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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Black Country Nailmaking. Halesowen, Blackheath, Rowley Regis.


There have quite a few requests, for a few names to go with the Nailmaking page above. They are available on another site, but as I wrote the article in the first place, and after giving it a bit of thought, here they are. These names are some of the " Nail Foggers ", or middlemen, who made a lot of money at the expense of their fellow nailers. Heartless individuals, all of them.



Up in Rowley Village, where almost every house had a nailshop attached, were Alfred Woodhouse, a Grocer, whose business was in Hawes Lane. Not far away, were the premises of James Slim, and Joseph Taylor, both well known names in the village. Joseph Hall Darby, whose relative's also owned a few mines, was to be found a few paces down Siviters Lane. Continuing a little walk to Windmill End, we would have found the little wharehouse's of William Jones, Joseph Guest, and Anthony Willetts. These three also sold nails on to the larger firm of John Bloomer, who traded in Cradley Heath. The firm of Green and Crew, were in Reddal Road, Old Hill, with Underwood and Company just up the road in Powke Lane. Into Blackheath, and in the High Street, we would have come across Joseph Johnson, and William Jukes. Both these firms later switched to Rivets, and Nuts and Bolts.  Around the corner into Halesowen Street, and the strangely named Philemon Bacon, which weird as it seems, was the commodity he traded for the nails. No money mind, just Bacon, and not very good Bacon either. Halfway up Long Lane, we come to Malt Mill Lane, where the ( small ) wharehouse of Thomas Harcourt could be found, and if you fancied a longer journey, Charle Williams traded from his pub, The Stag and Three Horse Shoes at the top of Long Lane. Cartwright and Parkes, were convieniently placed, a few doors away from another pub, The Dunn Cow, on Gorsty Hill. Another strange thing, the pub was run by Mr Cartwrights mother, and had an Iron Rod Store in the back. Down into Halesowen, and in the Rumbow dwelt John Russell, not far from a Shopkeeper called Thomas Cradock in Birmingham Street, another nail fogger. The Halesowen nailers had a choice in the Cornbow, the attentions of Epriam Ball, or Guest and Company. The hard worked Hasbury nailers didn't have far to carry their products, John Siviter was to hand in Hagley Road. The last one on the this little list, is John Coley, who resided, and traded, from leafy Laural Lane. As I said, most of them were well known, and established family names in each area, so why, as ex-nailers themselves, did they exploit their fellow human beings so badly. Did I hear someone say Greed.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 13, 2011 at 3:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Nailmaking, Halesowen, Rowley Regis.


Two names I left out of the last posting, both of which are fairly well known in Halesowen, the first one is James Basterfield. He owned a " Nail Factory " in the town, ( in reality, just a few nailshops, all close together, around Birmingham Street ) and in the 1890s, had a visit from a group, conducting a survey into the working conditions of the nailers. He specialised in supplying some of the heavy types of nails, and also railway spikes. The nailshops were equiped with " Olivers ", a heavy hammer worked by a treadle arrangement. ( Hammers of this type can be seen at The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley ) In his workshops, both men and women worked at forming the heads and points on the nails. Fairly easy with hot metal, although in other places, women were only allowed to do the pointing. What was at issue, was the cutting of the cold Iron bars into the required length before heating in the hearth. Basterfield told them, that because the task would mean women had to jump several times onto the treadle pole to gain enough power for cutting, he did not allow it.



The party consisted of a Mr Guest, himself a prominant nail master both in the town and Rowley Regis, and an expert in the trade. When they left, he pointed out to the party that Mr Basterfields statement was very unlikely to be true, or even remotely accurate. As indeed were some of the other things claimed by the factory owner, especially the level of wages he paid. The other "Factory " owner was a Mr. Homer, who, when he saw the party coming, ordered all his workforce, men and women, to stop work. He then ordered the lot of them off his property. When one of the party asked a girl why they had stopped, she said she had run out of Iron, which of course was untrue, there were several bundles within easy reach of the hearth she was working. Mr Homer of course wielded a great deal of power, he paid the wages, supplied the Iron, and was their only means of selling what they made. Already on starvation rations, non of them could afford to speak out. Homer wasn't the only one either, this situation had been going on for generations, as had the appalling level of poverty to be seen all over the district. The nailers themselves sometimes added to their own woe's. Take the statement made by Steven Price, he had been born in Halesowen in 1853, and at 37, had never had any other work, except nailmaking. He believed that the compulsory schooling of his children, had deprived them of learning the " art " of nailmaking from a early age. He went further, by saying that women should be forced, by Law, from making nails, as it bought down the cost of nails and led to poor pay and strikes. Thankfully, the nail trade was on it's last legs, the machine's having taken over, and the awful conditions of the nailshops of the past, would be just a memory, to be dissected and discussed, as part of the Black Country's social history, at a future date.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 24, 2011 at 2:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Halesowen Nailmaking, William Tether.


