The first industrial plant at South Hylton, and the first Copperas Works on the Wear was built at Hylton by Wm. Scurfield, a surgeon from Newcastle, early in the 18th century.
Copperas is Ferrous Sulphate Heptahydrate, also known as Green Vitriol. It was used extensively in the making of ink, for dyeing and for crop dressing. It is prepared on a large scale by exposing heaps of iron pyrites to the action of air and water. The liquor produced contains ferrous Sulphide and Sulphuric Acid. The Pyrites or Brasses were then regarded as of little worth, so with his raw material cheap, Scurfield made a considerable fortune from which he was not only to buy the High Farm in 1750, but also, later, the North Hylton estate. He cleverly used the river banks to his advantage, the site of his settling tanks still know today as the “Brassbeds”, was on the top of the banks just to the west of Ferry Farm and exactly where the south abutment of Hylton Bridge is now. His works were just at the foot of the bank and a few yards east of the new bridge supports. He was able to have a natural gravity flow at the liquor into the works. This was the earliest industry to be established in South Hylton.
In 1816 the works was owned by Hudson, Biss & Co., in 1856 it was owned by J. Rewcastle of Gateshead, in 1864 by Col. Taylor and in 1873 by James C. Lawson. William Hunter Burn is named there in 1834, probably manager. These works operated for nearly 150 years but have left almost no trace of their being other than the name `Brassbeds”. which, because of the building of the bridge will eventually be forgotten.