James Foster (ironmaster)

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For other people of the same name, see James Foster (disambiguation).

James Foster (1786–1853) was a prominent Worcestershire ironmaster and senior partner in the important iron company of John Bradley & Co., Stourbridge, taking its name from his elder half-brother. As well as the Stourbridge ironworks, the business owned a number of coal and ironstone mines, furnaces, forges and other works in the Black Country and near Ironbridge. The business continued long after James Foster's death, ultimately being incorporated as John Bradley (Stourbridge) Ltd in the early 20th century. In the late 19th century, the company was a member of the Marked Bar Association, whose members were the makers of the highest quality bar iron of the time.

The company's Murray Hypocycloidal Engine, built in 1805, is now in Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. It is the world's third-oldest working steam engine.[1]

Foster also formed a subsidiary partnership with John Urpeth Rastrick in Stourbridge which traded as Foster, Rastrick and Company. The company was in existence from 1819 to 1831, and at the leading edge of iron technology; producing a wide range of products such as blast furnaces and rolling mill equipment, sugar mills for export to the West Indies, iron 'bearers' (beams) for important buildings of the age, wrought iron rails, and four early steam locomotives.

Of these 'The Agenoria' worked on the Kingswinford Railway, near Stourbridge and is now in the National Railway Museum, York. The other three were ordered by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company and exported to the United States. The 'Stourbridge Lion' became the first steam locomotive to run on a commercial railway at Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately it proved too heavy for the wooden track and after a few trial runs was removed. A few components remain in the Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.

The 'New Foundry' built in 1821, with a magnificent iron roof structure spanning 150' x 50', produced components for the company and continued working as a foundry until early in the 21st century. For many years standing semi-derelict, the building has now been intelligently restored and is in use again as a medical centre for Stourbridge people.

James Foster later became a Member of Parliament, for Bridgnorth (1831–1832),[1] and Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire and High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1840.

At his death it was reported that one thousand of his workers paraded after the funeral cortege. His iron business was inherited by his nephew, William Orme Foster.


  1. ^ "Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum". Automuseums. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  • Senate House Library, University of London, John Bradley & Co (Stourbridge) Ltd., Ironfounders. Retrieved April 22, 2005.
  • Collins, Paul (ed.); (1989) Stourbridge and its Historic Locomotives, Dudley, Dudley Leisure Services. ISBN 0-900911-25-5
  • Mutton, Norman, 'The Foster Family: a study of a Midland industrial dynasty 1786-1899' (thesis 1973: copy in Dudley Archives and Local History Centre).

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Whitmore
William Wolryche-Whitmore
Member of Parliament for Bridgnorth
With: William Wolryche-Whitmore
Succeeded by
Robert Pigot
Thomas Charlton Whitmore
Honorary titles
Preceded by
William Congreve Russell
High Sheriff of Worcestershire
Succeeded by
Thomas Charles Hornyold