There were several inquires, set up to examine the working conditions of the Nailers, and from one at least, came an insight into what it meant to be a poor nailer. Some people from Halesowen, or the area around it, may recognise the surname, William Tether. He had been born about 1822 in Halesowen, and began making nails at 8 years old, but the person he was speaking to, suspected it was much earlier than that. He was married and had 5 children, all of them made nails. He said that his wife, who couldn't stand the work, ( not stout or heavy enough ) hadn't made more than 5 shillings in the last 10 months, and that there should be a Law banning women from the work. Not because they were merely women mind, but because the nails they made were bad, and they bought down the price. He excepted that there was nothing else the women could do to earn money, and he could himself earn more, if he worked at Mining, or in the Iron Works. The reluctence to train at other things, was a major factor in the nail trade lasting as long as it did.


A nailers usual day is from 5 or 6 a.m, till 9 or 10 p.m. That is many hours for a man to be striving up in a hot shop, but some work till 11 or 12, or later if busy, or the master wants the work quickly. We nailers work the same hours in winter as in summer, working by the light of the fire, from which the screen has been taken off, and the iron as it is worked. Some men buy their own iron to work, but some masters will not allow this, but make the men take iron from them, the value being reckoned off from the nails. This gives the masters more claim on the men as to the style of work, than if a man works up his own stuff. My employer comes in three miles to his wharehouse on Saturday to weigh, and carries on from 11 a.m till 4 or 5 p.m.


Given that the nailers had to take breaks during the day, I don't suppose anyone today wouldn't say that wasn't a long days work. The system of only buying iron from the man who also bought the nails, was pure blackmail, and you would be very hard pressed to find an honest man amongst them. It should also be noted, that not many of these " employers " actually liked to live in the area's they so thoroughly exploited.



Their rather grander house's were well away from the smoke, grime, and deprivation, far out into the countryside. Tether, had been getting about 20 shillings a week for the nails he, and his family produced. It had now been reduced to 18 shillings, and after the cost of the iron and wastage had been calculated, he was left with a meagre 10 shillings. Out of this, he still had to pay for fuel, tools, and the rent. They had little left for food, and nothing at all for any medical assistance, which is why some many died young. He next explains how his children are affected.


Some children begin at 8 years, but I would say not many before 9, or at the most, 10. I should not like my little boy there, now 5, to begin before 9, and he shan't if I can help it, but if I am always obligated, ( in debt ) he must. They don't put children to a full days work ayt once, but at first a child will begin at breakfast time, and knock off at 3 or 4 in the afternoon for a few months, ( 8 hours with a break for dinner ) and then add an hour or so on, till in the second twelvemonths, when he works from 7 a.m to 6 p.m, and can then make perhaps 2 shillings a week. ( almost 60 hours a week ) A child is no profit, if they spoil the work or damage the tools, and if the work is no good, the wharehouse won't take it. Some times the young ones knock up, ( became sick or have an accident ) being lamed or burned, and more so when they first start. They may get a bit of red-hot iron in their shoe, and that of course will burn alarmingly. Four years ago, my boy, then betwixt 10 and 11, and not having begun long, got two pieces of iron in at the top of his trousers, and before they could be got out they dropped and catched his leg, burning two wounds, each as big as the face of my hammer, ( about 2 inches across ) and the scars are here now, and always will be. He has got a dreadful wound on his hand now, from a burn done three weeks ago. If it had been his hammer hand, he could not have worked at all.


William Tether went on to say, that four of his five children go to the Church Sunday School, and do so enjoy it. Each time they went, they passed the graves of two of Williams other children, who he proclaimed, were probably better off, and in some respects, he may very well have been right.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 1, 2011 at 5:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Nailmaking, Wolverhampton.




