A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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In 1086 the manor was 3 hides in extent and had land for 3 ploughs. There were 3 teams worked by 10 villeins and 3 bordars and a fourth team in demesne. The value, 40s., was the same as it had been in 1066. (fn. 1)
During the Middle Ages the farming pattern was a mixture of open-field husbandry and farming in severalty. Three cases brought against the lords of the manor in 1293 suggest that by that date the demesne arable had been inclosed for 50 years or more and that others were following the lords' example and inclosing parts of the open fields. (fn. 2) Elsewhere in the parish the area of inclosed land was gradually increased by assarting. In the late 13th century lords and tenants reached a formal agreement on the payment of heriots for assarts and new lands, in which a distinction was drawn between those lands which had been built upon and those which had not. (fn. 3) The process of assarting and inclosure continued, (fn. 4) and manorial ordinances of 1606 accept the possibility of inclosure of strips in the open fields as a matter of course. (fn. 5)
The open fields in the parish lay around All Saints' Church on the ridge east of the Hobnail valley. (fn. 6) One, north-west of the church, was probably bounded by what are now Walsall Road, Marsh Lane, and Heath Lane. It occurs as Gnarpanell field in 1516, (fn. 7) as variations of Knapeney Hill field between at least 1526 and 1709, (fn. 8) and as Napney field from at least 1686; (fn. 9) Lydiate field occurs as an alternative name in 1610 and 1709 and Walsall Lane field in the 1780s. (fn. 10) Another field lay north and north-east of the church. If the small areas known in the early 19th century as Middle field and Tenter House field originally formed part of it, it was probably bounded by the present Walsall Road, Charlemont Road to about Bird End, and, in the south, by the upper end of Water Lane, Newton Road, and Heath Lane. Its original name seems to have been Wigmore field, and it occurs as such between at least 1348 and 1709. (fn. 11) The name Church field occurs from 1531. (fn. 12) At first it may have been used for only part of Wigmore field: the mention in 1641 of an acre of arable lying in two fields called Church and Wigmore fields (fn. 13) suggests a division of the original Wigmore field. Church field was given as an alternative name for Wigmore field in 1709 (fn. 14) and by the earlier 19th century was the name of what remained of the field. An open field in the Wigmore area known as the 'heyefeld' occurs in the 14th and 15th centuries; (fn. 15) it may have been Wigmore field under another name. Another field lay between the church and Lyndon; it included the triangle of land between the present Church Vale and Tenscore Street and extended a little to the east and west of those two roads. From at least the earlier 17th century it was called Lyndon field. (fn. 16) The south-eastern portion of the field was known as Stye Croft from at least 1531, (fn. 17) and its northern end Windmill field or Little Church field by the 1780s. (fn. 18)
Open-field husbandry appears to have continued in some form until 1804 when under an Act of 1801 the remaining fragments of the three fields were inclosed. Of the 387 a. inclosed by the Act only some 111 were described in the award as being part of the open fields, and those were scattered among areas of piecemeal inclosure. (fn. 19) The tenants' obligation to maintain gates and field hedges had been enforced until at least the early 18th century, (fn. 20) and overseers of the field hedges were regularly appointed in the manor court until 1804. (fn. 21) By the later 18th century, however, their duties may have become more formal as tenants continued to throw together and inclose acres in the fields. (fn. 22)
Three-course rotation was used in the parish by the late 13th century, (fn. 23) and farming in the open fields during the Middle Ages probably followed the course recorded several times in the 17th century: winter-sown rye, spring-sown oats, and fallow. (fn. 24) In at least the late 16th and early 17th centuries, however, wheat and barley were also being grown in the open fields, though in smaller quantities than rye and oats. (fn. 25) Other crops included dredge, (fn. 26) hemp and flax, (fn. 27) and a mixture of oats and peas. (fn. 28) Cottages with 'hemplecks' (small pieces of ground for growing hemp or flax) are found in surveys of 1630 and 1695, (fn. 29) and flax was grown in the parish until at least the later 18th century. Bustleholm mill was worked as an oil-mill between at least 1732 and 1758, (fn. 30) presumably producing linseed oil, and there was a flax-oven near West Bromwich Hall in the 1770s. (fn. 31) When Arthur Young visited the parish in 1776 he found both three-course and four-course rotation being employed. (fn. 32) In the former case the sequence was fallow, wheat, and barley or oats; in the latter it was turnips, barley, clover and rye-grass, and oats or wheat. For turnips lime was applied at the rate of 8 or 10 quarters an acre. Large quantities of potatoes had been planted in previous years; but there had been a glut of them in 1775, and fewer were being grown in 1776. Some farms were being let at from 15s. to 25s. an acre.
Pasture in the fields, in the meadows by the Tame, and on the waste was an important feature of the agricultural economy of the parish. In 1291 pasture and the sale of grazing rights (or perhaps of hay) accounted for almost half the value of the small Halesowen abbey estate, and a case of 1293 in which the abbot unsuccessfully claimed common of pasture for 600 sheep (fn. 33) may give some indication of the scale of live-stock farming in West Bromwich. At the end of the 15th century the abbey was drawing £6 13s. 4d. a year from pastures in Bromwich park. (fn. 34) Meadow, pasture, heath, and commoning rights feature prominently in a number of 16thcentury land transactions. (fn. 35) Flocks of between 30 and 60 sheep were not uncommon in the late 16th and early 17th centuries; (fn. 36) no really large flocks have been found. Pasture was stinted by the early 17th century. Manorial ordinances of 1606 allowed one beast or five sheep for each acre in the fields and laid down that any tenant who inclosed land in the fields was to lose his pasture rights in them. (fn. 37) In 1591 Henry Partriche's small herd of cattle included 13 'fatting kine', (fn. 38) and by at least the late 17th century West Bromwich had probably become one of the areas in which animals were raised for the expanding Birmingham market. Land in the parish was being leased to outsiders who fattened beef cattle, (fn. 39) and in 1688 tenants of the manor were forbidden to pasture the sheep of 'foreigners' on the commons. (fn. 40)
Encroachment on the waste continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Occasionally it was for industrial purposes: the construction of a saw-pit in 1634, for example, or, in the 1680s, the digging of sand; many cottagers built small workshops on to their houses. (fn. 41) In general, however, most of the early encroachments appear to have been for cultivation or for the building of cottages. In 1630 17 cottagers, the more prosperous ones, paid rents of 2s. a year and upwards to the lord of the manor; at least 3 lived in cottages taken from the waste. Rent of a further 10s. 10d. a year covered the rest of the cottages upon the waste and some little parcels of waste ground which could not be improved because they were held by poor tenants. (fn. 42) In 1723 99 cottages in the manor were listed as encroachments on the waste; 54 were on Bromwich Heath, 20 at Mayer's Green, and the rest scattered throughout the parish. (fn. 43) Sporadic attempts were made to solve the problem by ejecting trespassers. In 1692, 1699, 1709, and 1718 the freeholders threw down illegal inclosures. In 1720 they decided at a public meeting to prosecute nine cottagers at quarter sessions, possibly as a test case; the grand jury found only three true bills, however, and there is no evidence that further action of that kind was taken. (fn. 44) The machinery of the manor court was also used, though with diminishing frequency and effect. In 1734, when the parish was 'abounding in cottages which frequently prove chargeable to it' and the number of them was increasing, the lord of the manor was asked by some leading parishioners to order that the court should actually collect the fines regularly imposed for encroachments on the waste. The intention was apparently not to demolish existing cottages but to prevent the erection of new ones. Although the cottagers paid, except for some at Mayer's Green, (fn. 45) the experiment was soon abandoned: in 1765 it was noted that, although the cottagers were still 'regularly amerced, fined, and called every court', no fine had been paid for 20 years. (fn. 46) In the later 1750s there were 129 longstanding encroachments on the waste (52 cottages on Bromwich Heath, 47 at Mayer's Green, and 30 others scattered elsewhere) and some 40 more recent inclosures. More were added every year, until by 1803 there were just over 200. About half of them were on the Heath and its fringes. Most consisted of gardens, privies, pigsties, or courtyards added to existing buildings; but about 50 were houses and cottages. A large-scale developer was Thomas Penn, who in the 1780s erected and leased out several houses on the eastern side of the Heath. (fn. 47)
The growth of settlement around the various hamlets in the parish meant that from an early date the waste was gradually dismembered. The spread of housing and cultivation led to the emergence of several distinct patches of waste: thus Hateley Heath occurs by 1485, Greets Green by 1556, and Mayer's Green by the 1660s. (fn. 48) These and other fragments (Ryders, Golds, Hall, Ireland, and Carter's Greens) have survived as modern placenames but were insignificant by the beginning of the 19th century; Bromwich Heath was then the only substantial area of waste left, (fn. 49) and it was inclosed in 1804 under the 1801 Act. (fn. 50) A few years later the Heath, like several other recently inclosed commons in south and east Staffordshire, was 'in part brought into cultivation, and covered with growing crops; and other parts preparing for turnips, or in fallow, and coming round in course'. (fn. 51) The high price fetched by some of the newly inclosed land, apparently sold for building, was noted in 1818. (fn. 52)
