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Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > Black Country Forges and Iron Works.

Alaska.
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Black Country Forges and Iron Works.


I have already posted somewhere the difference between Cradley, and Cradley Heath. The former goes back certainly to William the Conquers time, but is lkely to be much older. The latter, and the clue is in it's name, was just a flat piece of scrubland, with a few scattered farms and small holdings. It's surprising how many people still confuse the two, a situation that the good folks of Cradley have my deepest sympathy for. A Map of 1800 shows that most of the area's industry was concentrated on the River Stour, in a series of Mills and Forges. Halesowen Slitting Mill, owned by the Attwood's, Halesowen Forge, ditto, Grange Slitting Mill, Hayseech Gun Barrel Works, Corngreaves Forge, Hedge's Rolling Mill, Lodge Forge, Cradley Old Forge, Lye Forge, Ambelecote Ironworks, and Clatterbache Forge.



An 1812 map, ( Photo Gallery ) made for Lord Dudley, shows the area to still largely rural in character, although if you follow the line of the Netherton and Stourbridge Canals, the march of industrial progress can be seen. Apart from a few cottages at Newtown, built in 1810, along the line of Reddal Hill Road, there is virtual little activity on the Heath itself. The same could be said of Pensnet Chase, and the woods and coppices around Cradley New Pool. This pool was fed by the Mootsmeet Brook, (later re-named Mouseweet Brook ) which had it's source near Turners Hill, in the Rowley Hills, then emptied into the Stour at Cradley Forge. Most of the heath was part of the Corngreaves Estate, which belonged to the family already mentioned, the Attwoods. They started an Iron Works about 1815, which was later to become the site of The New British Ironworks, and signalled the end of peace and tranquilty in the valley. By 1833, we could have found several small, but expanding hamlets in the area, Old Hill, Reddall Hill, Newtown, Corngreaves, and Hayseech, and several Pubs as well, The Newtown, (Licensee Sarah Bannister), The Five Ways, ( Jessie Edmonds) The Roe Buck, ( Richard Homer ) The Salutation, ( Joseph Billingham ) The Golden Harp, ( Thomas Sidaway ) The Cross,  ( Thomas Tromans ) The Gate, ( Horatio James ) and The Boat. ( Jasper Smith ) 20 years later, and there was very little left of the Heath, it was covered in Housing, Coal Mines, Marl Holes, Brickworks, Iron Foundries, and of course, all the smoke and pollution that came with it. As well as the Attwoods, there were the Grazebookes, Gibbons, and of course, Lord dudley, all building large works, and making large fortunes from the riches of the region.



Still, it kept a lot of men in work, even if the wages were absymal, but it certainly put paid to any river fishing. Incidently, just after the great War finished, in 1919, Lodge Forge, which made Anvils, suffered an enormous boiler explosion, which blew debris all across the surrounding district, Thankfully, no one appears to have been killed, but just 7 years later, it closed down. In the intervening years, from the 1850s, the area grew to be filled with Pit Mounds, Slag Heaps, Holes in the Ground, and the hiss and thumping of a thousand steam hammers. It takes a tough old breed of men and women to survive all that.

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

October 30, 2011 at 5:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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One of the older Iron Works, Corbyn's Hall, situated between Pensnett and Kingswinford, was in operation well before 1834, the year in which it was leased to John and Benjamin Gibbons. It was comprised of several forges, and at least 1 blast furnace, with a workforce of experienced and skilled puddlers. It's success varied through the years, depending on the price of iron, it being leased to others, sometimes for short periods. In January, 1862, William Matthews, leased it to Henry Sparrow Esq, who lived at Woodfield House, Wordsley. His tenure was not to be a happy one. The works by this time had a large Steam Hammer. The steam power for which was via a set of water filled tubes, heated by the puddling furnaces, and connected to a massive 13 ton boiler. This was under the charge of Mark Simpson, the 31 year old, who was the works Engine Driver. On the 27th February, 1862, with a blast that could be heard in Kingswinford, the boiler exploded, blowing the roof of the Engine House to bits, demolishing the walls, and sending scalding hot steam and gases into the works. Two men were killed instantly, another four were very badly scalded, and at least nine more had broken limbs and deep lacerations. In the days that followed, all of the scalded men died in what must be imagined was unbelievable pain and agony. The names are listed below.


Thomas Hudley, a Puddler, leaving a wife and 3 children.

George Hudley, a Puddler, and the brother of Thomas.

Ezekiel Newman, a Puddler.

Joseph Harper, a furnace fireman.

Daniel Mason, an old man with a family, and a Puddler.

Morris Christopher, aged 17, a labourer.


Missing from the list is Mr Simpson, who, as the man in charge, should have been in the Engine House when the boiler blew up. He wasn't. It was discovered at the inquest, that he frequently left the engine unattended, while he absented himself to partake of vital refreshments, or to have a little sleep. The Coroner had no hesitation on 15th March, in issueing a Warrant, charging Mark Simpson with Manslaughter. There are no details in the report, of the outcome of any proceedings, so once again, if anyone knows what happened next, please get in touch.

