Hazeldine & Co was founded in Bridgnorth by John Hazeldine and his two brothers Thomas and Robert in 1792.
The Bandon Road foundry has long since been demolished after it ceased trading in the early part of the twentieth century, but in its heyday it was famous for the construction of Richard Trevithick’s London rail locomotive, Catch-Me-Who-Can, the world’s first fare-paying passenger engine.
A replica of the locomotive now sits on a siding on the Severn Valley Railway.
Senior partner of the foundry, John Hazeldine died on October 28, 1810 aged 50. While it was known he had been buried in Bridgnorth with an iron headstone, the metal headpiece had not been seen for decades.
Now the tombstone, measuring around three feet by two feet, has been unearthed in a church.
The discovery was made by David Oxtoby, church warden of St Mary Magdalene in East Castle Street in Bridgnorth, who was clearing clutter in the church in preparation for the a classical music festival taking place in June.
He said: "We were sorting out some things to make room for the Haydn Festival on June 6 and I moved this old table, which must have been there for a very long time, because underneath was this old iron headstone."
Mr Oxtoby said he knew what it was straight away as he saw the inscription with John Hazeldine's name on it.
"It was pretty faded but I knew what it was. I'd heard there were some iron headstones here somewhere but I had never seen any," he said.
"I was amazed to see it. I have no idea how long it had been lying there but it must have been a long time. I can only presume John Hazeldine was buried in the church and at some point, somebody had moved the headstone inside, where it got lost."
Local historian Clive Gwilt, who has written books about the Hazeldine foundry and has a picture of it in situ in the graveyard taken during the last century, said he knew the foundry founder had been buried in the graveyard but the headstone had vanished around 50 years ago.
He said: "I was told it was in the church somewhere. The metal gravestone was removed when the trees were cut down when I was a choir boy back in the 1970s.
"The last vicar didn't know where it was and I contacted the Science Museum and British museums if they had it to no avail."
Mr Oxtoby said he has now moved the tombstone to the front of the church where it can be viewed by people.
"It is a piece of history," he said. "At some point I will put up an information sign to explain to people what it is and who John Hazeldine was."