Much of this page is based on the work of Patricia Hughes, who was writing a building history of what is now the Dixon's Building in Cleveland Street. Her article gives much useful information about the building and enables you to make some judgement about factory design and production systems. The Curator has rearranged her material about the production of the coaches and carriages for this part of the Museum and added material from other sources.

Read Patricia Hughes history of the Dixon's Building

Forder had their original premises on the corner of Garrick Street and Bilston Street where they seem to have made and traded in all sorts of carriages. The firm was founded in 1864 by Frederick Forder and a Mr. Traves. Mr. Traves retired from the business in 1866, which then became known as Forder and Company.

They became successful carriage builders, trading throughout the UK and abroad. They seem to have specialised in making hansom cabs for the London market and it was in this line that they achieved their greatest success. The hansom cab, designed and patented by Joseph Hansom, first appeared for use as a public conveyance in 1834 and was not a success. By the 1870s however it had been improved by several people and the finest version was said to be made by Forders.

A Forder advert from 1902.

The story of the great success of the Forder hansom appears in Philip Warren and Malcolm Linskey, Taxicabs: a Photographic History, Taxi Trade Promotions, 1980. 
As abbreviated and re-written for this exhibit by the Curator, the story may be told as follows.
In 1868 the Society of Arts had offered gold and silver medals as prizes for two and four wheeled hackney carriages. The cab makers did not respond, preferring cash prizes to offset possible expenses. So in 1872 the Society tried again, offering £60 for the best improved cab of any description, £20 for the next best two and £10 for the following two. The cabs had to be ready for an Exhibition at South Kensington in 1873 and that the judges had to be satisfied that the cabs had been working on the streets of London for three months.

Another advert from 1902.

The committee of judges could not decide between the 16 entries and divided the prize money between four entrants: C. Thorn of Norwich; Mr. Lambert of 66 Great Queen Street, Holborn; Messrs. Quick and Mornington of 8 Netherwood Street, Kilburn; and, of course, Messrs. Forder of Wolverhampton.

A few days later the winners were inspected by the Prince of Wales at Marlborough House. He seems to have had a far clearer opinion of which cab was best and immediately ordered the Forder cab for his own use.

On 4th October 1875 the Society held another competition, at Alexandra Palace. No doubt given some reassurance by the Prince of Wales' purchase, they declared the Forder cab to be the outright winner.


Warren and Lynskey explain that "the most important of Forder's improvements was the reintroduction of the straight axle. [Previous cabs had had a cranked axle which passed under the passenger compartment] This was achieved by cutting away the body of the cab under the passenger seat. He also raised the driver's seat some 7 feet above the ground. Thus he achieved the perfect fulcrum. The driver's weight counterbalanced by the shafts meant a perfectly balanced vehicle. In addition as the weight was taken off the horse it was possible to maintain a high speed and greater manoeuvrability." These cabs could go at about 15 mph.

We might add that by using better materials and lighter wheels they had reduced the weight and made it more comfortable, even being the first to manufacture cabs with doors which could be opened and closed by the driver.

For many years thereafter Forders appear to have been turning out hansoms for London as fast as they could. But they also had a higher class trade in one-off productions. The Prince of Wales granted Forders his Royal Warrant, Queen Victoria's followed and the company also built for the Duke of York and many other members of the British and Foreign royalty and nobility.

Soon after this very public success, with orders pouring in, Forders needed new premises.
For over forty years the Tudor Works in Cleveland Street had seen the production of coach and railway carriages and coaches and harness, including the part-exchange of carriages and renting them out.

A slightly different Forder advert from 1902.

Later on, probably in the 1870s, Alfred Tudor, independently of the family firm, carried on the same line of work in the collection of buildings known as the Tudor Works. Alfred's presence there is said to have drawn Forders' attention to the site when they needed to move.

In 1880, they acquired the Tudor works in Cleveland Road and had a purpose-built manufactory constructed on the site to provide much needed increased floor-space. According to Richard Forder, Alfred's great grandson, the successful company's factory was run as a production line.

An advert from 1884.

Only three years after the 1882 opening, plans were drawn up for further expansion. The original plans for a new building which would have covered the existing site and extended it greatly, were abandoned and only the building on the extended site went ahead; the original two-storey building was left in place.

It has not been established when the new building was first used but Forders occupation of it did not last long.

In 1893 a notice in the London Gazette, reported in the Wolverhampton Chronicle of the 6th December indicated financial problems. The extension was sold to Thomas Reade on the 1st December 1893. The basement had been leased to the Staffordshire Brewery in 1890 on a five-year lease.

