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Jericho Sketchbook

Lucy's Eagle Iron Works

Lucy's Eagle Iron Worls, Jericho
Lucy's Eagle Iron Works, Walton Well Road

When William Carter moved his iron foundry from Summertown to the canal in 1825 he unknowingly laid a substantial foundation for modern Jericho. Carter was a local ironmonger, brazier and tinplater who had opened his shop in High Street in 1812. From there he branched out into manufacturing agricultural implements in local workshops before setting up his foundry in Summertown. His move to the canal was intended to take advantage of the cheap water transport which could bring coal, iron ore and limestone to his door and take the finished products of the foundry back to the growing markets in the West Midlands. The company specialized in cast iron; pipes, girders, lamp posts, fire baskets and such like but especially in ornamental ironwork for gates and balconies. It continued to manufacture agricultural machinery and, after William Grafton became a partner, printing machinery. Most of this early work was taken for scrap in 1940-41. In 1830 Carter moved to the Eagle Foundry in Leamington, leaving Grafton to manage the Oxford works which became known as the Eagle Ironworks. On Grafton's death in 1861 his partner, William Lucy, took control and on his death in 1873 the name Lucy's was adopted.

During the great building boom of the mid-Victorian period when so many new colleges and faculty buildings were being constructed and the north Oxford suburbs were growing fast, Lucy's prospered. Ornamental ironwork was fashionable and structural ironwork in demand. By the late 1880s the building trade was falling into depression and in 1879 Lucy's became a joint stock company under Charles Kelly and his partners. Production switched to stainless steel furnishings and electrical engineering. Lucy's library stacking was a speciality, also arc lamps, electric lamp fittings and castings for heavy steam rollers. In 1905 J.R. Dick became managing director; in 1926 he became Chairman. During both World Wars Lucy's made munitions but between the wars they concentrated on electrical engineering and switch gear manufacture. After the second war machine tool production was added.

The restricted site has always been a problem for the company, although in 1854 it obtained the freehold from St.John's. The site was also extended by the purchase of the old ink factory from the University Press and it also moved its fettling plant to a site north of Walton Well Road, west of the canal. In the 1960s it built two large apartment blocks on the old wharves by the canal. In the designation of Jericho as a residential area Lucy's was exempted from the ban on industry but the change from poor working class district to fashionable residential area has since brought a new element into the community — young, educated, articulate and concerned for the environment — and this has led to a succession of clashes with the directors of Lucy's. The company has been obliged to install filters and soundproofing, to restrict industrial traffic on the roads and to re-locate its fettling works. The re-development of this site for housing has also been strongly opposed on environmental grounds. Even so Lucy's is an important reminder of Jericho's industrial past.