1969 年 4 巻 2 号 p. 61-91
The huge Seraing iron and machine works, founded by the Cockerills in 1817, was in the first half of the 19th century one of the largest heavy industry establishments on the Continent, and not only a most formidable rival for the British machine industry, but also something like a model factory and training center for young engineers and skilled workers in Germany and other nations. In this article we attempt to throw some light on the role which the Cockerills played in the course of the industrial revolution on the Continent.
The Cockerill family, English mechanics in origin, started their business in 1799, when William Cockerill with his sons at the request of Simonis, Biolly & Co., the biggest clothier in the Verviers woollen industry district, constructed a set of machines for the woollen industry. Afterwards the Cockerills transferred their workshop to Liège, the iron industry center of Belgium, to take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities for machine-makers which the prosperous woollen industries, under the Napoleonic Empire, guaranteed them.
After 1815, when Belgium was cut off from France, the Cockerills were obliged to contend with the economic crisis caused by the fall of the Napoleonic system, and tried to seek compensation in German markets. They founded actually several branch-mills for machine construction and model woollen spinneries in Berlin and other eastern German towns under the auspices of the Prussian Government, besides some similar ones in Russian Poland.
However, John Cockerill, the successor of this family enterprise, dissatisfied with this limitation of his business, ventured into the difficult undertaking of being a steam engine constructor. He converted the Seraing castle, disposed of by the King William I of the Netherlands at a favourable price, into a huge machine factory in 1817.
Moreover, to secure materials suitable for machine-building, John Cockerill was obliged not only to expand his business to iron works and collieries under the auspice of the Netherlands government, but also to form a joint enterprise with the State.
Through several years of hardships and experiments, his business was established in a complete vertical combination, and after 1830, Cockerill was able to take full advantages of the excellent capacities of his factories in the face of new railway age.
It was duly these legacies of John Cockerill that allowed made the Seraing factory to survive to become the best in European heavy industries, after his bankruptcy in 1839 and his death in 1842 followed by a reorganization of the business into a joint stock company.