Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Schalch, Andrew
SCHALCH, ANDREW (1692–1776), master-founder, was born at Schaffhausen in 1692. After being employed in the cannon foundry at Douay he came to England, and in August 1716 he was engaged to build the furnaces and provide the utensils for the new brassfoundry at the Warren (afterwards the Arsenal), Woolwich. Up to that time it had been used as a depôt for stores, and cannon had been proved there, but not manufactured. The only place for casting brass ordnance in England was Bayley's private foundry in Moorfields, where Whitefield's tabernacle afterwards stood. A number of people assembled there on 10 May 1716 to see some of the French guns taken by Marlborough recast as English pieces, and an explosion occurred by which seventeen persons were killed and others injured. It was in consequence of this disastrous accident that a government foundry was decided on. The story has often been repeated that Schalch, a young and unknown man, predicted this explosion, having noticed the dampness of the moulds; that after it had taken place he was advertised for, and that the selection of a site for the new foundry was left to him. He has therefore been reckoned the father of the Arsenal. But the story is unauthenticated. No such advertisement has been traced. On the contrary, one has been found (10 July 1716) inviting competent men to offer themselves, after the site had been chosen and the building begun. A good report of Schalch's capacity having been obtained through the British minister at Brussels, his appointment to Woolwich was confirmed in October. His pay was fixed at 5l. a day. A warrant of the Duke of Marlborough as master-general of the ordnance formally nominated Schalch master-founder of his majesty's brass foundry 16 May 1718.
He remained master-founder for nearly sixty years, acquiring wealth and reputation. In Flemming's ‘Soldat Allemand’ (1726) the excellence of the British brass pieces is specially mentioned. Schalch never suffered the furnaces to be opened till workmen and spectators had joined him in prayer.
He died at the age of eighty-four, and was buried in Woolwich churchyard. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ records his death as Andrew Schutch (sic), esq., at Greenwich on 5 Feb. 1776. His two daughters married respectively Colonel Belson, R.A., and Colonel Williamson, R.A.; each was commandant at Woolwich. Four of Schalch's grandsons, also in the royal artillery, were commemorated with him in 1864 by a window in St. George's (garrison) Church at Woolwich.[Proceedings of the R. A. Institution, vi. 235; Vincent's Records of the Woolwich District; Scott's British Army, iii. 324.]