Lower Walsall Street Works

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.

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Shrubbery Iron Works

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


The Briton Motor Company Limited


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 was 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 built.

Lower Walsall Street Works in 1915.

Woodwork Department.

Body building.


Final assembly.

Production moved to the site in 1913. During the First World War car production continued until 1917, when some ambulances and large commercial vehicles were produced.

Products from the 1915 catalogue

The 2 seater, 4 cylinder de luxe 14-16hp. Britain that sold for 330 Guineas.
The 4 seater, 4 cylinder standard 14-16hp. Britain that sold for 240 Guineas.
The 4 seater, 4 cylinder de luxe 14-16hp. Britain that sold for 370 Guineas.
The 2 seater, 4 cylinder standard 14-16hp. Britain that sold for 220 Guineas.
The Briton 14-16hp. 4 cylinder Light Delivery Van that could carry 15cwt. and sold for 220 Guineas.
Car production resumed in 1919, but by this time 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.
Read more about Briton Cars




The 4 Stevens brothers, Harry, Joe, Jack and George decided that they wanted to produce motorcycles, having gained a lot of experience in engine manufacture. On November 1909 they founded A. J. Stevens & Company (1909) Limited with a share capital of £1,000. They decided to produce motorcycles under the A.J.S. name which came from Jack Stevens' initials, which were chosen because he was the only one of the brothers to have two Christian names, Albert and John. The company had a small premises in Retreat Street, on the corner of Penn Street.

Harry Stevens, the company’s designer, quickly developed their first machines, which proved to be very successful. The company quickly made a name for itself by entering machines in competitions including the Isle of Man T.T. which resulted in a great demand for their products. Because of the small premises, its limited manufacturing capability, and cramped conditions, they found it difficult to build enough machines to keep up with the demand. Production had to be increased and so a larger premises was essential.

To achieve this, additional finance would be required, and so they formed a new public company called A. J. Stevens & Company (1914) Limited, with a nominal share capital of £50,000. The directors were H. Stevens, G. Stevens, J. Stevens, A. J. Stevens, E. E. Lamb, and E. L. Morcom. The company purchased Graiseley House and the surrounding land on Graiseley Hill and over the next few years a large factory was built which had some of the most up-to-date machinery in the area. Success continued and large numbers of their popular motorcycles were produced each year.

Read more about A.J.S.


A.J.S. also built sidecars in their Stewart Street Works run by Charles Hayward. The business thrived, producing sidecars for most of the major manufacturers including Sunbeam. It became the largest sidecar manufacturing plant in the world. The sidecars sold extremely well and Stewart Street works couldn't keep up with the demand. The company decided that production must be increased, and so larger premises had to be found. As a result A.J.S. purchased Lower Walsall Works for £7,000 on 3rd October, 1922 and sidecar production soon moved there. Over the next few years new buildings were added, and the factory grew to cover the whole site, looking much as it does today.

The works in their final form.

The A.J.S. Works.

The Frame Erecting Shop.

The Wheel Assembly Shop.

The Sidecar Erecting Shop.
The Sidecar Finishing Shop.
Sidecars were produced for a large number of motorcycle manufacturers and they continued to sell extremely well until the emergence of the light car in the mid 1920s. The A.J.S. Board decided to offset the falling sales by introducing a range of commercial sidecars that were aimed at door to door delivery or service work. The new products included a fire fighting sidecar with a Merryweather fire pump, ropes and axes, and also a prototype lightweight, collapsible caravan which never went into production.

In September 1930 the company began to use the 'Graiseley'  brand name for its sidecars. They were supplied to manufacturers, and for the first time to motorcycle dealers, so that they could be fitted to almost any make of machine.

Read more about A.J.S. sidecars


The Internal Timber Store.

The Wood Mill.

The Blacksmiths Shop.

The Machine Shop.

Wireless Receivers

In the early 1920s radio became a popular form of entertainment, particularly after the formation of the BBC in 1922, and the regular broadcasts that began before the end of the year. Harry Stevens’ main hobby was amateur radio, and he convinced the company that they should begin to manufacture wireless receivers to cater for the new and increasing demand. The receivers would be built at Lower Walsall Street Works and new buildings were added for the wireless department.