The spread of new streets and the industrialization of the parish became more marked in the course of the 19th century. Agriculture had long been, in economic terms, of secondary importance. Young had found it 'carried on so connectedly with manufactures that it is subservient to them'. (fn. 53) In 1801 only 245 of a population of 5,687 were farmers or farm workers, (fn. 54) and the percentage of those so employed continued to drop steadily. Large tracts of the parish, however, were still farmed. In 1845 the area of some 4,600 a. subject to tithe included 2,385 a. of arable and 1,190 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 55) In 1882 about half the parish remained agricultural. (fn. 56) Of this some two-thirds belonged to the Sandwell estate. By the later 19th century farming on the estate conformed to the pattern found elsewhere on the fringes of large towns. Farmers were permitted to abandon classical crop rotation and grew successive straw crops on part of their land for sale to urban horse-owners in West Bromwich and other neighbouring towns; the fertility of the ground was maintained by the use of night soil. Milk, potatoes, and pigmeat were produced for urban consumption. (fn. 57) Only 1,258 a. of farmland were left in the early 1950s, (fn. 58) and since then housing, industry, and new roads have reduced the total. By 1969 what remained lay in the east of the parish; five farms survived, all save one having lost land to development. (fn. 59)
In 1086 there was woodland 1 league in length and ½ league in breadth; (fn. 60) it may have lain in the northern part of the lordship which was bordered on the northwest by Cannock forest and on the north-east by Sutton Chase. (fn. 61) By the early 13th century there was a wooded park belonging to the manor. (fn. 62) The other most considerable area of woodland was on the lands of Sandwell priory; in 1526 more than 145 a. were thickly wooded. (fn. 63)
The establishment of the iron industry in West Bromwich during the later 16th century must have led to the felling of much timber in the area. In the 1590s William Whorwood, owner of the Sandwell estate, became partner with Thomas Parkes in several Staffordshire ironworks. The partnership broke up, however, and it has been suggested that the long quarrel which followed was caused partly by the erstwhile partners' competition for charcoal supplies. Certainly when the quarrel was finally settled Whorwood sold Parkes all or most of his woods in West Bromwich to be felled, coaled, and carried away within the space of about ten or eleven years. (fn. 64) There was still timber on the Sandwell estate in Brome Whorwood's time (1634-84), for his steward was felling and coaling trees partly for Whorwood's own use and partly for sale to Bromwich forge. (fn. 65)
Friar Park, an estate belonging to the Whorwoods in the north of the parish, was being regularly coppiced during the 17th century. The property needed much supervision by the owner as the wood was evidently a profitable crop whose value was enhanced by the needs of the many local ironworks. For most of the century, when the Whorwoods were living at Holton (Oxon.), the tenants of their Balls Hill property had to promise to ensure that no damage was done to the growing timber in the coppices at Friar Park. (fn. 66) In the early 18th century William James, the Sandwell agent, took great pains to safeguard Lord Dartmouth's interests during the cutting, cording, and coaling of the wood each year. (fn. 67) When cutting began in December 1705 James had to recommend that a house be built for a watchman who could see that the next year's spring of wood was not damaged. (fn. 68) The need for vigilance was emphasized by James again in 1707 when he reported that the tenant farmer at Friar Park had allowed his cattle to damage the previous year's wood when it first sprang. (fn. 69) At that period Lord Dartmouth was selling the wood to the Mr. Downing who, from at least the spring of 1707, was trying to obtain a lease of Bromwich forge. (fn. 70)
At the end of the 18th century the most extensive areas of woodland were Friar Park, Sandwell Park, and Ridgacre Coppice to the south-east of Hill Top. (fn. 71) Ridgacre Coppice was cut down apparently in the 1820s to make way for the Ridgacre and Dartmouth branch canals. (fn. 72) At Friar Park Lord Dartmouth still owned 102 a. of woodland in 1845; in 1886, however, the area was said to be losing the seclusion which had made it attractive to wild birds, and most of the woodland disappeared soon afterwards. (fn. 73) By the beginning of the 19th century Sandwell Park had been planted with timber in such a way that it was secluded from the surrounding industrial landscape, (fn. 74) and although some ornamental plantations were felled after Lord Dartmouth moved to Patshull in 1853, (fn. 75) much timber remained there in 1970.
Free warren in his demesne lands at West Bromwich was successfully claimed in 1293 by Walter Devereux, one of the lords of the divided manor, who cited a charter granted by Henry III to Walter, his father. In 1294 Walter's coparceners, Richard de Marnham and his wife, renounced all claim to free warren in the manor. (fn. 76) In 1606 it was stated to be one of the rights of the lord of the manor, (fn. 77) and he retained it over Bromwich Heath until inclosure. (fn. 78) The warrener had a lodge on the Heath from at least the 1650s. (fn. 79) Fishing rights in the Tame presumably belonged to the lords of the manor in the Middle Ages and are mentioned as an appurtenance of the manor in 1560 and 1719. (fn. 80) They were reserved to the lord by the Inclosure Act of 1801 and in 1901 were held by Lord Dartmouth as lord. (fn. 81)
The mill at Bromford stood on the Oldbury bank of the Tame, but in the mid 19th century at least the greater part of its pool was within West Bromwich. (fn. 82) The mill is probably the same as Oldbury mill, mentioned in 1306. (fn. 83) There was certainly a mill on the site by 1610 when William Turton the younger bought the manor of Oldbury and Wallexhall. Turton sold the manor in 1617 but retained a blade-mill with adjacent land. On his death in 1621 the mill passed to his son William. (fn. 84) The Turtons also owned Greet mill, the next mill downstream, and the flow of water powering the two mills was controlled under a family agreement. About 1690, however, the blade-mill was bought by Joseph Carles (or Careles); he pulled it down and built in its place 'an iron forge or flattingmill'. The new forge required more power than the old blade-mill. Carles apparently enlarged the millpool, and in 1694 it was alleged by Eleanor Turton, the owner of Greet mill, that two streams which should have powered her mill had been diverted by Carles. (fn. 85) The forge was owned by the Carles family for some seventy-five years. In the mid 18th century it was worked for a time as a plating forge by Edward Gibbons, and by the later 18th century it was variously known as Oldbury forge, Bromford forge, or Oldbury mill. In 1765, while it was untenanted, it was bought by Mary Abney, a descendant of the Turtons and owner of Greet mill. She immediately let it to William Taylor, (fn. 86) and it was described as a grinding-mill in 1772. (fn. 87) A few years later it was turned into a water-powered wireworks by Roger Holmes, Mary Abney's son-in-law. (fn. 88) The wireworks had presumably ceased operations by 1796 when the mill-pool was let to John Izon, who had an iron-foundry at Greet mill; the foundry seems thenceforward to have drawn on the pool. (fn. 89) Nonetheless a small grinding-mill evidently existed there until at least 1845. (fn. 90) The pool became almost entirely covered by spoil heaps in the later 19th century, and railway sidings were built over the rest in the early 1890s. (fn. 91)
The mill known as Greet mill by the 1290s stood on the Tame a little below Bromford mill where the road now called West Bromwich Street crosses the river. It occurs in the early 14th century, but the next known reference is in 1556. (fn. 92) In 1592 it comprised a corn-mill and a blade-mill; (fn. 93) by 1694 both were a corn-mills. (fn. 94) They were occupied by Thomas Hawkes in 1782 as a set of overshot mills used for grinding corn and dressing leather. In October 1782 Izon & Whitehurst, an iron-founding firm of Aston (Warws.) in search of extra sources of power, took a lease of the mills and the adjacent estate. There the firm erected a new foundry and a row of workmen's cottages; John Izon moved into a house standing near the mill. During the 1780s Izon & Whitehurst abandoned water-power in favour of steam, but they remained at the mill, which was situated on the Birmingham Canal conveniently for the transport of the foundry's raw materials and finished products. (fn. 95) Nothing now remains of the mill buildings. Until 1906 or 1907 water from the mill-pool was used to cool the firm's beam-engine. The house in which John Izon lived was still used as a storehouse in 1941 but has since disappeared; the workmen's cottages erected by Izon & Whitehurst were demolished in 1901. (fn. 96)
There was a mill on Robert Rider's estate by 1554, (fn. 97) situated on the Tame about half a mile west of Greets Green. It remained with the Riders during the 17th century and became known as Rider's Mill. (fn. 98) In the 1650s and 1660s it was apparently worked by Nicholas Rider, a kinsman of the Nicholas Rider who owned the estate. (fn. 99) Between at least 1732 and 1818 the mill was occupied by the Gutteridge family (fn. 100) and became known as Gutteridge's Mill, a name still in occasional use in the later 19th century. (fn. 101) The estate was sold in 1812, most of it going to three joint purchasers, one of whom went bankrupt in 1816. Most of his interest was bought by Thomas Price of Bescot Hall in Walsall, a coalmaster and ironmaster, who in 1822 died at Charlemont Hall, West Bromwich. (fn. 102) In 1829 the jointly purchased estate was finally partitioned, and the mill, with its pool and adjacent land, passed to the Prices. (fn. 103) Meanwhile in 1828 the mill had been burnt down. (fn. 104) It was rebuilt and worked for many years as Dunkirk Forge. (fn. 105) The new line of the Birmingham Canal was carried across the southern part of the mill-pool c. 1835, and the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Stour Valley Railway, opened in 1852, was carried along the same embankment. (fn. 106) In 1970 the culverted mill-stream could still be seen on both sides of the canal and railway embankment; most of the dry mill-pool on the north side of the embankment was also visible.
