Smethwick: Economic history

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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A P Baggs, G C Baugh, C R J Currie, Johnson D A, 'Smethwick: Economic history', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part), ed. M W Greenslade( London, 1976), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

A P Baggs, G C Baugh, C R J Currie, Johnson D A, 'Smethwick: Economic history', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Edited by M W Greenslade( London, 1976), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

A P Baggs, G C Baugh, C R J Currie, Johnson D A. "Smethwick: Economic history". A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Ed. M W Greenslade(London, 1976), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.

In this section



In 1086 Smethwick had land for two ploughs as against Harborne with land for only one. (fn. 1) Although Harborne had emerged as the ecclesiastical centre by the early 13th century, (fn. 2) economically and administratively Smethwick seems to have remained at least as important even before the 19th century. (fn. 3) Mixed farming was the main occupation there until the 19th century, though it was often combined with other pursuits such as nailing and inn-keeping. (fn. 4) Crops mentioned in probate inventories between 1647 and 1698 were wheat, rye, barley, oats, and peas; several farmers were also engaged in cattle and sheep farming. (fn. 5)

There seems to have been a common field called Fenfield in the north-east of Smethwick. A furlong of land in Fenfield is mentioned in 1575, but by then other parts of it were inclosed pastures. (fn. 6)

Common rights in the wastes and woodland of Smethwick seem to have survived the abandonment of open-field cultivation. The lords of the manor were apparently inclosing the waste piecemeal from at least the 13th century: in 1278 Halesowen abbey granted a piece of the Smethwick waste to the rectors of Harborne. (fn. 7) Nevertheless there is some evidence to suggest that the freeholders' consent was occasionally necessary before inclosure could take place. In 1631 Christopher Lyddyat recalled that between thirty and forty years earlier Lord Dudley, on Lyddyat's petition 'and upon the suit of the freeholders of Smethwick', had granted him a plot of land on the waste on Smethwick Common as the site for a cottage. (fn. 8) Lyddyat's property, and therefore also that part of the waste known as Smethwick Common, probably lay in the north or north-east of Smethwick. (fn. 9) Parts of the waste were still uninclosed in the 18th century, but the sparse evidence suggests that they were small roadside areas. It also seems likely that by then such areas were at the disposal of the lord of the manor. 'A shop at the Swan' standing on the waste, apparently on the corner of Holly Lane and the Birmingham-Dudley road, was leased out by the lord for 99 years from 1733. (fn. 10) In 1771 the lord leased a piece of common or waste, c. 1 a. in extent and taken from Ruck of Stones Lane (now Lewisham Road), to Luke Pope, a Smethwick nurseryman, for 99 years; Pope covenanted to keep the property fenced and to build a house there worth at least £30. (fn. 11) In 1781 he bought the property outright. (fn. 12)

Enfranchisement of copyhold land was in progress by the beginning of the 18th century. In 1702 Charles Lane authorized the payment of £10 10s. to the lord of Harborne and Smethwick for the enfranchisement of his Smethwick estate, (fn. 13) and in 1709 Thomas Pearsall paid £30 to enfranchise his French Walls estate. After enfranchisement the French Walls estate, formerly held for a chief rent of 3s. a year, suit of court, fine, heriot, and fealty, was to be held simply for the chief rent and suit and service once a year when the owner was summoned. (fn. 14) Copyhold land still existed in 1809 when the lord of Smethwick enfranchised Luke Pope's property for £75, (fn. 15) but there was none left at the end of the 19th century. (fn. 16)

There was still extensive agricultural land in the mid 19th century, but by the early 1880s much of it was being swallowed up in the development of the town. Thus housing was then being built over the Ruck of Stones farm in the north, and the site of the farm-house became part of the Surrey Works. (fn. 17) The Shireland area in the south-east was also being developed on farm-land. (fn. 18) The remaining agricultural land was concentrated on the higher ground in the south-west, with some also surviving in the north. (fn. 19) Even where land was not actually built over, urbanization affected farming in other ways. New roads split farms up. Canals, railways, and buildings often made agricultural land difficult of access. Crops were polluted by smoke. (fn. 20) By the early 20th century even the farm-land in the south-west had shrunk considerably, and there were more open spaces, such as parks, playing-fields, and allotments, than there was agricultural land. West Smethwick Park in fact had been laid out over farm-land. (fn. 21) The area added to Smethwick from Oldbury in 1928 was partly rural, but it was quickly used for housing. (fn. 22) A patch of farm-land survived in the northern extremity of the borough off Halford's Lane until c. 1950 when it was bought by the corporation as the site of Albion School. (fn. 23) Three plots of agricultural land, however, remained in the early 1950s, one in the south-west and two in the north-west; one was a small-holding, one supported a small dairy herd, and the third was used as a hospital vegetable garden. (fn. 24)

Smethwick once had several tracts of woodland, consisting mainly of oaks, birches, and beeches. (fn. 25) The two largest areas of woodland lay in the south and east of the township. In the south Lightwood, which lay on either side of the boundary with Harborne township, was held by the lord of the manor in the mid 16th century when it was also known as 'Yonge Wood'. (fn. 26) The Smethwick portion was acquired by the Lytteltons of Frankley and Hagley (Worcs.), probably in the later 16th century when Sir John Lyttelton was steward of the manor and a trustee of Edward, Lord Dudley (d. 1586); (fn. 27) by 1658 it was owned by Sir Henry Lyttelton, (fn. 28) and it was still an extensive area of woodland c. 1770. (fn. 29) The Harborne section was retained by the lord of the manor. By the early 18th century it was known as Great Lightwood or Lords Wood, and it was customary for it to be coppiced; the neighbouring inhabitants of Smethwick and Harborne, however, had common rights there. They appear to have surrendered those rights in 1709 to George Birch of Harborne, who had recently bought Great Lightwood from the lord of the manor. (fn. 30) Bearwood, the area immediately to the north of Lightwood, was a well wooded area during the 18th century. The Aston family of Aston in Runcorn (Ches.) owned woods and coppices there by 1712, and in 1792 Henry Hervey Aston sold c. 14 a. of coppices to the lords of Smethwick manor. (fn. 31) In the east of Smethwick land on both sides of the main road (now Cape Hill) was once well wooded. 'A little wood' on either side of the road was mentioned in 1675, and there was still extensive woodland to the north of the road a century later. (fn. 32) The memory at least of its former wooded character was preserved by the names of the houses which had been built there by the early 19th century: the Coppice, Smethwick Grove, and the Woodlands. (fn. 33) To the south of the main road in the Shireland area there was a coppice containing 236 oaks and 2 ashes in 1782, (fn. 34) and woodland survived there as late as the 1850s. (fn. 35) Until the 19th century there was also woodland in the Uplands and Broomfield districts and at West Smethwick. (fn. 36)

Felling was in progress in the later 18th century. A coppice near the Bear inn at Bearwood was cut in 1765 to create new arable. (fn. 37) In 1769 William Hutton, the historian of Birmingham, bought 13 a. of land in Smethwick from the lord of the manor and sold the timber for half the purchase price of the land. (fn. 38) By 1842 most of the timber in the Cape Hill area had evidently disappeared, although the Smethwick Grove estate still included 4 a. of woodland. (fn. 39) In the mid 19th century there was extensive felling, and oaks from the Uplands and Broomfield areas were sold to railway contractors. (fn. 40)

Luke Pope of Smethwick founded a notable firm of nurserymen specializing in tulips and later in North American shrubs and plants. He was successively described as gardener, seedsman, and nurseryman during the late 18th and early 19th centuries when he was buying up various small copyhold estates in Smethwick. By 1771 he had established nurseries in the north-east of Smethwick near the Ruck of Stones farm, and by the mid 19th century the firm, then known as John Pope & Sons, also had nurseries in the adjacent parts of Handsworth and West Bromwich. (fn. 41)


Halesowen abbey had a mill at Smethwick in 1499; it was known as 'Briddismylne' and was held by Richard Piddock. (fn. 42) It may be identifiable with the mill which stood on Thimblemill Brook below the Old Church and which disappeared when the Birmingham Canal Co. built a reservoir there c. 1769; in 1778 the company was paying rates on the Old Pool and Mill Croft. (fn. 43) That mill may itself be identifiable with the walk-mill which stood in the area in the mid 17th century. (fn. 44)

By 1659 there was a mill on Hockley Brook where it formed the Smethwick-Handsworth boundary. The mill may at that time have stood on the Handsworth side of the boundary, but a map of 1831-2 shows a mill on the Smethwick side. In 1659 the mill belonged to a Mr. Lane, probably Charles Lane of Smethwick Hall; a blade-mill had then been newly erected beside Lane's old corn-mill. At the beginning of the 18th century the mill was part of the Smethwick estate sold by John Willes to Henry Carver. (fn. 45) It was apparently not in use in 1733, (fn. 46) but in the 1720s and 1750s it was shown on maps as the Pig Mill. (fn. 47) The name, which was in use apparently in the mid 17th century and probably by the late 16th century, (fn. 48) suggests that the mill had been used as an ironworks. In the 1760s and the early 19th century it seems to have been worked as a forge. Between 1821 and 1826 John Whitehead bought the mill with a farm called Pig Mill farm from A. S. Lillingston. It was probably dismantled in the early 1830s. (fn. 49)

The mill which gave Thimblemill Brook its name stood on the brook near what is now the junction of Thimblemill Road and Norman Road, in the part of Oldbury that was acquired by Smethwick in 1928. (fn. 50) It probably began as a corn-mill and was later converted to thimble-making. It was known as the Thimble Mill by 1775. By 1837, however, it was being used by W. W. Blyth for the cutting of files by machinery, a pioneer venture that resulted from the patent taken out in 1833 by William Shilton of Birmingham. William Summerton moved to the Thimble Mill from Oldbury mill in 1845 and used it as a corn-mill. He remained there about nine years and then moved to a new mill which he had built in Bearwood nearly opposite the Bear inn. The Thimble Mill was still standing in the late 1880s, and the pool survives as part of a recreation and sports ground for the employees of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds.

