N.B. This page is part of the Bolstridge Genealogy Database

James Duffield JP 1834 - 1915

My Interest

My late Mother in Law Polly Gulliver nee Greensill always reckoned that one of her husband's relations was managing director of Cammel Lairds. James Duffield born in Tipton in 1834 has been identified as the Great uncle of her Mother - in - Law,  Elizabeth Duffield.

John Parkes in his history of Tipton, published by private subscription in 1916 has a paragraph on James Duffield in the section Famous Tipton sons :-

James Duffield, who was born in Park Lane West 70 years ago and worked in the mines at age of eight years, eventually became Mayor of Workington and retired to Talyntire Hall, he was a life long abstainer.

There is also a mention in the addendum :-

James Duffield of Rotherham died 7 March 1915 aged 82 years old leaving an estate of 454,734 Gross. JP for Cumberland, Director and General Manager of Cammel Laird & co. Inventor of compound armour plate for vessels one time manager of Dronfield and Workington Ironworks.

The following is a condensed version of what has been discovered about this illustrious gentleman so far.


The Duffield family have had a long association with Tipton and neighbouring West Bromwich and Dudley the earliest record being 1606 in the Tipton registers. The name is variously spelt as Duffil, Duffyl, Duffell, and Duffield but had mainly stabilised to Duffield by the late 1800. Today the Tipton Duffields are remembered by older residents for their association with the canals. Some were boatmen and boat loaders and one family were lock keepers at Tipton Green for three generations James' father however was a collier. It is claimed that James worked in the mines at age eight, i.e. 1841/42 this is possible as the act banning boys under 10 and females working underground did not come into force until August 1842. It was common practice for coal miners, the hewers who worked the coal face, to employ their children as they were paid by the ton brought to the surface.

In the 1851 census both James then aged sixteen and his father Abraham were classed as labourers. This does not mean they were not miners as the census enumerator in this case was very imprecise. His father died in 1859 and tradition has it that he and two of his sons died as a result of mining accidents. Mining in Tipton was  particularly dangerous as the pillar and stall method was used and they were mining the South Staffordshire 30 yard seam.

A Career in Iron and Steel

In the 1861 census James can be found married and working as a puddler in Brightside Bierlow 3 miles NE of Sheffield and five miles from Rotherham. Quite how he made this transition in a short time has yet to be explained. A puddler was an extremely skilled operator and the skill was usually earned via apprenticeship or passed from father to son. The puddling process invented by Henry Cort  1794, turned pig iron to highly malleable wrought iron. In 1824 Joseph Hall of Tipton's Bloomfield Iron Works further refined the process by adding mill scale (iron oxide) at the start a practice called locally pig boiling. By the 1850's this particular type of wrought iron branded BBH  was particularly sought after world wide. Why James decided to move to Sheffield is unknown but  in both the 1861 and 1871 census' at Brightside we find a number of iron workers from the Tipton area. In fact in 1871 we find James' widowed mother Elizabeth and three of his younger brothers, Thomas, Edward and Noah, a few streets away. All were involved in the puddling industry. What is significant is the area James was living was local to a number of famous iron and steel works notably the Cyclops Works of Henry Cammell which was adjacent to Henry Bessemer's first steel works opened in 1858.

In 1873 Wilson Cammell had moved production  to Dronfield Derbyshire where they produced mainly steel rails using the Bessemer process for the railway industry worldwide. James and three brothers can be found in the town all with positions of relative responsibility in the Wilson Cammell works James being works manager. In the early 1880's the iron and steel industry were in serious decline and the Wilson Cammell company decided to move production to the coast  at Workington minimising transport costs. This was a bold move but successful, the works prospered and many Dronfield workers moved with the company. James moved as General Manager, his brothers also moved and by 1901 they all had supervisory positions.

In 1903 Lairds the shipbuilders merged with Wilson Cammel to form the famous shipbuilding firm of Cammell Lairds, James eventually being made a director. He became a Justice of the Peace for Cumberland and Mayor of Workington eventually retiring to Tallentire Hall, the Elizabethan ancestral home of the Browne family and died in 1915 a very wealthy man. The electoral roll still shows Duffields in Workington no doubt descendants of the Tipton family.

James died in 1915 in Rotherham at the home of his Grandson SD Moorwood.

P.P. John Pettinger

Will of James Duffield, with six codicils, proved at Principal Probate Registry on 17th June 1915. Admin granted to surviving Trustees: John Charles, solicitor and Hugh Barbour. Selina Duffield, widow. Gross value of Estate: 454,734:0s:6d Net value of Personal Estate: 314,947:19s:3d

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