General Metalware and Holloware
Henry Loveridge & Co
"Fortunately for them a good mine of excellent clay suitable for brickmaking was found on the land. Several brick kilns were put up and plenty of cheap bricks helped them along". Perhaps they were not simply lucky in this. Brickkiln Street is not far away and presumably the kilns after which it was named used clay from the spot. Shoolbread and Loveridge may have picked this out of town site at least partly because they guessed, or even knew, that brick making clay was to be found there.
"Mr. Shoolbread was intensely anxious at this time. He could be seen every morning at six o'clock watching the progress of the brickmaking and the building of his manufactory. The handsome pile of buildings was finished in 1848 and opened to the great joy of the partners. During the erection of the new works the japanning trade was carried on at the old place in John's Lane".
Jones is not good at dates but, taking these at face value it seems to have taken eight years to build the factory. Certainly it was a large place - but not that large. It must be possible that it was built in stages and occupied in stages and that after eight years the whole was finished.
Shoolbred and Loveridge could not only finance this new works but "the japan stoves for drying were constructed on an entirely new plan, which proved a great success". Presumably they took on Mander's old workmen but, if they immediately occupied a large works such as their's at Merridale, they must have quickly employed a lot more. It is more likely that they increased their work force gradually as the premises grew stage by stage. It is also clear, from the 1855 catalogue, that they were not solely engaged in japanning. In that catalogue there is only one reference to japanned goods, all of the rest of the extensive range of goods being in tinplate. It was not uncommon for firms to issue separate catalogues for different branches of their work and this may be the case here, with the more elaborate items, including those on papier mache, being marketed separately.
According to Jones, at some point (possibly within the first few years of the firm's life) Shoolbred's son, also William, who had also worked at Edward Perry's, became a partner and the firm became Loveridge, Shoolbred, Loveridge. William died quite young and the firm then became Loveridge and Shoolbred. Eventually William Shoolbred's health started to fail and he, "feeling that he had a competency", retired. This appears, from information in Henry Loveridge's obituary, to have been in 1860. It may have been but the deed of 1869 is a conveyance of all of the firms premises from William Shoolbred to Henry Loveridge for the sum of £10,000. The deed recites that the original mortgage was paid off in 1860. So Shoolbred may have given up any active interest in the firm at that time but retained ownership of the land and buildings. Then by 1869 Loveridge was doing well enough to buy the land and premises, thereby taking the whole business into his sole hands. It may be significant that Shoolbred is referred to in the deed as a "woollen draper"; so it may be that, in some role or another, he reverted to something like his original calling. The 1869 deed also records that, in addition to the main factory buildings, which lay between Merridale Street and Russell Street, the firm had also acquired the cottages numbered 98 - 102 (all inclusive) Merridale Street, 6 messuages in Russell Street and land on the east side of the factory,
Thus the firm became Henry Loveridge & Co. It became a joint stock company in 1903. Unfortunately Jones is not good at giving dates and nobody has yet scoured the sources to try to establish dates for the deaths of the two William Shoolbreds. Henry Loveridge died in 1892.
Of the senior William Shoolbred Jones says: "Mr. Shoolbread was a pronounced Liberal in politics but took little active part in town affairs; his sympathies were ever on the side of progress. He was for many years (in fact, until his death) a Free Churchman, and a member of the Queen Street Congregational Church. He was much respected for his integrity and kindliness."
Somewhat more can be said about Henry Loveridge, who was in control during the greater part of the firm's existence. An account of him appears on another page.
By the third quarter of the 19th century Loveridge's was one of the biggest firms of japanners in the country. It made both tin and paper japanwares but was said to have concentrated on articles of utility rather than ornament, though it was well represented in the latter field by the artist Richard Stubbs. Their japanware is hard to identify because, although some pieces have been found with the word "Loveridge" stamped into them, they did not usually mark their japanned work.
