd's older sister (of the whole blood).[2]
  • Sir Clement Clerke (q.v.), a partner in the Dudley, developed lead smelting in reverberatory furnaces. He and his son Talbot Clerke then applied this to copper smelting and to iron foundry work. Associates in the latter business, floated as the Company for Making Iron with Pitcoal built a coke furnace at Cleator in Cumberland in the 1690s. That company had some dispute with Shadrach Fox of Coalbrookdale who was casting shot for the Board of Ordnance, and may have used coal at another furnace at Wombridge.[3]


  1. ^ D. Dudley, Metallum Martis, 16.
  2. ^ Carl Higgs, 'Dud Dudley and Abraham Darby; Forging New Links' The Blackcountryman [1]
  3. ^ P. W. King, 'Sir Clement Clerke and the Adoption of coal in Metallurgy' Transactions of Newcomen Society 73(1) (2001-2), 33-52.


  • Dudley, Dudd (1665). Dud Dudley's Metallum Martis. repr. London, 1854.
  • Smiles, Samuel (1901). Industrial Biographies. London: John Murray.
  • King, P. W., 'Dud Dudley's contribution to metallurgy' Historical Metallurgy 36(1) (2002), 43-53.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dudd_Dudley". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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