One of the first companies in the town to have large workshops was S & R Carter of King's Hill Works, which was located off Birmingham Street, on a site later occupied by Darlaston Tram Depot.

The area around Birmingham Street in the 1830s. Based on the OS map from the 1831 to 1838 series.

In 1841, brothers Simeon and Reuben Carter were both coach smiths, Simeon living in Eldon Street, and Reuben in Darlaston Road. By 1842 they had started a manufacturing business, as can be seen from the following entry in the Wednesbury section of Pigot & Company's 1842 Directory:

The brothers acquired a house, workshop and yard on 683 square metres of land  alongside a small alley on the western side of Birmingham Street (then known as King’s Hill Road), roughly on the site of  Corns Street. It can be seen on the 1846 Wednesbury tithe map. By 1851 the brothers and their families were living in two adjacent houses on the northern side of the Black Horse pub, in what is now called Old Park Road.

Simeon and Reuben Carter's site. Based on the 1846 Wednesbury Tithe Map.

A directory entry from 1850.

In the 1851 census the brothers are described as master smiths employing seven men. The census lists two apprentices at Reuben Carter’s house, and another at Simeon’s House, who were presumably employees. They were William Cooper, Henry Mansey, and Isaac Ennes. The firm is listed in Kelly’s Directory for that year as railway carriage and coach smiths, manufacturing railway carriage and coach bolts, draw links, steps and brakes, buffer rods, and ironwork of every description.

Slater's Classified Directory, 1851.

From WilliamWhite's 1851 History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire.

By 1860 the business had grown. It is listed in the 1860 Kelly’s Directory as S & R Carter, King’s Hill Works, contractors and manufacturers of iron bridges, girders, tanks, boilers, wrought iron roofs, fastenings and every description of railway ironwork. To produce these products, the firm would have required more and larger workshops, more staff, and more space. It is likely that some of the empty surrounding land was acquired from the owner, James Corns.

From Harrison, Harrod & Company's Directory & Gazetteer of Staffordshire, published in 1861.
In the 1861 census the brothers are listed as railway iron manufacturers. By this time their three eldest sons also worked in the business. In 1862 building work began on the London & North Western Railway’s Darlaston Branch, which opened on 1st September, 1863.

It ran from a junction on the main line at James Bridge, through Darlaston town centre, to a junction close to Wednesbury Town Station, on the line from Walsall to Dudley. It included Darlaston Town Station, situated in the cutting between Walsall Road, and Darlaston Road.

The railway, which ran close to King’s Hill Works, included a siding that ran directly to the factory. It must have been extremely useful to the firm.

Large amounts of goods were transported by the railway company, both day and night, serving many factories along the route.

From Jones's 1865 Commercial Directory.

By this time Simeon Carter was running the business alone, because Reuben died on 27th March, 1863 at the early age of 47. The firm now employed a considerable number of people. An article appeared in the Worcestershire Chronicle on 17th August, 1864 that described a works’ outing to Malvern. Around three hundred people enjoyed their day out, which had been paid-for by the management. The group would have included not only employees, but also close family members, as well as a band of musicians from Bilston. The large number of employees gives an indication of the scale of the operation at the factory.

An impression of how King's Hill Works may have looked in the 1860s. It is based on a poor copy of a photograph of an etching that is believed to be of the factory. Unfortunately the original seems to have been lost. This view is looking eastwards towards Birmingham Street. I have to thank Peter Carter for the original image.
At the beginning of 1866 the future looked bright, but things rapidly went wrong. The firm was a customer of the Birmingham Banking Company, which suffered severe liquidity problems during the financial crisis of 1866, and failed. As a result S & R Carter's bills were not paid, much to the displeasure of the creditors.

The following notice of a creditors meeting appeared in The Manchester Courier & Lancashire Advertiser on 20th July 1866:

During the month under review the failures have been unprecedented. ...and we have a circular before us signed by Mr. James Slater of Darlaston inviting the creditors of Mr. Simeon Carter to meet at his office in Darlaston at eleven o’clock on Monday next. This last is a most distressing case. Mr. Carter has abundance of property, is known to be an honourable man, conducts an immense business, and his bills have been returned through withdrawal of legitimate banking accommodation. Surely his creditors will meet promptly, and assist Mr. Carter to carry on his extensive concerns, as there appears to be no doubt of his solvency, with a large surplus.

