Do you know the Cockerill saga? (episode 2)
In 1807, William (father) sets up in Liège, at the foot of the ‘Arches Bridge’ with his sons William junior, John and James. The Cockerills found a workshop for manufacturing wooden carding and spinning machines. Soon short of space, the Cockerills acquire the ‘Hôtel des Forêts’ in 1808, located on what is now the Place Cockerill, between the Rue de l’Étuve and the Rue de la Régence. The company flourishes and employs an impressive number of persons. Most of these, in line with the pre-industrial era, work at home. The Cockerills get their supplies from carpenters of the region. The machines are exported to the Rhineland and to several French regions and cities, thanks to prospecting carried out by James Cockerill.
In 1813, John( 20) and James (23) marry the Pastor sisters (Frédérique and Caroline), who are from Aix-la-Chapelle. William (father) hands his workshops over to his sons and retires from the business. The Cockerill brothers take on the cousin of their wives, Gustave Pastor who is later to marry Adèle Hodson, daughter of Nancy Cockerill and James Hodson. With a constant desire to improve, John Cockerill asks Gustave Pastor to travel abroad, to England, to bring back new ideas and take on experienced staff.
In 1815, the two brothers construct their first steam engine, a Watts & Evans model. Already in use during the second half of the 18th century in England, the steam engine is little employed in Europe. The Cockerill brothers therefore take the lead in manufacturing and selling these. Copied from an English model, the machines are entirely made out of metal, which requires contacts with foundries and forges. At the start, they received metal supplies from the wood-burning blast furnaces. Very quickly, the Cockerill brothers realise that it is more interesting to manufacture the metal they need themselves and thus to control every stage of production: from raw materials to the finished product. To do this, they need financial support and an optimal location. Seraing is their choice.