Samuel Griffiths, in his Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain, 1873, writes: "The japannery of Wolvrhampton is the best in England. Mr. Walton's artistic designs, produced at the Old Hall, for artistic design, elegance of shape, and excellency of workmanship, supersede all others in the United Kingdom; there are three or four other very large concerns, all producing first-class goods in their own peculiar styles; the largest and most important of these, and the greatest favourite in the London Market, is Mr. Henry Loveridge, late Shoolbred and Loveridge's. All the japanners carry on tin plate working" (p.94). (One can but assume that by "supersede" Griffiths meant "transcend"; and that he used "peculiar" in the old sense of "characteristic" or "individual"). He also comments (p.95) that in Wolverhampton "G. & W. Underhill's monster warehouse [which was in Castle Street] and Henry Loveridge's Japan Works, are buildings well worth seeing; the stock of Iron at the former, and the number of hands and activity in japan work at the latter, surpass anything of the kind in the United Kingdom". Griffiths always wrote with enthusiasm and at least one eye on attracting advertising for his publications but clearly Loveridge was carrying japanning and general tin plate work; and was doing so in one of the largest factories in Wolverhampton. It is generally true to say that Wolverhampton was a town of small factories and large buildings like Loveridge's were the exception - particularly at the time when they were built. The building was not big by the standards of, say, the Lancashire cotton mills and if Loveridge's works surpassed anything in the United Kingdom that would only relate to japanning works and, just possibly, tin plate works.
That would be an easy step to take, especially for those japanners who had made their own tinware for japanning: the processes involve forming sheet metal. For Loveridges' this was probably a matter of expanding the tinware side and adding brass and copper wares. But japanning certainly continued right to the end, but mainly on utilitarian pieces rather than highly decorative pieces.
The later history of the firm is even more speculative, the one certainty being that it closed in 1927. Hurley's Directory of the Hardware District 1889-90 gives a few clues. They include the following entries:
It is known that Henry Loveridge himself had no children. It seems that the ownership of the firm came into the hands of Samuel Loveridge. Little is known about Samuel Loveridge but he was a rich man, a partner in the T & C Clark foundry and apparently the owner of a wide range ofpropoerties in Wolverhampton.. He appears in the 1881 census as living at Danescourt (a large house originally built by Edward Perry) and being aged 59. This makes his date of birth 1822 (or thereabouts). He is recorded as "Magistrate, Ironfounder employing about 800 men, women and boys" and his place of birth is given as Birmingham. With him at Danescourt are his wife, Catherine, his son Walter (clerk), his second son Henry (a student at Cambridge) and Ellen Julia Underhill, a niece aged 7. There are also six living in servants and, at Danescourt Lodge, the groom, the groom's wife, their three children and a boarder who is also a groom. Henry Loveridge appears in the 1871 census as having been born in Birmingham. It is likely that Henry and Samuel were brothers who came to Wolverhampton (perhaps as children); one made his way in japanning and the other in iron founding. But the Samuel Loveridge who owned the firm in the 1920s cannot be the Samuel Loveridge born in 1822. The best guess is that he is a son of either Walter or Henry Junior.
It seems from the evidence of Mr. Victor Tuckley that in 1927 the owner of the firm was then Samuel Loveridge. Samauel's firm was T & C Clark, a large iron founding company, operating the Shakespeare Foundry and making, amongst other things, cast iron cooking utensils. Tuckley refers to Samuel as being only a figurehead and one gets the impression that Samuel had little interest in the firm and there was no investment or other development.
The last man to be apprenticed in Loveridge's factory was
Victor Tuckley. There is a record of his recollections of the
company between 1923 and 1927, which gives much information about the
firm in its last days.
After 1927 the Merridale Works was occupied by Ceandess Ltd.. This is shown by their entry and advert in the Wolverhampton Official Handbook for 1962-3 where their address is shown as Merridale Works, Merridale Street; and where they say that the company "moved to larger premises in 1927 where ... the firm still operates". Whether they occupied all or part of it is not known. It was still their address in their last noted appearance in the 1967 Handbook. Certainly in later times the premises had many different occupants, including Corfield Cameras (qv), who moved into a small part of them in 1949 and moved out again in 1959, having been told by the Council that the premises would be demolished. But it seems that the building was not actually taken down until 1973.