There was a mill at 'Grete' by the late 12th century, when it was given by the lord of West Bromwich manor as part of his endowment of Sandwell priory. (fn. 107) It may have stood on the Tame to the south of Great Bridge where the priory owned a meadow on either side of the river in the early 16th century. (fn. 108) It may also be the mill with ½ a. for which the prior sued Nicholas Comitassone in 1294. (fn. 109) It was not, however, one of the two West Bromwich mills owned by the monks in the early 16th century. (fn. 110) By the later 18th century there was a mill at Sheepwash south of Great Bridge but on the Tipton side of the Tame. (fn. 111)
The pair of water-mills known by the earlier 18th century as the Hall mills stood on Hobnail Brook near Hateley Heath. (fn. 112) They existed apparently by the 1570s, (fn. 113) and they remained part of the manorial estate until the 19th century; they were retained by the Clarke Jervoise trustees when the manor was sold to Lord Dartmouth in the 1820s. They were leased to Jeremiah Parker in 1673 and Richard Dickenson in 1693 (fn. 114) and by 1720 were held by William Webb who later renewed his lease for a further 18 years from 1733. (fn. 115) Webb worked at least one of them as an iron-foundry, for which Thomas Webb was buying iron in Worcestershire in the 1740s; Thomas's last purchases appear to have been made in 1748 and Webb may have given the foundry up shortly afterwards. (fn. 116) The mills then seem to have been held on separate tenancies. Bayly and William Brett, the sons of a West Bromwich ironmonger, (fn. 117) took a lease of the smaller mill for 21 years from 1751 and may have used it as a slittingmill. (fn. 118) In 1752 the larger mill was taken by Harvey Walklate for 21 years, but he was soon succeeded by William Elwell of Walsall. William worked for a time in partnership with his brother Edward, and on the dissolution of their partnership c. 1762 Edward took over the West Bromwich concern, working it as a blade-mill and iron-foundry in 1781. He died in 1809, and either he or his son, another Edward, was succeeded by Edward Reddell, who was working the foundry in 1836. (fn. 119) By the mid 1840s the mills had ceased to exist; the site and adjacent land had been let by the trustees of Thomas Clarke Jervoise to the coal-mining firm of Thomas Botteley & Co. (fn. 120)
The mill which was known as Friar Park smithy by the later 16th century stood on the Tame in the northernmost part of the parish. It is almost certainly to be identified with the mill which Halesowen abbey owned in 1223 as part of the estate in West Bromwich given by a lord of the manor. (fn. 121) The mill had been leased out by the earlier 16th century. It occurs as Friar Park smithy in 1587, and in 1590 Laurence Thomson of Laleham (Mdx.) was working it. By 1592, however, it had ceased to be used as a smithy because the timber in the area had been used up, and it was ruinous. (fn. 122) By c. 1776 a mill on the site was being used as a tannery. In 1781 it was described as Friar Park blade- and corn-mill, but it seems to have been converted into a rollingmill by one Leonard (probably Charles Leonard) about that time. It was subsequently worked as a forge by Edward Elwell. (fn. 123) By 1836 it had been disused for some years. (fn. 124) The mill-stream and the dried-up pool still existed in the mid 1840s, but by the 1880s the whole site had been obliterated by railway sidings. (fn. 125)
Bustleholm mill on the Tame in the north-east of the parish seems originally to have belonged to Wednesbury manor: in 1595 William Comberford, lord of Wednesbury, sold it to Walter Stanley, lord of West Bromwich. (fn. 126) It was probably one of the mills that had been settled on William and his wife with Wednesbury manor in 1567. (fn. 127) In 1625 William Stanley leased it with some land to Hugh Woodman and John Reignolds; it then comprised two mills under one roof. (fn. 128) By 1630 Sir Richard Shelton had let the mills to Sir Edward Peyto of Chesterton (Warws.) and Roger Fowke of Wolverhampton, and they seem to have begun the conversion of one of the mills into a slitting-mill by then. (fn. 129) Bustleholm was certainly working as a slitting-mill by 1633 when Richard Foley of Stourbridge (Worcs.) undertook to supply it with six tons of iron a week. (fn. 130) Thomas Foley of Stourbridge and Gerard Fowke of Gunstone in Brewood were renting the mill from John Shelton in 1649, and in 1650 they took a lease of Bustleholm, which then consisted of a corn-mill and a slitting-mill. Foley worked the mill as part of an integrated system of ironworks, sending bars from his forges at Little Aston in Shenstone, West Bromwich, and Wednesbury to be slit into rods. (fn. 131) From 1667 the mill was worked by Thomas Foley's son Philip, and in 1669 his forge at Little Aston was sending about 100 tons of bar iron a year to Bustleholm to be slit. From c. 1676 Philip appears to have sub-let the mill to Humphrey Jennens of Erdington, Warws. (d. 1690). He took a new lease in 1692. (fn. 132) By c. 1700 the mill was in the hands of Humphrey Jennens's son John, a leading Birmingham ironmaster who also worked Bromwich forge about that time. (fn. 133) In 1709 John Shelton, lord of West Bromwich, sold Bustleholm mill to John Lowe, an ironmonger; it then comprised a slittingmill and a corn-mill. Lowe's third son Jesson, also an ironmonger, was working Bustleholm as a slitting- and oil-mill in 1732, and in 1742 as a forge also. (fn. 134) In 1758 he left his 'rod-mill and oilmill or ironworks' to his brother Alexander, who was working it as a slitting-mill in 1765. (fn. 135) About 1775 Charles Leonard may have occupied the slittingmill. (fn. 136) By 1818 Bustleholm, then belonging to James Smith of Hall Green House, was let to William Chapman, a farmer and bayonet-maker, who probably used it as a blade-mill. It was leased from 1820 to Thomas and William Morris, two Bradley ironmasters, who worked it as a rollingmill. After they left the mill stood idle for some years. It may subsequently have been worked by G. B. Thorneycroft to produce sheet iron. (fn. 137) By the mid 1830s Bustleholm had been converted to agricultural milling; it then comprised three cornmills and was being worked by George Smith Dorsett. (fn. 138) It remained the property of James Smith's trustees, who granted a series of leases. (fn. 139) By 1900 it was grinding iron-founders' blacking, coal slack being brought by barge on the Tame Valley Canal. (fn. 140) It ceased to work during the First World War; the machinery was dismantled some time shortly after 1947. (fn. 141) The building, erected probably in the early 19th century and housing an undershot wheel, was demolished in 1971. (fn. 142)
Joan mill stood about three-quarters of a mile south of Bustleholm either on the Tame or on a stream flowing through the Wigmore area and into the Tame. It existed by 1401-2 (fn. 143) and was one of the two West Bromwich mills owned by Sandwell priory at its dissolution in 1525. In 1526 it was held by Ann Heles but was decayed 'for lack of timber'. (fn. 144)
The water-mill known as Bromwich forge stood on the Tame about a mile below Joan mill. It probably did not exist before 1586 when Walter Stanley, lord of West Bromwich, authorized Thomas Parkes of Wednesbury to make a watercourse as an extension of that which had formerly powered Joan mill. (fn. 145) The mill stood on property belonging to the lord of West Bromwich; the new watercourse, however, crossed the Whorwoods' property, and for over two centuries the lord of the manor's tenants of the forge had to take a separate lease of the watercourse from the owners of the Sandwell estate. (fn. 146) By c. 1590 Parkes had built a forge or hammer-mill, a furnace, and cottages for his workmen. The furnace evidently stood a little way south-west of the forge. (fn. 147) The ironworks was operated by Parkes until his death in 1602 and by his son Richard (d. 1618), but about six months after Richard's death his son Thomas, of Willingsworth Hall in Sedgley, sold his interest to John Middleton, Thomas Nye, and others. (fn. 148) The furnace was worked by Richard Foley probably from c. 1625, (fn. 149) and he seems to have occupied the forge from about the same time: in 1630 he was holding the furnace and forge on two separate leases from the lord of the manor, though by then the furnace had probably gone out of use. (fn. 150) Bromwich forge was one of three ironworks in the area which Foley was operating in 1633 and was one of the many works which were operated by his grandson Philip from 1667. It supplied bar-iron to be slit by the Foleys' mill at Bustleholm. (fn. 151) In 1676 Philip Foley assigned an interest in the works to Humphrey Jennens, and after Humphrey's death in 1690 the works passed to his son John, who apparently held it until 1708. (fn. 152) Probably from 1708 the forge was let to a Mr. Downing, apparently another ironmaster, who had been trying to secure a lease from at least the spring of 1707. (fn. 153) In 1714 John Shelton leased it to Richard Guest (or Geast) of Handsworth, (fn. 154) who seems earlier to have been in partnership with Downing. (fn. 155) In 1725 the forge was leased to Thomas Powell, a Dudley ironmaster who had apparently attempted to take a lease of it in 1706. Powell's lease was subsequently assigned to Edward Kendall. (fn. 156) In 1742, on Kendall's surrender of the lease, the forge was let to a partnership of four ironmasters—John Churchill of Hints forge, John Thompson of Abbots Bromley, James Bourne of Rushall furnace, and Henry Bourne of Abbots Bromley. (fn. 157) In 1762 the forge was let to John Churchill, (fn. 158) but from 1766-7 it was worked by the iron-manufacturing partnership of John Wright and Richard Jesson as a rolling- and slitting-mill. (fn. 159) Joseph Jesson & Co. worked it c. 1800 but by 1804 had moved to Bromford Ironworks near the Oldbury boundary. (fn. 160) The mill was subsequently worked by Charles Bache, an ironmaster, who was still there in 1823. By then it was owned by Lord Dartmouth, the new lord of the manor. (fn. 161) The forge was said in 1836 to have 'lain in ruins several years'. (fn. 162) A flourmill known as the Old Forge mill was built on the site soon afterwards. (fn. 163) It ground fodder for local farmers from the early 1890s until c. 1914; the pool was then emptied and converted to pasture and the mill was dismantled. (fn. 164) In 1970 the 19th-century corn-mill building was still standing and the position of the undershot wheel and sluice on its north side could still be seen. The 18th-century mill had two wheels and probably stood immediately to the north of the 19th-century building; in 1970 there were still traces of a second sluice a few yards to the north of the one in use in the 19th century. (fn. 165) A cottage, cart-shed, and stable, all of the 19th century, also remained.
