History of Deanshanger Ironworks
For almost two centuries there has been industry in the Northamptonshire village of Deanshanger; indeed for almost 100 years an iron foundry managed by successive generations of the Roberts family occupied the site of the recently demolished oxide works.

Deanshanger had excellent transport links: the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union Canal twisted through its centre and the main Oxford Stony Stratford road passed through it, not mention the mainline railway at Wolverton only 5 miles away.
Deanshanger Village Green
The Smith Family Roberts
Richard Roberts I was known to be a blacksmith at Wicken. An entry in the Passenham Poor Books in 1766 related to a payment to "Richard Roberd for lettin Richard Capes blood".
As well as making horse shoes and tools he was commissioned to make an artificial iron leg.

For a while the Roberts family disappeared from local records. Then in 1781 a John Roberts came to Deanshanger from nearby Whittlebury.

When John died only 5 years later he was described in the register as being "Blacksmith of Daneshanger". His brother, Richard II carried on the smithy a Wicken and evidently took over Deanshanger, as records in the Passenham Poor Books show payments to him for ironwork in 1795 and 1797.

Roberts the Blacksmiths
Pistol Dick
Richard Roberts III, son of Richard Roberts II is recorded as owning the earliest iron foundry in Deanshanger.

Born in Wicken in 1785, he was married and all his children christened at Passenham. He appeared to have spent all his life in the parish and is therefore considered to be the first true Deanshanger Roberts.

In 1821 he purchased 2 cottages (where there now stands the Victorian foundry building) and established a blacksmiths shop.
The oldest part of the foundry building dates back to 1821. More recently it was used as a laboratory.

Click on one of the red window frames to see a close up view.

In the meantime the smithy at Wicken was run by his cousin, Richard and was passed down over the years through that side of the family.

Richard III acquired the nickname Pistol Dick, due to his alleged apprenticeship with a Birmingham gunsmith during the Napoleonic Wars, although this has not actually been proven.

In 1843 the business was conveyed to his son, John, who was at that time described in factory documents as an "Ironfounder". In By 1847 the property had a become an "iron foundry worked by a small steam engine outside the building, and a Blacksmith Shop detached belonging".

John died 6 years later with debts of £163. The business was left to his widow, Caroline and eldest son, 17 year old Edwin to run.

They proved quite successful as by 1856 the business had developed into "a building used as an Iron factory, office, blacksmith shop and storeroom adjoining, with an engine house adjoining the factory. The engine in full work."

In 1859, aged only 23 years Edwin took full control.

He was soon able to expand the site by purchasing an extra acre of land, which included the Fox and Hounds inn situated behind the foundry. After this he acquired Malting or Factory Row, which consisted of a terrace of 7 cottages next to the factory. In the following year, 1866 he purchased a further 5 acres across the road.
The old Fox and Hounds became an office building and has remained out of sight to the public for many years. Its replacement is situated only yards away on the High Street.
E & H Roberts
In 1875 Henry, Edwin's younger brother, joined him and the successful partnership of E & H Roberts was born.

When the partnership became a limited company in 1890, it had assets of £37,000. Business had certainly diversified and the work carried out was described at this time as "agricultural, general and hydraulic engineering as well as iron and brass founding and millwrighting".

The associated business of Albert Roberts was incorporated and the firm was in addition allowed to carry out repairs to and to manufacture bicycles and other locomotive machinery. Also known as Deanshanger Iron Works and sometimes the Britannia Iron Works the firm flourished. In its heyday the business employed between 100 and 150 men including 30 apprentices.
Joseph Barby
Between 1912 and 1927 the firm suffered a numbers of setbacks: firstly a disastrous fire. Although, this was an opportunity to replace some of its ageing machinery, the business was underinsured. Over the next few years the economic situation in the country as a whole took its toll in Deanshanger. There were a series of strikes. In 1927 despite attempts by the family to rescue the business it went into liquidation.
Joseph Barby, whose father worked for E & H Roberts
Sir Gordon Roberts, the local historian

Some of the equipment was sold off to other local businesses, whilst the buildings remained and gradually decayed over the ensuing decade.
This period is remembered by some local residents who, as children, played near and sometimes on the site.
Interestingly an associated blacksmiths shop remained in business for some years after the closure of E & H Roberts.

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