Crown Works - Davies Brothers

The location of Crown Works.

The business was founded in 1838 by Edward Davies to galvanise iron and ironwork, with premises at 12 Snow Hill.

Edward Davies is credited with introducing galvanising to the town. In fact the firm was one of the first hot dip galvanising companies in the world.

The entry in White’s 1851 Staffordshire Directory is as follows:

Edward Davies, iron and tin plate worker, zinc etc., Snow Hill.

An advert from 1851.
An advert from 1861.
The firm was very successful and moved to a larger site in 1869, between Cross Street North and the BCN, covering approximately 3½ acres.

On the site they built a new factory called Crown Works, next to Ceres Works, with a wharf on the southern side of an existing basin.

There was also a second narrower basin just south of Lock 6.

Crown Works in 1872. From Griffith's Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain.

A fine view of the factory in its later years. Courtesy of David Clare.

An advert from 1872.

An advert from 1872.

Letterhead from 1929.

From an old postcard.

The factory entrance was situated in Cross Street North, even though the site extended southwards to the Cannock Road.

When the factories were in operation the whole area must have filled with unpleasant acrid smells from galvanising, and an equally unpleasant smell from Ceres manure works, and the Corporation’s sewage works in Crown Street.

Most of their products carried the "Crown and Knot" trademark, the crown being a symbol almost universally used to denote the quality of iron and the knot being the Staffordshire knot. 

For other products they used the brand name "Nonsuch". 

Crown Works in 1924.

The business is described in Samuel Griffith’s “Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain” published in 1873, as follows:

We believe Mr. Davies was the first to introduce galvanising on a large scale to Wolverhampton, in 1838. The trade has since become one of the principal staple trades of the town. Nevertheless, Mr. Davies’s article has always kept a very high position in the market. The brand of the Crown Works is a crown surmounting the Staffordshire knot.

His best Crown Sheets have always been well known and appreciated in the market, and occupy the very highest position in the United States of America and Australia.

Mr. Davies likewise galvanises best, and high class charcoal sheets. Iron is also tinned for various purposes. Galvanised iron houses for export are made largely at Mr. Davies’s factory, which is well situated for railway and canal accommodation.

An advert from 1924.

The iron houses referred to in Griffith’s description were built with galvanised corrugated iron sheets.

The firm made huts and shelters which grew in size until houses, halls, churches, and other sizeable buildings were made, and exported all over the world. This part of the business grew into the Constructional Department.

Edward Davies retired in the mid 1870s and his two sons Edward Albert Davies and James Davies took over the business, which became known as Davies Brothers & Company.

In 1884 the partnership was dissolved when James left to start his own business.

On 7th March, 1885 a new company, Davies Brothers & Company Limited was formed with a capital of £100,000 in 1,000 shares of £100 each.

The new company purchased the premises, machinery, stock, and goodwill from Davies Brothers & Company.

Edward Albert Davies became Managing Director, and Moses Bayliss became Chairman. He was a past chairman of Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss.

Also on the board were his nephew William Maddock Bayliss, the then present chairman of Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss, and his son William Maddock Bayliss, who became chairman of Davies Brothers in 1895 after the death of his father. The Company Secretary was James Saunders.

William was one of the leading authorities on physiology and became Professor of General Physiology at University College London in 1912. He was knighted in 1922 for his physiological work.

Although the company had extensive canal wharfage, products were also sent by rail. In the 1885 minute book, guaranteed payments are listed to the Midland Railway, the Great Western Railway, and the BCN.

The new company got off to a bad start, finding it difficult to compete with other manufacturers of galvanised sheet iron. The directors even considered moving to South Wales to produce steel in order to manufacture galvanised sheet steel.

The situation greatly improved when the company patented a method of automatically galvanising sheets of iron or steel, which could also be corrugated as part of the process. This was the first process of its kind in the world.

Patents were taken out in 7 countries, and manufacturers paid royalties to Davies Brothers for using their system, which became very popular in the USA.

The company was awarded a gold medal for the breakthrough at the 1893 Chicago World Trade Fair. As a result the company became very profitable.

View some products from the company's 1910 catalogue

An invoice from 1912.

In the 20th century corrugated sheet roofing, and galvanised corrugated sheets became successful products which were exported to many countries.

The company’s tank and cistern making department became very successful, and produced a wide variety of riveted or welded galvanised tanks, cisterns, and hot water tanks for domestic installations.

Other products included water barrows, feeding troughs, drinking troughs, buckets and tubs, sanitary vessels of all kinds, gutters, and downpipes.

Davies Brothers also began to produce none-galvanised products.

The Constructional Department began to manufacture steel framed buildings that were cladded with asbestos cement sheets.

Some of the tanks for storing liquids, such as oil and petrol, were too large to be galvanised.

The site of Crown Works, as seen from lock 6.

The derelict site of the factory in 2009.

The canal basins were still in use in the early 1930s when the acid used in the works was conveyed by narrow boat from Oldbury by Thomas Clayton, and coke was conveyed from Stafford Road Gas Works by George and Mathews. The waste acid was also transported by canal, on Fellows, Morton and Clayton boats to Courtaulds in Horton Road. The same company transported the galvanised sheets for export to Ellesmere Port.

After the Second World War sales started to decline.

In 1946 Peter Davies the great grandson of the founder, Edward Davies joined the management team.

He was the last member of the Davies family to work for the company. He left in 1964.

The site of the large basin.

An advert from 1935.

The company’s entry in the 1949 Wolverhampton Handbook is as follows:

Davies Brothers & Company Limited, Crown Works, Wolverhampton. Manufacturers of riveted or welded tanks for storage of water, petrol, or fuel oil, galvanised cisterns, cylinders and hot water tanks for domestic hot water supply, galvanised gutters and downpipes, galvanised cattle troughs, garden and water barrows, steel hay barns, roofs and buildings.

In 1963 the company acquired Gittins and Mellor Limited to replace the Constructional Department which closed. Gittins and Mellor shared the factory and the offices with the parent company, and manufactured ‘Liteway’ steel flooring, tubular steel handrailing, and constructional steelwork.

An advert from 1958.

The Davies Brothers letterhead from 1978 lists the following products:

Oil tanks, petrol tanks, galvanised cisterns, cylinders, tanks and cattle troughs, corrugated cisterns, galvanised feeding appliances, swing water barrows, coal bunkers, street bins, water cart bodies, pipes and hoppers, galvanised sinks, steel platework, open-type steel flooring, handrailing, handrail standards, structural steelwork.

The company closed in 1981 and the factory became a scrap yard.

The site was acquired by Wolverhampton Council in 1993.

The factory has since been demolished and the area cleaned of toxic substances.

It has been used as a car park, but is now derelict.

An advert from 1965.

From the 1965 Wolverhampton Handbook.

An advert from 1970.   An advert from 1972.
An advert from 1974.
From the 1974 Wolverhampton Handbook.

A final view from the canal looking towards lock 7.

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