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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

An operational tar works

In 1791 the Society of Arts awarded a prize for an account of a tar making plant at the Dudley Wood Ironworks. It is not clear why they rewarded the author of a report about a tar works, rather than those who had actually set the tar works up. The author of the article was a William Pitt. He may have come from the local area - members of a Pitt family were then living in the district of Dudley Wood and Woodside.

Members of the Attwood family probably leased the ironworks at Dudley Wood - they certainly held it from 1800. The next generation of Attwoods became very wealthy through a wide range of manufactures, which included chemicals, and investment in the London gas industry, while others, most notably Thomas, went into politics. The Dudley Wood foundry itself was later managed by Philip Taylor, the inventor of oil gas and brother of John Taylor, the mining engineer.

The actual idea for the tar recovery plant at Dudley, which William Pitt described, came from the Earl of Dundonald

At Dudley Wood 'smoke from steam engines' was converted into tar. The process was itself a way of using waste products. Pitt described how 'the iron masters give the tar works raw coal gratis and in return get the coke', while the 'proprietors get the smoke for their labour and interest of capital'. Tar was recovered from the condensed 'smoke' through an elaborate process, described in detail in the published report.

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