The Box Family of Marhamchurch Foundry

This is a draft, and has quite a lot of editing to do, but I will keep editing and updating, to share information more easily with my siblings, who are finding useful pieces of information.


On my mothers side I am descended from the Box Family who owned an Iron Foundry at Marhamchurch – a village near Bude in north Cornwall.

The Foundry

The Foundry was built around ?? near the Bude Canal. It was known as the Northumberland Foundry

According to https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1328540 it manufactured kitchen ranges – and the Maramchurch entry for VisitBude tells us

There was also a foundry producing cooking stoves, all marked Box’s Foundry

There are still some of these stoves to be found in the area, for example at Primrose Cottage at Berry Park

Box’s Foundry Stove at Primrose Cottage

Probably during the late 1700’s, Primrose Cottage was “modernised” by the laying of Delabole slate flagstone floors and the installation of the latest model kitchen range forged by Thomas Box at Marhamchurch (just south of Bude) using materials brought to the forge by the famous wheeled barges used on the Bude canal. These features can still be seen in Primrose Cottage.

Note that this refers to the kitchen range being forged by Thomas Box, who I certainly have as an iron founder, at some point, but the stove can not have been installed in the late 1700’s using material brought in on the Canal as that was not completed until 1825.

From the Cornish and Devon Post 16th Jun 1888

The advertisement above refers to the Foundry as being established for over 60 years, which would put its establishment at before 1828,

There is a picture of the Foundry in 1999 at https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/marhamchurch-foundry-box-family

Another picture of the Foundry in around 1935 can be found at https://www.francisfrith.com/uk/bude/marhamchurch_memory-204366

The Bude Canal

The location of the foundry near the Bude Canal must be co-incidental, as the canal was built in 1819 to 1825, whereas the foundry was build around ??1796, indeed the foundry supplied rails for the the Inclined Plane which was one of the notable features of the Canal. The Bude Canal and Harbour Society has a interesting history of the canal page at http://www.bude-canal.co.uk/Bude%20Canal%20History.htm although it does not mention the rails, that information comes from http://www.visitoruk.com/Bude/marhamchurch-C592-V6127.html which tells us

Marhamchurch’s one claim to historical fame was its ‘inclined plane’. From 1819 sea-sand and lime were brought from Bude by canal to be used as fertiliser by local farms. The canal used to run from Bude through Marhamchurch to Druxton near Launceston and to Holsworthy. At Helebridge in Marhamchurch the tugboats were winched up the inclined plane by a water wheel at the wharf, where there was an engineer’s house. The rails for this were made at Box’s Foundry. This lasted until 1888 when the railways took over the carriage of materials. The railway was finally closed in 1968. The towpath alongside the canal makes a very pleasant walk into Bude – about two miles.

Employees and Foundry Cottages

The foundry employed about 20 men, some members of the Box family, others from local families, and some who came to work there. Thomas Box built a row of six cottages to house some of the workers, I think this must be Thomas Box (1792-1849), and the Census records show a variety of people living in them, some clearly foundry workers, and others with a variety of occupations. Some of the names are interesting as they are names I recognise from Box marriages, so I hope to expand on this a little more to track down some of the connections.

The Box Families

John Box (1788-1849 ) – Iron Founder before Thomas Box – probably

He was an Iron Founder, possibly son of William Box (1750) and Sarah Pope – from my mother’s notes. He became a clock maker in Launceston. He built the original foundry at Ridgegrove, presubably at or near the Ridgegrove Mills https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1206672

On his death it passed to his son, William Braund Box, who managed it for 3 years (from 1849 to 1852 ???) and then sold it to Mr Langdon, who removed from Ridgegrove to Marhamchurch. The original foundry became a bone mill.


