As noted in the Richard Bills blog part one, his main connection with the Darlaston overseers’ came through the provision of grocery goods. A number of the bills were sent to Charles Green (see entry Charles Green (1778 –1856), Overseer, Darlaston).
Bills, however, was a gunlock-maker and ironmaster iron master. He also served as churchwarden for St. Lawrence’s, Darlaston, in 1815. Samuel Mills served in the same capacity in 1858 and between 1862 and 1864.
According to Pigot’s 1828-29 directory there were a number of gunlock-makers in and around Darlaston, including Richard Bills and Samuel Bills, and one woman, Elizabeth Bayley.
Samuel Bills (is this a misprint in the directory; should it read Samuel Mills?)
John Griffiths Whitehead
Samuel Mills was the son of a butcher, Thomas Fellows Mills and his wife Elizabeth. Thomas’ early death, in 1806, aged 23, however, occurred when Samuel was not yet one. In 1813 Thomas’ widow, Elizabeth, married Richard Bills.
Richard’s business was located in Furnace Lane, Lower Green. When he attained the age of 21, Samuel Mills was made a partner in his step-father’s business.
Aris’s Birmingham Gazette (15 June 1829) contained an advert for Bills and Mills at Darlaston Green Iron Works for a ‘steady man to undertake the management of a Mill for polishing shoe heel tips’.
In February 1849 the London Gazette carried the following announcement:
Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore existing between the undersigned, Richard Bills and Samuel Mills, carrying on trade at Darlaston, in the county of Stafford, as Iron Masters, Steel Manufacturers and Coal Masters, under the firm or style of Bills and Mills, was this day dissolved by mutual consent. All debts owing to or by the said partnership will be received and paid by the said Samuel Mills, by whom the trades will in future be carried on. Dated the 7th day of February 1849.
Richard Bills died soon afterwards. The business, however, prospered to become one of the largest iron company’s in the region, with around 2000 employees on a site covering 55 acres.
Richard’s connections with the iron industry, however, stretched beyond the immediate area of Darlaston. In April 1810 he loaned £500 to Hannah Lees (née Buckley, 1764–1831), the owner of Park Bridge Ironworks, a large concern near Manchester. It is not clear, at present, how Bills and Lees came to know each other. Perhaps it was through their shared business interests, or through family connections. Nevell believes that in all likelihood the loan was used to finance the building of new weir on the river Medlock and a water-powered building (purpose unclear) referred to in a lease April 1810.
The Park Bridge Ironworks had been established by Hannah’s husband Samuel Lees (1754-1804) in 1786. His death in 1804 left Hannah with their six surviving children (three others had died in 1800) aged between fifteen and two. The management of Samuel’s estate was conducted by his widow Hannah. Although the business was left in trust to Edward, in 1806 Hannah took over the lease of the site. Under her the ironworks expanded significantly.
Frederick Hackwood, A History of Darlaston (Wednesbury: Horton Bros., 1887)
London Gazette, 9 February 1849
Pigot and Co., National Commercial Directory for 1828-29, Cheshire, Cumberland [&c.] (London and Manchester: J. Pigot and Co., 1828)
This blog has benefited enormously from the information available from the following websites:
Mike Nevell, Salford University: https://archaeologyuos.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/hannah-lees-of-the-park-bridge-ironworks/ accessed 09/07/2018
https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Samuel_Mills accessed 09/07/2018
http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Darlaston/NotablePeople.htm accessed 09/07/2018
This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.