Sandwell mill stood on the north side of what is now known as Swan Pool, about half a mile north of Sandwell priory. It was one of the two West Bromwich mills owned by the priory at its dissolution. In 1526 it was a substantial thatched wooden building but was not working. (fn. 166) If the mill was ever put into operation again it had fallen into disuse by 1639: one of Brome Whorwood's tenants then had to promise to grind his corn at the mill within the manor of Sandwell if such a mill should be built. (fn. 167) Nothing more is known of a mill on that site until 1775 when there seems to have been a slitting-mill there. (fn. 168) It is probably to be identified with a rolling- and slittingmill which stood about half a mile from Sandwell and was owned by Charles Leonard in the late 18th century. (fn. 169) By 1851 the mill was working as a saw-mill on the Sandwell estate. (fn. 170) The site has been obliterated by the spoil heap of Jubilee Pit, sunk in 1897. (fn. 171)
The lord of West Bromwich owned a windmill in 1616 and 1622. (fn. 172) It stood on the south side of the present Hydes Road near the Hall mills, (fn. 173) and it was probably worked in conjunction with them, for all were in the hands of the lord in 1626 and all were leased to Jeremiah Parker in 1673. (fn. 174) The windmill still existed in 1822, but it had disappeared by the mid 1840s. (fn. 175) There was a windmill on the Riders' estate by 1694 about a quarter of a mile south of their water-mill on the Tame. (fn. 176) It still existed in 1767 but was apparently demolished soon afterwards. (fn. 177) There was a windmill on the north side of Mill Street at what is now the junction with Tantany Lane in 1837. (fn. 178) It was probably the mill which was being worked by Charles Higgins in 1834 and Richard Higgins in 1835. (fn. 179) It still existed in 1842. (fn. 180) There may have been a windmill a little to the north of Lyndon where land was still called Windmill field in the early 19th century. (fn. 181) It is also said that Crabb's Mill Farm, which stood on the east side of Holloway Bank by 1742, took its name from a windmill. (fn. 182)
A market house at Lyndon, implying the existence of a market there, belonged to the lord of the manor in 1725. It seems to have fallen into decay by c. 1740. (fn. 183) In 1824 the manor court urged the revival of the market, (fn. 184) and by 1840 a street market was being held in High Street. (fn. 185) In that year a market-place was opened on private ground between High Street and Paradise Street, and in 1970 markets were still being held in a hall on that site on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays. In at least the 1850s the triangular piece of land at the junction of Paradise Street and High Street was also used on Saturdays. (fn. 186) In 1874 a market hall designed by Weller & Proud of Wolverhampton was completed as part of the new public buildings in High Street, with an open-air cattle market behind it. The new market was not a success, partly because people preferred the older open market, partly because the market hall did not form a thoroughfare between two centres. (fn. 187) Under an Act of 1899 it was discontinued, the hall demolished, and the site used for the public library. (fn. 188)
The iron industry.
Since the 16th century the main industrial activity of West Bromwich has been concerned with iron—both with getting and smelting the ore and with working the iron into a wide range of manufactured articles. The second activity developed earlier. The iron-using and finished-metal trades were established by the early 16th century, depending on imported raw materials as they do again today. In 1970 they remained the town's most important industry. The primary iron industry flourished from the late 16th century and reached its greatest prosperity in the mid 19th century with the development of local mining. Unlike the secondary industry, however, it did not survive the exhaustion of the local coal and iron ore later in the century.
The metal trades.
The first evidence of a local metal manufacture serving a more than local market comes from the early years of the 16th century when John Repton of West Bromwich was supplying buckles, rings, and bridle bits to the Crown. (fn. 189) When John Wilkes of West Bromwich died, probably in 1533, he was apparently engaged in metal trading at least as far afield as Uttoxeter. (fn. 190) By the end of the century nailing was probably the most widely practised of the West Bromwich iron trades. In the 1590s and the early years of the 17th century various West Bromwich husbandmen were accused of working as nailers without having been apprenticed. (fn. 191) Two West Bromwich nailers, Edward Ashmore and John Norris, were particularly active in bringing prosecutions against unapprenticed nailers. They became professional informers and their careers suggest that in West Bromwich and the surrounding parishes the nailing industry was growing rapidly. (fn. 192) Buckle-making too was practised, (fn. 193) and in 1601 Richard Hopkis, buckle-maker and blacksmith, informed against two men who had worked in West Bromwich as buckle-makers without having served apprenticeships. (fn. 194) In the early 17th century the manor court was attempting to enforce the apprenticeship laws and to regulate the employment of journeymen from outside the manor. (fn. 195) In 1606 it also forbade anyone employed as a smith, nailer, or buckle-maker to let any 'stall or stock' to anyone of the same trade. (fn. 196) The regulation must partly have aimed at limiting the number taking up those overcrowded trades, but it was probably also intended to prevent the engrossing of the iron supplies for those trades by the capitalist chapmen and truckmasters whose increasing influence over the Black Country metal trades was arousing bitter complaint at that time. (fn. 197) In 1609 John White and William Jefferson were each fined for letting stalls in their workshops to a bucklemaker, (fn. 198) but in general such efforts to prevent the growth of capitalist power over those domestic industries must have been ineffective. John Partrydge, a West Bromwich ironmonger, was probably one such early capitalist: when he died in 1617 he was owed almost £60. (fn. 199)
Buckle-making gradually became concentrated in Walsall, (fn. 200) but the manufacture of hand-wrought nails continued to develop in West Bromwich. In the mid 17th century very many people were employed in it. (fn. 201) In the late 1690s John Lowe may have been engaged by the parish to employ the poor in nail-making, and in 1738-9 nails were apparently being made in the workhouse. (fn. 202) The hand-wrought nail trade reached its greatest prosperity in the later 18th century, (fn. 203) and by 1775 West Bromwich was one of the principal nail-manufacturing parishes in the Black Country. The trade was controlled by the 'nail ironmongers', merchant employers who gave out work to the nailers. In 1775 the nail ironmongers in West Bromwich were Turton & Co., Richard Jesson, and William Brett. Turton & Co. used 450 tons of iron a year in nail-making; only three other Black Country firms operated on a larger scale. Jesson and Brett used 350 tons and 260 tons a year respectively, and both were operating on a larger scale than the average Black Country firm. (fn. 204) The three firms were probably employing between 1,200 and 1,300 nailers. (fn. 205) Arthur Young, travelling from Birmingham through West Bromwich in 1776, found the road 'one continued village of nailers' for five or six miles. (fn. 206)
Nails formed an important part of the iron goods exported to America, and the industry suffered during the general decline in the iron trade brought about by the War of Independence. Early in 1775 Matthew Boulton, writing to Lord Dartmouth to warn him of the consequences of a long war against the American colonists, stressed the seriousness of the threat to the nailing industry of West Bromwich. (fn. 207) In 1776 Arthur Young noted the decline which the war had caused to the industry locally, (fn. 208) although the three West Bromwich nailmasters mentioned in 1775 were still in business after the end of the war. (fn. 209) In addition the hand-wrought nail trade was beginning to feel the competition of cast nails by the 1780s, a point urged in 1783 by Richard Jesson, one of the partners producing wrought iron at Bromwich forge. (fn. 210)
The hand-wrought nail industry, however, continued to be of great importance in West Bromwich until the early 19th century. In 1812 William Whitehouse, a West Bromwich nail ironmonger, stated that nail-making was conducted on an 'immense' scale in the parish. (fn. 211) The industry was, however, entering on a long period of irreversible decline. It was badly affected by the Orders in Council of 1807 and the Anglo-American war of 1812, and the working nailers suffered depressed wages and unemployment. In 1812 Whitehouse stated that over the previous two years he had had to reduce the number of workers he employed by more than half. More serious for the industry in the long term was the new technique, developed by 1811, of cutting nails by machinery. In 1820 nail-making was still listed as a principal source of employment in West Bromwich, (fn. 212) but the competition of factory-made nails began to be felt from about 1830. Nevertheless the town's 'father trade' (fn. 213) lingered on until at least the 1880s as a domestic industry increasingly left to women workers.
