General Metalware and Holloware

Henry Loveridge & Co

General History

The originators of this firm were William Shoolbred and Henry Loveridge.  According to W. H. Jones's "Story of the Japan, Tin Plate and Iron Braziers Trades ..." (London, 1900), from which much information on this page is taken, Shoolbred was a Scot who came to Wolverhampton "when quite a young man.  He began his business life as a retail tailor in Dudley Street, in partnership with his brother Robert.  ... Finding he had not enough scope for his energies in the retail tailoring trade, he determined to make a change.  ... We find Mr. Shoolbread joined Edward Perry as a partner in the Japan trade in Paul Street.  Here Mr. Shoolbread remained for some years, taking an active part with Perry, until an opportunity occurred of which he promptly took advantage". (Note that Jones refers throughout to "Shoolbread" but an original deed and the only marked item of their wares say "Shoolbred"; the Curator has, therefore, seen fit to adopt that spelling here.

Edward Perry was a well established japanner and Shoolbred must have learnt the trade while he was with Perry.  The opportunity which occurred, and which seems to have prompted Shoolbred to have left Perry, apparently quite suddenly, was that Charles Mander, having decided to concentrate on varnish making, put his japanning business up for sale.  In 1840 he sold the business to Shoolbread on the condition that it be removed from Mander's premises in John Street: Mander needed the room to expand the varnish business.  

According to Jones, Shoolbred took into partnership Henry Loveridge, apparently from the start.  But it may be more complicated than that.  A deed of 29th September 1869, (Wolverhampton City Archives, Deed/372) shows Shoolbred as the sole owner of the premises (if not of the business).  The deed recites the conveyance of the bulk on the land on which the factory stood to Shoolbred in 1840.  The deed also recites a mortgage of 1847 by which the premises were mortgaged to one Martin Wilkes for a sum which totalled £6,000.   It seems that during the first seven years of the enterprise money was raised from elsewhere, and the lenders may have included Edward Perry, and that in 1847 the mortgage was taken over by Wilkes.  But up until 1869 there is no mention of Loveridge.  On the other hand a catalogue of 1855 (Wolverhampton Archives DX-894/9/2/23) was issued in the name of Loveridge and Shoolbred. 

Jones refers to Loveridge as a young man at the time and apparently a salesman who had worked with Waltons. A firm's salesman at this time was often enough the owner himself or a member of his family or a partner.  It is therefore possible that the firm was set up as a partnership between Shoolbred and Loveridge but that property transactions were carried out in Shoolbred's name and that he was seen as holding the property in trust for the firm.

Jones relates that "The new firm soon secured a piece of land at the bottom of Merridale Street [the site is now a green open space, about 100 yards from the Ring Road] which at the time was considered quite outside the town and was surrounded on all sides by fields and gardens.  They soon made plans for a large manufactory and began to build".  

This depiction of the works is taken from the 1879 advert shown below.  The variations between the parts of the building suggest that they were not all built at the same time. 

"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.

Merridale Works shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1903.  Perhaps significantly the map adds the description "Copper, Iron, Tin Plate &c".

"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. 

A large kettle in black japan with gold decoration, cast iron stand and handle supports, ebonised wooden handles.  The whole thing stands about 15 inches high.

This piece is evidence of Loveridges' having engaged in tin plate working and in iron casting.

The maker's mark and registered design mark inside the lid of the ketttle shown above.  The firm's name is Shoolbred Loveridge and Shoolbred; the diamond mark seems to show 16th June 1845.  This may show that Shoolbred junior joined the firm very early on; and that the firm was in production well before 1848.

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.

This watering can, from 1859, appears in an early Loveridge catalogue (in the possession of the Wolverhampton City Council, by whose courtesy it appears here).  

The date and the shape of the handle will be carefully noted by those who think that Christopher Dresser designed for Loveridge.

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.

This advert comes from Hulley's Directory 1879-80.  This advert, and the letterhead from 1909 (below) between them refer to medals won at exhibitions in London 1851, Paris 1867, London 1862, New York 1853, New Zealand 1865, Calcutta 1883-4, and Melbourne 1888.  Loveridge's also supported Wolverhampton's local Art and Industry exhibitions.

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.

A warming plate (note the tube at the bottom for pouring in the hot water. 

The base is of tin plate and is marked.  The plate would have been bought in, though it is just possible that Loveridge's designed it.  The style seems to be a loose version of the aesthetic.

Part of the page from Silber & Fleming's catalogue.  The cooking pot in the centre of the bottom line is marked "Loveridge". The firms main concern at the start was with tin plate wares, mainly for domestic use.

A page from the catalogue of the London wholesalers, Silber & Fleming (undated but the late 1880s), shows cooking utensils of cast iron.  One of them shows the name "Loveridge".  There is no other firm known to which this might refer.  

As the japanning trade fell away in the last quarter of the19th century many firms turned to new products.  Jones mentions that many japanners took to making brass and copperware. 

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.

Japanned tin plate cash box.

Photo courtesy of Greg Kolojeski.

Certainly they went in for brass and copperware, though exactly when they started has not been established. 

This advertisement appeared in 1920.  

The fact that it mentions their products in the order: brass, copper, iron and japanned wares, may be significant of where the core business now was.

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:

Loveridge, Colonel Henry (H. Loveridge & Co), Elmsdale, Wightwick.  

Loveridge, H & Co., Merridale Works, Merridale Street. patentees and mnfrs of copper, iron, tin-late, papier machie [sic] & japanned wares.

Loveridge, Samuel Esq., JP, holloware manufacturers ( T & C Clark & Co), Danes Court, Tettenhall.

Loveridge, Walter (T & C Clark & Co), Manor Ho., Oaken.

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.

This spittoon, in copper, enamel and cast iron, is marked by both T & C Clark and Loveridge and is evidence of a close association between the two companies.

This letter, dated 1909, is addressed to T & C Clark.

It confirms that patent kettles are in stock and offers the standard discount of 45%This suggests that commercial dealing between the companies were at arm's length.

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.

The site of Merridale Works today.  Merridale Street is in the foreground and Russell Street is on the other side of the green space.  The photo was taken from Zoar Street looking towards the Ring Road.

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.

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