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

December 10, 2011 at 4:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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I'm very pleased to report, that someone has been in touch regarding the above post. I have now corrected the name and the date, and can add a bit more information. Mark Simpson, was tried on 10th March, at Stafford Assizes, before Mr Baron Channell. Despite all the rumours, that he was abscent from his post , and through his neglect, the Boiler exploded due to lack of water, it could not be proved. The Judge instucted the Jury to bring in a not guilty verdict, they duly did so, and Simpson was a free, and very lucky man. I don't suppose he was very popular in the area at the time. He had been born in 1831, in Delph Lane, Brierley Hill, although at the time, the whole area was in the parish of Kingswinford. He started his working life at one of the many Ironworks, close to the family home in New Street and became a Puddler, although this didn't last long, as he had a liking for machinery. By the mid 1850s, he had risen to the rank of Engineer, a rather fancy name for an Stationary Engine Driver, and a key figure in the output from the Ironworks Puddlers. He married in 1853, one Mary Ann Bate, a young woman he had known almost all his life, as they had been neighbours in Delph Lane. At the time of the accident at Corbyns Ironworks, he had fathered 4 children, George, William, Thomas, and Joseph, in late1860. I suspect they had a hard time in the area, for they moved to 19 Hill Street, and the next child, another Mark, was not born untill 1864. Robert, and then the twins Phebe and Martha arrived in 1869, rapidly followed by 3 more, Thomas, Henry, and Caroline in 1877. ( The second Thomas replaced the previous one who had died in the 1860s.) He was still doing the same job, as an Engine Driver, right up untill 1899, when ill health forced him to quit. By this time, they had moved again, and it was at 46, Hill Street, that he died in late 1901. There's a record of a Mark Simpson, in 1870, being again aquitted of a crime at Stafford Assizies, this time, Larceny. And another Mark Simpson, who can only be his son, being imprisoned in the 1880s, for a similar offence. I've said it before, once you start on a Genealogy trail, it's very difficult to stop until you get to the end, or have I ?

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

January 2, 2012 at 3:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Patent Shaft and Axletree. Wednesbury, Iron Works.


One of Wednesbury's most famous Ironworks of the past, has to be The Patent Shaft and Axletree Company. A  highly successful concern, but just like today it seems, there are a few things in the past not quite so praiseworthy. William Coath was, in 1880, the Companies Chief Cashier. During an inspection of the books, a few entries were found, that did not match the firms business. Listed under " Trade Expenses " , were two sums of money, one for £50, and the other for £100. Mr Coath, not surprisingly, was charged with Fraud, and sent to Stafford Assizes. During his trial, he stated that he had been instructed to list, what were in effect " Bribes", and "Commissions", under such headings. The payments went, so he alleged, to Railway Inspectors and others, in order to secure contracts and business. Only someone with a blinkered view of the world, would suggest that this practice never went on. Taking a guess, I would say that the custom, may even still be around today. Again, to no ones surprise, the Company denied all knowlege of such payments, and William Coath had to throw himself on the mercy of the Court. In summing up, the Judge said that the Company had a very high reputation, and praised then for taking the action which had exposed the " Fraud ". The Jury, upon returning, found the poor man Guilty, and the Judge handed down a sentence of 7 years penal servitude. There was no evidence produced, that such payments had been made in the past, but then again, the Company had all the records locked away. I can't help feeling, that Willian Coath may have had a rough deal here, and he may have been the victim of a gross mis-carriage of justice. If he wasn't, then he came up with a quite plausible explantion for the entries in his cash books. But was he really that clever ?



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

January 20, 2012 at 4:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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In response to one members request, for information on Iron-working around Brierley Hill, Pensnett, Bromley, and Kingswinford, I have compiled a short list. Covering a 20 year period, from1855, to1875, some may have changed ownershiip, or gone out of business in the intervening years.


John Bradley and Company, owned at least 3, Brierly Hill, Brockmoor, and the Shutt End Iron-Works.

Brown and Freer, owned 1 of 2 at the Leys, Budd and Company owned the other one, both called, confusingly, Leys Iron-Works.

John and Benjamin Gibbons, owned Corbyn's Hall New Furnaces, and, the nearby Ketley Furnaces.

Hall, Holcroft and Pearson, owned both the Old Level Iron-Works, and the fairly new, Brettel Lane Furnaces.

William Matthews, owned the old Corbyn's Hall Furnaces, but sold out later to to the Gibbons Brothers.

Lord Ward, ( The future Earl of Dudley ) owned both the Level New Furnaces, and the Iron-Works, that later became better known as " The Earls ". ( Round Oak Steel works )

John Wheeley and Company, owned the Brettel Lane Iron-Works, and a new one called The Brockmoor Iron-Works.