In 1820 the making of gun and pistol locks was said to be a principal source of employment in West Bromwich, (fn. 214) Gun-lock filing and forging were established there, probably on a small scale, by the later 18th century. (fn. 215) They were skilled trades, (fn. 216) and that may be one reason why they never attracted so many workers as the more easily acquired craft of the nailer. More important, however, was the growing concentration of the gun-making trades elsewhere —in Birmingham, Wednesbury, and Darlaston. In 1809 the Committee of the Manufacturers of Arms and Materials for Arms offered rewards to those who would teach or learn gun-lock filing and forging. Out of 27 men who were qualified to give out work and instruction in those trades only three were West Bromwich men: James Negus, Michael Peters, and William Seddon. (fn. 217)
A West Bromwich industry associated with the gun trade was the manufacture of steel bayonets, which were made to the specifications of the gunmakers. The Salter family was making bayonets in West Bromwich from the 1770s in the area between Spon Lane and High Street where the works of George Salter & Co. Ltd. still stood in 1970, and the family became well known in the trade during the earlier 19th century. The Salters, however, chiefly made articles incorporating springs, notably the spring balances known as pocket steelyards. The family's bayonet manufacture was linked with spring manufacture because bayonet steel was the most suitable raw material for making light springs. (fn. 218)
In the 1780s William Bullock the elder, a West Bromwich toy-maker, was making various metal wares, some involving the use of steel: sword-hilts, buckles, buttons, watch-chains, and hat-pins. (fn. 219) Other references to steel-toy making in the later 18th and early 19th centuries (fn. 220) indicate that the trade was then carried on in West Bromwich, but it was not important. The Bullocks had turned to ironfounding by 1805. (fn. 221)
The foundry industry was well established in West Bromwich by the end of the 18th century. Before the development of a local iron-smelting industry in the 1820s the West Bromwich foundries must have depended on pig-iron brought in from other areas. Indeed the great increase in the production of pig-iron in the later 18th century and the improvement of transport enabled the iron-founder to set up his works where cheap power was most readily available. In West Bromwich the earliest foundries, opened before the advent of steampower, were in converted water-mills. Edward Elwell (d. 1809) was operating such a foundry from c. 1762 at Hateley Heath where water-power was available; he later built a foundry at Hill Top where he produced cast-iron tinned hollow-ware with machinery driven by a Watt beam engine. By 1809 his son, another Edward, had built a foundry at Great Bridge. (fn. 222) In 1782 Izon & Whitehurst, of Aston (Warws.), opened a foundry at Greet mill near the Oldbury boundary and began to produce tinned hollow-ware. The availability of water-power had determined the firm's choice of the site, but within a few years a Boulton & Watt beam engine had been installed and the site's chief advantage thereafter was the cheap transport available on the Birmingham Canal. (fn. 223) By the early 1790s, when Archibald Kenrick, a Birmingham buckle-maker, began to manufacture cast ironmongery beside the canal off Spon Lane, (fn. 224) water-power had probably ceased to be of prime importance.
There were 14 iron-founding firms in 1834, probably employing over 1,500 workers, (fn. 225) and by 1851 there were about 20. (fn. 226) The oldest firms of founders in the town, Izons, Kenricks, and Bullocks, dominated the West Bromwich cast-iron hollowware industry by the mid 19th century. Izons and Kenricks in particular had built up reputations in the industry based on many years' use of patent processes which they had bought or developed themselves. (fn. 227) Despite their dominant position in the local hollow-ware industry, however, all three firms continued to make a wide range of general castiron ware. (fn. 228)
By the mid 19th century the iron-founding industry was divided between firms which specialized respectively in light and heavy castings. As already seen, the leading producers of light castings were then the long-established firms which dominated the town's hollow-ware trade. At the same period the heavy founding trade in West Bromwich was led by more recently established firms: (fn. 229) James Roberts of Swan Village (c. 1824), Wathew & Siddons of Hateley Heath (1833), and Johnson & Cranage of the Ridgacre Foundry (c. 1840). The heavy iron-founders generally concentrated on large industrial castings and castings for the engineering trade. James Roberts began by producing the latter at a foundry in High Street adjacent to Christ Church. Later he concentrated on cast-iron gasand water-pipes, and by 1836, probably as a consequence of that specialization, he had moved to a larger site in Swan Village. By 1845 Johnson & Cranage, iron- and brass-founders, were casting case-hardened chilled rolls for ironworks at the Ridgacre Foundry.
The growth of the heavy foundry trade in West Bromwich coincided with a growing use of wrought iron in smithies and forges. The mounting demand for wrought iron by the constructional and engineering trades and the railways was being met by the growing specialization of the general smiths and coach-iron smiths of the Black Country. Besides the specialized engineering firms great integrated iron-making companies like Bagnalls (fn. 230) were among the earliest firms to meet the demands of the railways for heavy ironwork. (fn. 231) Boiler-making and engine-making were established in West Bromwich by 1829, and by 1851 there were two boiler-making and five engine-making firms. (fn. 232) The manufacture of one important type of structural ironwork, corrugated sheets, had been improved by a West Bromwich ironmaster, John Spencer, the brother of Thomas Spencer of Dunkirk Forge and the Vulcan Works, Spon Lane. From c. 1833, when they were first produced, corrugated-iron sheets had been stamped. John Spencer, however, patented a method of hot and cold rolling in 1844, and on the Balls Hill branch canal between Swan Village and Greets Green he erected the Phoenix Ironworks. A great oversea market for corrugated sheets developed, especially during the Californian and Australian gold rushes of 1849 and 1851-2. Spencer's sons, John and J. E. Spencer, continued in the heavy wrought-iron and engineering trade at the Vulcan Works (from 1874) and at the Globe Tube Works near Wednesbury Bridge (from 1882). (fn. 233)
By 1851 there were eighteen firms of coach-ironwork smiths in West Bromwich, five of them specialists in railway work. (fn. 234) Axles became a particular speciality of the town. (fn. 235) Some of the most notable West Bromwich producers of engineering wrought-ironwork began as coach-ironwork smiths. Richard Disturnal & Co. was making coach springs and axles near Wednesbury Bridge in 1851, and it was at Disturnals that John Brockhouse was apprenticed c. 1857; he was the son of a Wednesbury coach-ironwork maker and subsequently founded one of the largest engineering concerns in the Black Country. (fn. 236)
In response to the demand of the railways some concerns with small beginnings, like those of James Grice and Josiah Lane, expanded by specializing in the manufacture of particular products. Grice made screws and gun implements in Bull Street in 1851. He was the first to make screws in a 'clam' lathe, which was invented by one of his workmen, Josiah Lane. Lane set up his own works in Sams Lane to produce screw-making machinery, and Grice went into partnership with the son of a Bristol iron merchant called Weston. Weston & Grice concentrated on the production of railway accessories; the firm expanded, moved to the Stour Valley Works, and eventually amalgamated with a Smethwick firm, Watkins & Keen, to form the Patent Nut and Bolt Co. Ltd. in 1864. (fn. 237) Not all firms, however, grew by specializing. By 1861, for example, Fleet & Newey, of the Crown Works near Swan Village, was producing wrought-iron steam engines, boilers, gas-holders, purifiers, tanks, bridge and other girders, iron roofings, Thames and canal boats, evaporating and sugar pans, water-barrels, barrows, and miners' tools. They also advertised themselves as general smiths. (fn. 238)
By the 1860s the industrial prosperity of West Bromwich was linked not merely to the foundry and wrought-iron trades. It also depended on the few great integrated ironworks in the town which controlled the whole process of manufacture from the mining of coal and ironstone to the making of marked iron bars and many finished iron products. Their prosperity, however, did not outlast the 1860s and the exhaustion of the coal and ironstone of the South Staffordshire coalfield. (fn. 239) Nevertheless from the 1870s West Bromwich continued to be relatively properous as a result of the diversification of its iron products. (fn. 240)
