Vulcan Manufacturing (Wolverhampton) Limited


New Griffin Works

New Griffin Works appear to have been built sometime between 1842 and 1881. The factory is not marked on the 1842 Tithe map, but can be seen clearly on the 1881 Ordnance Survey map.

In the latter part of the 19th century the buildings were occupied by edge tool maker William Edwards & Son. The business is listed in Pigot & Company’s 1842 Directory, and White’s 1851 Staffordshire Directory as being located in Dudley Road. They also owned Griffin Works in Horseley Fields, before moving to New Griffin Works.

An advert from 1891.

What remains of New Griffin Works canal wharf. As seen from the Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The next section is part of an article that appeared in the Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Illustrated. Unfortunately the date is not known.

In the construction of the New Griffin Works, many features of improvement in design and arrangement would be suggested by the long practical experience of the proprietors, and in our progress through several departments, frequent evidences of this progressive adaptation of modern appliances and methods came under our notice.

The new works occupy a most convenient site in Willenhall Road, covering upwards of four acres, bounded by the Birmingham Canal on one side, and close to the Wolverhampton and Walsall section of the Midland Railway Company. The premises comprise, in the front portion, handsomely appointed general and private offices, adjacent to which are store rooms and the entrance to the large open quadrangle, round which are ranged the various substantial buildings devoted to the manufacturing departments.

On the right and left of the entrance are four large forging shops, each fitted with a number of smith’s hearths furnished with steam blowing apparatus on an entirely new principle, one portion of the forges being utilised for the manufacture of horse shoes. The firm are the original and only makers of the ‘Best Crown’ brand, a speciality largely supplied to her majesty’s government. Other brands as shown by the accompanying Trade Marks are widely known and esteemed in the home and foreign markets. Spades and shovels are also one of the special features at these works.

Trade Marks

At the further end of the yard are the forging shops in which heavier steam hammers are placed, some weighing nearly four tons. To bear this immense weight and consequent concussion, the floor of these shops has been specially prepared upon a foundation of some eight or ten feet of massive logs of timber, concreted on the top.

The engines used in driving the machinery are of exceptional size and power, and are fitted with immense flywheels, one of the engines being served by three enormous boilers, each of 37 feet long.

At the entrance end of the premises are the grinding and polishing shops, similar in arrangement to those already described in the old works (Griffin Works, Horseley Fields). At both establishments extensive space is allotted to the warehousing and packing of the firm’s finished goods, to which our attention is next directed.

Literally speaking Messrs. Edwards and Son’s manufactures can claim world-wide utility and favouritism in their many sided application to the arts of cultivation. Railway and road-making, and mining and woodcraft operations, for which they are exclusively designed. Without entering upon a fully detailed description of the numerous range of articles of their production, we may present particulars of the more representative types of edge tools, which offer special features of interest to the trade. In implements of cultivation there are, perhaps most widely known as the inventors and makers of the ‘Royal Express’ hoe, which has almost entirely superseded the old ‘Brazil’ iron hoe, with its shoulders more than half an inch thick, and its blade 11 inches wide.

The firm also make an improved type of wrought-iron wheel barrow, with steel bodies constructed in parts, which are put-up in handy form for packing for the export markets, that they may be easily put together again when landed at their destination.

Messrs. Edwards & Son have long since met with justly merited recognition at some of the principal industrial exhibitions of the century, their record including the award of a first class certificate and silver medal for their edge tools, spades, shovels, hoes, and horse shoes at Calcutta, 1883-84. Two first class certificates and highest awards at Liverpool International Exhibition, 1886, while their handsome and attractive stand at the more recent Wolverhampton Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition obtained the highest award in its own particular section.

In 1913 New Griffin Works were purchased by the Vulcan Manufacturing Company, owned and run by the Waine family. Joseph Waine & Co. Ltd, general lock, latch & bolt makers, and brass and iron founders was located at Imperial Works, Wood Street, Willenhall. Joseph had three sons, John Vincent Waine, G. A. Waine and Horace T. Waine.