The New British Iron Company, also owned The Nine Locks Iron-Works, as well as the more famous one in Cradley Heath.

William Jefferies, just outside Brierley Hill, owned the Harts Hill Iron-Works.



Round Oak Steel Works,

As you can see, there was an awful lot of Iron made in this small area, as well as all the Mining, Quarrying, and Glassmaking. It must have been a very noisey and smoke filled place in which to live.

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

February 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Tipton, Gospel Oak Ironworks, and the Cannons.


A great many men came to region, attracted by the close proximity of natural resourse's. Some, like the Walker family, who started Ironworking in Scotland, then moved south to Rotherham, Yorkshire. They then expanded out to Mexborough and Conisborough, and finally in 1817, the son of the founder, Samuel Walker, and his cousin, William Yates, purchased the old Gospel Oak Ironworks, in Tipton, Staffordshire. The Company were famous for the production of instruments of War, namely high quality muzzled loaded Cannons. There are some fine examples of their work to be seen aboard H.M.S. Victory, in Portsmouth, although whether they saw service at Trafalgar is in some doubt. ( The navy had a habit, of distributing all their Guns around the fleet, when a ship went for a refit or a re-build.) When the companies founder, (also a Samuel Walker,) died, the works at Mexborough and Conisborough were closed, and Cannon production was moved to theGospel Oak Works, in 1822. The two men soon proved that Iron Cannon, ( with right type of Iron ) were far better than Cast Brass, and the works expanded. They even cast the Iron frames needed for the massive Guns required for coastal protection, and frames for numerous Bridge Building projects. It's strange link I know, but the city of Liverpool, again provides a further association with the region.



Plans were drawn up in the early 1840s, for new dockside facilities, which were to called, in honour of Queen Victoria's husband, The Albert Dock. It was to be one of the first Dockside Wharehouse's, designed to be resistant to fire, being built of Bricks, Stone, and Cast Iron Columns. The work for the Iron Columns was entrusted to John and Edmund Walker, at their Gospel Oak Works, both of them having taken over from their father. The building was opened in 1846, although it was not completely finished until 1847. The Ironwork, as is the structure, can still be seen today, all in excellent condition, as is a similar construction, at the Gladstone Dock, a bit further up the River Mersey. The company ceased trading around 1860, when the works were sold on, to be eventaully demolished, when the site became known as " The Lunt ". This is also gone now as well, being replaced by a very busy road, The Blackcountry Route. One of the Walker's Cannon's was sold recently, and it fetched over £5,000 at auction.

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

March 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Forges and Iron Works.

The Largest length of Chain ever made at Tinsleys. c1912.


It's of interest to note though, that although there were hundreds of little Ironworks operating from the early 1800s, by the start of the 1860s, the industry was in decline. Competition from other regions was beginning to bite, and with the advent of better transport, via the Railways, prices for Iron were falling. The Black Country, although being rich to start with in the raw materials required, could not expect to be at the forefront for long. As trade declined, more and more men found themselves out of work, and the smaller Ironworks sold out to the bigger ones. In 1865, there were a recorded 167 Blast Furnaces in the region, from Wolverhampton, and on to Stourbridge.  Just over 150 of them were working to produce Iron. A year later, and the figure of working furnaces had shrunk to 116. In 1868, despite the same number of actual furnaces, 167, those in operation was reduced to 97. Many firms had either amalgamated by this time, or gone completely.



The main problem was a general slump in the amount of Iron required, and also, as far as this area was concerned, a lack of investment in the new systems to produce a better product. By 1870, there were less than 70 Blast Furnaces at work, and many thousands of men were idle, and without work. Some products sold well, Pig Iron, Angle and Bar Iron, and not surprisingly Rods for making Nails. It was Nailmaking that most people turned to to put food on the table, the only problem being, that so many did this, the nail market became swamped, and eventualy collapsed altogether. The last part of the Victorian Age, although full of gigantic achievements, saw some of the worst poverty that could be imagined, alongside some of the vast fortunes of untold wealth. Pretty much like today really.

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

May 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Forges and Iron Works. Wolverhampton, Dudley, Stourbridge, and Netherton.