Harry soon designed a 4 valve receiver, and several models were launched in the autumn of 1923, all aimed at the top end of the market. The cheapest model, the 'Sloping Panel' sold for £30.17s.6d. and the top of the range model, the 'Pedestal', housed in a free standing cabinet, with internal horn loudspeaker, sold for £75. By October 1923, 500,000 licences had been issued and A.J.S. receivers sold well and were gaining a reputation for quality and reliability.

A new range of receivers was launched in 1924 featuring a greatly improved design, and A.J.S. opened its own radio station, broadcasting from the works, using the call sign 5 R.I. Most of the programmes consisted of music, presumably as a way of helping to sell the receivers.

An A.J.S. type 'F' from 1924.

In 1925 part the wireless cabinet making department moved to the company’s Stewart Street works because sales were very high and extra space was required to increase production. A new sound proof demonstration area was also added at Lower Walsall Street, so that dealers could see the new receivers working in ideal conditions. New showrooms and offices were opened at 122-124 Charing Cross Road, London, and dealers were appointed in Australia, New Zealand, India, Siam and South Africa.

The Metal Horn Loudspeaker Shop.

The Electro Plating Shop. Nickel plating loudspeaker components.

Things continued to go well until the following year. By 1927 sales had started to fall due to increased competition, and the remaining parts of the Wireless Department moved to Stewart Street Works. Sadly things didn’t improve and wireless production ended in the summer of 1928.

Read more about A.J.S. wireless receivers

Car Bodies

In the summer of 1927 A.J.S. secured a lucrative contract to build bodies for the new Clyno 'Nine' light car. The contract couldn't have come at a better time for A.J.S. because motorcycle sales were in decline due to the depression and the introduction of cheaper small cars. The bodies consisted of a wooden framework that supported fabric covered panels and were built in batches of 50. They were made at the Lower Walsall Street works.

In its heyday Clyno was the third largest car manufacturer in the country, and large numbers of the car bodies were produced, becoming an important addition to the A.J.S. product range. In 1928 the whole A.J.S. sidecar range was also covered in the same material.

The orders from Clyno continued until February 1929 when Clyno went into liquidation. This came at a very bad time for A.J.S. who were also loosing money due to lower than expected motorcycle sales and the demise of the radio business. To try and offset the loss of the Clyno contract A.J.S. decided to produce its own light car, the A.J.S. 'Nine'. The cars were built at Graiseley Hill and the bodies at Lower Walsall Street.

The Motor Body Shop.
The Motor Body Panelling Shop.
The Paint Drying Shop.
The Body Erecting Shop.

Commercial Vehicles

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 first model called the 'Pilot' was intended for use as a long distance, high speed coach but was also sold for use as a van or lorry. 

The chassis consisted of engine, wheels, axles and all associated parts, the bodywork was left to specialist body builders. The main frames were made by John Thompson Motor Pressings Ltd at Bilston and the engine was a 25h.p. Henry Meadows 6ERC, 6 cylinder, overhead valve with a 4 speed gearbox. The top speed was 55m.p.h. and the basic chassis sold for £685.

A 'Pilot' coach.

October 1929 saw the launch of the 'Commodore' chassis, a heavy duty chassis with a 10inch deep chassis frame and extra cross members to evenly distribute the load. The engine was a 36h.p. Coventry Climax L6, 6cylinder side valve design with a 4 speed gearbox. The selling price was only £860, far lower than the competition. Only small numbers of vans, lorries or buses were built onto the chassis, and none have survived.

A 'Commodore' coach.

Read more about A.J.S. commercial vehicles

In 1931 the company was in financial difficulties due to falling sales and a receiver was appointed. A.J.S. went into voluntary liquidation in October and Lower Walsall Street Works were put onto the market. They were sold to Ever Ready on 25th January 1932, for £12,750, and went on to become an important centre for the manufacture of torches. The works now became known as Canal Works.

The main entrance to the Ever Ready factory.

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.

Another view of 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.

The factory as it looks today.

Since Ever Ready's departure the factory has almost 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.

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