General Metal and Holloware
Thomas Holcroft & Sons Ltd.
A brief history by Reg Aston
As a child being brought up in the 1950s in the Ettingshall area, the
sight of the buildings of Thomas Holcroft and Sons in Ettingshall Road
was both impressive and depressing. They were tall, three or four
storied, with rows of metal framed windows with small panes of glass
that must have been covered with layers of a combination of soot, grime
and any other mixture that had been put into the atmosphere by the local
stacks during the previous fifty years. Certainly it had been a long
time since sunlight had penetrated those windows. It was
everyone's idea of what a Victorian workhouse should look like. Even
today, whenever I travel down Ettingshall Road towards Monmore Green, I
always look left just after crossing the canal bridge and recall the
factory buildings that once stood between Ettingshall Road and the
canal. I recall my Uncle, Sonny Wainwright, was employed
there as a watchman and my dear old Gran Wainwright worked in the
canteen. Today it is the site of a large car park to a cash and carry
|This is the site of Holcroft's works, shown on the
1902 revision of the Ordnance Survey map.
The works do not have and connection with the railway to the
west but they do have an extensive frontage to the Birmingham
Canal Navigations. Ettingshall Road forms the eastern
boundary of the site, crossing the canal at Catchem Corner
Thomas Holcroft was born in a house in Coseley Street, Bilston.
Between 1822-4 he was the Manager at William and John Sparrow & Sons'
coal and iron works of Bilston New Mill & Furnaces. In 1834 a
trade directory listed him as Agent for the Company.
Kelly' Directory for 1870 lists Thomas Holcroft, engineer, iron and
brass founder and millwright at his Bilston foundry. The company was
also known as a manufacturer of waterworks pumping engines, mill and
Holcroft's was one of the larger firms which received a
mention in Lawley's History of Bilston, published in 1893. He
"A hollow-ware works of great size has within the last
few years been erected at Ettingshall by Messrs. T. Holcroft & Sons.
Some hundreds of hands are here employed - a large addition to the works
having been made two years ago. Of this establishment Mr. Harold
Holcroft has the active management."
In that year, 1893, the firm was incorporated, Thomas Holcroft becoming
Chairman, with his brothers William and Charles, sons Harold, Arthur and
Frederick, and his nephew George Harry Holcroft, as well as former Works
Manager, A.H.Mould, all as fellow directors. On his death in 1904 Thomas
was followed as Chairman by his son Harold who was also the managing
Kelly's 1900 Trade Directory lists the premises at Market Street,
Bilston. The foundry in Ettingshall Road was for the manufacture of
hollow-ware and hardware.
The range of products produced around 1900 was extensive.
Round-Bellied Saucepans (1 pint up to 3 gallons)
Porridge Pots (1/2 pint, 1 gallon)
Frying Pans (4" dia. up to 24" dia.)
Coffee Pots and Chocolate Pots
Rice Pudding Pans
Negro Pots (2 pints to 10 gallons)
Dog Troughs and Spittoons in various styles
(left: a kettle from my collection)
In 1903 a serious fire occurred at the pot and pan factory.
Several men died, including a fireman.
During the First World War the company manufactured hand grenades and
other cast iron products for use at the front.
In 1928 Harold Holcroft relinquished his position of Chairman due to
ill health and was followed by Frederick Holcroft, his younger brother.
Mr. R. H. Halbeard was appointed Managing Director and remained until
||This advert, from 1950, only mentions domestic
hollow-ware but at the time they were also making castings of all
|This 40 pint pot is marked "Holcroft" on this side
and "Aga Esse" on the other side, showing that Holcrofts were making
equipment for the famous Aga cookers.
From Frank Sharman's collection.
||A 6 pint pot from Holcrofts. The finish shown
in the photo is certainly not the original.
From Frank Sharman's collection.
|This advertisement appeared in the 1967
Wolverhampton Official Handbook. It emphasises castings; but
their listing in the Handbook refers to the company as
"Manufacturers of flat-bottom cast-iron hollow-ware, and of
repetition grey iron and non-ferrous castings".
But at this time the end was not far away and the company
closed in 1969.