The cast-iron hollow-ware trade continued to flourish until the end of the 19th century. From the 1890s until the First World War cheap stampedsteel and aluminium hollow-ware began to be imported from Germany. This may have affected the town's prosperity: the labour force of the many hollow-ware foundries probably declined in the early 1900s. (fn. 241) The decline in the founding trade, however, was partly compensated by the growth of a local manufacture of stamped-steel hollow-ware. (fn. 242) From the early 20th century the foundries sought to counteract the declining demand for their cast-iron hollow-ware by turning to new types of product, and by the 1960s most were producing castings in iron and non-ferrous metals for the motor-car, electrical, and aircraft industries. (fn. 243) Some, however, still made traditional cast-iron and steel products: hollow-ware, grates, baths, and box-, laundry, and sad-irons. (fn. 244)
The spring trade expanded greatly in the later 19th century. In 1850 light coiled steel springs had long been the speciality of Salters, (fn. 245) and some of the coach-ironwork smiths produced heavy laminated springs; but the trade was still very small. (fn. 246) Its expansion also resulted in its concentration in West Bromwich. By 1900 five of the six Staffordshire spring-making firms were working in West Bromwich; by 1916 fourteen out of the seventeen Staffordshire spring-makers were working there. (fn. 247) Salters extended its works several times in the later 19th century, while in 1936 and 1940 it built two large blocks on the north side of High Street opposite the existing works; the firm also acquired Bullocks' Spon Lane Ironfoundry in 1885. (fn. 248) West Bromwich remained a leading centre of spring manufacture in the 1960s. Springs had found a growing market in the motor-car and aircraft industries, but the town's products also ranged from 5-cwt. springs for railway rolling-stock to tiny springs for radio equipment. More than 30 firms were active in the early 1960s, and at least 24 remained in operation in 1971. George Salter & Co. Ltd. specialized in spring balances and weighingmachines of all sizes and types. (fn. 249)
The constructional engineering trades also prospered during the later 19th century, (fn. 250) and the fortunes of one outstandingly successful West Bromwich company illustrate this. In 1886 John Brockhouse started a coach-spring and axle business at Harvills Hawthorn and in 1888 built a small works in the same district with a wharf on the Balls Hill branch canal. In 1897 he opened the Victoria Works at the end of the Balls Hill branch west of Hill Top, and in 1898 the firm became a limited company. During the years before the First World War John Brockhouse & Co. Ltd. bought several firms in the Black Country and elsewhere and was thus able to meet the increased demand for its products during the war. The Victoria Works, greatly extended, remained in 1970 the principal works of the Brockhouse Organization. (fn. 251)
Since the end of the First World War the most rapidly expanding market for the products of the metal trades of the Black Country has been provided by the motor-car industry, which has stimulated the Black Country as railways did in the 19th century. (fn. 252) As already seen, cast motor-car components were being produced in the 1960s. Motor cars themselves have been made in West Bromwich since 1936 by Jensen Motors Ltd., which originated as a business carried on by W. J. Smith & Son Ltd. Smiths, a firm of motor-body builders and formerly coach-builders, had been established near the junction of High Street and Shaftesbury Street by 1904 and had been working for about twenty years before that in Spon Lane. At first Jensens' products consisted mainly of bodywork subcontracted by other motor-manufacturing concerns. In the later 1950s the firm began to build its own factory on 10 a. of the Lyttleton Hall estate. In 1968 Jensens was acquired by a merchant bank and a controlling interest subsequently passed to an American consortium. After various managerial changes the firm's subcontracted work was phased out and Jensens began to concentrate on its own luxury cars, the Interceptor and the Jensen FF, introduced in 19656. By 1968 the firm was making 700 cars a year. (fn. 253)
Office equipment has long been another important product. Metal safes were made in the town by 1860, (fn. 254) and the first wholly British typewriter was produced by George Salter & Co. c. 1890. (fn. 255) Safes, typewriters, and other office equipment were being made in the 1960s as well as much steel furniture for offices. (fn. 256)
The primary iron industry.
By the later 16th century the primary iron industry had spread from its older centres to West Bromwich, probably because wood fuel and water-power were available there. (fn. 257) Friar Park mill was worked as a bloomsmithy for a time, (fn. 258) and the first recorded blast-furnace in the Black Country was built c. 1590 in West Bromwich near the Handsworth boundary by Thomas Parkes, who also built a forge near by on the Tame. (fn. 259) The local industry, however, remained on a small scale until the 19th century, and smelting ceased when Parkes's furnace closed probably c. 1630. Nevertheless there were several forges and slitting-mills in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 260)
Expansion began throughout the Black Country in the late 18th century, and a West Bromwich firm contributed to the first of the technological developments which made the expansion possible, the use of coal in the forge. The first commercially successful method of producing wrought iron with coke, patented in 1773, was employed by Joseph and Richard Jesson and John Wright, who became ironmasters in partnership in December 1775. The Jessons were brothers and members of a West Bromwich family many of whom since the 17th century had been iron merchants; Wright was their brother-in-law. In 1775 the partners leased several mills and ironworks in Shropshire and were also working Bromwich forge in West Bromwich; using coke for fuel, they were producing 3,000 cwt. of wrought iron a year at West Bromwich from pigiron made in their Shropshire works. By 1784 the firm's patent process was being widely used in the Black Country. (fn. 261) The partners traded under the name Joseph Jesson & Co. and were evidently for many years the only iron-making firm of any size in West Bromwich: theirs was the only West Bromwich firm of ironmasters to be mentioned in national directories published in 1784 and 1798. (fn. 262) The partnership was reconstituted when Joseph Jesson retired at the end of 1808. Richard Jesson's son, Thomas, and son-in-law, Samuel James Dawes, came into the firm as managing partners, and the firm became known as Richard Jesson & Co. (fn. 263) The Dawes family eventually dominated the firm: by 1818 Samuel had been joined by his brother John and the firm was known as S. & J. Dawes. By the mid 19th century it was being run by John Dawes's sons, J. S. Dawes of Smethwick House and W. H. Dawes. (fn. 264) About the turn of the 18th century the firm moved from Bromwich forge to Bromford Ironworks in the south of the parish beside the Birmingham Canal. (fn. 265) The move may be taken to symbolize the beginning of a new period in the history of the iron industry in West Bromwich. Freed from its dependence on water-power, the industry moved to the western and southern parts of the parish where coal, ironstone, and cheap transport were all readily available.
Of the seven firms of ironmasters in West Bromwich listed in a directory of 1818, (fn. 266) only S. & J. Dawes is known to have been established for any length of time, and it was the only one which in fact endured, becoming John Dawes & Sons by 1829. (fn. 267) John and Edward Bagnall, the sons of a mining engineer of Broseley (Salop.), were not mentioned in the directory but had by that time been running the Golds Hill Ironworks for about thirty years. (fn. 268) The Dawes firm apparently still controlled all the processes of its iron manufacture for it retained its Shropshire works until 1821. (fn. 269)
The principal West Bromwich ironworks came into existence between 1820 and 1845. In 1820, at their Golds Hill Ironworks, the Bagnalls erected the first blast-furnace to be built in West Bromwich since Thomas Parkes's furnace of c. 1590. (fn. 270) In 1827 Philip Williams & Co. bought an estate in the south of the parish adjacent to the Birmingham Canal and with coal beneath it; there the firm erected two blastfurnaces, later known as the Union Furnaces. (fn. 271) By 1845 T. Davies & Son had established the Crookhay Ironworks near Hateley Heath and had long been involved in coalmining in the area. Within the next four years the firm had built three blast-furnaces at the Crookhay works. (fn. 272)
By 1861 there were ten blast-furnaces in West Bromwich: three at Golds Hill belonging to John Bagnall & Sons, the three Union furnaces of Philip Williams & Co., and four furnaces at the Crookhay Ironworks, then operated by G. Thompson & Co. Seven of the ten furnaces were in blast. (fn. 273) After 1870, however, in West Bromwich as in the Black Country generally, iron smelting began to decline. By 1873 only four and a half of the ten West Bromwich furnaces were in blast, and all had disappeared by the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 274) The decline, caused by the exhaustion of the area's coal and ironstone, meant that large integrated concerns like the smelting firms could not survive unchanged.