Towards the 1890s, a great many of the smaller Ironworks had disappeared, or been taken over by the larger ones. Many mines had shut down, thus cutting off the cheap and easily obtained supply of raw materials. Whereas the smaller ones had just produced the iron, and sold it to the forges, the larger ones had expanded into rolling and forging their own products. One of them, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, was the Osier Bed Iron Company, producing a product to under cut the more expensive, " Brass Bedstead ".  The Chillington Ironworks were still going, as were Parkfield Iron Company, W.&.J Sparrow, Fletcher, Solly & Urwick, and just hanging on at Millfield, the redoubtable Mrs Gibbons. Down the road in Bilston, the family headquaters, W.E.Gibbons was facing stiff competion from the soon to be famous Alfred Hickman Works, as were several others, The Bilston Brook Company, Daniel Jones & Company, H.B. Whitehouse, and Stonefield Iron Company. Hickmas brother, George Hickman, had a small ironworks in Tipton, and between them, another near The Earl of Dudleys Ironworks,near Brierley Hill. Two others would survive into the 20th century, Bagnall & Sons, and a future prominant Wolverhampton citizen, G.B.Thornycroft. In Tipton, the air was getting a little clearer, as only a handful of ironworks were still in operation. P.Williams & Son, W. Roberts, Joseph Brayford, J.& S. Onions, J. Colbourn & Sons, and Round Brothers, were to stay for a few more years, but the writing was already on the wall. in West Bromwich, which in the past, it seemed, had an Ironworks on every corner, was down to just the three, J.Bagnall, a branch of P. Williams, and W.G. Firmstone. A major employer in the Town at the time, The Gas Works, in Swan Village, was also about to shut down a Coal mine it had on the site, adding to the general rate of unemployment. It was only the coming of the Great War that saved a few in Walsall, the largest being the Chillington Ironworks, and on the fringes, Benjamin Bloomers Iron Works. On the other side of Dudley, the old Earl was facing the growing emergence of M &W Grazebrook, Noah Hingley, W.H.Dawes, The New British Iron Company, C.E & J Bradley, and Holcroft & Pearson. Apart from a few, most of them would disappear, during the depression that followed the end of the War in 1918. The night sky over the area, was no longer the picture of a living hell, so loved, and painted by the many visitors.

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

May 16, 2012 at 4:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Forges and Iron Works. Grazebrooks, Bullers,



Many of the smaller Iron works and Foundries in the Black Country, were on their last legs during the early part of the 20th century. Apart from a surge in Shipbuilding, the result of an arms race between the UK and Germany, their was very little work to be had. Come the outbreak of War however, and prospects for trade brightened conciderably. ( Although not for the men who volunteered to fight it, obviously ) Down in Factory Road, Tipton, they were going over the contract they had been awarded to produce thousands of what were then called " Mills Bombs ", but what we would now call Granades. The company, Bullers Foundry, made all kinds of casting, and forged tools and fittings. New machinery had to be installed, to grind the grooves into the casings, and when finished, they were sent away for filling. I bet they were at least grateful for that. Another product made on site, were the Bomb casings used by the fledgling Air Force, to drop on the dreaded " Boche ". These were given a local nickname, and always referred to as, " Buller's Pill, For Kaiser Bill ". The Germans of course exacted some measure of revenge, in the subsequent Zepplin Raids on the Town.


On the other side of Dudley, another Iron works, M & W Grazebrook, Netherton, was also undertaking war work. The company had a very interesting history. They had started out in Ambelecote, around 1640, as Glass Makers, and by the 1750s, lived at a house rented from Lord Ward of Himley. By the 1760s, the family had added a second glass house, 'Stewkins' again from Lord Ward, to the original one at Audnam House, but the glass trade was becoming too competitive. Passed down though the generations was the name Michael, and this particular Michael was number 4. His son, Michael number 5, had 13 children and persistantly carried round a whip in later life, allegedly to control his unruly brood. When otherwise tired of chastising his children, his other interest was lording it over the Stourbridge Glass Manufacturers Association. Having taken out an interest in an Iron works at Netherton, in 1787, number 5 decided to quit glassmaking, and in 1790, sold up and left. Netherton Hall Estate, the families new home, was reputed to have been owned by Dud Dudley, but more likely, it was the then Lord Ward who was the real owner. There were at the time, 21 blast furnaces in the area, and there's must have been a good one because the firm did rather well.



Two of his sons, Michael number 6, and William, ( not a family name it seems ) ran the company on behalf of their father, who by now was Chairman of the South Staffordshire Iron Masters. William, the trade not to his liking, went off to a life of hunting in Shropshire, from his home at Park Hall, near Kidderminster. Michael number 6 meanwhile, had raised his own brood, and his second son John,also not having much interest in metal bashing either, married and went to live at Hagley Hall, the other son, Francis, ( seem to have lost a Michael there ) went off to France. Trouble was looming for the Grazebrooks though, and it came, when the Franco-Prussian War ended, in 1870. The firm,nearly bankrupt, called back Francis, who was literally given the keys to the Foundry, and did the impossible, and saved the family bacon. So much money did Francis make, that in 1913, he bought Stourton Castle, and put his son Owen in charge. ( missed another Michael there as well ) they did well out of the 1914/18 war, and were to do even better out of the next one. M & W Grazebrook made special Bombs for the War Ministry. First a 4,000lb bomb, then aa 8,000lb bomb, and finally, a bomb weighing 12,000lbs for smashing up U-Boat Pens. This was called by many in the RAF, " The Blockbuster, or Tallboy ". The firm had a Silver model of this Bomb made, and presented it to King George VI. The family sold out in 1960, after almost 200 years of making Pig Iron. Not a bad record that.