William Croxall, a miller, bought land in what is now Windmill Lane in 1803 and built a windmill there. (fn. 51) His son Samuel had succeeded him by 1818 and was still working the windmill in 1838. By 1851 it was in the hands of Joseph and Frederick Lees. It continued as a corn-mill until the 1860s; it then went out of use, except for a few months c. 1873 when it was used to grind spice. When the site became part of the Windmill Brewery, built in 1886, the machinery was dismantled and the tower became a storehouse. It was demolished in 1949.

In 1949 an old man recalled the existence of a second windmill opposite the toll-house at the junction of Windmill Lane and Cape Hill. It may perhaps have been the mill in 'Cape Road' that occurs in 1836. (fn. 52)

The metal trades.

It was the cutting of the Birmingham Canal in 1768-9 that eventually brought manufacturing industry to Smethwick; the firms which from the late 18th century set up works along its banks were concerned mainly with metalworking, which has ever since played a predominant role in the town's economy. The primary production of metals from ores has never been of any significance, but many forms of engineering have flourished. In the early 1870s Smethwick and Dudley Port, 'with a thousand swarming hives of metallurgical industries . . . too numerous to mention', were contrasted with other Black Country towns which specialized in one or two specific types of metalware. (fn. 53) Such variety remains.

Nailers were working at Smethwick c. 1600 (fn. 54) and are found regularly, though not in great numbers, in the later 17th century and throughout the 18th century. (fn. 55) As late as 1850 it was stated that the population included many nailers, 'working in their own houses', (fn. 56) but by then nailing was declining as a domestic industry. In 1851 only 37 people described themselves as nailers, and of those at least 12 were factory hands producing cut- or cast-nails. (fn. 57) Men and women who did not consider themselves nailers by trade may, however, have turned to nailing from time to time to supplement the family's income. (fn. 58) From the later 17th century other metalworkers appear. Samuel Jervase (d. 1675) worked as a whitesmith, but his probate inventory does not reveal what he made; another whitesmith, William Smith (d. 1687), made malt mills and, apparently, bellows, sending them as far as London. George Birch (d. 1698) was a yeoman whose will and probate inventory show that he possessed 'shop tools' to the value of £16 and that he was owed money by a Birmingham gunsmith. He may have been an early supplier of components to the Birmingham gun trade; he may also have been the George Birch who was described in 1691 as a nailer. (fn. 59) Smethwick was certainly connected with the gun trade, though apparently in a small way. A gunsmith, John Freeth, was at work there by 1706, and another, William Smith, occurs in 1729. (fn. 60) The first engineering works to be established after the cutting of the Birmingham Canal was probably the Whately family's gunbarrel factory, established by c. 1800. (fn. 61)

The first works of any kind, however, was the brasshouse from which Brasshouse Lane takes its name. It had been established near the canal by 1790 on a site occupied in 1972 by part of the works of the District Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (fn. 62) Shares in Smethwick Brass Works were on sale in 1792 and 1795; in 1834 the proprietor was the Smethwick Brass Co., manufacturer of ingot brass. (fn. 63) The company was probably formed, like the Birmingham Metal Co. of 1781, by Birmingham brass users anxious to break the virtual monopoly of supply held by the Cheadle and Bristol brasshouses; (fn. 64) it is perhaps to be identified with the 'Brass Company' which paid rates on a house at Bearwood Hill in 1778. (fn. 65) Its later history is obscure, but it had apparently gone out of business by 1842, when the District Iron and Steel Co. held its former premises. The building was still standing in the 1860s. (fn. 66)

In 1795 Boulton, Watt & Sons, faced with difficulties in obtaining the components for their engines, decided to manufacture them themselves. (fn. 67) James Watt bought 18½ a. by the canal at Merry Hill, about a mile from the firm's Soho Manufactory in Handsworth; in 1796 the firm opened Soho Foundry there 'for the purpose of casting everything relating to our steam engines'. (fn. 68) Watt owned the land until 1801 but otherwise took no part in the new enterprise, its development being the work of Matthew Boulton's son M. R. Boulton and James Watt the younger. The site was carefully chosen, and the buildings were meticulously planned with the requirements of the various processes in mind. In 1799-1800 they comprised foundry stoves and furnaces, a boring mill, turning-, fitting-, carpenters', smiths', and pattern shops, a boiling-house, a magazine, a shed for sand, a drying-kiln, and 13 workers' houses. (fn. 69) Stebbing Shaw noted the extensive use of steam-power for 'whatever tends to abridge human labour and obtain accuracy' and was struck by 'the extraordinary regularity and neatness which pervades the whole'. (fn. 70) In 1800 the firm became Boulton, Watt & Co., with M. R. Boulton and James Watt the younger as the leading partners. In 1816 the latter bought the French Walls mill and in 1820 leased it to Henry Downing, lending him the money necessary to convert it into an ironworks. Downing went bankrupt in 1829. Watt then leased the property to the Bordesley Steel Co., which was still running it in the mid 1830s, but he evidently appreciated the potential advantages to his firm of an ironworks under his direct control. He took the French Walls Works into his own hands and ran it in conjunction with the Foundry, though as a separate concern, until old age forced him to give it up in 1842. The French Walls provided the Foundry with boiler plates and uses (semi-finished forgings for engines) as well as turning out merchant iron and steel. Scrap from the Foundry was returned to the French Walls for reworking. (fn. 71)

On the younger Watt's death in 1848 the Soho Manufactory and the mint which Matthew Boulton had established there were closed, and the firm, thenceforth known as James Watt & Co., carried on work only at Soho Foundry. By the 1860s the Foundry covered 10 a. and besides a variety of steam-engines its output included boilers, mill gearing, sugar mills, and machinery for pneumatic railways and sewage works. Perhaps the most notable product after the younger Watt's death was the 4-cylinder engine which powered the screw of Brunel's Great Eastern, launched in 1858. (fn. 72) In 1860 a former interest of the firm was revived when a mint was opened at the Foundry, and much of the country's new bronze coinage introduced in 1860 was struck by James Watt & Co. and the Birmingham firm of Ralph Heaton & Sons. In 1866 there were eleven screw coinage presses at the Foundry mint and the firm was striking copper and bronze coins, presumably for foreign governments since it appears to have done no work for the Royal Mint after 1863. (fn. 73)

Several firms engaged in engineering and metalworking were established in the town in the mid 19th century. The most important in the 1840s and early 1850s was Bramah, Fox & Co., later Fox, Henderson & Co., of the London Works in Cranford Street. The firm was established in 1839 by Charles Fox, an engineer who had acted as one of Robert Stephenson's principal assistants during the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway, and John Joseph Bramah, one of a notable family of engineers and iron-founders. (fn. 74) The partners acquired 5 a. of the Moilliets' Smethwick Grove estate and in 1840 began the erection of their works. (fn. 75) It was apparently in operation by 1841. (fn. 76) Fox, although initially the junior partner, was probably from the first its leading figure; it was he who designed the works and supervised its construction. (fn. 77) By 1845 Bramah had retired from the business, Fox had been joined by John Henderson, a Scottish engineer, and the firm had become Fox, Henderson & Co. (fn. 78) Fox's experience as a railway engineer led him to invent various improvements to railway permanent way, and his firm was the first to produce a virtually complete range of railway plant and stock. There was, however, much other business: products c. 1850 included wrought-iron pipes, steam-engines, boilers, gasometers, and tanks for ships. (fn. 79) Fox, Henderson & Co. became one of the most celebrated firms of civil engineers in the country as a result of its work for Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace. Fox produced the working drawings for Paxton, who also made a major addition to his original plan at Henderson's suggestion. The firm was the contractor for erecting the palace and made most of its iron work. Fox supervised the construction of the building and was knighted in 1851 for his contribution towards the Exhibition. He and Henderson were also the contractors for the removal of the palace to Sydenham. (fn. 80) Fox and Henderson's experience with William (later Sir William) Siemens, inventor of the regenerative furnace, was less satisfactory. In 1848 Siemens, then a young man, interested the partners in one of his early inventions, a regenerative steam-engine and condenser. The firm employed him and bought patent rights in the invention, and for some five years attempts were made to build engines to Siemens's specifications. None was successful. Siemens himself profited greatly from his years at the London Works; Fox and Henderson, however, began to recoup their losses only when he persuaded them to interest themselves in the electric-telegraph equipment patented by his brother Werner, thereby helping them to win large telegraph contracts. (fn. 81)

In 1850 the London Works was described as 'the finest and most compact range of [industrial] buildings in South Staffordshire'. It had been expanded to form a hollow square, in the centre of which stood the boiler-house with its two 75 h.p. engines. The smiths' shop contained 70 forges and was stated to be the largest in the world. The firm was then producing about 300 tons of castings a week and usually had between 800 and 1,200 men working at Smethwick. At the height of its success it was the town's principal employer of labour, and when it failed in 1856 some 2,000 people were thrown out of work. (fn. 82) The crash apparently came because it could not obtain payment for one of its numerous foreign contracts. Its creditors attempted to keep the works going but were unsuccessful. (fn. 83)

The French Walls Works was bought in 1842 by G. F. Muntz, notable as the inventor of the alloy of copper and zinc which came to be known as Muntz metal. (fn. 84) He moved to Smethwick because the demand for his product was outstripping the capacity of his works in Birmingham. The 4½-acre French Walls site soon became inadequate for his needs, and c. 1850 a further 6½ a. were acquired to the west, divided from the original site by the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Stour Valley Railway, authorized in 1846 and completed in 1852. A new works was built there and a private bridge over the railway linked the 'Old Side Works' and the 'New Side Works'. After Muntz's death in 1857 the business was carried on for several years by his eldest son, G. F. Muntz the younger, who in 1864 sold it to the newly formed Muntz's Metal Co. Ltd.

