Friday 19 June 2020

Chester's Iconic Leadworks

With the Record Office currently closed to the public, the staff have been finding ways of bring our collections to you. 

One of these ways is Flickr. This website allows us to create albums of photographs and images of  documents for you to view and enjoy. One of our recent additions is an album relating to the old Chester leadworks. You can see the album here.

Chester Leadworks from City Road. ZCR 245/7191/1. 

The site of the Chester leadworks in Boughton is currently being redeveloped, but the Shot Tower, a familiar sight on Chester's skyline, is still at the centre of the site. 

Shot towers were first designed in 1782 for the production of lead pellets. Molten lead was poured through a copper sieve at the top of the tower, and then fell through the tower before being cooled in a basin of water at the bottom. 

The Chester Shot Tower is believed to be the oldest of three still in existence in the UK, and was classed as a Grade II listed building by Historic England in 1981.

Plan of the Chester Leadworks, 1908. ZCR 245/7191/17.


The original leadworks site was developed by Samuel Walker in 1799 and was named Walkers, Parker & Co. One of the first uses of the Shot Tower was to make lead shots for muskets in the Napoleonic Wars.

Over the years the site grew and expanded its operations. Many products were produced on the site, from lead sheets, pipes and paint to Radium handling benches for local hospitals.

Sales leaflet c.1930s. ZCR 245/7191/1.

During World War II the Leadworks supplied the War Office with chemical lead piping and fittings, and it also received orders from the Royal Ordnance factory at Hooton, Wirral.

Correspondence with the War Office, 1939. ZCR 245/13.

The leadworks were renamed Associated Lead Manufacturers in the 1950s and then later became known as Calder Lead. 

Production at the Boughton site slowly reduced over the latter part of the 20th century, and finally closed in 2001 with Calder Lead moving across Chester.

Plan of Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd., 1950. ZCR 245/7191/18.

We have a number of documents within our collection which chart the development and expansion of the site over the years. 

Collection ZCR 245 (Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd, Chester) not only gives us an insight into the running and structure of the company but also details of the manufacturing process. The leadworks was a significant employer in the city, and the collection contains staff records from the 1850s onwards. 

Visit our catalogue to discover more about the Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd. collection. We also hold a number of books and pamphlets documenting the history of the company in our local studies section. 

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