Many of the major manufacturing companies in Darlaston
were founded in the 1870s and 1880s. Some of them became
the largest employers in the area, with a worldwide
reputation for quality. This happened against a
background of depression, as many people were out of
work. There were riots in Wednesbury by the unemployed,
and deaths from starvation were not uncommon.
||Read about some of the larger
Charles Richards and Sons Limited
||David Etchells &
||Rubery Owen &
||Guest, Keen and
||The Steel Nut &
Joseph Hampton Limited
Darlaston Bolt & Nut Company
An advert from 1963.
|Another well known company, E. C. & J. Keay Ltd. was
founded in 1879 at New Street, Birmingham. They were
builders and ironmongers. In 1884 they moved to Cyclops
Works, West Bromwich and began to manufacture fencing,
fittings, and steel fabrications.
In 1887 the company moved to "Bridge Yard", James Bridge where they produced many products over the years and
specialised in structural steelwork for all types of
buildings, such as schools, hospitals, factories,
offices, and warehouses. Bridge Yard site had three
large open shops, and good access to the railway, nearby
ironworks and rolling mills. By 1890 the firm had added
an iron foundry to the site for the production of
bearings and cast ironwork.
|The firm provided the steelwork for Birmingham Snow
Hill railway station, which consisted of 6,000
tons of steel. Keays also supplied 1,000 tons of
steelwork for Leicester railway station, and the
steelwork for Neachells No.1 and No.2 power stations,
the latter using 8,000 tons of steel.
Other contracts included the Great Western Hotel at
Paddington, many bridges, hoppers, bunkers, riveted platework, welded fabrications, and railway signalling
the steelwork for this 100ft clear span
Keays provided the structural
steelwork for the Midland Counties Dairy on the
corner of Lea Road, Wolverhampton. Built in 1930/31.
|In 1957 they became part of the Hingley
Group and were absorbed into F. H. Lloyds in 1960. Sadly they were another victim of the
recession of the 1980s. The F. H. Lloyd group collapsed
|W. Martin Winn Limited
W. Martin Winn Ltd. opened their factory at Heath Road
in 1907. It was a family business that started by making
wrought iron nuts and bolts. They quickly realised the
advantages of steel and produced some of the first steel
nuts and bolts in Darlaston. The business quickly grew
and many of the company's products were produced from
bright drawn steel. Between 1920 and 1930 the cold
heading process was introduced which led to the
production of high tensile steel bolts. Heat treatment
was later introduced for the production of high tensile
carbon steel bolts, and alloy steel bolts. They also
produced extra large bolts weighing two or three
In the 1950s the firm began to produce bolts and studs
that were suitable for high temperature installations.
Large numbers of them were sold to oil refineries, and
to manufacturers of steam raising equipment. In later
years the company benefitted from the decision to
introduce a unified thread to make British and American
screws interchangeable. Large numbers of the firm's
unified nuts and bolts were produced. The factory closed during the
recession in the 1970s, but a small tool making
business called Winn Tools remained in the original
office building until a few years ago. Winn Tools was
founded in 1964, and survived until June 2009.
An advert from 1946.
An advert from 1909.
||Samuel Platt Limited was based at
Kings Hill Foundry, and produced a wide range of
products including machinery for tube making,
nut and bolt making, drop hammers, and stripping
presses, reeling and straightening machines,
stamping machines, and drop hammers.
Other products included lathe chucks,
pulleys, mill gearing, shafting, shaft fittings,
Samuel Platt Limited, King's Hill Foundry.
From the collection of the late Howard Madeley.
The business was founded in 1840, and in 1897 took over
Wilkes’ bolt, nut, and fencing manufacturing business.
In 1890 it became a limited company, and by 1914
employed 350 people.
||The old Darlaston Nut and Bolt
works, known locally as "Bogie Wilkes".
