Clerke, Sir Clement

SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy
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d. 1693
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English entrepreneur responsible, with others, for attempts to introduce coal-fired smelting of lead and, later, of copper.
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Clerke, from Launde Abbey in Leicestershire, was involved in early experiments to smelt lead using coal fuel, which was believed to have been located on the Leicestershire-Derbyshire border. Concurrently, Lord Grandison was financing experiments at Bristol for similar purposes, causing the downfall of an earlier unsuccessful patented method before securing his own patent in 1678. In that same year Clerke took over management of the Bristol works, claiming the ability to secure financial return from Grandison's methods. Financial success proved elusive, although the technical problems of adapting the reverberatory furnace to coal fuel appear to have been solved when Clerke was found to have established another lead works nearby on his own account. He was forced to cease work on lead in 1684 in respect of Grandison's patent rights. Clerke then turned to investigations into the coal-fired smelting of other metals and started to smelt copper in coal-fired reverberatory furnaces. By 1688–9 small supplied of merchantable copper were offered for sale in London in order to pay his workers, possibly because of further financial troubles. The practical success of his smelting innovation is widely acknowledged to have been the responsibility of John Coster and, to a smaller extent, Gabriel Wayne, both of whom left Clerke and set up separate works elsewhere. Clerke's son Talbot took over administration of his father's works, which declined still further and closed c. 1693, at about the time of Sir Clement's death. Both Coster and Wayne continued to develop smelting techniques, establishing a new British industry in the smelting of copper with coal.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Created baronet 1661.
Further Reading
Rhys Jenkins, 1934, "The reverberatory furnace with coal fuel", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 34:67–81.
—1943–4, "Copper smelting in England: Revival at the end of the seventeenth century", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 24:78–80.
J.Morton, 1985, The Rise of the Modern Copper and Brass Industry: 1690 to 1750, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 87–106.
JD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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