Meanwhile, up the road in Wolverhampton,  in 1850. a new venture got off the ground. It's believed to have been started by one of the members of the notable Lloyd family. The Cown Nail Works. At first glance, just one of the many firms that took advantage of the cheap Canal transport in the Town. This firm had staying power though, and despite all the many ups and downs of the trade, and there were many, it survived. By 1905, the writing was on the wall, although the Company staggered on until 1910, when production of nails ceased. Not the end though, amongst it's produce, was a little gem that would ensure future prospects. Everyone old enough, who has ever laid a carpet in the house, or on the stairs, will remember the The Little Blue Tack. Fighting off competition, and at times designing, and building their own machinery, The Crown Nail Works became king of the Tacks. Almost every Country in the World, must have, at one time or another, ordered a few boxes of the famous blue tacks. In 1986, taking a brave decision, they began to make again, cut and clasp nails. Once again, with their own designed and adapted machinery. It couldn't last though, nothing sits still in our modern world, and the call for such items dwindled, as world trade dropped. The end came in 2003, a sad end mind you, for they were the last  operating Nail making Company in the Country. They outlasted all the rest, bypassed the notorious cheating " Foggers ", and saw off the challenge of the Birmingham firms. Perhaps someone in Wolverhampton should put up a Plaque. Mind you, at the rate we are losing all our historic building, perhaps it would be as well to do it pretty quickly.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 15, 2012 at 4:36 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Nailmaking, Blackcountry Cottage.


Finding a Photograph to illustrate a point is sometimes really difficult. The one below, I have chosen, because it shows the conditions that a nailer of the 1880/90s would have endured. The total lack of any home comforts as we would know them, are a marked feature in the picture.

No carpets on the floor, no decorated paper on the walls, plaster missing exposing the brickwork behind the sitter, but still leaving you with a sense of tranquility about the scene. The old grate with the " ash-hole " beneath, the small ovens with knobs each side of the fire, The kettle standing on the top of the grate, and he stewing pot held on its iron chains over the banked up fire, will be a memory for the older ones reading this from days long gone of visiting an old grannie. No " black leaded grate " this one, it dates from the early 1800s and has seen better days. Some of her nailing tools are stored in the alcove, in which can be seen a bread oven, some of which were heated by the forge in the nail-shop attached to the little cottage. The brickwork is also typical of an age, when building houses was done with minimum expense, using the cheapest materials available. You can just see the mantle shelf, where all the old ladies little treasure's would be found, plus, it was the place where tea and sugar were kept, to keep them dry. Her best hat is hanging from that picture on the wall behiind her, although I can't place who it is, I'm sure someone else will. The dress and shawl were common wearing apparell for most Black Country nailers, very few of whom could afford expensive clothes, and I would bet she is wearing boots under that skirt. If it brings home to you, how bad housing conditions were in vast parts of the region, then the photograph has done it job, and I've made the point I intended to.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There have been a few claims, from those who believe the area they now live in, was the center of the Nail Trade. If some come from West Bromwich, they are correct, for nowhere, in the many parishes of the Black Country, were there to be found three of the biggest Nail Ironmongers. It is recorded, that in 1690, John Lowe, was employed by the parish overseers to employ the poor in the making of Wrought Iron Nails. By 1738, this was the principal work offered to the poor wretches, who found themselves in the local Workhouse. From the records for 1775, the three large firms were, Turton and Company, whose annual use of iron totalled 450 tons, Richard Jesson, who used 350 tons, and William Bett, who used 260 tons. Between just these three, they employed around 1,300 people, and, I should add, under the same dreadful conditions as in the rest of the region. The smaller firms, and there were many, must have employed at least as many. On a journey he made from Birmingham, in 1776, Arthur Young noted, " that the place resembled one long village of Nailer's, over five miles in distance." A great deal of all this productivity was destined for export, and when the American War of Independence broke out the next year, trade slumped, and so did the wages. Just as the trade was beginning to recover, another threat appeared, nails made by casting, which although they weren't as strong, were indeed cheaper. Proudly reporting in 1812, William Whitehouse, a Nail Ironmonger, stated that the trade in West Bromwich was of immense scale, although later on, he may have regretted the words. In 1811, a new system of making nails had come on the scene. This involved a machine, designed to cut, from a variety of different sized bars of iron, nails to any length.