Tube-making was apparently brought to the town by George Selby, a lawyer and a partner in a tube-manufacturing concern, the Birmingham Patent Iron and Brass Tube Co., established in 1842. In 1846 he bought Smethwick Grove and some adjoining land and shortly afterwards erected a tube-works near the house for the company. It lay in the angle between the present London Street and Grove Lane and had a frontage on the Cape arm of the Birmingham Canal to the east. (fn. 85) The works was in production by 1851. The company was still in operation on the same site in the 1880s, when it was making lap-welded iron and steel boiler tubes, solid-drawn brass and copper tubes, tubes and fittings for gas, steam, and water purposes, and brass and copper sheets. The company probably ceased operations in the late 1880s, and by 1903 the works had become part of the St. George's Works of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds. (fn. 86)

The tube-making firm of Richard Evered & Son (since 1874 Evered & Co. Ltd.) came to Smethwick in 1866. (fn. 87) It had been established in London in 1809 and had acquired a factory at Birmingham in 1860. When a third and larger works was needed, the firm took a three-storey factory in Smethwick known as the Manchester Works, which stood between Lewisham Road and the old Birmingham Canal on part of the former Ruck of Stones estate. The building was adapted and renamed the Surrey Works. Many types of brass tubes and fittings were produced, but brass bedsteads became the speciality. In 1885 the firm added more workshops for bedstead manufacture. A cot department was added in 1894. In 1908 Evereds were making gas, water, and electric fittings, brass and copper tubes, and 'general brass-foundry of every description' as well as cots and bedsteads. (fn. 88) Between the two World Wars the firm concentrated all its production at Smethwick and the Surrey Works was considerably extended. In the late 1960s the firm made non-ferrous tubes and strips, gas and water fittings, builders' hardware, plastic mouldings, and plumbers' brassfoundry. There were c. 1,000 employees. (fn. 89)

Several other firms in Smethwick were engaged in the metal-bedstead trade, which had become a speciality of manufacturers in the Birmingham area by the 1840s. In 1869 two companies, Thomas and James Middleton of the Victoria Iron Foundry in Rolfe Street and Solomon Cross & Co. of High Street, specialized in iron bedsteads. By the mid 1900s at least four firms, including Evereds, were making them. (fn. 90) In the early 1920s three firms were manufacturing bedsteads, and Evereds were still producing them after the Second World War. (fn. 91) A number of other firms contributed to the trade by supplying components and material. Items such as tubes, angles, and brass mounts were generally bought by bedstead firms from specialist suppliers such as the District Iron and Steel Co., which until c. 1930 made tubes for bedsteads and was still a prominent supplier of light angles for the bedstead trade in the late 1960s. Earlier another Smethwick manufacturer, H. S. Richards, had made black enamel for bedsteads. (fn. 92)

Railway engineering continued to play an important part in the industrial life of the town after the collapse of Fox, Henderson & Co. A number of firms produced components for locomotives, rolling-stock, and permanent way. In 1869, for example, the output of the Birmingham Patent Iron and Brass Tube Co. of London Street included tubes for locomotive boilers; T. F. Griffiths, Son & Co. of the Midland Nut and Bolt Works, Soho, advertised railway fish and fang bolts; the Patent Rivet Co. of Rolfe Street made nuts, bolts, screws, rivets, and pins for railway use; and William Baines & Co. of Soho made turntables and other railway plant. (fn. 93) An important supplier of railway ironwork was the firm established in Rolfe Street in 1870 as Lones, Raybould & Vernon. By 1872 it had become Lones, Vernon & Holden, and by 1876 it had opened its Sandwell Works on the Birmingham Canal off Lewisham Road, to which all its business had been transferred by 1880. Its speciality was axles. (fn. 94) It was taken over by John Brockhouse & Co. Ltd. of West Bromwich in 1919 and at the end of the Second World War was producing annually some 60,000 buffers and other carriage and wagon ironwork. It ceased production in 1958. (fn. 95)

The Birmingham Wagon Co. Ltd., which came to Smethwick in 1864 and became one of the most important employers in the town, was, unlike the firms already mentioned, completely dependent on the railways. (fn. 96) It had been launched ten years earlier by a group of Birmingham businessmen who were the first people to appreciate the potential market open to a company offering railway wagons for hire as well as for sale. At first the company had its wagons built and maintained for it at Saltley, in Aston (Warws., now Birmingham). The success of its scheme eventually prompted it to build its own wagons. A 10-acre site was purchased in Smethwick on the south side of the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway, adjoining the Handsworth boundary, and in 1864 a small works was built. The business expanded rapidly. Railway carriages too were made from 1876 and tram-cars from about the same date; the company therefore changed its name in 1878 to the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd. Between the later 1880s and 1902 the works was extended over the Handsworth boundary; later it filled the area between the railway, and Middlemore, Mornington, and Wattville Roads. (fn. 97) By the last decades of the 19th century the firm had become one of the country's leading manufacturers of rolling-stock, a position that it maintained until after the Second World War. In 1963 the works, which covered 56 a., was closed. The site was redeveloped as the Middlemore Industrial Estate, opened in 1966; the parent company became the First National Finance Corporation Ltd. in 1965.

Another substantial concern which moved to the town in the mid 19th century was the Birmingham firm of Tangye Bros. & Price, which made hydraulic presses and jacks. In 1862 it purchased Rabone Hall and its grounds, which lay on the north side of the Birmingham Canal. The company demolished the house and built the Cornwall Works, initially covering some 3 a. (fn. 98) It was opened in 1864 and most of the company's production was immediately transferred there. (fn. 99) The firm became Tangye Bros. in 1871 and Tangyes Ltd. in 1881. (fn. 100) It retained and extended its interest in hydraulic engineering, for which it was always best known, but it later entered other fields, including the manufacture of steam, gas, petrol, and oil engines. (fn. 101) The works was gradually enlarged until by 1950 it covered 20 a. (fn. 102) In 1966 the firm became a subsidiary of the Central Wagon Co. Ltd. of Wigan (Lancs.), and in 1969 it moved to Greet, in Birmingham (formerly in Yardley, Worcs.). The Cornwall Works was taken over by the steel-stockholding firm of R. G. Brown & Co. Ltd., another subsidiary of the Central Wagon Co. (fn. 103)

During the later 19th century the manufacture of nuts, bolts, and screws became the town's most important industry and Smethwick emerged as one of the country's leading centres of the trade. The development was due almost entirely to the work of two firms, Watkins & Keen and Nettlefold & Chamberlain, ancestors of the present G.K.N. group of companies.

In the mid 1850s (fn. 104) Frederick Watkins and Arthur Keen entered into partnership as nut and bolt manufacturers. Watkins was working for Thomas Astbury of the Smethwick Foundry in Rolfe Street, a prominent iron-founder and ordnance manufacturer. He had designed a machine for making nuts and bolts but lacked the capital to establish himself in business. Astbury was Keen's father-in-law; he negotiated the partnership and provided capital and premises. (fn. 105) The new firm, Watkins & Keen, apparently began business in Astbury's Victoria Works in Rolfe Street adjoining his Smethwick Foundry. (fn. 106) By 1860, however, it appears to have been jointly occupying the London Works with Thomas Astbury & Co.; (fn. 107) by 1869 it occupied the whole works. (fn. 108) By the early 1860s Watkins & Keen produced about a third of the nuts and bolts made in the Midlands, itself the country's main area of manufacture. The company's chief competitor was probably Weston & Grice of West Bromwich, but in 1864 the two companies merged as the Patent Nut and Bolt Co. Ltd., the first public company in the industry; its headquarters was at Smethwick, and Keen became its first chairman. At the same time the company acquired an ironworks at Cwmbran (Mon.) and was thus able to produce its own iron. In 1900 it amalgamated with a large iron-founding company, Guest & Co. of the Dowlais Iron Works, Dowlais (Glam.), to form Guest, Keen & Co. Ltd. (fn. 109)

From 1870 Keen had made attempts to acquire another Smethwick firm. (fn. 110) In 1854 J. S. Nettlefold, a Birmingham screw manufacturer, had revolutionized his industry by introducing automated American machinery. Room was needed to house this; Nettlefold, joined by his brother-in-law Joseph Chamberlain, father of the statesman, established the Heath Street Works in Cranford Street, Smethwick. (fn. 111) The firm (until 1874 Nettlefold & Chamberlain and then Nettlefolds Ltd.) dominated the market by the mid 1860s. (fn. 112) Among those prominent in its development was the younger Joseph Chamberlain, who joined it in 1854 and soon afterwards took charge of the commercial side of the organization. He became a partner in 1869 and remained with the firm until 1874, when he retired to devote himself to politics. (fn. 113) The firm had by then begun to acquire additional premises. In 1869 it bought the Imperial Mills, which stood on the north side of Cranford Street, opposite the Heath Street Works. The mills were converted for the manufacture of nuts and bolts, and a wire-drawing mill, a bar shop, and a nail-making shop were built. (fn. 114) In 1880, the year in which it became a limited company, Nettlefolds took over one of its local rivals, the Birmingham Screw Co., which had set up its St. George's Works in Grove Lane in 1868. The newly acquired works was almost as large as the Heath Street Works and faced it from the opposite bank of the Birmingham Canal. (fn. 115)

Although the firm continued to expand, its profits fluctuated considerably during the last twenty years of the 19th century, and in 1902 the merger for which Arthur Keen had been working took place: Nettlefolds joined Guest, Keen & Co. to form Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. By the outbreak of the First World War the new company produced over half the screws and about a quarter of the nuts and bolts made in the country. (fn. 116) The amalgamation made the firm the largest employer in the town. (fn. 117) In the late 1960s the headquarters of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd., by then an investment company, adjoined the Heath Street Works, a 50-acre complex run by G.K.N. Screws and Fasteners Ltd. and employing some 4,500 people. G.K.N. had several other subsidiaries in Smethwick. G.K.N. Distributors Ltd. had its headquarters at the London Works, while G.K.N. Group Services Ltd. was in Cranford Street, G.K.N. Reinforcements Ltd. in Alma Street, and G.K.N. Fasteners Corrosion Laboratory in Abberley Street. (fn. 118) Smethwick Drop Forgings Ltd. of Rolfe Street, acquired by G.K.N. in 1963, was run as a subsidiary of G.K.N. Forgings Ltd. (fn. 119)

