1.  Early Days:  1798 - 1902 (continued)

A catalogue dated August 1st 1882 shows further developments and is the first indication of the export trade which was to become so important to the firm.

The front page of the catalogue shows the medal, and mentions the three diplomas, awarded to Meynell & Inman at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. 

This exhibition attracted 13,000 exhibitors to Melbourne (a city which had only been founded fifty years before) and it, and Sydney exhibition of 1879, put Australia firmly on the world's commercial map. 

Meynell & Inman would have been glad to have made the enormous effort to get there and to have come away with some recognition.

The range of products in the catalogue is much as before but this is the first surviving catalogue in which gas brackets ("glasses charged extra") appear.

 It is also the first surviving catalogue in which chandeliers ("glasses charged extra") are illustrated.

In 1884, the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition was held in the newly opened Art Gallery and in temporary buildings erected for the purpose on the nearby market patch. 

Meynell’s do not seem to have exhibited (because they were so close to the Exhibition) but they had this full page advert in the catalogue.  

They are still called Meynell & Inman of Montrose Street (“three minutes walk from Exhibition Art Gallery”).  Amongst the exhibitors we find:  “Messrs Ready & Son, Wolverhampton.  Chandeliers, gas fittings, beer pumps, garden engines, etc..”, which suggests that Ready had left to set up his own business with a very similar range of products.

In this advertisement Meynell and Inman describe themselves as “Manufacturers of all sorts of fittings for gas, steam, water and beer” and the advert shows taps, flushing toilets, plumbers brassfoundry, hose fittings and chandeliers. 

In 1884 Captain Inman retired and the firm was restyled Meynell and Sons.  

In 1887 an advertisement in Steen and Blackett’s Guide to Wolverhampton shows the firm as James Meynell and Son, and gives their address as Little’s Lane.  Perhaps by this time the company had expanded  from Montrose Street into Little’s Lane, which runs parallel with it.  Certainly Inman has dropped out of the picture. 

The advert shows pumps, which were now becoming an important part of their trade. It also lists “gas fittings, sun and star lights, medieval church fittings, chandeliers, lift and force pumps, water works fittings, wrought iron tubes for steam, water and gas, steam engine fittings, beer cocks, high pressure cocks, garden engines and syringes”.  

Later market requirements covered the Gas Age when amongst many other gas fittings the Company specialised in making the lamplighter's lighter which was a long pole with a small flame at the top which was taken around by a cyclist to light street gas lamps.

Chandeliers were one of their main products at this time.  

The firm made the chandelier for the auditorium of the Grand Theatre when it opened in 1894.

Photo by courtesy of the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

James Meynell had lead the company from its foundation, through various partnerships and through the most hectic years of the Industrial Revolution.

He had kept the company in line with modern developments and had established it in the export trade.

James was succeeded by his son, Edward James Meynell (1826 – 1900).

There is a blue plaque to him in Queen Street, near to where he was born.

He lived in Granville House, at the end of Chapel Ash, between Tettenhall Road and Compton Road.  
The next in line was Herbert Meynell.  

He started work at the age of 16.  As he entered the works for the first time he met the office furniture being carried down the stairs.  He was told it was being sold off to pay his father’s debts.

His father was a betting man.  One year he took his family, by horse and carriage, for their usual month's holiday at Colwyn Bay.

Whilst there he placed a bet on an outsider at long odds for the huge sum of 10 shillings - approximately one week's salary.  The horse won - whereupon Edward sent a letter to his son, Herbert, telling him that he would be staying at Colwyn Bay for an extra month.  

But life had not been all betting and holidays.  Edwards's daughter, Gladys, recollected going on a sales trip round Norfolk and Lincolnshire and the first calls were made on the customer's doorstep at 6.00 a.m..

So it was Herbert who brought the company round and died in harness, having been with the company for 71 years.  

He lived in Oaks Crescent from where he moved to Eagle House in Eagle Street. Eagle House is seen at the far end of the street in this photo.  There were eagles on the gate piers to the right of the house.


The site of Eagle House is now occupied by Eagle Court.

Herbert took over at about the time of the Boer War.  That war conjures up all sorts of memories for the connoisseur, with old fashioned cavalry charges and fine multi-coloured uniforms.  One of the elite regiments in the British Army was the Camel Corps and they were equipped with small portable fire extinguishers which were clipped on to the saddles alongside and vertically adjacent to the rider’s log.  This called for a specially designed unit which was produced by the Meynell Company and was based on their pump mechanisms originally designed for pulling beer.  It is more than likely that the British Army warriors on their camels would have wished, many times, in the midst of the desert heat, that they could have used their fire extinguisher to produce some beer.

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