The Bagnall family sold its business before the beginning of the depression became evident. By the early 1870s most of the Bagnalls who had been concerned with the firm had retired, and the business was being run by John Bagnall's sixth son, James. He died in 1871, and in 1873 the business was sold to a public company, John Bagnall & Sons Ltd. The shares were over-subscribed, but irregularities in the floating of the new company and the almost immediate onset of the iron-trade depression meant that much of the capital had to be written off in 1878. The Golds Hill Ironworks was closed down in 1882. (fn. 275)
Philip Williams & Co. still worked the Union Furnaces in 1872, but in 1873 the Stour Valley Coal and Iron Co. acquired the ironworks. The new owners, however, could not run the business profitably and Philip Williams & Co. resumed possession. The furnaces were blown out in 1884. (fn. 276) Two of the four furnaces at Crookhay were in blast in 1873, but they seem to have been blown out by 1888. (fn. 277) John Dawes & Sons, despite a vast expansion of its interests outside Staffordshire, also failed to survive the 1880s. Many years of bad trade after the early 1870s led to its failure and the closure of the Bromford Ironworks in 1887. (fn. 278)
Thus the primary process of the iron industry ended in West Bromwich during the 1880s. In some cases, however, the works survived. Although the Union Furnaces were blown out in 1884, the foundry that Philip Williams & Co. had operated there continued to work for some years afterwards. (fn. 279) Similarly the Crookhay Ironworks continued for a few years after the blowing out of the furnaces, but by 1902 it had been demolished. (fn. 280) At Bromford the Dawes's failure and the closing of the works had a happier sequel. The Bromford Ironworks was restarted by a new company in 1888 (fn. 281) and was still in production in 1970. By then, however, in West Bromwich as elsewhere in the Black Country the basic manufacture of iron had yielded to more finished processes such as the production of bright drawn and rolled steel; metal strips and sheets in iron, steel, zinc, brass, and copper; and iron and steel galvanized and corrugated sheets. The material for those products was imported into the area. (fn. 282)
West Bromwich straddles the Eastern Boundary Fault of the South Staffordshire coalfield and thus overlies the exposed and concealed sections of the field. The northern and western parts of the ancient parish are within the exposed section, while in the eastern and southern parts the coal lies below the Red Sandstone. (fn. 283) Thus in a pit at Hall End Colliery in the mid 1830s the coal lay at a depth of only 45 feet; but at Heath Colliery near Christ Church at the same period the first pit was being sunk to a depth of over 900 feet through 660 feet of sandstone. (fn. 284) The coal worked has been mainly the Thick Coal; ironstone and fireclay have also been mined.
Early mining in West Bromwich was naturally in the exposed field. By the early 14th century coal was taken from Finchpath to Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. (fn. 285) There is mention of a 'coal carrier' in 1657. (fn. 286) In 1706 Lord Dartmouth began boring on his newly acquired West Bromwich estate, evidently near Balls Hill, and four pits were opened in 1707; two new pits were sunk in 1708. (fn. 287) By the end of 1707 the Sheltons, who owned the manor, had begun to mine near Dartmouth's workings, an operation which caused his agent some alarm, (fn. 288) and in 1719 the manorial estate was said to include a very good mine. (fn. 289) There was keen competition for custom between Dartmouth and the Sheltons, (fn. 290) but Dartmouth at least found himself hampered by poor transport (fn. 291) and by the irregular working habits of the colliers. (fn. 292)
The rapid growth of coal-mining in West Bromwich came with the development of local coalconsuming industries and the improvement of local transport. Nevertheless coal under 5 a. of land in the parish was advertised for letting or selling in 1764. (fn. 293) By the 1760s there was mining to the north of Golds Green, and the branch of the Birmingham Canal opened in 1769 was built to serve the pits there. (fn. 294)
The Act of 1801, under which the Heath was inclosed, recognized the lord of the manor's right to mine there; but it forbade him to do so within 40 yards of any house and required him to put the land back into its original state when operations were finished. (fn. 295) Inclosure, completed in 1804, was not followed by any great burst of activity on the Heath. Nevertheless surveys of Lord Dartmouth's estates were made the following winter by the new agent William James (1771-1837), who himself became a colliery owner and also a noted railway projector. The surveys held out the hope that the Ten Yard coal underlay much of the estate. (fn. 296) Work apparently went ahead. In 1808 James reported to Lord Dartmouth that pits were being sunk at Balls Hill and hoped that the next winter's coal supply for Sandwell would come from the estate. (fn. 297) By 1812 James & Co. was working Balls Hill Colliery on the east side of Holloway Bank; mining had also increased in the Golds Green area and had started in the southwest of the parish where Union Colliery was in operation. (fn. 298) Meetings of coalmasters were being held at West Bromwich by 1816, with James as chairman. (fn. 299) About that time mining was being developed around Swan Village by the Holloway family. (fn. 300) Yet in 1821 three experienced coalmasters certified that there was no coal beneath the site of the proposed Christ Church, an area which was in fact above the concealed coal. (fn. 301)
Within the next few years, however, coal-mining became a major industry in West Bromwich, closely linked with the local iron industry. (fn. 302) The ironworks were great consumers of coal, and many ironmasters were coalmasters as well. (fn. 303) It was in fact stated in 1842 that nearly all the colliery owners had made their money first in the iron trade. (fn. 304) It was also stated that 'the iron trade rules the coal trade here, because if the price of iron is reduced, the ironmasters will not give the price for coal which they do now, and so that reduces it all over'. (fn. 305) By 1829 there were 18 coal-mining concerns operating in West Bromwich; (fn. 306) by 1835 there were 40, raising 'immense quantities' of coal and sending much of it to Birmingham, Oxford, and elsewhere. (fn. 307) By then work had started in the concealed coal in the southeastern part of the parish: in 1833 Lord Dartmouth began the sinkings for Heath Colliery near Christ Church. This was the first large-scale mining in West Bromwich and was undertaken on the advice of R. I. (later Sir Roderick) Murchison, the distinguished geologist. After seven years and the expenditure of some £30,000 coal was reached at a depth of over 900 feet. The colliery was then leased out to Salter & Raybould, and in July 1842 there were 35 men working below ground and 9 above. (fn. 308) By the mid 1850s there were some 60 collieries in West Bromwich, though several of them were evidently very small-scale; some were run in conjunction with ironworks. Most were in the western part of the parish on the exposed coal, close to the canals or linked to them by tramways. (fn. 309)
West Bromwich shared in the general decline of the South Staffordshire coalfield in the later 19th century. At Heath Colliery, for example, coal was becoming exhausted by the 1860s. (fn. 310) Of 65 collieries in existence in 1868, only 40 were being worked. (fn. 311) By 1873 the number worked was down to 36, (fn. 312) and by 1896 it had dropped to fourteen. (fn. 313) In 1873 attempts to drain flooded collieries began: the West Bromwich Colliery Co., for example, was formed to drain and reopen Great Bridge Colliery and Brickhouse Colliery, which had been waterlogged for some thirty years. (fn. 314) The most notable venture of the period, however, was Sandwell Park Colliery, which worked the concealed part of the coalfield; the first shaft was sunk east of Roebuck Lane, just on the Smethwick side of the borough boundary, in 1870. (fn. 315) In 1897 the company began a new colliery to tap an area to the north, sinking the first pit, Jubilee Pit, at Warstone Fields in West Bromwich. The Thick Coal was reached in 1901, and by 1903 a second pit, Primrose Pit, was being sunk. (fn. 316) Sandwell Park (Jubilee) Colliery ceased production in 1960. (fn. 317)
The success of the Sandwell Park Colliery Co. led to the formation of the Hamstead Colliery Co. In 1875 sinkings began at Hamstead, on the Handsworth side of the boundary of the ancient parish but within the borough of West Bromwich from 1928. (fn. 318) Coal was reached in 1880 at a depth of 1,845 feet, (fn. 319) and in 1896 the colliery was employing 455 men below ground and 195 above. (fn. 320) The last remaining colliery within the pre-1966 borough, it ceased production in 1965. (fn. 321)
The beds of Etruria (Old Hill) marl used for brick-making form part of the Upper Coal Measures of the South Staffordshire coalfield and thus are terminated by the Eastern Boundary Fault. (fn. 322) As a result brick-making has been concentrated in the west and south-west of the parish. The road from Great Bridge to Harvills Hawthorn was evidently called Brickhouse Lane by c. 1600, and in 1635 property on the south-west of the Heath bought for the poor was known as the Brick-kiln Land. (fn. 323) Before the 19th century, however, brickmaking was limited to particular building operations. (fn. 324) In 1818 there was apparently only 1 brickmaker in the parish; there were 4 in 1829, 5 in 1834, and 11 in 1851. (fn. 325)
