Reynolds, William 1758 - 1803

English; British

(1758-1803), ironmaster, scientist

William Reynolds was born in Ketley, Shropshire on the 14th April 1758 to father Richard Reynolds (1735-1816). Between 1766 and 1769 Reynolds was educated by a resident tutor, George Harrison. By 1777, when he was nineteen, he was employed in his father's ironworks and was negotiating with James Watt over the installation of new steam engines at Ketley. He was subsequently responsible for similar Boulton and Watt engines at the partners' other works at Coalbrookdale and Horsehay. He was also involved in the establishment of a new blast furnace complex at Donnington Wood in 1783–5.

In 1789 Reynolds, with his brother Joseph, received his father's shares in the Coalbrookdale concerns, and took over direction of the works at Ketley, and in 1796 William and Joseph Reynolds took charge of the Madeley Wood and Ketley ironworks. Reynolds most significant metallurgical achievement was perhaps his process for making manganese steel, which was patented in 1799.

Reynolds great initiatives included; tow-paths constructed along the River Severn between 1796 and 1809, allowing the use of horses for towing vessels, construction of much of the tub-boat canal system of the east Shropshire coalfield. In 1786-7 he promoted two short private canals at Wombridge and Ketley and was an active shareholder in the Shrewsbury Canal and the Preens Eddy Bridge, which crossed the Severn. He suggested the installation of a cantilevered tow-path through the 970 yard Berwick Tunnel and the castings for the iron aqueduct at London upon Tern were made at his ironworks at Ketley. Reynolds established the canal port at the eastern end of the Ironbridge Gorge, which from 1794 gained the name of Coalport. He constructed a riverside warehouse for general cargoes, and developed facilities for the downstream dispatch of coal brought to the banks of the Severn by canal.

He was a pioneer of scientific geology and displayed his collection of fossils at his home at Ketley Bank House. Part of his collection, after many vicissitudes, passed to the British Museum (Natural History) in 1956. He contributed substantially to the sections on transport and manufactures in Joseph Plymley's General View of the Agriculture of Shropshire (1803). After some years of ill health, Reynolds died on 3 June 1803 at Coalbrookdale.