This engineering company was founded by James Oxley. In 1851 he was aged 27 and described as a vat maker and maltster employing 25 men.Cuzner (c.1868) described Oxley & Co. of Welshmill as: “vat makers, brewers’ engineers, and coppersmiths; manufacturers of vats and backs, mashing machines, pumps, malt machinery, steam engines and driving gear, brewing coppers, refrigerators, barm presses, cask drying and purifying apparatus, valves and cocks, pipes etc.”. James Oxley “just finished the erection of twelve vats for Messrs. Guinness & Co., capable of containing 30,000 barrels, and Messrs. Guinness are erecting another new vat house to hold twenty more vats of the same size, by the same maker. These vats are for the Dublin porter trade, which is considerably increasing.”
Among his enterprises was sinking two disused mining shafts at Buckland Dinham in an attempt to find coal. Valuable seams were found but almost from the very onset the workings were flooded with water, and engineering skills were powerless to combat the force of nature. He also found coal in the vicinity of Trudoxhill.