Since the 1890s much of Smethwick's industry has changed to adapt to new needs and developments, and a few prominent names have disappeared. The most notable name to be lost was that of James Watt & Co. of Soho Foundry. By the 1890s the few remaining partners in the firm were old, and they decided to sell the business. It was bought in 1895 by W. & T. Avery Ltd., a Birmingham firm which made weighing-machinery. Watt's steam-engine business was gradually discontinued and Averys converted the works to their own manufacture. An extensive building programme was also begun. By 1914 Averys had more than doubled the size of the works, and between the two World Wars there was extensive redevelopment. In the late 1960s W. & T. Avery Ltd. was the largest manufacturer of weighing, counting, measuring, and testing machines in the world; its products ranged from shop scales to weighbridges. The Foundry was also the headquarters of Averys Ltd., a holding company of which W. & T. Avery Ltd. was a subsidiary. (fn. 120) Muntz's has also disappeared. In 1921 the firm was taken over by a Birmingham non-ferrous metal company which in its turn became part of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. in 1928. The manufacture of non-ferrous metals at the French Walls Works ceased in 1932. In 1950 I.C.I.'s Paints Division occupied the 'New Side Works'. The 'Old Side Works' had been sold to a firm of tube manufacturers, George Burn Ltd. (fn. 121)

George Burn Ltd. was one of several tube-making firms which had come to the town since the 1880s. In 1889 the newly formed Credenda Seamless Tube Co. Ltd. bought the Bridge Street factory of the former Birmingham Plate Glass Co. and converted it into a tube mill, the Credenda Works. The business was bought in 1896 by a Birmingham firm, the Star Tube Co., which in 1897 became part of the combine known as Weldless Tubes Ltd. (later Tubes Ltd.). The works was closed in 1906. (fn. 122) Allen Everitt & Sons Ltd., a firm which specialized in the manufacture of condenser tubes, moved in stages from Birmingham to the Kingston Works in Bridge Street between the early 1890s and 1902. It was acquired in 1929 by I.C.I. and remained in business until 1958. Another I.C.I. subsidiary, Yorkshire Imperial Metals Ltd., was then formed to take in the Yorkshire Copper Works Ltd. of Leeds and the plate, tube, and fittings interests of I.C.I.; it was making non-ferrous tubes, fittings, and plates at the Kingston Works (renamed the Allen Everitt Works) in 1971. (fn. 123) The Smethwick Tube Co. was set up in Rolfe Street in 1920 and became part of George Burn Ltd., a Birmingham tube-making concern, in 1921. During the twenties and thirties Burns acquired a number of other premises in Rolfe Street, including the soap works of William Cliff & Sons, and replaced them by tube mills. Finally in 1937 the firm opened the City Tube and Conduit Mills in Rabone Lane on the site of Muntz's 'Old Side Works'. It became Burns's headquarters and main works; the Birmingham works was sold and the company concentrated all its activities in Smethwick. It remained there until 1971, when it moved to Shirley (Warws.). (fn. 124)

In 1908 the Birmingham firm of J. A. Phillips & Co. Ltd., manufacturer of bicycles and bicycle components, bought the Credenda Works and gave up its Birmingham premises. In 1949 the firm, by then a subsidiary of Tube Investments Ltd., employed some 2,000 people at the greatly enlarged Credenda Works, producing and distributing bicycle components. It was still at the works in 1971. (fn. 125) Another cycle firm, the Coventry-Eagle Cycle and Motor Co. Ltd., moved from Coventry to the Grove Lane Works in Wills Street in 1959 and remained in business in the town until 1968, when it moved to Barton-upon-Humber (Lincs.). (fn. 126)

Smethwick has had only one motor-car manufacturer, the short-lived Crescent Motors Ltd., maker of Crescent cars and cycle-cars; it moved from Walsall shortly before the First World War and ceased production in 1914 or 1915. (fn. 127) The town's contribution to the motor industry has been rather as a supplier of components. From c. 1900 Muntz's produced aluminium gear- and crank-cases and cover plates; William Mills Ltd., a Sunderland firm which moved to Grove Street in 1903, made iron and aluminium castings there for the motor industry. (fn. 128) In the 1920s the firm now known as Smethwick Drop Forgings Ltd., established in 1912 by A. Harper, Sons & Bean Ltd. of Dudley, made forgings for the Bean car. (fn. 129) Three Smethwick members of the large Smethwick-based foundry group, Birmid Qualcast Ltd., formed in 1967, have been substantial manufacturers of components. All have their works in Dartmouth Road. The Midland Motor Cylinder Co. Ltd. was set up in 1914 in Fawdry Street, where it made air-cooled cylinders for motor bicycles. It moved to Rolfe Street in 1916 and to its present site shortly after the First World War. In the late 1960s it specialized in the manufacture of grey-iron camshafts, cylinder blocks and heads, and brake drums. The Birmingham Aluminium Casting (1903) Co. Ltd. moved to Dartmouth Road from Birmingham at about the same date as Midland Motor Cylinder. In 1927 its 7-acre factory was described as one of the largest of its kind in Europe and the 2,000 workers were almost entirely engaged in the manufacture of castings for the motor-vehicle industry. In the late 1960s it produced pistons, gear-boxes, cylinder blocks, and steering-boxes. Dartmouth Auto Castings Ltd., which established its first foundry in 1933, was in the late 1960s using one of its two Smethwick foundries to make camshafts. (fn. 130) Another firm producing components for the motor industry in the late 1960s was the United Spring Co. Ltd., incorporated in 1932 to acquire a spring-making firm founded in 1912; it made springs for the motor-car, aircraft, and other industries at its Hawthorn Works in Oldbury Road. (fn. 131)

In 1904 Henry Hope & Sons Ltd., a Birmingham firm which specialized in making metal windows, roof glazing, and central heating, purchased some land at the corner of Dartmouth Road and Halford's Lane, upon which it built its Halford Works in 1905. (fn. 132) The works was gradually extended, and in 1919 all business was transferred to Smethwick. By the late 1950s the factory covered 10 a. In 1965 the firm merged with Crittall Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of Braintree (Essex), another firm which made metal windows, doors, and casements, to form Crittall-Hope Ltd. Braintree became the new company's headquarters and the Halford Works its Smethwick Division.


Although the Thick Coal underlies Smethwick, the district is situated beyond the fault which formed the eastern limit of early working in the South Staffordshire coalfield. (fn. 133) There was no mining in Smethwick until the 1870s, and it remained confined to a single colliery in the extreme north of the borough. During the previous halfcentury, however, there had been hopes of reaching coal in Smethwick, (fn. 134) and in fact the first boring east of the boundary fault is said to have been made at Smethwick on land belonging to James Horton; it reached 563 feet without finding coal or ironstone. (fn. 135)

In 1870 the Sandwell Park Colliery Co. was formed and sank a shaft east of Roebuck Lane on land belonging to Lord Dartmouth close to the junction of the Birmingham-Wolverhampton railway and the Stourbridge Extension line. The Thick Coal was reached in 1874 at a depth of 1,254 feet, and the news caused great excitement in Smethwick, West Bromwich, and Handsworth. (fn. 136) A second shaft was sunk in 1874-6; a third, begun in 1882, reached the coal at 1,263 feet in 1883. (fn. 137) The undertaking, later hailed as having 'put new life into the almost exhausted coalfield', (fn. 138) was the high point in the career of Henry Johnson, the mining engineer (1823-85). It was through his exertions that the company was launched, and the directors appointed him engineer and secretary. To make the sinking he used dynamite, then still in a pioneer stage for industrial purposes. (fn. 139) In 1896 483 men were employed below ground at the colliery and 162 above. (fn. 140) The workings were mainly towards Handsworth, and none extended under the Birmingham Canal. (fn. 141) Production ceased in 1914, the company having by then opened a new colliery in West Bromwich to tap the area to the north of the first workings. (fn. 142)


The history of the glass industry in Smethwick is largely that of Chance Brothers. (fn. 143) Glassmaking was introduced by Thomas Shutt, who began building a works on part of Blakeley Hall farm beside the Birmingham Canal west of Spon Lane apparently in 1814 and started making crown window-glass there apparently in 1815. Shutt worked in partnership, (fn. 144) and from 1816 until his death in 1822 the business was carried on as the British Crown Glass Co. The works was sold in 1822 by Joseph Stock and Thomas and Philip Palmer, two of the original partners, to Robert Lucas Chance. (fn. 145) From 1828 Chance was in partnership with John Hartley, and in 1832 Chance's brother William also became a partner. The firm, however, continued to operate as the British Crown Glass Co. On John Hartley's death in 1833 his sons James and John became partners, and the firm was renamed Chances & Hartleys. When the Hartleys left the partnership in 1836 the firm became Chance Brothers & Co.