Thomas Box (1792-1849) – Iron Founder from 1841 (or earlier) to 1849

Son of William Box (1759 to 1813) and Thomasine Heard (1764-1842), he married Elizabeth Burrow on 27th March 1817)

John Box (1827-1887) – Iron Founder from 1861 to 1887

I think he was the son of Thomas Box and Elizabeth Burrow. He married Elizabeth Hill. Presumably it then passed on to his sons Thomas (1852-1911) and Henry (1859-1935) – though Henry became a farmer.

According to the article from the Cornish and Devon Post below the ownership of the Foundry passed from Mr Langdon Junior to Henry and Edward Box. I think they are the younger siblings of John Box. Henry (1839 – 1908) and Edward (1842 – ?) may be the Henry (Aged 30, Pattern Maker) and Edward Box who are Boarders at the Foundry in the 1871 Census when John Box is Iron Founder, although their ages do not exactly match up. It looks as if Edward is married to a Sarah A Box, and I believe he does marry Sarah Ann Cowles.

A Thomas Box was Ironfounder in 1852 at the wedding of his son William Box (also an Ironfounder) to Jane Rogers (nee Painter)

The foundry was still working in 1911 when Alfred John Box (1855 – ) was Iron Foundry Manager living at the home of Charles Shepherd, Stove and Grate Fitter.

Henry (1839-1906) and Edward (1842-1902) Box

They were the Second Cousins to Mr A.W.Box, and, according to the CDP&WCA article brought the Foundry from Mr Langdon Junior and ran it as a partnership until about 1886, when they sold it to A.W.Box.

As second cousins they must have shared a Great Grandparent, and as Boxes that must be on their Fathers side. so their father, Thomas Box, must have been a cousin (sharing a grandparent) with William Braund Box, so William’s father, John Box(1788-1849) , must be the brother of Thomas Box’s father, William Box (1759-1813), both being children of Thomas Box (1721-1799)

Henry and Edward were the sons of Thomas Box and Elizabeth Burrow, living in the Foundry in 1841 (Henry, Edward was not born then); when Thomas Box was Iron Founder, 1851; when Elizabeth Box (nee Burrow) was Iron Founder and Miller); 1861 (when Henry is Iron Founder, Machinist and Miller employing 2 Smiths, 1 Puller, 1 Moulder, 5 Carpenters and 2 Labourers. Edward is a Machinist.

In the 1871 Census their elder brother, John (1827-1887), and married to Elizabeth Hill is the Iron Founder, while Henry is now living at the Foundry as a Boarder and Pattern Maker, and Edward is working as a Fitter and he and his wife Sarah Ann Box (nee Cowling) are also boarders.

In 1881 John is still Iron Founder, employing 19 men and living at the Foundry with Elizabeth.

In 1881 Henry is married (to Mary Ellen Edmunds) and living in Stratton, but still working as a Pattern Maker (Artisan) – presumably at the Foundry.

I don’t (yet) know where Edward was living or what he was doing,

I suspect the death of John Box in 1887 was the event which precipitated the move of Arthur Williams Box from London, as Henry and Edward seem to have moved away from management of the foundry by this time.

Arthur Williams Box (1853-1940) – Iron Founder from about 1886 to 1912.

He was living in Langport in the 1891 Census, but living in London, but still with his profession as Iron Founder in 1901 and 1911, so I suspect he had a house in Launceston, but London was his main residence. He presumably employed a manager to run the Foundry on a day to day basis.

An article from the “Cornish and Devon Post and Western Counties Advertiser, on Saturday, April 4, 1896” describes the foundry and a little of its history.

The Northumberland Foundry, Launceston

Launceston, unfortunately, does not possess many industries.

Times have altered; trade’s unfeeling train
Usurps the land and dispossess the swain.