The largest of the brickworks was started in 1851, after Joseph Hamblet had acquired part of J. E. Piercy's estate near Greets Green and Ireland Green. The Piercy Brickworks was run by Hamblet in partnership with one Parkes until at least the early 1860s. (fn. 326) Later, however, Hamblet became sole proprietor as well as manager, (fn. 327) and in the 1870s and 1880s Hamblet was making blue and red bricks, flooring and roofing tiles, pavings, copings, kerbings, channel and sough bricks, and machine-made brindled bricks. (fn. 328) Blue bricks, however, were the firm's speciality. In 1898, four years after Hamblet's death, the business became a limited company as the Hamblet Blue Brick Co. Ltd. (fn. 329)
The industry reached its zenith in the 1880s and 1890s. (fn. 330) The mission church of St. Michael and All Angels, opened in Bull Lane in 1881, was built to serve some 2,000 people, chiefly brickworkers, (fn. 331) who apparently lived in the area between Swan Village and Ireland Green. (fn. 332) In the mid 1890s the two biggest brickworks in West Bromwich were on the edge of that area. At the Piercy Brickworks the Hamblet firm was producing between 400,000 and 500,000 bricks every week, while at the adjacent Albion Brickworks Wood & Ivery had a weekly make of between 200,000 and 300,000. There were then five other firms in West Bromwich; their weekly outputs varied from 50,000 to 70,000. (fn. 333)
The industry declined in West Bromwich during the earlier 20th century. The Hamblet Blue Brick Co. was forced by fuel and labour shortages to close its West Bromwich works in 1915, and the estate and plant were sold in 1919. By that time the firm had excavated three large marl holes, and the estate was eventually bought by the corporation, which used the holes first as municipal tips and later as building sites. (fn. 334) In 1921 there were only three brick-making firms in the town. (fn. 335) There were two by 1924, and by 1940 the only survivor was the Hall End Brick Co. Ltd. whose works was in Church Lane. (fn. 336) In the early 1960s bricks were still made on the outskirts of the town, and brick-making plant and machinery were also produced. (fn. 337)
The first evidence of wholesale brewing, as opposed to brewing for domestic and retail purposes, is in 1777 when the justices licensed Joseph Bullevant to establish a wholesale brewery in West Bromwich. Bullevant promised to sell no smaller quantity than a gallon, not to permit drinking on his premises, and to brew for the sole purpose of 'serving housekeepers with beer and ale at a reasonable price'. He left his licence in the keeping of Lord Dartmouth's steward, who was to destroy it if Bullevant failed to observe the conditions. (fn. 338)
The evidence of directories suggests that in the earlier and mid 19th century there were normally two or three common brewers in West Bromwich. (fn. 339) They probably supplied a purely local market and were no doubt protected against competition from the large breweries of Burton-upon-Trent by the high cost of transport (including pilferage en route) and conservative local tastes. Those at any rate were some of the difficulties being experienced by Samuel Allsopp, the Burton brewer, in 1808, when he was forced to give up his short-lived sales agency in West Bromwich. (fn. 340)
The Fisher family were common brewers at Greets Green in 1835 and 1845, and John Chapman was running the West Bromwich Brewery at Churchfield between at least 1851 and 1860. (fn. 341) No other West Bromwich brewers in the earlier and mid 19th century, however, are known to have continued in business as long as the Fishers or Chapman. Between the 1860s and 1880s wholesale brewing seems virtually to have ceased in the town, though George and Elisha Whitehouse, brewers of Tipton, may have had a brewery in West Bromwich for a few years in the 1870s. (fn. 342)
By 1888 there were two wholesale brewers at work in the town once more, and the number continued to increase. (fn. 343) Many public houses served their own brews at that time, (fn. 344) and some brewing businesses doubtless developed out of the beer retail trade. One such was Darby's Brewery Ltd. Charles Darby and his son George were beer sellers in West Bromwich by the late 1860s. About 1895 George Darby's son Charles took over the Bush inn, Claypit Lane, from his father. In 1900 he bought Dunkirk Hall in Whitehall Road and ran the Dunkirk inn in part of it. In 1902 he began to build a brewery next to the hall. (fn. 345) By 1908 there were evidently eight breweries in West Bromwich, including Darby's newly built brewery in Whitehall Road. (fn. 346) In 1921 there were six breweries and two chemical manufacturers who apparently specialized in the production of brewers' finings. (fn. 347) There were only three breweries in the town by 1940. (fn. 348) The industry had ceased to exist by 1970, one of the last breweries to survive being that of Darby's Brewery Ltd. which apparently closed during the 1950s. (fn. 349)
John Nock was working as a soap-boiler at Hateley Heath in 1818, (fn. 350) and it seems likely that soap was being produced in the earlier 19th century by the various manufacturing chemists working in Swan Village and elsewhere in the parish. (fn. 351) Robert Boyle & Sons, for example, a Swan Village firm of the mid 1830s, (fn. 352) was probably connected with the Boyle who was then a partner in the Smethwick firm of Adkins, Nock & Boyle and had earlier developed an improved method of bleaching soap. (fn. 353)
Although by the mid 19th century soap-making was beginning to be concentrated in the seaport towns, (fn. 354) soap continued to be manufactured in West Bromwich. Robert Spear Hudson, the inventor of Hudson's Dry Soap Powder, was the son of John Hudson, minister of the Congregational chapel at Mayer's Green from 1801 to 1843. Robert founded his business in 1837, probably in High Street where he was trading as a chemist by 1845, (fn. 355) but the date when he invented his soap powder is unknown. In the 1850s the business began to expand, and by 1875, when he opened a works at Liverpool, his firm enjoyed a substantial export trade to Australia, New Zealand, and the Continent. (fn. 356) By 1900 the West Bromwich and Liverpool works were producing over 18,000 tons of soap powder a year and R. S. Hudson Ltd. dominated the market; during the next few years the firm overcame the challenge of a rival brand of soap powder introduced by Lever Bros. of Port Sunlight (Ches.). The Hudsons were, however, becoming more interested in politics than in soap, and in 1908 they sold the business to Levers (later Unilever Ltd.), who ran the firm as a subsidiary until the mid 1930s. The works at West Bromwich (the Royal Chemical Works in High Street) and Liverpool were then closed as part of Unilever's programme of rationalization. (fn. 357)
In 1851 there were three manufacturing chemists in West Bromwich, including Peter Ward of Paradise Street. William Ward was making washing crystals, soap, and washing-powder as well as bakingand egg-powder at the Victoria Chemical Works in New Street between at least 1860 and 1880. (fn. 358) By the early 1890s W. & A. Ward was making soap in High Street, and besides the Hudson and Ward firms there was a third soap manufacturer, Cornelius Walters of Brickhouse Lane. Wards continued in business until the early 20th century and Walters until the early 1920s. (fn. 359)
In the mid 1830s Isaac Hadley and John Riding were making iron-founders' charcoal blacking, and John Riding the younger was engaged in the manufacture in 1845. (fn. 360) The foundries of the town must have provided a steady market for the product, and by the late 1880s there were five West Bromwich firms making blacking—three of them expressly for iron-founders. (fn. 361) The manufacture of iron-founders' blacking declined during the 1890s; by 1900 it was being made only at Bustleholm mill. (fn. 362) While & Smallman of the Crown Works in Swan Village continued to make blacking until c. 1912. (fn. 363)
The development of West Bromwich's chemical industries since the later 19th century is difficult to summarize succinctly owing to changes in the ownership of individual firms and to the diversification of their products. The firm of Robinson Brothers Ltd., for example, founded in 1869, began as tar and ammonia distillers. It turned to horticultural products in the 1920s and in 1930 began to produce chemicals needed for rubber processing. Since the Second World War its greatly diversified range of products has included fungicides, chemicals for the plastics industry, and gas odorants. (fn. 364) Ramifying family interests often complicate the story further. The Keys family seems to have become involved in the chemical industry through an initial connexion with brewing. Samuel Keys was trading as a hop merchant in West Bromwich in the late 1860s. (fn. 365) Within a few years he had also turned to making brewers' finings, (fn. 366) and in the 1880s two Keys firms were working as manufacturing chemists in West Bromwich: Samuel Keys & Co. Ltd. by 1884 and W. H. Keys by 1888. (fn. 367) Keys & Co. Ltd., of Swan Village, continued in business until the early 20th century, when they were manufacturing cordials and British wines. (fn. 368) About 1900 the firm of W. H. Keys was making many products at its Hall End chemical works on the Halford branch of the Birmingham Canal: oil, grease, tar, varnish, carbolic acid, zathanite, boiler composition, and disinfectant. (fn. 369) Since then the manufacture of oils and greases has been a speciality of the firm. (fn. 370) In the early 1960s the manufacture of lubricants remained an important local industry, but many other chemical products were made: boiler compositions, fertilizers, paints, and plastics. (fn. 371)