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The slitting mill was probably invented near Liège in what is now Belgium. The first slitting mill in England was built at Dartford, Kent in 1590. This was followed by one on Cannock Chase by about 1611, and then Hyde Mill in Kinver in 1627. Others followed in various parts of England where iron was made. However there was a particular concentration of them on the River Stour between Stourbridge and Stourport, where they were conveniently placed to slit iron that was brought up (or down) the River Severn before it reached nailers in the Black Country.
The slitting mill consisted of two pairs of rolls turned by water wheels. Mill bars were flat bars of iron about three inches (75 mm) wide and half an inch (12.7 mm) thick. A piece was cut off the end of the bar with shears powered by one of the water wheels and heated in a furnace. This was then passed between flat rolls which made it into a thick plate. it was then passed through the second rolls (known as cutters), which slit it into rods. The cutters had intersecting grooves, which sheared the iron lengthways.
- Schubert, John Rudolph Theodore (1957). History of the British Iron and Steel Industry from c.450 BC to 1775 AD. London: Routledge. pp. 304–312.
- W. K. V. Gale, The Black Country Iron Industry: a technical history (Iron and Steel Institute, London, 1966), 14–15.
- P. W. King, 'The Development of the Iron Industry in South Staffordshire in the 17th century: history and myth' Trans. Staffs. Arch. & Hist. Soc. XXXVIII (1999 for 1996-7), 62–4.