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.
Shrubbery Iron Works
The site at the beginning of the 20th
century when the Shrubbery works were derelict.
|The Briton Motor
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
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
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.
|Production moved to the site in 1913. During the
First World War car production continued until 1917,
when some ambulances and large commercial vehicles
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.
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.
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 Sidecar Erecting Shop.
|The Sidecar Finishing
|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
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.
about A.J.S. sidecars
||The Internal Timber Store.
||The Blacksmiths Shop.
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
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
The Metal Horn Loudspeaker
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.
about A.J.S. wireless receivers
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
||The Motor Body Shop.
|The Motor Body
||The Paint Drying Shop.
|The Body Erecting Shop.
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.
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
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
Ever Ready's Lower Walsall Street
factory closed in the early 1990s. The company went
into liquidation in 1998 and reformed under the name
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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