On acquiring the works R. L. Chance immediately built a second glass-house and in 1828 a third. His most notable achievement was the introduction into England of the regular manufacture of sheet glass as an alternative to crown-glass. He began its production in 1832 with the aid of French and Belgian workers. (fn. 146) Chance's sheet glass was used for Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace in 1851, the firm having already supplied glass for Paxton's experiments in glass building at Chatsworth (Derb.). (fn. 147) The site was enlarged in 1844 and schools were built on part of the new land, primarily for the children of employees. (fn. 148) By 1845 there were six glass-houses, four of them producing sheet, and to make room for a seventh it was decided to move the acid works (fn. 149) to Oldbury, in Halesowen (Worcs.), where the firm had had a chemical works since 1835. In 1851 the factory, with c. 1,200 employees, was said to be the largest crown and sheet glass-works in England. (fn. 150) Five new glass-houses were built in the earlier 1850s. From the 1850s the making of lighthouse glass was developed under the direction of James Timmins Chance (later Sir James Chance, Bt.). An 80-foot brick tower was built where the lights could be tested, and from 1859 land was bought for the extension of the lighthouse works, notably in 1867 when the site of the lighthouse erecting room was acquired. The firm produced not only the optical apparatus but also such lighthouse components as burners, lanterns, cast-iron towers, and revolving carriages and their clockwork. In 1898 a substantial government contract initiated a period of expansion and the rebuilding of the lighthouse works. In 1889 Chance Brothers & Co. became a private limited company. In 1935 the company issued preference shares and changed its style to Chance Brothers Ltd. (fn. 151) Pilkington Brothers of St. Helens (Lancs.) acquired a large interest in 1936 and in 1955 took over the company. In 1971 the Spon Lane works, occupying a 64-a. site, was producing rolled plate (including figured glass), tubing for fluorescent and incandescent lighting, microscope glass and slides, protective glass for welders, and decorative glass tableware. Among the older buildings which then survived were a house, then used as offices and apparently built by R. L. Chance in 1822, and a sevenstoreyed building of 1847.

Chances also became involved with the Birmingham Plate Glass Co., which was formed in 1836 and built a works in Bridge Street. (fn. 152) An attempted merger with Chances & Hartleys that year was unsuccessful. The works was producing crown and sheet as well as plate by the mid 1840s and by 1867 had six glass-houses. There were further attempts at mergers with or sales to Chance Brothers in 1845, 1846, and 1867, but it was only in 1873 that Chances bought the works. Production was stopped in 1874 because of the poor quality of the glass and the difficulty of selling it. Operations began again in 1875 but ceased finally in 1877. As during the closure of 1874-5, business was then limited to the purchase and resale of glass made elsewhere. James Chance acquired the interests of the other members of his family and in 1889 sold the works to the Credenda Seamless Tube Co. Ltd.

Chance Brothers developed the production of coloured glass from the later 1830s (fn. 153) but gave up making stained glass in 1867. Several of the principal artists then set up on their own. (fn. 154) Samuel Evans started in a small way at West Smethwick and then built a works in Oldbury Road, in part of which Evans & Co. Ltd. still produced decorative glass until 1971. (fn. 155) Thomas William Camm started making stained glass in Brewery Street before moving to larger premises, presumably the purpose-built studios still standing on the corner of High Street and Regent Street; with two breaks he continued to work in Smethwick until his death in 1912, and the business was then carried on by his daughter and two sons. The works was closed c. 1963. (fn. 156) Camm's three brothers, who had originally been associated with him, returned to Smethwick from Birmingham in 1893, and started a business in High Street as Camm Brothers; as Camm & Co. the business produced stained-glass windows and other decorative glass until c. 1966. (fn. 157)


In 1818 Thomas Adkins and John Nock owned 'an extensive soap work' on the north bank of the Birmingham Canal at Merry Hill. Soon afterwards the partners were joined by a Mr. Boyle, the inventor of a new method of bleaching soap. Boyle had been the works manager of Blair & Stephenson of Tipton, the country's leading producer of red lead; the new firm of Adkins, Nock & Boyle took advantage of his experience and began to make red lead as well as soap. (fn. 158) About 1836 the firm became Thomas Adkins & Co. (fn. 159) During the late 1830s or early 1840s the Tipton concern for which Boyle had worked was wound up, and for several years Adkins & Co. was the country's main supplier of red lead. (fn. 160) By the mid 1860s the principal makers of the best-quality red lead were Midland manufacturers and Adkins & Co. was one of the three leading firms in the area. (fn. 161) It also retained a prominent place among local soap-makers. (fn. 162) That side of the business appears to have been subsequently run down, and by the later 1880s the firm was concentrating on the manufacture of red lead. (fn. 163) After the death of G. C. Adkins, Thomas's son, in 1887 the business was bought by the Birmingham firm of Henry Wiggin & Co. Ltd., one of the most important in the nickel industry. Wiggins continued make red lead but used part of the site to build a cupola and reverberatory furnaces for smelting nickel and cobalt ores. In 1892 Dr. Ludwig Mond, with the co-operation of the firm, built on another part of the site the experimental plant at which he produced the first carbonyl-refined nickel made on an industrial scale. (fn. 164) In 1896 Wiggins began to make tin oxide at Smethwick. It was the first time it had been manufactured in Great Britain, and the plant had to be imported from Germany, previously the sole source of supply; it was also manned at first by German workers. Production continued until 1931. Shortly after the First World War Wiggins was taken over by the Mond Nickel Co. Ltd., which was in turn taken over in 1929 by the International Nickel Co. of Canada Ltd. (fn. 165)

A soap factory was established in Rolfe Street in 1845 by a Mr. Johnson. (fn. 166) The business passed through several hands in its early years. By 1866, when it was owned by J. P. Harvey, it was one of the leading soap firms in the Birmingham area. Its specialities were 'curd', a very hard soap extensively used in laundries and in blanket and carpet mills, and 'grey mottled', a household soap. The firm, which in 1887 became William Cliff & Sons, was one of the few small provincial concerns to remain independent of the great soap combines which were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it remained a family business until it closed after the First World War. The works was sold to George Burn Ltd., which in 1931 demolished it to make way for a tube mill.

From its early days Chances made alkali for glass manufacture, as well as the glass itself, at Spon Lane. Bought sulphate of soda was at first used, but in 1834 the firm built its own vitriol chamber and salt-cake furnaces as part of the works. They continued in operation until 1845, when the whole of the chemical manufacturing side of the business was transferred to the chemical works which the firm had established at Oldbury in Halesowen (Worcs.) in 1835. (fn. 167)

H. S. Richards, an oil and colour merchant and an importer and refiner of oil and tallow, was manufacturing tannate of soda (used to remove scale from boilers), locomotive and colliery greases, lubricating oils, paints, varnishes, and liquid enamels at his Brook Street works by the 1880s. Alterations in the pattern of local industry led to changes in the firm's range of products: thus when the demand for black stoving enamels for iron bedsteads began to decline there was a growing market for similar enamels for use on vehicle chassis and springs. In the early 1970s H. S. Richards Ltd. was making paints, varnishes, japans, and enamels for industrial uses. (fn. 168)


By 1834 there was a brewery on the corner of High Street and Brewery Street where the Midland Bank now stands. It was run by Thomas Robinson. In 1841 he was licensee of the Old Talbot near by on the corner of Trinity Street and apparently still occupied the brewery. By 1851 he had been succeeded at the Old Talbot by Sarah Robinson, evidently his widow; she was also a brewer, but it is not clear whether she brewed on the premises or continued at the near-by brewery. Her son Thomas too was a brewer in the 1850s. (fn. 169) Old Smethwick Brewery in Oldbury Road a little to the south of the Swan inn existed by the early 1840s when it was run by Joseph Morris. (fn. 170)

There were several brewers in Smethwick by 1851, (fn. 171) but the expansion of the industry dates from 1861 when Henry Mitchell (1837-1914) took over the Crown inn in Oldbury Road from his father. (fn. 172) Until then beer brewed at the Crown had been intended for consumption on the premises, but Henry proceeded to build up a wider retail trade. In 1866 he built the Crown Brewery on an adjoining site and by 1872 was trading as Henry Mitchell & Co. In 1878 he bought a 14-acre site on the south side of Cape Hill and began to build a new Crown Brewery there; brewing started in 1879. In 1888 he took a partner, H. G. Bainbridge, and in the same year the firm became a private limited company. In 1898 the business was amalgamated with that of William Butler of the Crown Brewery, Broad Street, Birmingham, and the new firm was styled Mitchells & Butlers Ltd.; Butler himself had been licensee of the London Works Tavern in Smethwick from 1866 to 1876. Because of the large area available at Cape Hill and the good supply of water from artesian wells the Birmingham business was moved there, and the brewery was renamed the Cape Hill Brewery. The site was enlarged to 60 a. in 1900 and to 90 a. in 1914. The No. /?/ brewery built in 1912 more than doubled the size of the plant. A high red-brick wall dominates the lower end of Cape Hill; an ornamental gateway was demolished in 1974. Since 1967 Mitchells & Butlers Ltd. has been a marketing company within Bass Charrington Ltd.

In 1913 Mitchells & Butlers bought the Windmill Brewery which had been founded by Edward Cheshire. He had acquired several public houses and found his brewing facilities inadequate. He therefore began building a brewery near the windmill in Windmill Lane in 1886, and brewing started there at the end of 1887. The business became a private limited company in 1896. Having been acquired by Mitchells & Butlers, the brewery was closed in 1914, and Cape Hill remains the only brewery in Smethwick. (fn. 173)

Other Industries.

In 1850 the Lambeth firm of Henry Doulton & Co., which made drain-pipes and conduits, built a pipe-works at Smethwick. (fn. 174) It stood on the north bank of the Birmingham Canal and was approached from Brasshouse Lane by what is now Pottery Road. The firm (from 1854 Doulton & Co. and from 1899 Doulton & Co. Ltd.) probably opened the works because an official report on the sanitary condition of Birmingham published in 1849 stressed the need for improved drainage there. (fn. 175) Doultons, which already had a pipe-works at Rowley Regis, was thus offered the prospect of an enlarged market for its products. The works remained in operation until 1913, when transport costs led to its closure. It was used again intermittently during the First World War but was finally closed in 1919.

In 1898 the Birmingham Tile and Pottery Works, a small potworks later known as the Ruskin Pottery, was established in Oldbury Road, West Smethwick, by William Howson Taylor (1876-1935) and his father, Edward Richard Taylor (d. 1912). They produced fine art pottery, which was first called Taylor ware; from 1904, the year in which they won their first international award, it was known as Ruskin pottery. The works closed in 1935, shortly before Howson Taylor's death. There is a representative collection of Ruskin pottery, presented by Howson Taylor, at the public library in High Street. (fn. 176)

Among several firms making soft drinks in the town the oldest is T. Mason & Sons Ltd. (fn. 177) The business was started by Titus Mason, who in 1895 arranged for his soft drinks to be sold at an offlicence in Cape Hill. The specially designed factory in Grantham Road is one of the largest units of its kind in England.

