General Metal and Holloware

Orme Evans & Co. Ltd.

Elgin Works, Great Brickkiln Street

Orme Evans and Co. claimed, in one of the advertisements shown here, to have been founded in 1790.  But the article on the firm in "Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Illustrated" [nd, 1899?] says that the proprietors of the company had told them that the firm was originally established in 1864 by Alfred Orme and Thomas Orme, trading as Orme Brothers. 

In 1878 they were joined by Bernard Evans and then traded as Orme, Evans & Co..  Companies usually like to claim as long a history as possible and it may be that Orme Evans tended to claim as their foundation date the foundation date of a company that they or Orme Brothers or Alfred Orme had  once taken over.

At the start of 1899 the became a limited company, Orme, Evans & Co. Ltd., with a capital of £50,000.  The first directors are given as Alfred Orme of Tettenhall Road; H. Bean Hall of Tettenhall Road; F. T. Langley, of Oakfield, Wolverhampton; Samuel Glaze, of Waterloo Road; Herbert Alfred Orme of Tettenhall Road; and Victor Dubois, of Penn Road.  At about this time many companies were taking advantage of the benefits of incorporation.

In an article in The Wolverhampton Exhibition Pictorial of 1902, the reporter, who had interviewed Alfred Orme, writes of the firm's history:  "At first purely japanned goods were manufactured, a speciality being made of tea-trays, a "line" which has been more hit than anything else.  Then tin-plate working received its proper share of attention, and when the trade declined - as it is notorious it has everywhere - the firm, ever on the alert, took up the manufacture of enamelled hollow-ware, putting down an extensive plant to produce it.  They have had their reward, having been extremely successful - more so in fact than any other English firm.  The company this year took over the Phoenix works".  The Phoenix works were those of Henry Fearncombe & Co., the famous japanners.

This is a typical story - many firms of japanners had to find other work when japanning went into decline in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Tin plate wares were an obvious recourse but many of them took to making brass and copperware, which seems to have had a resurgence in popularity as japanning declined.  Orme Evans certainly produced brass and copperwares (as had Henry Fearncombe) but, to judge by the evidence available, they were not great producers of this and certainly not on the scale of Sankeys, Beldray or even Loveridge.

The WSSI article of 1899 article refers to the Elgin Works as occupying "an extensive area on which are erected several ranges of buildings from one to three stories".

The 1902 edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows "Elgin Works (Tin Plate &c)" bounded by Brickkiln Street, Herrick Street and Alexandra Street.  

The red lined (added to the map) shows the land within a single boundary, which certainly represents an accumulation of sites. Orme Evans may well have owned accumulated other buildings shown near by.

When they took over Henry Fearncombe in 1902 they would have acquired Phoenix Works, which lay between Dudley Road and what is now the Birmingham New Road, just north of All Saints Road. 

It is not known whether they retained and used these works but in 1924 they were still displaying Fearncombe's trade mark on their letterhead (right).

The WSSI article of 1899 article says that their products include "all kinds of enamelled holloware, and enamelled advertising plates, besides a large number of specialities in sheet iron, steel, tinplate, brass and copper, and art manufactures".

The enamelled holloware includes "Anglican" enamellled are "comprising culinary and table furnishing utensils and household requisites.  There is also "Windsor" ware comprising "very pretty designs" in "dinner, breakfast, tea and toilet services, gold rimmed and lined, equal in appearance to best china".  There are also "Parisian" and "General" toilet services, all of white enamel.  One assumes that a toilet service is a set consisting of a bowl, water jug and slop bucket, which would normally be sold on a stand. They also make "sanitary enamelled wrought iron sinks".

Also listed is "a very large and varied assortment of enamelled iron signs, advertising tablets, tradesmen's swinging signs, etc."

This rather murky photo from the same source shows "A Corner of the London Showroom".  No address is given. 

Note the toilet sets to the right and the brass coal boxes and scuttles in the centre.  There are no smaller copper and brassware items discernible.  There seem to be a lot of brass lighting fittings hanging up, top centre.

"In the tinplate-working department is produced the whole series of culinary articles and kitchen requisites ... including kettles, saucepans, dish covers and many other articles ...".  There is also reference to the "household self-basting enamelled steel pan"  which is "so well known that it requires only passing allusion".  Then there is the "patent breakfast tray" which has an space within it in which "food or sauces that are required to be kept very hot may be placed".  There is also an "afternoon-tea fire-tray" which will keep a kettle boiling and tea and coffee hot without boiling and which has a white enamelled pan in which cakes of biscuits may be heated through.  These are both said to be made "under the Stormont-Murphy patents" which seems to depend on some form of solid fuel block which you set fire to and place inside the tray.  That anyway is how the "Klondyke and African" cooker, made in aluminium, seems to work, as does the coachbox and carriage heater.

The article then refers to something almost entirely different, the "Carter patent gear case for cycles, which was introduced to the public notice at the Stanley Show about ten years ago [sc. about 1889]".  Orme Evans were said to have a special department for working the patent which had great success and "many thousands of Carter gear cases have been supplied to riders of every class and every nationality in the world" - which may just be a slight exaggeration. (The advert, right, comes from 1896).

"Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Illustrated" was an advertising medium posing as a business review and the basis of the copy seems to have been provided by the firms reviewed and written up, in flowery praise, by the publishers.  Orme Evans is one of only two cases noted in this publication as mentioning a design department:  "A numerous staff of designers and decorators are constantly at work in getting out new patterns and in the production of the various goods, many of which are beautifully decorated with artistic taste and finish, this being especially noteworthy in the case of japanned goods and in the chasing and repousse decoration of coal vases and scoops, jardiniere vases, tea trays, waiters, etc..".

The single sheet flyer, shown left, must be 1899 or later as it has "Ltd" in the title. But it shows another string to Orme Evans, bow at about this time.

The trunks seem to have been steel framed boxes covered with canvas.  Trunks had become an important commodity in late Victorian times with a great increase in travel by rail and by boat to colonial parts.  

Return to the
previous page
  Proceed to
later history