The cause of these financial difficulties is unknown. The date is too early for it to be attributable to competition from motor vehicles. 

One can only speculate that the new building may have proved too costly or, even, that there was bad management somewhere. Frederick Forder, the founder, died in 1896, a fact which may be significant.

Carriage manufacture under Forder's name carried on in the old building into the twentieth century. This advert dates from 1914. But the trade probably did not survive the First World War.

The following account of the company comes from "Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire, Illustrated" of about 1897. This is basically an advertising booklet, which companies paid to have an entry in, even though the material was presented as objective editorial comment. It probably fooled no one at the time. So the account is certainly the best picture than can be painted but interesting and full of information. Note how upbeat it is, at a time when the company must have been struggling. (The Curator has re-typed it and added some paragraphs).


Works: Cleveland Rd., Wolverhampton; Show-rooms: Lichfield St., Wolverhampton.

London show-rooms: 7, 8 & 9 Upper St. Martin's Lane, W.C.

For many years past this important and admirably-conducted business has occupied a position of great distinction in the cab and coach-building trades, and it may be questioned whether any other firm has ever been entrusted with so many valuable commissions from those in high places as have Messrs. Forder. Founded in 1864 by the late Mr. Frederick Forder and Mr. Traves, the concern has progressed steadily and surely, until now its reputation is of the highest. Mr. Traves retired from the business in 1866, which then became known as Forder and Company.

The first distinct success the firm achieved was in connection with a prize offered by the Society of Arts, for a hansom cab which would remedy the defects of those then in use in regard to "want of room, the difficulty of getting in and out, by reason of the interference of large wheels, and the want of ventilation when the windows are closed." For this there were no less than sixteen competing firms, including many of the most famous carriage builders in the United Kingdom. After an exhaustive examination of the various cabs submitted, however, the prize was awarded to Messrs. Forder, whose vehicle was and is a distinct advance on those generally in use.

Their success in the competition was followed by an order from the Prince of Wales, who had taken a warm interest in the matter, and some little time later they received a warrant of appointment to H.R.H.. The cab has since been known as the PATENT ROYAL HANSOM, and it has been the only cab awarded first-class prizes for three successive years in open competition with the principal cab builders of the United Kingdom, these being awarded Messrs. Forder at the London International Exhibition of 1873, when they received a medal; at Manchester, in 1874, when they received the special and only gold medal; and again at Manchester, in 1875, when they received the first prize in the Manchester Cab Competition. The same year saw another and even more important competition in Alexandra Park, and here again two first-class prizes and one special prize were awarded to Messrs. Forder, for the Royal Hansom.

The cab is roomy, well ventilated, and has an easy draught for the horse, and the success it has achieved is undoubtedly well deserved.

Three years later, however, it was decided to further extend the business by the issue of fresh capital open to public subscription and this was done successfully; the same year being marked by the receipt of a warrant of appointment to the Queen. Mr. Frederick Forder, the founder of the business, died in 1896, and the present directorate consists of Mr. Charles Forder, the chairman of the company, who manages the Wolverhampton works; Mr. Alfred Forder, the London manager, and Mr. Robert Muras, the secretary. The late Mr. R. Forder and the present members of the family may fairly claim to be considered experts in the matter of cab manufacture, and leave taken out several valuable patents, affecting important improvements.

Messrs. Forder, it may be said, are largely responsible for the rubber-tyred cabs, which have proved such an unqualified success, and which they induced Lord Shrewsbury to try experimentally on his first hundred hansoms. They have now a special plant for tyre manufacturing purposes, and do an enormous business in supplying coach builders with them.

Amongst the hundred of distinguished and prominent people who have from time to time patronised Messrs. Forder, we may name H.M. the Queen. H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, the Princess Malakoff (of Paris), Prince Belorselsky (of St.Petersburg), Prince Orloff, County Henry de Portes (Paris), W. K. Vanderbilt, Esq., G. A. Vanderbilt, Esq., Andrew Carnegie Esq., of the U.S.A. of A) and Sir James Sievewright, the President of the Cape Parliament. These, it should be said, have come to Messrs. Forder, not only for cabs, but carriages also, which have of late years been made in every description and with great success.

Messrs. Forder make all their own wheels, springs, and iron work generally, and at their works opposite the General Hospital, in Cleveland Road, over a hundred employees are kept busily engaged. The Company have recently taken some fine showrooms in Lichfield Street, one of the most important thoroughfares in Wolverhampton.

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