Minerva Iron and Steel Works

The steel works were founded in 1857 by Isaac Jenks who was born in 1816 at Sedgley. In 1828, at the age of 12, he began an apprenticeship at the Shrubbery Iron Works, which were opened four years earlier by George and Edward Thorneycroft.

Isaac Jenks in his mayoral robes in 1872.

After the end of his apprenticeship Isaac worked for Solley Brothers at Great Bridge Iron Works and learned the process of converting puddled, or malleable iron into puddled steel.

He is listed in White’s Staffordshire Directory of 1851 as an Iron and Coal Master in Horseley Fields.

In 1857 he founded the Minerva Iron and Steel Works in Horseley Fields, and soon opened Beaver Works in Lower Horseley Fields.

Jenks was a very successful, self-made businessman who became one of the most wealthy ironmasters in Wolverhampton. Minerva and Beaver works went from strength to strength, and by the early 1870s the works were producing up to 80% of the total UK steel exports to the USA.

Minerva Works in 1872.

There were 21 puddling furnaces, and 4 mills and forges at Minerva works. At the time iron prices were low, but the price of steel increased. All kinds of the best puddled steel were produced as can be seen from the advert below. 

An advert from 1872.

Another advert from 1872.

Isaac Jenks was a staunch Wesleyan Methodist, and when he became Mayor of Wolverhampton on November 9th, 1872 the Corporation attended Darlington Street Methodist Church to hear a sermon. He had a kind and benevolent disposition, a quiet and unassuming man, who gave freely to good causes, particularly those assisting the building of places of worship.

During his time as mayor he gave the gold chain and badge of office that would be worn by future mayors at council meetings and civic functions. It is of Greek design, weighs 30ozs. and cost £250. 

In 1871 he gave £100 towards the conversion of former police cells in the old police station building in Garrick Street to provide a classroom for the town’s first technical school. The room held up to 60 students and became known as Jenks’ Classroom. The official opening of the classroom took place in April 1873.

He lived with his wife Rebecca, 2 sons and 3 daughters at Morley House on Dunstall Hill, now the site of a modern housing estate. In the 1902 Wolverhampton Red Book the occupant is listed as Miss E. A. Jenks, and Minerva Works is listed as Jenks & Sons, iron manufacturers, Horseley Fields. They are not listed in the 1908, or any of the later Red Books.

Wulfruna Coal Company

Minerva works were eventually demolished and a new basin was erected by the canal company, in the southern half of the site. The northern part of the site, stretching from the new basin to Horseley Fields became known as Minerva Wharf, and was acquired by the Wulfruna Coal Company in the 1930s.

The company was formed in 1850 and based at Bridge Wharf in Bilston Road.

After moving to Minerva Wharf, both sites were initially used, but by the late 1930s the company had completely moved from Bridge Wharf.

At the time it was owned by Major Alex Wood of Faintree Manor near Bridgnorth.

An advert from 1902.

An advert from 1968.

Minerva Wharf can be seen on the right of this photograph from the 1930s.

A description of the company from a 1960s Wolverhampton Handbook.

The company is still operating from Minerva Wharf today, and now works from one of the very few remaining coal wharves on the BCN.

The basin on the southern end of the site.

A recent photograph of the Wulfruna Coal Company.

A final photograph of the coal company's site.

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