Charles Lloyd of Dolobran, Montgomeryshire, established the Bersham Ironworks in about 1715, although there are a couple of documentary references to an earlier furnace, possibly in Bersham, from the 1670s. The early works produced bar or pig iron for local forges, notably the forge at Pont y Blew, Chirk. The works started to produce cast iron goods from the early 1730’s when owned by John Hawkins. The Coalbrookdale Company with which the Bersham works was closely related at this time encouraged this change of direction. Isaac Wilkinson took over the works in 1753 and for the first time began producing iron cannon for the Seven-Years War. Isaac installed a large steam engine for pumping water around the furnace water wheel, he patented and installed a water powered blowing engine and built a number of waggonways to the works.
Illustration of Works in 18th Century [Clwyd Record Office]
John Wilkinson took over ownership of the ironworks in 1763. Little appears to have happened at the works until the mid 1770s, when the outbreak of the American War of Independence provoked a substantial requirement for naval ordnance. John had, in association with Francis Bacon, been developing a new method of gun manufacture whereby the guns were cast solid and bored out later. A water powered boring had been built at the works by 1775, which had been supplemented by a steam-powered mill by 1779. At the same time John began producing steam engine cylinders for James Watt. On the basis of the manufacture of these two items, Bersham dramatically increased in size and profitability reaching its peak in about 1795. Decline set in soon afterward with the establishment by John of Brymbo ironworks nearby and with John’s death in 1808. The works were finally sold in 1812.
Surviving buildings include the octagonal cannon foundry and adjacent probable fettling shop, a cannon boring mill later converted into a corn mill as well as substantial remains, including lengths of wooden railway and a furnace, uncovered through excavations since 1987. Associated are two weirs and the former accounts house.