1.  Early Days:  1798 - 1902

Meynell's was a family firm.  The Meynell family were the owners and directors of the company for six generations. 

The Meynell family are said to have come over with the Conqueror and many branches of the family are now scattered throughout these islands.  The branch which founded this company came from Yarm, in Yorkshire.  The founder, James Meynell, was a brassfounder, carpenter, innkeeper and undertaker.  This enabled him to make the coffins, make the brass coffin furniture, arrange the funeral and then hold the wake in the parlour of his house.  But in the 1790s he came to Wolverhampton, for reasons which are not known.  But as the family was, as it remains, Catholic, it may be that the presence of a large Catholic community in Wolverhampton had something to do with it.

In 1798 the firm was established in Pipers Row under the name of Ready and Meynell.  They were general brassfounders but also engaged in the manufacture of pumps.  A press release by the company in 1970 said that the original firm made “fittings for blacksmiths, brackets and coach requirements for the richer families of that time”. 

A catalogue surviving from 1852 shows a large selection of cock or taps, with which the company was always to be associated.

This is a Patent Cock.

And this is a stop cock.       

But the firm's range already went beyond cocks and this part page shows plugs of various sizes and sets of weights.
But the main line was cocks to which most of the beautifully engraved pages are devoted, including this page, of which half only is shown here,

Sometime before 1866 the firm of Dixon and Vardy was absorbed into the firm and in 1866 the firm of William Fell and Son was taken over.  

An undated catalogue, under the name Ready & Meynell, gives their address as Bilston Street Works, Wolverhampton, presumably because they were at that end of Pipers Row.  

Four of the eighteen designs of fountain The front page of the catalogue says that they are:

 "manufacturers of steam & plumbers' brass work, beer machines of every description, stationary and portable water closets, lift and force pumps, in brass, iron and copper, horticultural engines and syringes, gun metal steam-engine fittings, oil and tallow cups, syphons, steam & water gauges & glass guards, air and pet cocks, ball valves, whistles, mill brasses, iron, brass, copper, lead and composition tube, gas lamps & chandeliers, star & sun lights, for churches, chapels, and public buildings, gas fittings of every description, mediaeval & other church fittings to any design".

It winds up with "Brass Cock Makers and General Brass Founders", suggesting that cocks were still a main item of production.

Two of several types of garden engine.

One of several types of beer engine.  This one has five taps but others would have had the traditional ceramic beer pulls. 

An example of a tap, one of very many.     

A portable water closet, with its own water reservoir, activated by pulling up the handle on the right.  Presumably your servants carried it to wherever it was needed.

The firm claim that their water closets pre-dated those of Thomas Crapper.

In 1866 they moved to Montrose Street.  In 1877 there is a catalogue for Meynell and Inman and in Hulley’s Directory for 1879-80 we find a reference to Meynell and Inman of Montrose Street. So at some time before 1877 Ready and Meynell  must have split up and this new partnership formed. The Inman was Captain Inman, a Meynell cousin, who joined the firm in 1873, which is presumably when the name change took place.  At some point Edward James Meynell joined his father in the firm.  Eventually he left and started the separate firm of E. J. Meynell.  He is also said to have married a barmaid from a pub in Piper's Row.  

David Hill, the great-great grandson of John Deakin Ready, who he believes to be the "Son" in Ready and Son.  Ready and Son are thought to have had a foundry in Bilston Street.  This suggests that the company may have come into existence in 1866 when Meynell moved to Montrose Street.

[David Hill adds:  John Ready was born in Litchfield in 1832 to Thomas and Mary Ready, of whom I know no more, and was recorded in the 1881 census as being a brassfounder, living at Stockwell End, Tettenhall with his wife Kate, four children, three domestic servants and a nurse.  My grandmother, Beatrice Jeanette, was their fifth child, born in September of that same year.
By 1891 they were living in Boldmere Road, Sutton Coldfield and there were by now six children.  John Ready died towards the end of 1897 and his death was recorded in Aston.  I presume that the company continued in the hands of one or more of his four sons, namely, Gerald, Eustace, Clifford and Stanley]

The Meynell and Inman 1877 catalogue, on its title page, lists very much the same range of goods but there are now more varieties in each department.  But some new items make an appearance such as a range of tools, of which half a page full is shown here.

There is also a page of whistles.  These would have been widely used in factories but the firm did claim to have made the whistle which was on Stephenson's Rocket.
From a page of "closet fittings and lead traps" here are the "Patent Stench Traps".

There is also a wide variety of these "gas stoves" or gas rings as they would be called today.

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