In 1972 British Pens Ltd., of the Pedigree Works, Bearwood Road, was the only British firm still extensively engaged in the manufacture of steel pennibs. (fn. 178) A Birmingham firm, William Mitchell (Pens) Ltd., built the Pedigree Works in 1909 (fn. 179) and transferred its business there. In 1920 Mitchells amalgamated with Hinks, Wells & Co., a Birmingham pen-making firm, to form British Pens Ltd. Despite the decline of the steel pen after the Second World War the firm survived, acquiring the pen interests of other firms in the Birmingham area in the 1960s. By 1972 its pen production, almost wholly limited to the manufacture of lithographic, mapping, and lettering pens, was concentrated at the Bearwood Road factory, where presswork parts for machinery in steel and non-ferrous metals were also made.


  • 1. V.C.H. Staffs. iv. 43, no. 86.
  • 2. V.C.H. Warws. vii. 373.
  • 3. Court Rolls of the Manor of Hales, 1270-1307 (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), i, pp. xx, 21-3; T. R. Nash, Colls. for Hist. of Worcs. ii (1782), App. p. xxxvi; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 206; Dudley Central Libr. 7/13. For comparative population figures see S.H.C. 1923, 252-5; Census, 180131. For the administrative position see below pp. 118-19.
  • 4. See L.J.R.O., Peculiars, wills of Wm. Walker, nailer (proved 16 June 1663), Wm. Smith, whitesmith (proved 18 May 1688), inventories; Mann, 'Smethwick', 16.
  • 5. L.J.R.O., Peculiars, wills of Thos. Cowley alias Glover (proved 2 Oct. 1647), Thos. Cox (proved 7 Feb. 1667/8), Rog. Parkes (proved 6 Dec. 1677), John Guest (proved 7 May 1686), Ric. Ashford (proved 28 Aug. 1686), Geo. Birch (proved 18 May 1698), and Hen. Fryth (proved 30 July 1698). For mixed farming on the Downing family's farm in West Smethwick in the later 19th century see 'Old Smethwick', 23 Oct., 6 Nov. 1948, 1 Jan. 1949; 'Smethwick and Round About', 2 Sept. 1955.
  • 6. Req. 2/80/49; C 3/146/15; S.H.C. 1938, 17-18; B.R.L., j. 406; S.R.O., D. 1141/4/4, ct. book 23 Nov. 1757.
  • 7. S.H.C. 1924, p. 82.
  • 8. C 3/399/93.
  • 9. The evidence was given in the course of a series of actions concerning a large area in the north of Smethwick called Aspers Moor: C 3/339/4; C 3/341/3; 'Old Smethwick', 9 Apr. 1949; S.R.O., D 742/Dartmouth Estates/II/ 13/921. Lyddyat stated that the property lay near a forge; this may have been the Pig Mill (see below pp. 108-9).
  • 10. S.R.O., D. 1141/4/3/2, p. 23; Roper, Plans of Smethwick, 1857, no. 12.
  • 11. B.R.L. 445765.
  • 12. B.R.L. 445774.
  • 13. B.R.L. 393642, f. 12.
  • 14. B.R.L., j. 409.
  • 15. B.R.L. 445775.
  • 16. See p. 118.
  • 17. See p. 103.
  • 18. O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1890 edn.); above p. 104.
  • 19. I. Davies, 'Agriculture of W. Midland Conurbation' (Birm. Univ. M.A. thesis, 1953), 90-1 and map 20.
  • 20. Ibid. 89-90, 93.
  • 21. Ibid. 91 and map 20; 'Old Smethwick', 9 Oct. 1948; above p. 92.
  • 22. See p. 96.
  • 23. Mann, 'Smethwick', 44, 50.
  • 24. Davies, 'Agric. of W. Midland Conurbation', 92-3 and map 20.
  • 25. 'Old Smethwick', 21 Aug. 1948; 'Smethwick and Round About', 3 Jan. 1958; Price, 'Smethwick', 8.
  • 26. Cal. Pat. 1554-5, 23.
  • 27. S.H.C. ix (2), 107, 111; B.R.L. 256393, 297360.
  • 28. B.R.L. 324134, 324239.
  • 29. Yates, Map of Staffs. (1775).
  • 30. B.R.L. 393642, f. 12.
  • 31. W.S.L. 11/475/2/50, p. 1; B.R.L. 500272, 500276-8, 500281-2.
  • 32. J. Ogilby, Britannia (1675), 99 and preceding plate; Yates, Map of Staffs. (1775).
  • 33. See pp. 100, 104, 106.
  • 34. S.R.O., D. 1141/4/3/1, note on back end-paper.
  • 35. 'Smethwick and Round About', 17 July 1953 (mentioning 'woodland, late Cairns and late Samuel Price'); above p. 104.
  • 36. 'Old Smethwick', 21 Aug. 1948; 'Smethwick and Round About', 3 Jan. 1958.
  • 37. Aris's Birmingham Gaz. 4 and 11 Mar. 1765.
  • 38. Life of William Hutton . . . written by himself (1817 edn.), 182.
  • 39. W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne, no. 863.
  • 40. 'Old Smethwick', 21 Aug. 1948; 'Smethwick and Round About', 3 Jan. 1958.
  • 41. M. Hadfield, 'Camellias at the Hawthorns', Gardeners Chronicle Gardening Illustrated, 27 Jan. 1962; B.R.L. 445765-8; White, Dir. Staffs. (1851), 697 (stating that the firm was then over a century old); W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne; ibid./West Bromwich (sub Dartmouth, earl of); B.R.L. 299997.
  • 42. T. R. Nash, Colls. for Hist. of Worcs. ii (1782), App. p. xxxvi.
  • 43. 'Old Smethwick', 21 Aug. 1948; docs. at St. Peter's, Harborne, 151B; above p. 98.
  • 44. W.P.L. 16334.
  • 45. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 108; J. Phillips and W. F. Hutchings, Map of Staffs. (1832); B.R.L. 329279, p. 2; above pp. 102, 104.
  • 46. B.R.L. 329279, p. 2.
  • 47. V.C.H. Warws. vii. 258.
  • 48. 9th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 258, p. 552 (1823), ix, referring to Pig Hill Meadow, probably in error for Pig Mill Meadow.
  • 49. V.C.H. Warws. vii. 258 (where it is suggested that the Pig Mill may have been used by Wright and Jesson as a slitting-mill in the early 19th century; the source cited, however, refers to Bromwich forge, for which see above p. 33); Parson and Bradshaw, Dir. Staffs. (1818), 303; Prob. 11/1762 (P.C.C. 618 Liverpool, will of J. Whitehead).
  • 50. For this para. see 'Old Smethwick', 3 July, 21 Aug. 1948, 13, 20, and 27 Aug. 1949; 'Smethwick and Round About', 5 Sept. 1952 (illustration), 31 Dec. 1954; B. Woodcroft, Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Inventions, 16171852; Yates, Map of Staffs. (1775); O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1890 edn.).
  • 51. For this para. see 'Old Smethwick', 9 and 16 Sept. 1950,; 'Smethwick and Round About', 21 Mar. 1952, 17 July 1953, 2 Dec. 1955; W.P.L. 16976, including cutting from Smethwick Telephone, 13 Aug. 1949; W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne; White, Dir. Staffs. (1851); Smethwick Civic News, Jan. 1961 (copy in W.P.L.).
  • 52. 'Old Smethwick', 14 May 1949; Redhead, Local Govt. 20.
  • 53. S. Griffiths, Griffiths' Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain (1873), 46.
  • 54. S.H.C. 1935, 265; C 3/399/93.
  • 55. See e.g. B.R.L. 324374, 329261, 377485, 581536; S.R.O., D.(W.)1790/A/9/10; S.R.O., D. 1141/4/3/2, pp. 22, 35; D. 1141/4/4, ct. book 13 Mar. 1771, 18 June 1787.
  • 56. P.O. Dir Staffs. (1850).
  • 57. H.O. 107/2050(1) ff. 79, 80, 83v., 86v., 95v.; /2050(2) ff. 160v., 161v., 168, 182v., 209, 210, 211v., 216, 219v., 235, 246, 246v., 259, 275v., 314v.
  • 58. See e.g. 'Old Smethwick', 20 Aug. 1949.
  • 59. L.J.R.O., Peculiars, wills of Sam. Jervase (proved 20 Sept. 1675), Wm. Smith (proved 18 May 1688), and Geo. Birch (proved 18 May 1698); S.R.O., D.(W.) 1790/ A/9/10.
  • 60. 'Old Smethwick', 12 May 1951; B.R.L., Pickard 5618.
  • 61. See p. 100.
  • 62. 'Old Smethwick', 19 Mar. 1949.
  • 63. Ibid.; White, Dir. Staffs. (1834).
  • 64. V.C.H. Warws. vii. 124-5.
  • 65. Docs. at St. Peter's, Harborne, 151B, 29 Apr. 1778.
  • 66. W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne, sub Steel Co.;' Old Smethwick', 19 Mar. 1949; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 255.
  • 67. For this para. see, unless otherwise stated, Sir Eric Roll, An Early Experiment in Industrial Organisation (1968 edn.), 149 sqq.; W. K. V. Gale, Soho Foundry (pamph. pub. by W. & T. Avery Ltd., 1948 edn.), 30 sqq. (copy in B.R.L.); H. W. Dickinson, Matthew Boulton, 167-73; H. W. Dickinson and R. Jenkins, James Watt and the Steam Engine, 268, 270-9, 346-7.
  • 68. Roll, Early Experiment, 162, quoting a letter from Boulton.
  • 69. Ibid. 260.
  • 70. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 119.
  • 71. Roll, Early Experiment, 163-4; Gale, Soho Foundry, 33; W. K. V. Gale, Black Country Iron Industry, 76, 78-80; above p. 101.
  • 72. Gale, Soho Foundry, 34; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 644-5; D.N.B. sub Brunel.
  • 73. Gale, Soho Foundry, 35; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 555-6, 558-9; C. Wilson Peck, Eng. Copper, Tin, and Bronze Coins in the British Museum, 1558-1958, 221, 416-17, giving firm's name in 1860 incorrectly as Boulton & Watt. V.C.H. Warws. vii. 107, wrongly states that minting began at the Foundry in 1848.
  • 74. D.N.B. sub Fox; Men of the Reign, ed. T. H. Ward (1886 edn.), 333, stating that the partnership was established a year after the opening of the London & Birmingham Railway. The railway was completed in 1838: V.C.H. Warws. vii. 38. For Bramah's Christian names see W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne, sub Bramah & Fox. He is not mentioned in I. McNeil, Joseph Bramah: a Century of Invention, 1749-1851, chap. 13, which gives some account of the family of Jos. Bramah, the inventor, but it has been suggested (Hermione Hobhouse, Thomas Cubitt, Master Builder, 517 n.) that he was probably one of Jos.'s grandsons.