Although debated that these nails were inferior to hand made nails, the writing was on the wall, and more decline, followed by low wages, began. New industries had sprung up in West Bromwich, which was a good job, and men began to drift away from the poor wages of nail making. The task of keeping up the trade, fell to the women and children, who managed to hang on, in their little backyard workshops untill the 1880s, when mostly it died out. By then of course, West Bromwich was a hive of heavy industry of all sorts, and compared to other districts, where families were still dependent on making nails in the old ways, reasonable properous.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 1, 2013 at 3:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Michael Leedham
Member
Posts: 14

Dennis this proves what I said on Facebook about "Them and Us" which didn't go down very well !! but it shows that even small Nailers exploited the nailmaker and families my Poole and Hall familywould tell me this.Most became quite rich exploiting the working population in Black Country.

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June 2, 2013 at 6:25 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now this maybe a co-incidence Mike, but from all the names of the " Foggers " and so called " Nail Masters ",  listed in previous posts, only two people have been in touch. The items, both in the topic, and the page above, have been viewed a huge number of times. There are many famous local names amongst them, including Noah Hingley, and Summers, who made all their early money from the nail trade. It's a great pity, that they never put back into the area, that which they took out, off the sweating backs of the poor working men, women , and children. Thats not being political either, it's a very sad fact.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 2, 2013 at 4:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Michael Leedham
Member
Posts: 14

Hi mate..I have been reading copies of letters my G Grandafather William Leedham sent back home to Halesowen from Waverley Gold Fields in Canada he went there with 3 brothers and friend Alfred Rudge he mentions in letter saying "We hope the Horse Nailers strike is over" this was 1863.my question is Why Horsenailers.?


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June 4, 2013 at 10:24 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There were many forms of nails made in backyard forges. From simple brad nails, to the heavier timber nails, and even railway spikes. ( a much bigger version of a nail. ) The trade at the time matched the conditions, i.e. horse drawn vehicles, all of whom required shoeing. Horse nails required a bit more skill than the others, so the payment for the finished product was higher. As the nail trade began to decline, due to machine made nails, the making of Horse nails remained fairly constant because this type of nail couldn't be made by machine. The last Nailers recorded in the area, were nearly all making horse nails, as indeed today, do a lot of modern Farriers and Blacksmiths. Thanks for the question Mike, I hope that explains a few things.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 4, 2013 at 11:12 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For all thoses who think that the little place called Cradley, only made Chains, no they didn't, for as already noted, it was an easy change to make from Nailmaking. The firm of Bloomers started this way, both here and at Holly Hall, Dudley, under a member of the family called Benjamin Bloomer. A few more well known names from Halesowen have cropped up in records from the 1840s as well. Thomas Jones at Olive House, Eli York in the Cornbow, a William Shilvock and William White in Islington, and a Samuel Connop in Cart Horse Lane. I will presume, that this is an early, or local name, for the much more recognised Carters Lane of today. Thomas Bissell and Sons were to be found in Greenfield, Halesowen, as were Henry Hodgkins in Spring Hill Hasbury. Back to Cradley, and the list of nail Factors lengthen, William Cox, W.E. Edwards, Evers and Son, Joseph and William Rock, Noah Hingley, and James Oxford. Just down the road, in Cradley Heath and Old Hill, the firms of Samuel Edwards, S and T Parkes, Thomas Slim, Joseph Clay, James Taylor, J. and T. Jones, and Joseph Nock, were all it appears, well established suppliers of Iron Rods and buyers of nails. Tipperty Green is a strange name, found in a little place on the Rowley Village to Dudley Road, and here operated Benjamin Bate, apparently coining it in from the starving population of the area. That of course, is just the observation of a Clergyman, and may well be untrue, but as he's long dead, I can't confirm it. A lot of these names went on to found different business's, and more than a few can found in some of the Licensed Victuallers, or Beer House Keepers list's of the period that followed. A wise investment for some, of the money earned off the backs of the sweating Nailers. Not that I would condemn them for that, it was all fairly normal at the time, and non of them had actually broken any Laws earning the money. " Whats done is done " goes the old saying, and if you find a relative among those named, at least you know what they were up to, all those years ago.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 19, 2013 at 11:01 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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