Bitton Families

Swinford Copper Mill


Swinford Mill, Bitton Parish
Courtesy of Martin Thompson

The Copper Works at Swinford Mill

By Reg Harris

The old mill at Swinford had been a fulling mill (used to beat cloth and felt as a finishing operation). It was situated on the bank of the River Avon and had a water wheel and shafting.

In 1708 it was leased by John COSTER (1647 - 1718), who put in plant to roll refined copper from his, and his partners', works at Upper Redbrook, Gloucestershire. He kept the Swinford works separate and in the hands of himself and members of his family.

At Swinford the copper ingots from the Upper Redbrook works were rolled, annealed in the annealing ovens, and rolled again, and the process repeated until they became sheets.

By 1713 the sheet copper went from Swinford to another of his works at Bye Mills on the River Chew which ran into the Avon at Keynsham on the other bank about two miles towards Bristol. There it was beaten into pots and pans.

In 1718 John COSTER died and his works were bequeathed to his three sons (Thomas, John and Robert) who continued to expand by taking leases on other mills on the Somerset side of the Avon. Thomas became the leading partner and, in 1734, after the death of his brother John, he sold a third part of the business to a Joseph PERCIVAL. The following year the youngest COSTER brother, Robert, died; then Thomas died in 1739. The mills were run by his daughter, Jane, and Joseph PERCIVAL for a time until she sold out to Joseph who later sold it to a Joseph FREEMAN. In 1859, Joseph FREEMAN relinquished the lease on the mill and all the plant was sold off.

For additional information on the family, please visit the COSTER Family page. You may also wish to visit the THOMPSON Family page, as members of this family migrated from Redbrook to Bitton to Bye Mill (to Publow/Pensford) as the mills were opened.

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