Archivist’s Pick: Notes on gunpowder manufacture

September 04th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Two of the most attractive items in the Alan and Glenys Crocker collection are beautiful handwritten notebooks from the Royal Gunpowder Factories at Faversham and Waltham Abbey.
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The notebook from Faversham is older – it consists of pages from a notebook of 1798 which were then pasted into another notebook in 1878.

As well as pictures like these it contains notes on the gunpowder milling process like the following:

Process of Making Gunpowder at Faversham

… The whole is placed in a Tub, having a Kind of Rack which is turned round to mix the Ingredients, it is then put into a Box or hopper … in which is a Machine for stiring it about, from that Box it is taken to the Mill Room and there passed thro another mixing Tub, 30 lb are then put under each pair of Stones with a little Water, which is also added from time to time as it works dry. 5 Hours are required at Faversham, and at Waltham Abby to work paste owing to the greater Body and height of Water at the latter place, and as the goodness of Powder is increased by the quickness of Working, Waltham Abby Powder exceeded that of Faversham as 190 to 169. The Mills work constantly Day and Night, the men are relieved every 6 hours …

The book from Waltham Abbey dates from 1871 and likewise contains quantities and instructions for the various processes. It also contains several pictures:

The Waltham Abbey notebook has been digitised and is available on our catalogue: https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/notebook-from-royal-gunpowder-factory-waltham-abbey