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

June 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Corngreaves, is just a small part of Cradley Heath. Its had a fair share of Mining, and Ironworking over the years, and just for once, there was a firm here, that turned out more Anchors than Noah Hingley. It all started with John Fellows, who was born in 1863. He had begun his working life with Cradley Goods, then went on to Eliza Tinsley's. He became the honorary secretary of the Chain Manufacturers Association, and in 1886, he went into business for himself. Fellows Green Nail and Chain Manufacturers did well in the early years, and soon bought out another company, J Billingham and Son. It continued to do well, and John Fellows took out a very successful anchor patent. At the turn of the century, he was joined at the firm by his three sons, Larry, Vernon, and Sydney, and to celebrate, he changed the name to Fellows Brothers Limited. The families interest in the firm ended in the 1960s, when it was sold to another engineering company, John Foulkes, when its name was changed yet again to Fellows Stringer. The family had many ties in the area though, long before all this, there was another John Fellows, born about 1775, who was the landlord of the Old Mogul Inn, at Netherend,Cradley. They are also linked by marriage to Sir Roland Hill, he of the penny post, and to the Taylors, who once lived at Rowley Hall. That would be the Taylor who not only brewed strong beer, but was the bane of the Rev George Barrs life, for indulging in Cock Fighting, and breeding ferocious Bull Terriers. Well you can't pick and choose your relatives, can you.

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

October 28, 2012 at 4:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Now as well as the tough old tribe that inhabited Lye waste, and the many Public houses, the area is famous for other products. The manufacture of thousands of Shovels, Spades, and Forks to be precise. It could be said, that from 1900, the area around Lye, was the very centre of the trade. Railway Street, was the home of P. Mountford and Company, who turned out all kinds of Forks and Rakes. Competition was fierce, for not far away were Brooks Brothers, and just down the road in Halesowen, were Bache and Company, ( whose main works were in Churchill ) Benjamin Bladen and Son, and the firm of John Brown, also situated in Halesowen. Stourbridge, long the home of many edged tools makers had several firms of spade and shovel makers. Benjamin Fiddion and Son, not far away from another family member, Alex Fiddion, must have crossed shovels with H. C. Webb, John Woolridge and Sons, Yardley and Company, and Henry Mills. Non of them had any heavy machinery of note, all the work being done by hand, employing both men and boys. All this activity was within 5 miles of Lye Cross, and it must have made the area very noisey indeed. I wonder if they ever had any time to put the products to good use, like a bit of digging on an allotment.



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March 6, 2013 at 2:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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It would be very remiss of me at this stage, not to include a bit of history about the British Iron Company. In the early part if the 1800s, with the Iron trade booming, this company decided to get in on the act. They bought into an thriving works in South Wales, another but smaller one in North Wales, and entered into negotitions with John Attwood, and presumably his brother Thomas. The talking was about the Iron works at Corngreaves, Dudley Wood, Netherton, Withymoor, and a small works on the canal at Brierley Hill. The first four of these works were included in the sale, with the total agreed price of £500,000, and a deposit of £238,525 was duly paid at the completion, in 1825. Things of course began to go wrong, there was a sudden dip in the Iron trade, and the investment began to look a bit too much, so the Company attempted to pull out. When Atwwod refused, they acciused him of overstating the value of the sites, and mis-leading them of about the raw materials that could be obtained. In 1828, British Iron took Attwood to court implying that he had committed perjury, and sued for damages. They Lost, which cost the Company a great deal of money, but undournted, they used the same tactics in 1830, and this time they won. John Attwood didn't take this defeat lightly, and appealed his case to the House of Lords, where in 1838, he won again, and once again, it cost British Iron, a large sum of money. At this stage, they accepted an offer for the small Withymoor Works, which had two blast furnaces in operation, and sold it lock stock and barrel, to James Griffin. The company had always been a bit short of cash, as most would say it was under funded at the start. It had only two furnances in blast in 1840 on the Corngreaves site, but 4 in operation at Dudley Wood, and two more on the Netherton site. The Brierley Hill site, which had been purchased seperately for £20,760, in 1825 was producing 150 tons of Iron a week, contributing to the small profit the Company was making. The mis-management though, was eating into the profits, and it didn't help, when in 1841, they were the subject of a report into the working conditions of men and boys in the Ironworks. This was followed in 1843, by another report, this time into the condition of the Mines the Company operated. More money worries followed, and in 1843, the company went in voluntary liquidation. A new company, The New British Iron Company rose from the ashes, and decided to sell off some it's more loss making operations. The works in both South and North Wales were sold, as was the Netherton Works which went to Noah Hingley and Sons in 1852. The Dudley Works, in 1860, also went to the same firm. By know, all the six furnaces that the company had planned, were in full operation, and money began to be invested in keeping the plant up to modern standards. In 1884, thanks to the investment, they began producing Steel as well as Pig Iron, and for a time, all went well. Six years though, is a long time in the iron trade, and by 1891, they were in more trouble, so serious, that a second voluntary liquidation followed in 1892, including the brierley Hill site, and the whole lot passed into the hands of the former genral manager, the Trademark and Goodwill being retained by Noah Hingley.



