Lower Walsall Street Works

Beginnings

In 1824 the site was occupied by the northern half of the Shrubbery Iron Works that were founded by George Benjamin Thorneycroft and his brother Edward. The company became very successful, but began to run at a loss due to the recession in the 1870s. The company closed in December 1877, the closure being blamed on the higher wages that were paid to the workforce. The northern half of the works are marked as disused on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map, and appear to have remained in a derelict state for many years.


The site at the beginning of the 20th century when the Shrubbery works were derelict.

In 1905 the Star Cycle Company began to produce a low-cost range of cars, initially under the ‘Starling’ name, adding a ‘Stuart’ model a year later. Star already produced high quality, expensive cars which were manufactured by the Star Engineering Company. In 1909 this company took over its parent company (The Star Cycle Company) and the manufacture of ‘Starling’ and ‘Stuart’ cars ceased. They were replaced by the Briton Car Company under the direction of Edward Lisle Junior, the son of Star's founder.

Briton started life in the company’s Stewart Street Works where the ‘Starling’ and ‘Stuart’ cars had been built. The same workforce were employed, and the first model, the 10hp. ‘Little Briton’ soon appeared.

In 1912 the company purchased the six acres of land between Lower Walsall Street and Horseley Fields that were previously occupied by the northern half of Shrubbery Iron Works, and built a new factory on the site.


The works as originally built.


Lower Walsall Street Works in 1915.


Briton Cars - final assembly shop.

After the First World War the larger car manufacturers had adopted mass production techniques, and the price of their products fell. Briton could not compete in this new market, and in 1921 production fell to just 65 cars. In December of that year the company ended-up in the hands of a receiver, and in January 1922 a liquidator was appointed. On 3rd October the works were sold to A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited and a new chapter began.


The A.J.S. factory.


The location of the works.

A.J.S. sidecars were selling extremely well and the sidecar works at Stewart Street couldn't keep up with the demand. The company decided that it had to increase production, and as there was no more space available at Stewart Street for expansion, a new premises was essential.  In 1922 the Briton Car Company, who coincidentally used to occupy the Stewart Street works before A.J.S. went into voluntary liquidation. Their Lower Walsall Street works was put up for sale, and Page & Sons, Estate Agents, sold the Walsall Street factory to A.J.S on October 3rd 1922 for £7,000. Before the end of 1922 the sidecar business moved to Lower Walsall Street and by the end of 1924 the factory had been expanded to over 150,000 sq ft.

A plan of the works

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Transformer Station
Wireless Polishing Shop
Boiler House
Works Entrance
Despatch Dept.
Varnish Shop
Paint Shop
Finishing Dept.
Offices
Hood & Trimming Dept.
Machine Shop
Caning & Panelling Dept.
Tool Room
Stores
Body Shop
Stores
Stores etc. under viaduct
Jig Stores
Saw Mill
Timber Store
Despatch Dept.
Offices
Press, Bobbing Shop
Frames & Welding
Erecting Shop
Enamelling Shop

In 1923 A.J.S. began to produce wireless receivers in the works to cater for the new market which was made possible by the formation of the BBC. The BBC was formed in 1922 and started regular broadcasts before the end of the year. 

By 1924 the workforce totalled 1,300 employees and the future looked bright. During the next few years however, sales declined in both sidecars and radios. In 1925 the wireless department moved to Stewart Street and the company started to build commercial vehicles. In 1927 things looked brighter as A.J.S. got a contract to build car bodies for Clyno who had decided to produce a small car called the Clyno 'Nine'. Sadly this did not last for long as Clyno went into liquidation in February 1929.


Lower Walsall Street Works.

Sales were still falling and A.J.S. decided to offset the loss of the Clyno contract by building its own car called the A.J.S. 'Nine'. The bodywork was made at Lower Walsall Street and the cars were assembled at Graiseley Hill.

In 1927 a prototype commercial vehicle chassis was produced at Lower Walsall Street and successfully tested with a make-shift coach body. Nothing further happened until February 1929 when A.J.S. lost its lucrative contract for Clyno car bodies, after Clyno's closure. The company then produced a number of commercial vehicles on the site.

Things got worse and the company went into voluntary liquidation on 2nd October 1931. The works were put up for sale and sold to Ever Ready Limited on 25th January 1932 for £12,750. Charles Weight purchased some £40,000 worth of A.J.S. commercial vehicle spares for £250 and moved them to his works at Chillington Fields. Sales far exceeded the cost and what few items were left (mostly rear axles) were scrapped in 1939 to assist the Government with their call for scrap metal for the war effort.

Under Ever Ready the factory became known as Canal Works. Every Ready produced items that were battery-powered and would enhance the sale of their batteries. They manufactured torches and portable lamps. The company also had a factory in Park Lane where they made batteries and portable radios.


The Ever Ready works.

Ever Ready's Lower Walsall Street factory closed in the early 1990s. The company went into liquidation in 1998 and reformed under the name of Energizer.

Since Ever Ready's departure the factory has become a small industrial estate and is now occupied by a number of different companies including BRM Packaging Limited, Van Smart vehicle conversions, and 24/7 spares and salvage.


The following section is a pictorial tour of the works in six parts. It contains a large number of photographs and so may be slow to download.

The works photos are from the collection of the late Geoff Stevens, who kindly allowed us to use them.


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