John Vincent Waine, and his brother G. A. Waine, started the Vulcan Manufacturing Company at Blackheath,  Birmingham, in about 1910. The company manufactured Heel Tips, Toe Plates and had the most up to date machinery in the world. The factory turned out 288,000 pairs of heels per week, under their Vulcan brand name.  The company specialised in a number of products including No. 0 and 1 York heels, 21B heels, mule & horse shoes for the Indian, Turkish, African and  South American markets, and japanned and galvanised door bolts. A large number of other products were produced including the following:

Brass - chromium-plated or with special finishes, stainless steel, garage bolts, cabinet bolts, japanned or galvanised door bolts, shelf brackets, aluminium door and gate latches, door stops, casement stays and fasteners, hasps and staples, hinges, brass and steel gate and tee, gutter brackets, swivel ties, tinned angle brackets, rim, dead and mortice locks, latches, padlocks, stamped brassware, and  household soldering sets.

The works covered over an acre. Extensive trade was done with the War Office, the Army and in various parts of Europe. Horace T. Waine was also involved in the business, and due to his international travels the products were also sold in Japan, Burma and Egypt. The company also had an establishment in the Potteries.

In 1913 the Directors decided to move the three factories to one site to improve the company's efficiency. In June New Griffin Works in Colliery Road, Wolverhampton was purchased, and the three factories were combined under one roof. At the time New Griffin Works was empty. The factory backed onto the Wyrley and Essington canal so that narrow boats could be loaded and unloaded.

New Griffin Works seen from Colliery Road.

In 1928, Theo Waine and his brother Mr. G. A.Waine, took over the Wearwell Cycle Company Limited from the liquidators of the Wulfruna Engineering Company Limited.

Their sons, H. V. Waine and T. A. Waine were issued with one ordinary share each, and appointed as directors at the first shareholders meeting, which took place at the New Griffin Works. The new company was registered as the Wearwell Cycle Company (1928) Limited.

Initial finance was provided by the issue of £4,000 worth of £100, 7% debentures which were the responsibility of H. V. Waine, who had also been appointed company secretary. At a second meeting shortly afterwards it was resolved to purchase from the Vulcan Manufacturing Company (Wolverhampton) Limited, the plant, tools and stock-in-trade of the cycle manufacturing side of their business, for £10,209.16s.5d.  
A view of the southern end of the works taken in 2001.
The eastern end of the buildings in the previous photograph, also from 2001.
The back of the building that fronts onto the canal.

From a photograph taken in 2001.


A close-up of the rear building. Also from 2001.

A full range of cycles were on offer in 1929 including tradesmen's cycles, juveniles, scooters, and sports machines.

The Vulcan Manufacturing Company (Wolverhampton) Limited applied for 6,000 ordinary shares of £l each to be issued for cash, and in 1931 the factory was expanded to include the production of 'Wolf' motorcycles.

The company prospered and sales continued to increase.

The works were badly damaged by fire in March 1932 when fire fighters battled for eight hours to control the fire, which caused £10,000 worth of damage.

Mr. H. V. Waine, a keen motorcyclist, was responsible for the design and production of both motor cycles and cycles, while Mr. T. A. Waine was responsible for sales. In July 1932, Mr. G. A.Waine, and Mr. J. V. Waine of the Vulcan Manufacturing Company, were each issued with one share each, and appointed advisors to the company.

A Wearwell Gents Popular bicycle.

A Wearwell Ladies Popular bicycle.


A childrens tricycle.

Waine Eastern Agencies of Singapore, were appointed sole selling agents for India, Ceylon, Burma, Straits Settlements, Siam and China. Other agents elsewhere were subsequently appointed. A considerable number of cycles were exported to India, and post war Wearwell (India) Ltd, a wholly Indian owned company, manufactured cycles with technical support from the Wolverhampton company, which had reverted to the title of the Wearwell Cycle Company Limited in 1933. Motor cycle production finally ended during the war.

A Wolf 'Cub' from 1932.


A Wolf 'Super Sports' from 1937.

H. V. Waine, who was an air raid warden during the war, remarked one night during the blitz that there was quite a blaze on the horizon, only to discover it was his own factory!  The workers set-to the following day and soon had some production restored. The factory buildings were quickly rebuilt, though fire damaged machinery was not all cleared away until after the end of the war.

After the war the cycle side of the business continued to be successful with 75% of sales going abroad, and the company cycle team won the Tour of Britain cycle race in 1953. By this time the company employed several hundred workers, and also developed a toy department making children’s tricycles, swings and other items.

Unfortunately sales declined in the late 1960s. As a result the Vulcan Manufacturing company went into voluntary liquidation in 1969, and the goodwill was sold to Tippers, who were in the same line of business.

Today New Griffin Works are occupied by hydraulic equipment manufacturer Hydrofix. The part of the factory where the bicycles and motorcycles were built has gone.

Return to the
previous page