There can be no doubt then, that the bulk of the purchase price was not provided by any works manager, but came from Hingleys. Corngreaves Iron Works, the new name chosen for what was left, together with the now five mines it owned, ( The Stour Colliery having been sold to David Parsons and Sons. ) struggled on until 1912, when the hammer finally came down, and production on the site ceased forever. The Brierley Hill works went on the become part of the massive Round Oak Steel Works, The Netherton Ironworks stayed in production for many years, but the Dudley Wood Works finished around 1900. The few reminders left of the old Corngeaves site, are the recently refurbished Corngreaves Hall, and a road name, not much to show for all that effort. Mind you, thats progress for you.

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May 17, 2013 at 2:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Now I don't know to exactly which Iron Works this post refers, for the owner isn't mentioned when it came up for sale in early 1845. It's location is listed as Toll End, Tipton, and it could be one of three. Lets see if someone can add anything from the sites discription.


Three Furnaces for Iron smelting. on the bank of the Birmingham Canal. One Furnace equiped with Hot Air Blower, a winding engine, and an inclined plane to load said furnace. It had two branches from the Canal, two loading basins, and a Bridge house to control the traffic from the Birmingham Canal. The works also had Coke and Mine Hearths, several buildings, and a Clerk's Office. On offer at the same time, so presumably this had the same owner, was the place next door. This was a sries of Foundries, with Cupolas, Air Furnaces, Pattern and Blacksmiths Shops, several powerful Cranes, a Large Yard and Stabling. The whole was enclosed within a solid brickwall. It was sold, subject to the exsisting 7 years lease, worth £300 per annum, and the tennant was described as highly reputable. I have been asked before, about what was stated to be Toll End Hall, but it's real title was simply " The Hall ". By a strange coincedence, this Hall stood near to the Foundries, was sold about the same time, and was described as follows. Having a Coach house,stabling, out-offices ( polite words for Toilets ) Garden and Croft, and again, the whole enclosed within a stout brickwall. Sadly, the new owner isn't named, but it gives a good idea of just how much industry had taken over in this part of Tipton.

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

November 4, 2013 at 3:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Withymoor Iron Works, Netherton.


Here's a local man, who at least made a few bob in the Iron Trade. Born in 1781, in Dudley, James Griffin went on to own the Withymoor Iron Works, Netherton. The company was in existance prior to 1810, and produced mainly agricultural tools, namely, Scythes. During the early part of the firms history, there was a nation wide shortage of copper coins, hence the number of " Tokens " to be found, issued by a large number of Manufacturers and institutions. Most were to the value of one penny, but some, were minted as one pound tokens, which could be exchanged for 240 pennies. All to be redeemed from the issuing company, although a few banks would handle them as well. James Griffin and Sons, in 1813, issued both types of these tokens, not in copper, but in base metal.



What makes them interesting, is that on the one penny token, the equipment used in the works for making scythes, is clearly illustrated. The one pound token illustrates the finished products. They must of course, over the years, have expanded the company, for in 1835, they were listed as Chainmakers as well, although Spades and Shovels isn't mentioned, the factory address being Northfield Road, Netherton. James was still in charge in 1842, but by 1851, his listing seems to have disappeared. He then then appears to have remarried to a young woman, fathered a daughter, and moved to the more gentrified atmosphere of Edgbaston. ( Not far from the pleasent surrounding of Edgbaston Reservoir. ) He died in 1858, aged 77, having lived comfortably on the proceeds of his undoubted hard work as a Scythe, and Chain maker, and being both a Coal and Iron Master. Any further information on the Works, or the man, will be greatly appreciated.


Added: 1st Feb 2016.


The next owner of Withymoor appears to have been The New British Iron Company, although due to some financial problems, it was sold off. The small works were part of a deal obtained by Noah Hingley, and which, at the time, was producing about a 150 tons of iron a week. Late in 1859, Hingleys struck a deal with local coal master W.H.Dawes, who then went on to operate both the blast furnaces, and the pit that was on the same site. Whilst researching an unrelated piece, I came across this little sad tale.


On the morning of the 17th September, 1861, Benjamin Northall must have arrived for his shift in good spirits, and with a light heart, for on this day he turned 50. He was employed to drive a steam engine at the works, which supplied the small blast required by the puddling furnaces. At some stage during the morning, a stack of heavy iron pipes fell on him, causing very severe internal injuries. The Doctor summoned could do very little for the injured man, and around lunchtime, he died. Not the kind of birthday present any of us would want.                                         ( Souce: Worcestershire Chronicle, 25/9/1861 )


The company struggled on for some years, but the operation was becoming very uneconomical and eventually, first the Pit, then the Furnaces, closed down. Part of the original building is still standing, it houses the firm of J.T.Jackson.