Since the old woollen factories, which thrived here centuries ago, were transferred to the great centres of industry, where coal is to be found at the factory door, and where railway communication is so much better, Launceston has discontinued to be an industrial centre of any importance; though, for our own part, we fail to see why certain manufacturies might no still be carried on here with a fair degree of success. Undoubtedly, could a manufactory of any kind be established her, Launceston’s prospects would be even infinitely brighter than they are at present. It would give the place a commercial status that at present is lacking. Still it is useless mourning this absence, for there is very little likelihood of Launceston every progressing in the direction named, though as a country business town it will take a deal of beating. It is one consolation to know, however, that the few industries remaining are conducted on sound progressive principles and are in the hands of capable managers. We have already noticed in these columns several noted business establishments, and in continuation of the series we give a brief history and sketch of The Northumberland Foundry, (Named after the Duke of Northumberland, who one time owned Warrington Park), St. Thomas, the proprietor of which (Mr A. W. Box), as is well-known, is quite a genius in many ways. Our representative, on presenting himself at the office door, found that it was not exactly “put a penny in the slot and you get your photo”, but press the button, the door opens by some mysterious means, and you gain admission at once to the show room without anyone opening the door, and then you go up into the bright cosy office above, where the worthy head kindly receives you. This open sesame is done by Mr. Box as he sits in his chair above, by means of a lever which pulls back the catch of the door. To use an Americanism, Mr. Box is very keen on electrical appliances. Immediately behind his chair he has also a telephone connected with the dining room of the dwelling-house, the working of which he minutely explained to our representative. Then again an electric signal calls away any of the workmen up from the foundry. When quite a lad Mr. Box made an excellent telephone, so that he is no tyro in the manufacture of such a contraption. In fact he is often consulted by Launcestonians and others on this and kindred matters, and is always ready to give the most kindly assistance. In the conversation, he was also exceedingly interesting in his remarks on motors. When he undertook the management of the foundry the motive power was supplied by a steam engine, which had been a faithful servant for many years. On this one being past further use, he decided to be well up to the times, and after careful consideration secured one of Crossley’s oil engines, of 4 horse power nominal, capable of developing 10 horse power, he is one of the first purchasers of this new invention. After a fair test, he says the engine is decidedly a good one, and works the fan and machinery without the least trouble. Mr. Box contemplates erecting the electric light on his premises, this engine being well capable of supplying the power, and I have not the least doubt that he will do it, for his ingenious contrivances in all directions at once convinces you that he knows nothing of difficulties. Mr. Box has also been considering the practicality of a water motor, believing that he could thus obtain 15-horse power without any difficulty. No doubt, Mr Box’s inventive mind will develop the idea at some favourable opportunity. In fact a certain gentleman in the town, who at present uses an engine, has been considering with Mr. Box the advisability of trying the use of water for motive power, now that we have a plentiful supply available. Mr. Box is also an exceedingly good amateur photographer, and turns his knowledge and gifts to a practical use, photographing patterns and other things connected with the trade which it is advisable to have in possession. Such a mind naturally finds full scope in a foundry where all kinds of inventive work has to be carried out, and in the necessary “motive power” to make such an institution successful.

