John Hanbury (1664–1734)

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John Hanbury
Born 1664
Died 1734
Occupation Businessman, politician
Spouse(s) 2
Children more than 4
Parent(s) Capel Hanbury
Relatives William Selwyn (father-in-law)

John Hanbury, Esq. (1664–1734) was one of a dynasty of ironmasters responsible for the industrialisation and urbanisation of the eastern valley through which runs the Afon Llwyd (in English "grey river") in Monmouthshire around Pontypool. Hanbury is most notable for introducing the rolling process of tinplating in the early 18th century.

Background and marriage[edit]

Hanbury was born into a family ultimately from Hanbury, Worcestershire and was christened in Gloucester in 1664. Hanbury was the son of Capel Hanbury (1625–1704), who in turn was the third son of the first John Hanbury of Pursall Green.[1]

Political career[edit]

Hanbury became Member of Parliament for Gloucester in December 1701. He left politics in 1702. He regained his seat in December 1702.

Hanbury lost his Parliamentary seat in 1708, but re-entered politics in 1720 as an MP for the Welsh constituency Monmouthshire. Although a supporter of the Whig party, in his later life he opposed several of Robert Walpole's most important bills.[2] In 1731, he joined with Sir James Lowther and others in opposing the application previously made by William Wood for a royal charter to incorporate a million pound company for his (ineffectve) ironmaking enterprise. Lowther referred to Hanbury as having 'the greatest skill as well as works' (i.e. ironworks).[3]

In 1720 he benefited from the legacy of his friend Charles Williams of Caerleon, and with the £70,000 left to him he bought Colbrook House near Abergavenny,[2] which subsequently passed to John Hanbury's son Charles Hanbury Williams.[1]

Business career[edit]

When his father died in Jan 1704, Hanbury inherited the estate at Pontypool. The estate included ironworks, some of which had long belonged to members of the family. Soon after his father's death he wrote down his observations about his ironworks. He had a blast furnace, forges (probably two), and mills (including a slitting mill) at Pontypool and a further furnace and forge at Llanelly (then in Breconshire). In 1708, he also became interested in the blast furnace at Melin Cwrt, near Neath.[4] Hanbury continued his Pontypool and Llanelly ironworks for the rest of his life and they passed to his descendants with the rest of his Pontypool estate.[1]

The observations included details of the production costs of iron and "Pontpoole plates". Edward Lhwyd in 1697 described the process for making these as involving a rolling mill.[5][6] Hanbury's Observations do not include tin among the costs,[4] which suggests that his Pontypool plates were blackplate(plates of iron), not tinplate. This is confirmed by its being sold by the ton, not by the box. This may be to prevent the plates rusting that Thomas Allgood, one of Hanbury's managers, began japanning plates as "Pontypool japan".[7] However, the concept of rolling plate iron was probably brought to Pontypool by Thomas Cooke, probably the son of Thomas Cooke, who had worked at Wolverley for Andrew Yarranton, who found out how to produce tinplate by visiting Saxony.[8][9]

The first production of tinplate at Pontypool seems to date from 1725, when this commodity first appears in the Gloucester Port Books.[10] This immediately follows the first appearance (in French of Réaumur's Principes de l'art de fer-blanc), but prior to a report of it being published in England - millfounded a rolling mill and started a tinplating industry.[6] Hanbury can thus properly be claimed as the progenitor of the British tinplate industry.

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1701 he married Albina, daughter of William Selwyn and Albinia daughter of Richard Betenson, and began to enlarge Park House in Pontypool, a property begun by his father in 1659.

In July 1703 he married Bridget, eldest daughter of Sir Edward Ayscough of Stallingborough and South Kelsey. With his marriage to Bridget came a fortune of £10,000 and connections with established political families. Bridget was a close friend of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and Hanbury was introduced to influential politicians.[2]

They had issue:

  • John Hanbury of Caerleon, Monmouthshire (1705-1739) dsp.
  • Sir Charles Hanbury KB - later he took the surname Hanbury-Williams- of Coldbrook Park
  • George Hanbury of Coldbrook Park (1715-1764)
  • Thomas Hanbury, Commander, Royal Navy (1722-1778)[11]
  • And others (dsp)

Hanbury died in 1734.


  1. ^ a b c A. A. Locke, The Hanbury Family (London 1916).
  2. ^ a b c Welsh Biography Online
  3. ^ Cumbria Record Office (Carlisle), D/Lons/W2/1/90-91, passim.
  4. ^ a b Printed in H. R. Schubert, History of the British iron and steel industry from c. 450 B.C. to A.D. 1775 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1957), 423–30. The original manuscript is Gwent Record Office, Misc. MS. 448.
  5. ^ In a letter to Tancred Robinson, printed in Philosophical Transactions XXVII (1712), 468, quoted by Minchinton, 10 (and elsewhere).
  6. ^ a b W. E. Minchinton, The British Tinplate Industry: a history (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1957), 10–13.
  7. ^ As to japanning see W. D. John, Pontypool and Usk Japanned Wares (The Ceramic Book Company, Newport, UK, 1953).
  8. ^ Brown, P. J., "Andrew Yarranton and the British tinplate industry", Historical Metallurgy 22(1) (1988), 42–8
  9. ^ King, P. W., "Wolverley Lower Mill and the beginnings of the tinplate industry", Historical Metallurgy 22(2) (1988), 104–113.
  10. ^ Data extracted from D. P. Hussey et al., Gloucester Port Books Database (CD-ROM, University of Wolverhampton 1995).
  11. ^ "Thomas Hanbury, Commander, Royal Navy b. 04 Nov 1722 Pontypool, Monmouthshire, Wales d. 13 Dec 1778 Ile de Re, France (off the coast by La Rochelle): Drabold-Papai". Retrieved 2016-04-27. 
Parliament of England
Preceded by
William Selwyn
John Bridgeman
Member of Parliament for Gloucester
December 1701 – July 1702
With: James Berkley
Succeeded by
John Grobham Howe
William Trye
Preceded by
John Grobham Howe
William Trye
Member of Parliament for Gloucester
December 1702 – 1708
With: William Trye December 1702–05
William Cooke 1705–08
Succeeded by
Thomas Webb
William Cooke
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Lewis
John Morgan
Member of Parliament for Monmouthshire
With: Thomas Lewis 1720–22
William Morgan 1722–31
Charles Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort 1731–34
Thomas Morgan 1734
Succeeded by
Charles Hanbury Williams
Thomas Morgan