Simeon Carter declared himself bankrupt and offered to pay his creditors 10 shillings in the pound on their respective debts, in three instalments. The first of 5 shillings, followed by two others of 2s. 6d.The offer appeared in the following notice in the London Gazette on 7th August, 1866:

The following notice of his bankruptcy appeared in the London Gazette:

A meeting of the creditors was held in James Slater's office on 6th March, 1867, during which most of those present agreed to accept his offer, and take no further action. As a result he was  discharged from bankruptcy on 15th May, 1867, and made the final payment to his creditors in July 1868.

On 15th June, 1867 an advert appeared in the Birmingham Gazette for the sale at auction of King's Hill Works. It includes a list of the workshops, and plant, and gives a good impression of the layout of the site:

Important and Extensive Freehold Ironworks at King's Hill, Darlaston, and Freehold building land adjoining the station and Cobden Street, Fallings Heath.

As a whole it forms one of the best works in the district, being substantially built, well arranged, and admirably situated, being bounded by the railway, into which there is a siding, thereby affording direct communication to all parts of the kingdom.

Lot 1.  A small and compact freehold ironworks situate at King’s Hill, Darlaston, with good Dwelling House and Outoffices, Forging Shop, Screwing Shop, Warehouse, Smith’s Shop, Engine House, and other erections, with good yard, approached from the street.

Lot 2.  Another desirable, small freehold ironworks adjoining lot 1, also with Dwelling House attached, large Forging, Smiths’ and other Shops and Sheds, Steel warehouse, etc., and a spacious Yard and Gateway Entrance from the street.

Lot 3.  The extensive and Commanding Girder Works at King’s Hill, with capital Fitting Shop, lofty Stack, iron Erection Shed, and other sheds, good Offices, and upwards of an acre of Freehold land, possessing a large frontage to the street.

Lot 4.  An important and improving lot of freehold building land, having a frontage to the Wednesbury Turnpike Road and to an intended new road, bounded on one side by the South Staffordshire Railway; adjoining the Darlaston Station, now ripe for building purposes, the whole containing an area of 10,000 square yards. The entire property will be first offered as one lot, and, if not sold, in the foregoing ones. As a whole it forms one of the best works in the district, being substantially built, well arranged, and admirably situated, being bounded by the Railway, into which there is a siding, thereby affording direct communication to all parts of the kingdom.

Machinery.  The undermentioned articles, forming part of the valuable machinery, now in the premises, may be taken to at a valuation by the various purchasers of the different lots, at their option, and should they decline to do so, the same will be sold by auction, on the premises, on Wednesday 26th inst.

On Lot 1.  Fifteen double and single Screwing Machines, the majority with bevel reversing gear, one Headstock with mandrill and cutters, and lever for rounding; about 125 ft. of shafting, with couplings, carriages and pullies complete; Heating Furnace and Stack, seventeen horsepower Steam Engine, all complete; Punching Machine, Shearing and Punching Machine, iron-plate Girder and Blast Culverts etc.

On Lot 2.  Blast Culverts.

On Lot 3.  Two Steam Boilers and Fittings, of twenty and twelve horsepower, grating, flues etc. complete; ten horsepower Vertical Steam Engine; range of 2in. Shafting, etc.; and iron Lattice Girder, three large Punching and Shearing machines, three horsepower Steam Engine, and powerful Lever Punching and Shearing Machines etc., complete; two heating Furnaces and stacks, five horsepower Steam Engine, complete; and about 51 ft. of Shafting etc., large self-acting Planing Machine, steam pipes and cocks, Blast Culverts, and Railway.

On Lot 4.  The Railway

Lot 5.  An improving Plot of freehold building land, having a frontage of twenty seven yards to Cobden Street, Fallings Heath, Darlaston, containing in the whole 1,971 square yards.

Lot 6.  Another Plot of freehold building land, having a frontage of 29 yards to Cobden Street, Fallings Heath, Darlaston, and containing 1,701 square yards.

For lithographic plans and particulars apply to Messrs Harding and sons, Solicitors, Waterloo Street, or the Auctioneers, Temple Row, Birmingham.

As can be seen from the above description, the factory in its final form covered quite a large area. The auction was held at The Castle Hotel in Pinfold Street, on Monday 24th June, 1867 at 5 p.m. followed by a second auction at the site, on Wednesday 26th June.

The site was acquired by the Staffordshire Tramways Company Limited for the building of the Darlaston Tram Depot which opened in 1883.

The advert for the sale of the tram depot in 1927 also includes the dimensions of the site.

The site is now occupied by York Crescent.

I have to thank Peter Carter, who supplied much of the information. He has extensively researched his family and their various business ventures. 

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