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

January 9, 2014 at 10:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There were some Companies in the Iron trade, that became almost legendary over the years, one of which was The Patent Shaft and Axletree Company, at the Old Park Works, Wednesbury.  Established in 1840, by 1864, it had grown, and become a Limited Company, making parts for the Railways. It did of course have a rival in the town, Lloyds Fosters and Company, who not only did the same work, but also cast many iron parts for their Bridge making business. In 1868, following a disasterous deal over the highly successful Blackfriars Bridge in London, the company merged with Patent Shaft, at the Old Park works. Shortly afterwards, Samuel Lloyd took over as Director, and the firm went from strength to strength, dispite the many ups and downs in the Iron and Coal trades. One of these perodic dips in business, occured after the Boer War finished, and things began to look a bit bleak. Help was not far away. 


Talks had begun, in late 1901, between several companies in the Railway business, about merging, to form a larger, and more robust, company. In 1902, The Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, which had been around since 1845, in Saltley, Birmingham, merged with the others to form The Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage and Wagon Company.  The newly formed group included, the Manchester based, Ashbury Railway and Carriage Co, The Lancaster Railway and Carriage Co, the Birmingham firms of Midland Engineering, Brown Marshall and Co, The Willington Iron Co, from Brierley Hill, Oldbury Railway Carriage and Wagon Co, and the older, Midland Railway and Carriage Co. Later on that year, they were joined by The Patent Shaft and Axletree, which gave the new group much greater manufacturing capabilties, and much more expertise. They were joined in 1907, by Docker Brothers, who produced Varnish and Paints, and were just starting to get involved in Electrical engineering. Similar merges were also taking place in other indudtries, for the days of making products in little back street workshops was at an end, and from now on, it would be the financial clout of the bigger firms,that would drive the Black Country onwards. In 1912, the company name changed again, for dispite what you may think, the Government of the day had already begun to prepare for a War, that wouldn't be long in coming. The Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon, and Finance Company, would be in a better position to develope their products than most, and more to the point, would be able to finance the experiments needed for new Armaments. Two of the subsidary companies would play an important part in the War to come, and one would become a major player. But as thats another story, it will have to go in a different post, elsewhere on the website.

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

March 27, 2014 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Depression in the Iron Trade.


Sometimes, as far as the trade is concerned, you get a bit of luck and a brief history of a short lived enterprise. Such is the case here, which is all about the Tipton Iron Works, Factory Road, just off Bloomfield Road, Tipton. As these things go, it was a fairly small works, having just three blast furnaces at the junction of two canals. In 1859, it's owner went bust, not an unusual thing by any means for the time, but it does give an insight into how trade was conducted at the time. There were many who gambled on making a fortune from the production of iron, some did of course, but many others fell by the wayside. here's just one who fell.


Edward Lowe Cresswell, born in 1807, in Bilston, started life as a miner, in and around what was then the enormous Parish of Sedgley. This included part of Bilston and Tipton at the time. Where he later got all his money from, I don't know, nor how he came to marry a young woman from Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1840, whose brother represented his Country as a Vice Consul. In 1841, he was listed as a miner, in 1851, living in upmarket Priory Street, Dudley, his listing reads Ironmaster. In a trade directory for the Town, a few years later, he has an entry as a Grocer and Draper in the area, the Iron business being listed elsewhere. In 1858, at a point where the Iron Trade was suffering a slump, his company was in the red to the tune of over £70,000, and his bank. The West Bromwich and Dudley, had already purchased the Tipton Works, leaving him as just the operator. They were planning for the future here, protecting the assests and the debt. Now Edward Cresswell, as a businessman, may have been well out of his depth, for it appears, that he had, for some time, been struggling to pay his debts. He could not sell his Pig Iron locally, and he could not obtain any raw material in the area either. His Iron Stone came from S.F.Bowens, North Staffordshire, and the sole distributor of his iron was Messers Stitts, a Liverpool Metal Merchant. When they informed him that they could no longer handle all his products due to poor trade, the end was not far away. The Bank, on top of what he had borrowed, was also owed over £3,000 in rent so they obtained an execution order, seized his stock of Iron and Ironstone, and sold it all off. They also secured orders against his other assests in the Moxley Forge, the Foxyard Colliery, the Grocery Shop, a Nailworks in Birmingham, and an interest in the Rhos Iron Works, North Wales. There was very little left for the other creditors as the Bank secured almost £68,000 against his current debts. He was allowed to keep in operation, the three furnaces at the Tipton Works, but by 1860, and now listed as a Metal Broker, he was forced to shut down two of them, and later, that one as well. He had also moved house as well, and in 1870, was living in Claradon Street, Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, with his second wife, Hannah. As is the way with many bankrupts, they seem to be able to hang on to conciderable sums of money, and in this, he was as successful as the others. He died in London, in 1876, leaving his wife, the sole beneficiary, almost £4.000, a conciderable sum at the time. You could say he wasn't that good in Iron Trade, but then again, even dead, he finished up with more, than the poor humble miner he had started out as.

