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  William Clemson - Partner   17 of 21  

William Clemson was born at Penns Mill, in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, England on May 27, 1821. 

He grow up in stimulating and challenging environment.  His father was skilled wire-drawer, employed by the best in business. 

The Birmingham and surrounding areas were famous industrial center and Webster's family, an employer of Clemson's father, was known throughout the world for producing highest quality steel wire.

In the "Graphic illustrations of Warwickshire" published in 1829 by Warwick County, we found this description of the area:

"The manor of Sutton was granted by King Henry I to Roger, Earl of Warwick, and continued in that noble family till the latter end of the reign of King Henry VI when the Earl siding with the house of York, it was seized by the King.  

In the following reign the town fell much to ruin, and the manor house was pulled down; and in this decayed condition did it continue till John Harman, alias Veisey, Bishop of Exeter, 'bearing a great affection thereto, as being the place of his birth,' procured letters patent for making it a corporation, and 'bestowed very great cost, as well for ornament, as enriching thereof.'

He built a market house, paved the town, repaired and enlarged the church, and built and endowed a free grammar school.  He likewise built fifty-one houses, in various parts of the town and parish, for the purpose of introducing the manufacture of kerseys; but it was shortly afterwards neglected and is now discontinued, the houses however remain. 

In this parish is part of that large uncultivated tract of land, consisting of nearly thirteen thousand acres, known by the name of the "Coldfield," for the enclosure of which an act has lately been obtained. 

Among the pleasing and extensive views which different parts of this elevated tract of country afford, from the southern portion of it is obtained one of more than ordinary interest, presenting in the midst of a rich and well cultivated country, the beautiful spire and the stately hall of Aston, while the distance is well filled up by the spires and public buildings of Birmingham." 

Penns Hall and lake was originally the home of John Penn who operated an agricultural mill.  The earliest recorded history of the mill dates from c. 1618 when William Fisher, a Yeoman of New Shipton, sold his corn mills for £15 to John Penn.  The Penn family occupied the mill for around 50 years.

The lake or mill pond was cut by hand and constructed by damming the sloping land to the back of the hall and directing water from the Plantsbrook, to supply power to the waterwheel.

In 1752, Joseph Webster I (1720-1780) obtained a lease of Penns Mill.  Joseph was the son of John Webster (1687-1757), wire drawer and iron master of Birmingham. Originally trading as an ironmonger, John Webster entered into partnership with John Turton to produce bar iron at Perry Barr after Websterís marriage in 1718.  Webster is reputed to have turned to wire production in 1720. The firm has produced wire continuously since this time.

Penns Mill site, together with the neighboring forge at Plants Brook, Minworth, was to be the centre of the firmís production for the next century and Penns was also the home of successive Webster and Horsfall owners.

The business continued to prosper under members of the Webster family until the 1850s, the success of the enterprise being assured by Joseph Websterís application of crucible cast steel in his wire production.

By the Napoleonic wars, the firm increasingly dominated the domestic market for piano wire and in the 1820s, the use of manganese steel for this purpose gave the Websters the edge over German competitors.

The last of the Websters, engaged in the business was Baron Dickinson Webster (1818-1860), a younger son of Joseph Webster III (1783-1856).

  Joseph Webster had safeguarded the firm against competition from the new patent piano wire of a rival, James Horsfall of Birmingham, by arranging for Horsfall to enter into partnership with BD Webster in 1855. 

During this period of Webster-Horsfall partnership, production at Penns and Plants Brook was abandoned and in 1859 wire production was transferred to Hay Mills on the outskirts of Birmingham.  Steel was supplied from a separate plant which had first been leased by Joseph Webster III at Killamarsh, Derbyshire. 

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