George Newton was a businessman, Thomas Chambers a craftsman in iron and their partnership had the aim of smelting and casting iron in various forms. In 1792 they bought the mining rights to the Thorncliffe valley and set up their works on the Thorncliffe site, to the north of Sheffield. Coal from the mines was provided as charge for beehive coke ovens which were built on the site. By the end of the 19th century the company was not only mining coal and ironstone, but building blast furnaces, coke ovens and chemical plant. Heavy section iron cast in the foundry was used in two iconic structures : Tower Bridge, crossing the River Thames in London, and the Eddystone lighthouse. During the 1890s the company introduced its “Izal” disinfectant made from distilled coal tar.
In 1939 the Thorncliffe works came under the control of the Admiralty. A new workshop was constructed close to Thorncliffe, which was used to build army vehicles and became the largest manufacturer of Churchill tanks for the war effort.
The nationalisation of the coal and steel industries in 1948 meant that Newton, Chambers & Co. was forced to sell off its interest in these fields. However, the company remained heavily involved in iron and steel founding and the production of chemicals from tar distillates. The firm also designed and supplied all manner of process plant and equipment for the coal-gas, chemical and steel industries. In the 1950s the company diversified into the production of excavators, draglines and other construction equipment.
In 1972 Newton, Chambers & Co. was taken over by an industrial holding company called Central & Sherwood, and the Izlal division was sold to Sterling-Winthrop.
by Mark Matlach