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Doncaster Features: Famous Doncastrian: Benjamin Huntsman

Benjamin Huntsman

Benjamin Huntsman was born in Epworth on 4th June 1704, and in 1725 he moved to Doncaster and started his first clock-making business. He was known as the "wise man" in town and was relied upon to fix almost anything.

By 1739 he was renting a fairly substantial house in the High Street, and bought the freehold two years later for £210. His successful business as clockmaker probably allowed him the time and resources to experiment on a small scale, and it is generally believed that it was in Doncaster that he began his first tentative experiments with steel.

As time passed, the nearby towns, mainly Sheffield, started to show interest in the cast-steel. Huntsman hadn't patented his product, a fact that enticed the locals to attempt to learn the process.

Since Huntsman had kept everything secret, it was harder than some of the other metallurgists thought it would be to learn the technique. During one winter night, an iron founder by the name of Walker, pretending to be a starving beggar with no place to sleep, asked if he could sleep by Huntsman's fire. Huntsman agreed and when Walker was supposed to be sleeping, he observed the cast-steel-making process. After this event, cast-steel production began to
spring up all over Sheffield.

The Royal Society wanted to enrol Huntsman as a member in recognition of the merit of his invention of the crucible steel process. Benjamin turned down this honour because he felt that it would conflict with his desire to work in seclusion and would also be against his principles as a memeber of the Society of Friends (Quakers).

Benjamin Huntsman died in 1776 at the age of 72 years. He was buried in the local churchyard in Sheffield's Attercliffe.

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