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Richard Foley

Richard Foley 1580 - 1657 was a prominent English ironmaster. He is best known from the folktale of "Fiddler Foley", which is either not correct or does not apply to him.

Richard was the son of another Richard Foley, a nailer at Dudley. Richard himself is likely tomahve traded in nails rather than making them.



In the 1620s, he became a partner in a network of mostly ironworks in south Staffordshire, which were undoubtedly the source of the family's fortune.

The Folktale

According to the folktale, he went to Sweden, where posing a simple fiddler, he succeeded in discovering the secret of the slitting mill, which was enabling English nails to be undercut. He returned home and set up a slitting mill at Hyde Mill in Kinver, thus making his fortune. Unfortunately, the earliest version of the legend, while applyng to Hyde Mill referred not to Richard Foley, but to a member of the Brindley family, who owned the mill until the 1730s. This may possibly have been George Brindley, Richard's brother-in-law. Richard certainly leased Hyde Mill in 1627 and converted it to a slitting mill, though it was not the first in England or even in the Midlands.


Richard Foley married twice, and was able to set up several of his sons as gentlemen or in other prominent positions.

By his first marriage:

  • Richard Foley (1678-1678) of Birmingham, and then an ironmaster at Longton in north Staffordshire.

By his second marriage to Alice Brindley:

  • Thomas Foley (1616-1677), another prominent ironmaster
  • Robert Foley ( -1676), ironmonger
  • Priscilla, who married first ? Wallis and then Henry Glover (ironmaster)
  • Samuel Foley, a cleric
  • John Foley, Turkey merchant, i.e. a trader to the Levant.


  • R. G. Schafer (ed.), A selection from the Records of Philip Foley's Stour Valley Iron Works (Worcs. Hist. Soc., n.s. 9 (1978), xvii-xviii.
  • P. W. King, 'The Developemnt of the iron industry in south Staffordshire in the 17th century: history and myth' Trans. Staffs. Arch. & Hist. Soc. XXXVIII (1999 for 1996-7), 59-76.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Richard_Foley". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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