Cannon Iron Foundries Limited

Deepfields, Coseley


The company was founded by Edward and Stephen Sheldon in 1826, on a piece of land, known as 'The Dowry', that been purchased from the Turton family. John Turton gave the land to his daughter Elizabeth in 1807. The company was initially known as Edward & Stephen Sheldon & Company Limited. The piece of land was ideally located for such a business, lying alongside the Birmingham Canal, next to many adjacent collieries. For around 100 years, the company purchased pig iron from the neighbouring Prioryfield Furnaces.

The opening of the Coseley Tunnel and the completion Telford’s mainline canal in 1838 must have greatly helped the business. Products initially consisted of cast iron pots and pans, which were very popular at the time.

The foundry initially covered nearly half an acre and employed between 15 and 20 people. The products sold well and expansion followed. Some time in the 1840s, Stephen Sheldon, who was the junior partner, left the business, leaving Edward solely in charge.


An advert from 1842.

On 1st April, 1853, Edward died, and the business was carried on by his sons-in-law, William Barnett and John Hawthorne. In January 1855 the name was changed to the ‘Executors of the late E. Sheldon’, then in June 1860, company director William Barnett, took the decision to change the name to E. Sheldon & Company. In May 1884 the business became a private limited company with a capital of £50,000 and became Cannon Hollowware & Company Limited. The shares were held only by the partners, who were all family members.


The site of the original factory.

The product range was greatly extended to include kettles, preserving kettles, pots, saucepans, and stewpans. The products were made in large numbers and distributed throughout much of the world. The products were continuously improved and many patents were taken out. Items were given a porcelain enamelled or a tinned finish. The enamelled products were sold under the ‘Porceliron’ name. Saucepans were fitted with patented hexagonal handles, known as ‘F.G.’, meaning firm grip.

Steam-powered automatic presses and tools were used, and the japanning shop, where the exterior of various products was given a japanned finish, had two tiers of drying stoves, each holding between 400 to 500 pots and pans. There were five floors in the warehouse, each having a weekly output of over 5,000 saucepans alone.

In the 1840s the foundry began to produce Cannon brand Colonial castings that were sold in Africa, South America, the West Indies and the Far East. The vast product range included a wide range of cooking pots, camp ovens, Havana stoves, baking pots, cassada plates, rice bowls and rice pans. One of the larger products was a huge three-legged pot with a capacity of 140 gallons, for palm oil boiling. It was sold to the West African market.


An advert from 1865.

In 1894, the company formed its own fire brigade, made-up of members of staff. The first Captain of the brigade was W. H. Hawthorne, a company director. On the 8th May, 1895, the brigade faced a huge challenge when a large fire occurred at the Deepfields site. It destroyed the warehouse and most of the stock, and caused around £5,000 worth of damage. The blaze was brought under control by the Cannon fire brigade, and fire brigades from Bilston, Dudley, Tipton and Wolverhampton.

In 1895, Cannon purchased the business of Richard Hickman, a grindstone manufacturer, and opened a grindstone department, producing Cannon ‘Excelsior’, ‘Little Wonder’, ‘Standard’ and ‘Universal’ grindstones, as well as glass cutting stones.


An advert from 1909.

In 1900, the firm became ‘Cannon Iron Foundries Limited’, to reflect the wider range of its business, which included Cannon sad irons, cast iron door hinges, axle pulleys, and even dumb bells for keep fit enthusiasts. Richard Clayton, who lived at Coseley Hall, became Chairman and Managing Director. By 1902 the firm had around 700 employees, including 40 clerks.

The ‘Porceliron’ trade mark was also used for a wide range of enamelled sanitary ware, including baths, toilets, urinals, showers and foot baths, which all sold extremely well. Products were also developed for the chemical industry including autoclaves, boilers, bowls, condensers, crystallisers, digesters, evaporating pans, stills, and tanks. The firm even produced ‘Cannon Cast Iron Quartz Crushing Mortars, which were exported to the goldfields in Australia and South Africa.

In 1905 the firm began to manufacture gas meters in London, after acquiring William Smith of London, a long established gas meter manufacturer. The business rapidly grew and large numbers were sold at home and abroad. By 1914, the firm employed about 1,000 people and by 1926 the site covered 26 acres.

Cannon also became well known for its gas fires, which were produced from the early years of the 20th century and became a great success. The fires were finished with a new patented enamelling process called ‘Vitro Lustre’ that was extremely durable and unaffected by the heat. Cannon also produced gas-heated radiators.


An advert from 1934.

Cannon gas cookers became a household name and were sold in vast quantities. The first gas cooker left the factory in 1895. At that time the gas stove department covered 300 square yards and grew so rapidly that by 1926 it covered 12 acres. This was made possible because a new works was built to the east of the railway line. The new factory, which opened in 1906, had the most up-to-date machinery and extensive warehouses. Other products produced in the new factory included bathroom geysers, boiling rings, breakfast grillers, cooking ranges, carving tables, hot closets for hotels and schools etc., laundry irons, gas-heated steam radiators, tailor’s heaters, washing boilers, and water circulators.


The new buildings for the gas stove department, were erected in 1906 on six acres of land. From Cannon's September 1915 Illustrated General Catalogue. At the front is the warehouse, with the fitting shops behind on the right.

A plan of the old and new works at Deepfields from a Cannon catalogue of gas cookers, gas heating stoves and gas meters etc., produced in about 1906.

The opening of the new factory coincided with the Cannon’s 80th anniversary and so a celebration dinner was held, at which a toast was drunk to the new works.

One of the most popular of the early gas cookers was the ‘Hercules’, which efficiently used gas for baking, grilling and roasting etc.

The company also introduced the ‘Chef’ cooker which was enamelled in dark green. There were also ‘penny in the slot’ cookers and the top of the range ‘Grosvenor’.

On Saturday 18th September, 1926, the company celebrated its centenary with an excursion to Blackpool and a celebration dinner.

Two trains carried 850 members of staff to Blackpool, where they had an enjoyable day. The celebration dinner was held in the Indian Lounge at the Blackpool Winter Gardens.


An advert from 1954.

In the mid 1930s, the company was incorporated and changed its name to C.I.F. Investments Limited, on the 8th March, 1935. The name was then changed to Cannon Industries.

By the late 1930s, the company’s products included the ‘Champion’ and ‘New Challenge’ gas cookers and the ‘Autimo’ inclined gas fire along with a range of portable heaters and radiators.

In 1952 the company changed its name to Cannon (Holdings) Limited, and in the following year, two subsidiary companies were formed, Cannon (GA), gas appliance sales and service, and Cannon (CP), chemical plant sales and service. The subsidiaries were formed when Cannon acquired the uneconomical Midland Steel Company, which was closed. In 1959, Cannon introduced ‘Power Maid’ multi-purpose kitchen appliances, under a licence from the USA. 

In the 1950s, Cannon became one of the country’s leading manufacturers of gas cookers and gas heaters. It was the first company to introduce eye-level foldaway grills.

In 1964, GEC took over Cannon Holdings Limited and in 1987, became part of General Domestic Appliances, a joint venture company owned by GEC and GE of America in 1987. In 1993, Cannon's manufacturing facility and offices moved from Coseley to Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent.

The original foundry has since been demolished and houses have been built on the site. The later development on the other side of the railway has been transformed into Cannon Business Park, where a large number of businesses are based. A few of the old outbuildings still survive and have been sold to various businesses.


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