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

June 4, 2014 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Nick moss

Posts: 11

The central eastern side of Wolverhampton, especially the industrial quarter between what are the Wednesfield Road running out north-eastward from the city centre,  and Bilston Road running south-eastward contained a number of iron works.

If approaching from Willenhall (on the Willenhall Road), during the height of the Industrial Revolution one would first have passed  an area of flat land with a number of coal mines on either side - these were Deans, Barnfield, and Old Heath Colleries to your right, with Bowman's Harbour Colliery a little further north by Heath Town, and Stow Heath & Chillington Colleries on your left. But as the the road rose towards Wolverhampton centre, one would have been welcomed by an impressive site of black, red and orange from many chimneys and furnaces, with the vibrating sound of drop forges as an accompanyment. With less than a mile of the journey left to reach the rather distinctive commercial streets of the town centre, the first site would be of the great Chillington Iron Works on your left, with its 4 blast furnaces, 95 puddling furnaces and 6 rolling mills as well as 100 shafts sunk for coal and iron ore. This was on the site of what is now Hickman Avenue.  As you entered Lower Horseley Fields, to your right around what is now Qualcast Road, was the vast Swan Garden Iron Works and the equally impressive Osier Bed Iron Works, which between them  had 4 blast furnaces, 26 puddling furnaces creating 40000 tons of rolled steel sheets PA. These were taken over by John Lysaght in 1878 but closed in 1901 when he moved production to the vast Orb Iron Works in Newport ,South Wales. Next on your right would be the Union Iron Works, and then further to the right were the Cleveland and Beaconsfield Iron Works, and the New Griffin Works, whilst just to your left were the Beaver Works with 2 tall furnaces and 5 chimneys which specialised in the production of metal springs, and also the Crane Foundry. Still on Willenhall Road you would then pass under the railway bridge into Upper Horseley Fields, with Wulfruna Coal on your left (it is still there!). The vast Shrubbery Iron Works were situated to the right with more tall chimneys and furnaces, and the equally impressive Minerva Iron & Steel Works with its 21 puddling furnaces and 4 tall chimneys to the left. The road would vibrate as the forges operated by the road. This works produced 80% of all UK exported steel to USA in 1870. These giant works linked to Wolverhampton's canal wharfs and connected to the railways. The Crown Nail Works were next to be passed, and a little further along the canal wharf were the Bridge Foundry, and then the Atlas Iron Works which speciaslised in the production of iron for ship-building.

You twould then come to Bilston Road inner section close to Wolverhampton centre still, where the great Monmore Green Iron Works were situated. The Monmore Green Foundry and Rolling Mills, and the Victoria Iron Works were based around Cable Street leading up to All Saints and the adjacent Cockshutts Colliery and Rough Hills Colliery. 

The Bilston Road of course led down to the equally industrial area of Ettingshall and Parkfields, with more collieries and Iron Works such as the Mars Iron Works, Spring Vale Iron Works, mid-way between Wolverhampton and Bilston.

The amount of Iron Works situated in Horseley Fields, led many to the conclusion, that this part of South Staffordshire, was the most industrious in the Black Country. Given the list above, it would be very hard to argue that it wasn't.

October 4, 2014 at 2:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Elsewhere on the website, I have mentioned the Horseley Iron Works, and the man who built it, Aaron Manby. The company cast and constructed the first ever ship that could be bolted or riveted together. Whats more. it was fitted with an engine that his own patent. Like a lot of men who made a name for himself in the iron trade, Manby wasn't born in the Black Country, but in Albrighton, Shropshire, in 1776. He was first involved in Tipton, with The Horseley Coal and Iron Company, setting up the Horseley Iron Works in 1813. The ship and engine  were produced in 1822, but the company was far more famous for the numerous cast iron Canal bridges. Ever the man with an eye for the future, he also set up Iron Works in France, and developed his Engine to such an extent, that the French became leading competitors of the English Engines. I have had an enquiry about an illustration of early works, but at first glance, there didn't seem to be one. In fact there is, painted by a roving Artist, Thomas Peploe Woods in 1837. It's in the collection held at the William Salt Library, in Stafford, and I have reproduced it below.



The Church in the picture is Tipton Old Church, the canal used by the works is beyond the tall chimneys in the background. He owned the works up untill 1845, when it was purchased at Auction by John Joseph Bramah.  ( most of the available information say he accepted an offer for it, but the Auction was advertised extensively and conducted by Thomas Danks of Dudley ) He spent some time in France, was married twice, and died in Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, in 1850. A remarkable engineer, and yet another outsider who help to put the Black Country name on the map. Why more isn't said about him, surprises many, for his Canal Bridges bear testimony to his fine engeneering skills.

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

December 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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