  • 75. For the site see S.R.O., D. 707/12/1, plan of Smethwick Grove estate attached to marriage settlement of 28 Mar. 1832; W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne, sub Bramah & Fox. In 1850 it was stated that the plan of the works was laid down 'ten years ago': Staffs. Advertiser, 9 Nov. 1850 (reprinting an article from the Daily News).
  • 76. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1841), Staffs. p. 93.
  • 77. Staffs. Advertiser, 9 Nov. 1850.
  • 78. D.N.B.; P.O. Dir. Birm. (1845), 133. The firm's style is incorrectly given as 'Henderson & Co.' ibid. 95. For Henderson see 'Old Smethwick', 8, 15, and 22 July 1950.
  • 79. D.N.B.; B. Woodcroft, Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Inventions, 1617-1852; 'Old Smethwick', 10 July 1948.
  • 80. C. Hobhouse, 1851 and the Crystal Palace (1950 edn.), 38-40, 43-53, 73, 149, 154-6; C. R. Fay, Palace of Industry, 1851, 12-16, 70, 95; Yvonne ffrench, The Great Exhibition, 1851, 94, 96, 103-6, 108-9, 142-3, 167. The glass for the Crystal Palace was made by Chance Brothers: below p. 115. Simpson, Astbury & Co. (later Thos. Astbury & Co. and then Thos. Astbury & Son) of the Smethwick Foundry made ironwork for the Crystal Palace: 'Old Smethwick', 24 Sept. 1949.
  • 81. W. Pole, Life of Sir William Siemens (1888), 69-97; D.N.B. sub Siemens.
  • 82. Staffs. Advertiser, 9 Nov. 1850; 'Old Smethwick', 15 July 1950; above pp. 94-5.
  • 83. Staffs. Advertiser, 1 Nov. 1856; 'Old Smethwick', 8, 15, and 22 July 1950.
  • 84. For this para. see Muntz's Metal Co. Ltd. . . . French Walls Works, nr. Birmingham (illustrated pamph. c. 1907), 5-11 (copy in W.P.L.); 'Old Smethwick', 14, 21, and 28 Jan. 1950; B.R.L., Lee Crowder 1004; above p. 98. For G. F. Muntz see above pp. 20, 88.
  • 85. Above p. 105; F. W. Hackwood, Wednesbury Workshops (Wednesbury, 1889), 97-8; Kelly's Dir. Staffs. (1880), 251 and adverts. p. 48; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (edn. of 1890).
  • 86. White, Dir. Staffs. (1851); Kelly's Dir. Staffs. (1880), 251 and adverts. p. 48; Hackwood, Wednesbury Workshops, 98; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (edns. of 1890 and 1905). The works is shown on the 1890 edn. of the 6" map (surveyed 1886-8) but the company is not listed in Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1890).
  • 87. For this para. see, unless otherwise stated, W. Ellery Jephcott, Over a Century of Progress (history of Evered & Co. Ltd. 1809-1949; copy in W.P.L.); 'Old Smethwick', 18 June 1949. The Manchester Works is shown on Roper, Plans of Smethwick, 1857, no. 10, as a works producing hooks and eyes.
  • 88. Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1908), 833.
  • 89. Warley Official Guide [1968], 75; Dun & Bradstreet, Guide to Key British Enterprises (1969 edn.). Evered does not make the plastic for its mouldings but obtains it from outside suppliers: inf. from Evered & Co. (1972).
  • 90. Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 624-7; White, Dir. Birm. (1869); 'Borough' Pocket Guide to Smethwick (n.d. but c. 1908), 22 (copy in W.P.L.).
  • 91. Smethwick Official Handbook [1922], 23-4 (copy in W.P.L.); Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 9, 11.
  • 92. Smethwick Official Handbook [1922], 23; 'Old Smethwick', 16 Apr. 1949; Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 9; Warley Official Guide [1968], 2; below p. 117.
  • 93. White, Dir. Birm. (1869). For advertisements by the 3 last-named firms see ibid. adverts. pp. 29a, 53, 71.
  • 94. 'Old Smethwick', 18 and 25 Sept. 1948; 'Old West Bromwich', 21 July 1944; Hulley's Birm. Dir. (1870); P.O. Dir. Staffs. (1872; 1876); Kelly's Dir. Staffs. (1880); 'Borough' Pocket Guide to Smethwick, 20; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1890 edn.); plate facing p. 113 below.
  • 95. Compton Mackenzie, Brockhouse (West Bromwich, 1945), 18, 35, 46; ex inf. John Brockhouse & Co. Ltd. (1972).
  • 96. For this para. see, unless otherwise stated, 'Old Smethwick', 21 and 28 May, 4 June 1949; 'Borough' Pocket Guide to Smethwick, 20; Birmingham Post, 27 June 1966. The Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd.'s archives are in S.R.O.
  • 97. O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXVIII. SE. (edns. of 1890 and 1904, and prov. edn. with addns. of 1938).
  • 98. Above p. 105; 'Old Smethwick', 11 Feb. 1950.
  • 99. Rachel E. Waterhouse, A Hundred Years of Engineering Craftsmanship, Tangyes Ltd. 1857-1957, 29; V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 160.
  • 100. 1856-1950: a Brief History of Cornwall Works. . . (priv. print. 1950), 9 (copy in W.P.L.); Waterhouse, Tangyes, 53.
  • 101. See e.g. V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 160-1, 168, 172.
  • 102. Waterhouse, Tangyes, 51; 'Old Smethwick', 11 and 18 Feb. 1950.
  • 103. Warley News Telephone, 18 Jan. 1968; Warley Official Guide [1968], 73; inf. from Tangye Epco Ltd. and from R. G. Brown & Co. Ltd. (1972).
  • 104. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd.: an Outline History (n.d. but c. 1922), 17 (copy in W.P.L.), giving 1853 (and wrongly stating that the firm began its life at the London Works); 'Old Smethwick', 5 Aug. 1950, suggesting 1853; J. A. C. Baker, 'Hist. of Nut and Bolt Industry in the West Midlands' (Birm. Univ. M. Com. thesis, 1965), 15 (giving 1855), 122 (giving 1854).
  • 105. 'Old Smethwick', 1 Oct. 1949, 5 Aug. 1950; Baker, 'Nut and Bolt Ind.' 3-4, 14-15, stating that Keen's father-in-law was G. A. Astbury, owner of 'a small iron foundry'.
  • 106. 'Old Smethwick', 24 Sept. and 1 Oct. 1949, 5 Aug. 1950. See also the account in Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 609.
  • 107. P.O. Dir. Staffs. (1860) gives the London Works as the address of both firms.
  • 108. White, Dir. Birm. (1869).
  • 109. Baker, 'Nut and Bolt Ind.' 16-24, 28, 52, 60-1; Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. 31. For Weston & Grice see above p. 37.
  • 110. Baker, 'Nut and Bolt Ind.' 23.
  • 111. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. 21-2; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 604-8. The postal address of the works appears generally to have been Heath St., which is the name given to Cranford St. when it crosses the boundary into Birmingham; but Roper, Plan of Smethwick, 1858, and O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. show it in Smethwick.
  • 112. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. 21; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 609.
  • 113. J. L. Garvin, Life of Joseph Chamberlain, i. 53-7, 170-5.
  • 114. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. 27; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1890 edn.). Baker, 'Nut and Bolt Ind.' 123, gives the date of purchase as 1867.
  • 115. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. 25; Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 47; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1905 edn.).
  • 116. Baker, 'Nut and Bolt Ind.' 123-5.
  • 117. 'Borough' Pocket Guide to Smethwick, 20.
  • 118. Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 43, 45, 47; Warley Official Guide [1968], 71; P.O. Telephone Dir. Sect. 211: 1971.
  • 119. Who Owns Whom 1971 (U.K. Edition); ex inf. G.K.N. Ltd. (1972). For the earlier history of Smethwick Drop Forgings see below p. 114.
  • 120. Gale, Soho Foundry, 35 sqq.; V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 171; Warley Official Guide [1968], 69; Dun & Bradstreet, Guide to Key British Enterprises (1969 edn.).
  • 121. 'Old Smethwick', 28 Jan. 1950.
  • 122. Ibid. 12 Nov. 1949.
  • 123. Ibid. 26 Nov., 3 and 10 Dec. 1949; ex inf. Yorkshire Imperial Metals Ltd. (1972).
  • 124. 'Old Smethwick', 4 Feb. 1950; Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 36-9; ex inf. Burns Tubes Ltd. (1972); below p. 117.
  • 125. 'Old Smethwick', 12 Nov. 1949; Birmingham Area P.O. Telephone Dir. (1971).
  • 126. V.C.H. Warws. viii. 175; Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1959; 1966-7); inf. from Coventry-Eagle Cycle and Motor Co. Ltd. (1972).
  • 127. G. R. Doyle, The World's Automobiles (1959 edn.), 57; G. R. Doyle and G. N. Georgano, The World's Automobiles, 1862-1962, 56; E. F. Carter, Edwardian Cars, 177, 239; D. Scott-Moncrieff, Veteran and Edwardian Motorcars, 113.
  • 128. Muntz's Metal Co. Ltd. 11; V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 153-4.
