• 1742

    A French chemist, P.J.Malouin, presents the results of several experiments involving coating iron with molten zinc to the Royal Academy of Sciences. This is the first record of galvanizing.

  • 1772

    Luigi Galvani discovers the electrochemical process that takes place between metals.

  • 1829

    Michael Faraday discovers zinc’s sacrificial action during an experiment involving zinc, salt water and nails.

  • 1836

    French engineer, Stanislaus Sorel takes out the first patent for a process of coating steel by dipping in molten zinc. He provides the process of galvanizing with its name. Sorel is understood to have been aware of the electrochemical nature of corrosion and the sacrificial role of the zinc coating on iron.

  • 1837

    An Englishman, William Henry Crawford, takes out a patent for a similar process for hot dip galvanizing sheets.

  • 1844

    The first use of galvanized corrugated iron is for the Navy at Pembroke Docks, South Wales.

  • 1850

    Some 10,000 tons of zinc is now being used annually for the protection of iron.

  • 1856

    John Lysaght, an Irish born civil engineer, buys a small hardware galvanizing business using the Crawford technique at Temple Back, Bristol. The name “Orb” is adopted as the trademark for the corrugated galvanized iron sheets produced by the new company, John Lysaght Limited.

  • 1857

    Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Co. is founded by John and Joseph Jones in Church Street, Wolverhampton, to manufacture galvanised plain and corrugated steel sheets, mainly for export under the Emu brand.

  • 1869

    John Lysaght Ltd opens a new factory at Netham, Bristol, to meet demand for the highly valued “Orb” sheeting.

  • 1878

    John Lysaght’s new factory now employs 400 men in the production of 1,000 tons of galvanized iron sheets a month. The company buys the disused Swan Garden Iron Works in Wolverhampton.

  • 1880

    Lysaght’s acquire Osier Beds Iron Works, Wolverhampton, providing the company with the capacity to produce 40,000 tons of rolled iron sheet a year for the UK and Australian markets.

  • 1881

    A further patent is granted to John Lysaght, for improvement in the apparatus for the coating of sheets. He remains based in Bristol, now the centre of the country’s galvanizing industry.

    Late 19th century

    Further developments of the galvanizing process take place in England’s Black Country, France, Germany and America.

  • 1890

    John Summers and Sons Limited expand their Globe Iron Works at Stalybridge, near Manchester, to produce “black” uncoated sheets from imported steel bars. Six rolling mills, driven by steam engine, are installed and for the first time in this country iron bars are rolled into long sheet lengths. The “black” sheets are initially sold to galvanizers in the Liverpool area.

  • 1894

    An experimental galvanizing pot is installed at the end of a sheet mill at the Globe Iron Works. It is the first move towards John Summers and Sons becoming the largest producers of galvanized steel sheets in the country. As demand builds up, a further five zinc pots are installed. The process involves a crude steel sheet being man-handled first into a tank of sulphuric acid to remove scale and other foreign matter and then into a bath of molten zinc. Adhesion of the zinc coating is enhanced by feeding the sheet through a ‘sal ammoniac’ flux layer floating on the molten zinc.

  • 1895

    John Summers and Sons purchase reclaimed marshland at Hawarden Bridge, opposite the Flintshire, North Wales, village of Shotton, from the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway Company as the site for a second galvanizing works. The attractions of the new location include proximity and rail and river access to the ports of Liverpool and Birkenhead. Ninety per cent of galvanized sheets produced in the UK are now being exported.

    South Wales acquisition

    Wright and Butler & Co., owners of Pontymoile Tinplate Works in South Wales, acquire the Phoenix Works at Panteg from Alfred Baldwin & Co., and start to produce galvanized steel sheets.

  • 1896

    John Summers and Sons’ new Hawarden Bridge Iron Works opens for production in September. The new plant, covering six acres of reclaimed marshland, includes eight steam-driven sheet rolling mills, annealing furnaces, galvanizing pots and corrugating equipment. The work force is 250 strong and the initial weekly output of black and galvanized sheets is 600 tons.

    Each galvanizing pot is equipped with four rolls to guide the pickled steel sheets through the pot of molten zinc and to control zinc thickness. Most of the spangle-finished sheets are corrugated to add strength.

    Initially the quality of galvanized sheets is often a cause for concern and many defective sheets are sold off cheaply. Extensive testing shows traces of arsenic in the ore being burnt in the chemical plant, leading to black spots developing on the galvanized sheets a few days after coating.

  • 1898

    Annual production of galvanized sheets at the Summers’ works at Stalybridge and Hawarden Bridge reaches 40,000 tons, the bulk being manufactured at the new Deeside works.

  • 1899

    John Lysaght Limited opens Orb steelworks>near Newport, South Wales. to roll sheet steel for galvanizing in Bristol.

    Switch to galvanizing

    W.Gilbertson and Co., convert tinplate mills at Pontardawe and Brynamman in South Wales into sheet mills and begin to galvanise.