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Dudley, Dudlocked

  • P. W. King

Dudley, Dud (1600?–1684), ironmaster, was probably born in spring 1600, the fourth illegitimate son of Edward Sutton, fifth Baron Dudley (1567–1643), and his long term 'concubine', Elizabeth Tomlinson (d. 1629). He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, from 1619 to 1622. Lord Dudley was generous to his illegitimate family during Elizabeth's life, but in 1628 married his legitimate granddaughter Frances (1611–1697) to Humble Ward (later Lord Ward), whose father redeemed the heavily mortgaged Dudley estates; also Dud Dudley fell out with his mother in 1627, having in the previous year (on 12 October) married Eleanor (d. 3 Dec 1675), daughter of Francis Heaton of Groveley Hall, Worcestershire, and Mary, daughter of Francis Dincley or Dingley of Charlton in the same county.

Dud Dudley is the best-known and most persistent of those, starting with Thomas Proctor in 1589, who attempted to smelt iron ore with a fuel other than charcoal, thus opening the way to producing iron in quantities not limited by the availability (and hence the speed of growth) of wood. He claimed in his book, Dud Dudley's Metallum martis (1665), to have succeeded, but this has been the subject of modern doubt: the best view is probably that he made something like iron, but contaminated with sulphur and therefore too brittle at red heat to be forged. His claim to have made pots and other cast-ware is more credible, but this probably provided insufficient work to keep a blast furnace busy.

Initial experiments in pit-coal smelting began before Dudley's father in May 1618 obtained a licence from John Robinson (or Rovenson), an earlier patentee; Lord Dudley obtained a new patent in his own name in February 1622. Dud Dudley, who may have been concerned in these experiments, was fetched from Balliol College, Oxford, probably in March 1622 to manage his father's ironworks at Cradley (then part of Pensnett Chase), one of four or five ironworks that had been built by his father on his Dudley estates, but the works were destroyed by the ‘Mayday flood’ in the following year, shortly after Dudley had begun to make iron with pit coal. He rebuilt the works, but being 'outed of his works' (Dudley, 11), moved to his father's Himley furnace, where, lacking a forge, he had 'to sell pig iron to charcoal ironmasters who did him much prejudice by not only detaining his stock but also disparaging the iron' (ibid., 12). As a result his father let the furnace to Richard Foley (1580–1657) in 1625. Dudley then used the nearby Hascoe furnace (now Askew Bridge) at Gornal Wood, also belonging to his father. This was leased by William Smallman, Dudley's trustee, in January 1626 and transferred to Francis Heaton in 1631. There, using larger bellows, Dudley cast 7 tons of pig iron per week, then a record for pit-coal iron; but, evidently again unsuccessful, he sublet his furnace and mines in November 1627 to an agent of Richard Foley. Foley was evicted in 1631 by Lord Dudley, who said Dud Dudley had no right but in trust for Lord Dudley. Further litigation from 1634 with the Ward family over title to the manor of Himley ended with Dudley's imprisonment about November 1638 in London for contempt, the dispute being settled in April 1639 by his resigning all claim to the family estates in exchange for confirmation of his lease of Greens Lodge (in Wombourne, Staffordshire).

In 1638 Dudley and others obtained a new patent for smelting with pit coal, but probably did not then develop it. In 1651 he erected a 'bloomery' for smelting lead (perhaps a reverberatory furnace) at Okham Slade in Clifton, near Bristol, but his partners there, Walter Stephens, a linen draper, and John Stone, a merchant, harassed him for debt; he claimed this was unjust and because he was a royalist, but Stephens's widow replied that he had failed to repay a loan guaranteed by her husband. Despite failing to get his patent renewed after the Restoration, he built a unique furnace at Dudley 'for making iron or melting ironstone with charcoal made of wood and pitcoal together to be blown … by the strength of men and horses without the help of water' (TNA: PRO, E112/538/95), but was no longer a partner by 1671. With Edward Chamberlain he did, however, in 1662 obtain a patent to make tin plate, and, although they did not exploit it, it was Chamberlain's questionable renewal of this patent in 1672 that prevented Joshua Newborough and Philip Foley from exploiting the tin-plate researches of Andrew Yarranton and Ambrose Crowley at Wolverley Lower Mill, near Kidderminster. Dudley also tried to use coal in the next stage of the production of iron, in which pig iron was fined and drawn out into bar iron in a forge, and he complained that his process was in use at Greens, Swin, Heath, and Cradley forges, all in south Staffordshire and then belonging to Thomas Foley (1616–1676), 'yet the author hath had no benefit thereby' (Dudley, 35); despite his belief, however, this was not his invention.

In 1637 Dudley visited Scotland in the train of the marquess of Hamilton. He served against the Scots in 1640 and as a royalist officer throughout the civil war, being promoted to colonel after the fall of Lichfield, where he had been responsible for successfully mining the walls. In addition he organized ordnance supplies in Staffordshire and Worcestershire and was general of ordnance to Prince Maurice and then Lord Astley, being taken at the fall of Worcester. In 1648 he mustered 200 men in Boscobel Woods in order to seize Dawley Castle, Shropshire, but they were captured by Andrew Yarranton; he was imprisoned but escaped, and was retaken in London, again escaping the day before he was due to be shot. For the next two years he lived at Bristol under a false name, Dr Hunt. Unable to compound for his delinquency, he lost his property, except a house in Friarsgate, Worcester, until the Restoration, when he petitioned the king for redress and was appointed a serjeant-at-arms.

In 1665, probably to find a financial backer, Dudley wrote Dud Dudley's Metallum martis, or, Iron Made with Pit-Coale, Sea-Cole, etc., the work that has caused him to be remembered. His diagrammatic map of the coalfield around Dudley Castle is an early move towards geological mapping. The secrets of his process (if there were any) were not disclosed in this and they therefore probably died with him. However, it is possible that Sir Clement Clerke, one of his successors at the Dudley furnace, was his pupil. If so, what Dud Dudley discovered may have enabled Clerke and his sons to establish the successful copper and lead smelting works using reverberatory furnaces. These became the basis of two of the new chartered companies of the 1690s and for much of the eighteenth-century metal smelting industry. Dudley remarried as an old man and had a son, but the name of his second wife is not known. He died in October 1684 at his house in Friarsgate, Worcester, and was buried at St Helen's Church, on 25 October, a fact not added to the memorial he set up there to his wife.


  • A. Bedord-Smith, ‘Dudonius Dudley, a short summary of his life and works’, typescript, Library of Birmingham, local studies class 78.1 DUD
  • P. W. King, ‘Dud Dudley's contribution to metallurgy’, Historical Metallurgy, 36 (2002), 43–53
  • TNA: PRO, C 5/420/77
  • TNA: PRO, SP 29/11/54. i
  • William Salt Library, Stafford, Salt MS 393(ii) [transcript of Royalist composition papers], 25–43
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
Library of Birmingham