The Foundry was established several decades ago by the present proprietor’s grandfather (Mr. John Box), who had a business in Broad St. It was he who built the present bone mill at Ridgegrove for a foundry. After his death his son, Mr W.B. Box, father of the present proprietor, carried it on for three years, and then sole the business to Mr. Langdon, who removed from Ridgegrove to the present premises. On the latter’s demise, his son carried it on, the business eventually coming into the hands of Mssrs. Henry and Edward Box, second cousins to Mr. A.W. Box. They, about ten years ago, dissolved partnership and Mr. A.W. Box then came down from London and bought off the foundry established by his grandfather so many years before. It is worthy of mention that this Mr. John Box was also a clever clockmaker, and several clocks bearing his name are still to be seen in the district, while his son, Mr. W. Box, when a young man, constructed entirely by himself (it being a three years’ labour) a very fine model of a working steam engine which was exhibited in the Western Rooms some sixty years ago, the maker giving a lecture on steam power, then, of course, in its infancy. This brought him into communication with Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, who invented the Bude Light, and was at that time working on his steam carriages; and, noting on his advice, Mr. Box went to London where he was very successful as a watch and clock maker. On his arrival at Launceston, Mr A.W. Box soon set about making several beneficial alterations to the premises, including an enlargement of the foundry, all of which showed the design of a practical hand. Cornish foundries are handicapped in that the man are unable to work piecework on account of the great variety of articles to be made. In the larger foundries in the North the case is different. An order for stoves, for instance, is often sufficiently large to keep men at work for weeks together. Then the advantage of being able to put men on piecework is clearly proved, and the profits much more easily gauged. The men in this foundry are chiefly employed in making the castings used by agricultural implement makers and machinists, comprising the parts of water wheels, pulleys, pinions, gear-wheels, plough bodies,grutices, shoes, shares etc.,etc. In fact, on seeing the countless patterns piled on the shelves, one is convinced that next to gold, iron is the most useful metal. In the Northumberland Foundry kitchen ranges are the only articles made completely and stocked, and Mr. Box has given his particular attention to the manufacture, so that they should give a maximum of heat with a minimum of fuel, and as the parts are constructed of extra stout plates the stoves should last for many years. Mr. Box also supplies stove castings to several makers who are not iron founders themselves. On a recent visit, we noticed castings going off to St. Austell, ordered by a noted electrical engineer there. It is most interesting to see the huge blast furnace set to work, and the liquid iron run out into the numerous moulds on the foundry floor on a given day of the week. The day for casting is Fridays, and it about two hours the moulds that have taken all the week to prepare can be filled with the melted iron. The mould is made in sand and coal dust (the latter being ground down in a mill for the purpose) by means of what is called a pattern, made of either wood or metal. These patterns (some of considerable value) are always kept in stock, so that in case of breakages new pieces can be speedily cast. A visit to the pattern store gives one some idea of the capital that is needed to be put into a business of this kine, and the great part this foundry played in the more prosperous days of Cornish and Devon mining, huge patterns of cog wheels, cranks, eccentrics, gratings and all the adjuncts of water wheels and other machinery being packed away, the accumulation of scores of years, but ready for the quickest reproduction. In the centre of the foundry a huge crane is erected for use when heavy pieces of metal are required, such as the target, which Mr. Box supplied the Launceston Volunteer Corps. Mr. Box uses only the best pig iron to be obtained in Scotland. This on being melted is allowed to run out of the furnace in required quantities into a ladle with long arms extending on either side. This two men immediately carry round to the moulds and pour it into holes made for the purpose, until is is known they are full, the bubbling liquid that rises in certain places giving such signal. The castings are taken from the moulds the next day, and then go through a process of finishing with lathe, drill and other machinery, there being separate departments for this work, it being one of Mr. Box’s privileges to have plenty of room. From all I saw, I am convinced that there is a still more prosperous future for the Northumberland Foundry, and that it is one of the most valuable institutions Launceston possesses.


Having typed this from the original article, there is an article (including this newspaper article at http://launcestonthen.co.uk/index.php/the-place/launceston-businesses/the-northumberland-foundry/ This also includes the sale of the foundry by A, W, Box in 1912, to C & W Hillman, longstanding employees.

That site also has a picture of the Foundry from 1904 (which was certainly during the time of Arthur William Box.

It also has an item from May 17th. 1856.

TO MINERS : TO BE SOLD By Private Contract
1 WATER WHEEL, 17 feet high and 7 feet wide; do. Do. 12. Do. and 2 ft. Wide. Stamps, Axle, and Tongues; 18 Stamps heads, with Wood Lifters; Stamps Frame, and Guides, & c., & c. Also several Wind-bores, and Matching pieces.
Apply to Mr. Langdon,
Northumberland Foundry, St. Thomas, Launceston.

This fits the description of this picture of a Water Wheel from my family photo album

This could well be a 17 foot high water wheel, but I am not sure how to match it with an 1856 date, or an ownership by Mr. Landon. It does look as if it is either being constructed or removed, however as there is no machinery attached to it.

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