  • 129. 'Old Smethwick', 10 Dec. 1949; Express & Star, 15 Oct. 1971; V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 153; Doyle and Georgano, World's Automobiles, 38.
  • 130. This is Birmid Qualcast (brochure pub. by Birmid Qualcast Ltd., 1967; copy in W.P.L.); Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. (June 1927), 661; Dun & Bradstreet, Guide to Key British Enterprises (1969 edn.). For the Midland Motor Cylinder Co. Ltd. see also Midcyl Golden Jubilee (brochure pub. by the firm in 1965 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a private company; copy in W.S.L. Pamphs.). In V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 154, the Birmingham Aluminium Casting Co. is wrongly named the British Aluminium Casting Co.
  • 131. Warley Official Guide [1968], 77, 79; Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1965).
  • 132. For this para. see Hope's Windows: a Short History of Henry Hope & Sons Ltd. 1818-1958 (pamph. pub. by Hopes, 1958; copy in W.P.L.); 'Old Smethwick', 30 Apr. 1949; Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 47-9; inf. from Crittall-Hope (Smethwick Division) Ltd. (1972).
  • 133. V.C.H. Staffs. i. 16 and map preceding p. 1; ii. 68.
  • 134. S.R.O., D. 695/1/1/13; 'Smethwick and Round About', 14 Mar., 20 June 1952; C. Hicks, A Walk through Smethwick (Birmingham, 1850), 31-2 (copy in W.P.L.).
  • 135. T. Smith, The Miner's Guide (1836), 24, 196-9; F. G. Meachem, 'The Search for Coal over the Eastern Boundary Fault of the South Staffs. Coalfield', Trans. Federated Institution of Mining Engineers, viii. 401.
  • 136. Staffs. Advertiser, 14 Jan. 1871; ibid. (S. Staffs. edn.), 11 July 1874; Hackwood, Smethwick, 101, citing Colliery Guardian, 5 June 1874; S.R.O., D. 648/103/38 (plan of 1870); O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXVIII. SE. (1890 edn.); above p. 106.
  • 137. Ex inf. National Coal Board, Stoke-on-Trent (1969).
  • 138. Hackwood, Smethwick, 101.
  • 139. Ibid.; Dudley Herald, 11 July 1885 (Johnson's obituary notice, a copy of which is in S.R.O., D. 564/8/1/22/July 1885); V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 81, 101.
  • 140. Reps. of Inspector of Mines for South Stafford District or 1896 [C. 8450], p. 35, H.C. (1897), xx.
  • 141. W.P.L. 16960.
  • 142. Ibid.; Price, 'Smethwick', 49; S.R.O., D. 876/132; below p. 41.
  • 143. For the following account of Chances see, unless otherwise stated, J. F. Chance, Hist. of Firm of Chance Brothers & Co. (priv. print. 1919); V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 229. Further information has been supplied by Sir Hugh Chance, C.B.E., and Mr. N. K. Hadley of the Spon Lane Works, and their help is gratefully acknowledged.
  • 144. Information on the partnership has been supplied by Sir Hugh Chance from MS. notes in J. F. Chance's own copy of his Chance of Bromsgrove and Birmingham (priv. print. 1892).
  • 145. Birm. Univ. Libr., acct. book of R. L. Chance 1821-31, ff. 15-17, 19, 60-1, and accompanying notes by Sir Hugh Chance; archives at Chance Brothers Ltd., R. L. Chance's MS. of his speech of thanks for a testimonial, Sept. 1860. The hitherto accepted date of the sale has been 1824. The writer's attention was drawn to the new date and the sources for it by Sir Hugh Chance.
  • 146. See also p. 88.
  • 147. For the work at Chatsworth see C. R. Fay, Palace of Industry, 1851, 15-16. Most of the ironwork for the Crystal Palace was made by Fox, Henderson & Co: see above p. 111.
  • 148. For the schools see p. 138.
  • 149. See p. 117.
  • 150. White, Dir. Staffs. (1851); plate facing p. 112 above.
  • 151. 'Old Smethwick', 29 Jan. 1949.
  • 152. For this para. see Chance, Chance Brothers, 21-5, 61-4, 108-10; 'Old Smethwick', 5 Nov. 1949. For an account of a visit to the works see W. White, All Round the Wrekin (1860), chap. xxiii.
  • 153. Chance, Chance Brothers, 14, 19, 35. V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 229, wrongly states in this connexion that Georges Bontemps, the French expert in the manufacture of coloured glass, was installed at Spon Lane in the late 1830s; he in fact came there in 1848 (Chance, Chance, Brothers, 50-1, 189).
  • 154. Chance, Chance Brothers, 194-6.
  • 155. 'Smethwick and Round About', 21 July 1951, 21 and 28 Dec. 1956; local inf. (1971).
  • 156. 'Smethwick and Round About', 28 July, 6 Oct. 1951; ex inf. Miss Ethel Squires of Smethwick (1972). It last appears in Kelly's Dir. Birm. in 1962. The firm's archives are in W.P.L.
  • 157. 'Smethwick and Round About', 6 Oct. 1951; ex inf. W.P.L., which possesses the firm's archives.
  • 158. Pye, Modern Birmingham, 131, noting existence in summer 1818 of a Smethwick soapworks owned by Adkins and Nock; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 168, 177, stating that Boyle joined the 2 Smethwick men c. 1817. For the Christian names of Adkins and Nock see W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne. For the location of the factory: ibid.; O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (edns. of 1890 and 1905).
  • 159. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1835), 476, giving firm as Adkins, Nock & Boyle; (1841), Staffs. p. 95, giving it as Thos. Adkins & Co.; Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 15 Aug. 1836, advert. referring to property bounded on one side by the works of Messrs. Atkins (sic) & Co.
  • 160. Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 177-8, noting Adkins's rise 'on the retirement of Messrs. Stephenson and Co. from the trade'. John Stephenson & Co. occurs in Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1835), 455, but not ibid. (1841).
  • 161. Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 178, noting as another of the 3 leading Midland firms 'Messrs. Lloyd & Co., Smethwick'. Lloyds' works was in fact in Downing St., Handsworth: see e.g. P.O. Dir. Staffs. (1860).
  • 162. Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 176.
  • 163. In Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1888) the firm is listed among red-lead manufacturers but not among soap manufacturers. O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LXXII. NE. (1890 edn.), shows the building as 'Chemical Works'.
  • 164. 'Old Smethwick', 23 and 30 Sept. 1950; A. C. Sturney, Story of Mond Nickel (priv. print. 1951), 7-11, 13-15 (copy in W.P.L.).
  • 165. 'Old Smethwick', 30 Sept. 1950; Sturney, Mond Nickel, 37, 44; J. F. Thompson and N. Beasley, For the Years to Come: a Story of International Nickel of Canada (New York and Toronto, 1960), 195, 206.
  • 166. For this para. see 'Old Smethwick', 19 Nov. 1949, 4 Feb. 1950; Birm. and Mid. Hardware Dist. 169, 176.
  • 167. J. F. Chance, Hist. of Firm of Chance Brothers & Co. (priv. print. 1919), 18-19, 23, 35. For an account of the firm see above pp. 115-16.
  • 168. Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1888), 528 and adverts. p. 62; Smethwick Official Industrial Handbook [1959], 32-3, giving the date of the firm's foundation as 1839; P.O. Telephone Dir. Sect 211: 1971.
  • 169. 'Old Smethwick', 23 July 1949; White, Dir. Staffs. (1834), which, however, gives Robinson's address as near the Summit Bridge (i.e. near Roebuck Lane); Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1835), 472; (1841), Staffs. p. 92; W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Harborne, no. 1491; Pigot, Dir. Birm. (1845), 94; H.O. 107/2050(2) f. 260; Slater, Dir. Staffs. (1859), 121.
  • 170. 'Old Smethwick', 23 July 1949; Harborne Tithe Appt., nos. 1623 and 1635a (copy in W.P.L.); White, Dir. Staffs. (1851); Pigot, Dir. Birm. (1845), 94; Slater, Dir. Staffs. (1859), 121.
  • 171. H.O. 107/2050(2).
  • 172. For the rest of this para. see Mitchells & Butlers Ltd. Fifty Years of Brewing, 1879-1929 (copy in W.P.L.); 'Old Smethwick', 14 Oct.-2 Dec. 1950; P.O. Dir. Staffs. (1872); Brewery Manual, 1971, 108; plate facing p. 113 above. For a description of processes at the Cape Hill Brewery in 1903 see V.C.H. Warws. ii. 268.
  • 173. 'Old Smethwick', 2 Dec. 1950, 27 Jan. 1951; Smethwick Civic News, Jan. 1961.
  • 174. For this para. see 'Old Smethwick', 7 May 1949; D. Eyles, Royal Doulton, 1815-1965, 44-8, 58, 108, 129.
  • 175. For the report see V.C.H. Warws. vii. 340.
  • 176. L. B. Powell, Howson Taylor: Master Potter (Birmingham, 1936; copy in W.P.L.); 'Smethwick and Round About', 20 and 27 May, 10 June, 8 July 1955; Ruskin Pottery (illustrated brochure, n.d.; copy in W.P.L.).
  • 177. For this para. see Warley Official Guide [1968], 83.
  • 178. Unless otherwise stated, this para. is based on inf. from British Pens Ltd. (1972).
  • 179. Date on façade of works.