Horner writing early in this century said that Iron is not
only the soul of every other manufacture, but the main
spring perhaps of civilized society.
Cobden has said that our wealth, commerce, and manufactures
grew out of the skilled labour of men working in metals.
According to Carlyle, the epic of the future is not to be
Arms and the Man, but Tools and the Man.
Ye all know that
iron was mined and smelted in considerable quantities in
this island as far back as the time of the Romans; and we
cherish a vague notion that iron must have been mined and
smelted here ever since on a progressively increasing scale.
We are so accustomed to think and speak of ourselves as
first among all nations, at the smelting-furnace, in the
smithy, and amid the Titanic labours of the mechanical
workshop, that we open large eyes when we are told what a
recent conquest all this superiority is!
There was, indeed, some centuries later than the Roman
occupation, a period coming down to quite modern times,
during which English iron-mines were left almost unworked.
In Edward IIIís reign, the pots, spits, and frying-pans of
the royal kitchen were classed among his majesty's jewels.
For the planners of the Armada the greater abundance and
excellence of Spanish iron compared with English was an
important element in their calculations of success.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the home market
looked to Spain and Germany for its supply both of iron and
steel. After that, Sweden came prominently forward; and from
her, as late as the middle of the eighteenth century, no
less than four-fifths of the iron used in this country was