The factory stood on the corner
of Cemetery Road and Kendricks Road.
|A view of the rear of
Darlaston Nuts and Bolts. The factory was demolished in
||A view of Darlaston Nuts and
Bolts from the railway bridge in Kendricks Road.
The factory, originally called the
Grand Junction Works was named after the railway
(originally the Grand Junction Railway) and located
there because of it.
An advert from 1902
An advert from 1921.
Some of the last buildings from
the Grand Junction Works in Cemetery Road. They were
demolished in the late 1990s.
An advert from 1884.
The Staffordshire Bolt, Nut, and
Fencing Company's factory, London and North Western
Works, stood near Bentley Road South, in between the
Walsall Canal and the London & North Western Railway. It
was connected to the railway by a siding which also
served the nearby canal interchange goods station. The
importance of the railway to the company can be seen
from the name given to the works. This advert is from
The Wellman Smith Owen
The business was founded in 1919 to acquire a major
share of the American company, Wellman-Seaver and Head,
steel works engineers and contractors; and also James
Smith Hoisting Machinery Company Limited, specialists in
dockside cranes and hoisting machinery. The new corporation also took over the engineering
department of Rubery Owen. Mr A. E. Owen was chairman.
It became a public company in 1924, and had a number
of factories in the UK, including the one at Darlaston.
During the Second World War the company manufactured
shell forging machines, bridge laying equipment, cranes,
and shot furnaces.
The firm's shell forging machines were used in
Australia, Canada, India, and the USA. The machines
could produce in excess of 350 anti-aircraft, 3.7 inch
shell forgings an hour, and produced around 80 million
shell forgings during the war, using over two million
tons of steel.
Other war work included the production of machinery
for the Mulberry harbours, and the Pluto pipeline, and a
large number of steel smelting furnaces, and gas
An advert from 1946.
A Wellman Smith Owen level-luffing
In August 1965 the name was changed to the Wellman
Engineering Corporation, which consisted of five main
subsidiaries, including Wellman Machines Limited, and
the Wellman Incandescent Furnace Company, both based at
The Darlaston factory closed in the 1980s and was
acquired by Wilkins and Mitchell.The crane opposite uses the company's patented level
luffing gear which ensures that the hook remains at the same level whilst moving
the jib up and down. Cranes of this type were sold in
France, and also manufactured for the Russian Ministry
of Supply. The crane was designed for the handling of
coal or iron ore, and could deal with loads of up to 15
It was electrically operated and ran on 10.5
metre-wide track. With ballast it weighed around 240
tons, had a hoisting speed of 35 metres per minute, and
could travel on the track at a speed of 35 metres per
minute. There were two 75 BHP. Metrovick motors, each
of which drove a winch. One of the winches raised and
lowered the grab, the other opened and closed it.
|The superstructure of the
||The crane legs and the
self-reeling drum for the power cable.
|The crane was operated from a 3-phase 380 volt, 50
hertz supply, to which it was connected via a 60 metre
length of trailing C.T.S. flexible cable. The cable was
automatically payed-out and taken-up as the crane ran
along the track, by means of a weight-operated
Five 1kW heaters were fitted so
that the cranes could work in low temperatures. Three
were in the machinery house, and two in the operator's
The operator's cabin.
A Wellman 85 ton scrap charger in
use at Richard Thomas & Baldwins Limited, Spencer Works,
Llanwern, near Newport, South Wales. The 2 charging
boxes are being lowered onto the scrap charger.
|The company's many products included an
85 ton scrap charger.
This was ideally suited for use
with LD convertors, a German designed refinement of the
Bessemer convertor, that blows pure oxygen instead of
air through the molten metal..
|One charging box is in the
tilted position to charge an LD convertor.
After charging, the box will be
lowered, and the electrically powered scrap charger,
which runs on rails, will be moved forward to position
the second charging box over the mouth of the convertor.
||A final view of the scrap
charger, showing an empty charging box returning to the
|Partridge & Company
Sometime before 1850, Simeon Partridge, a grocer, began
to make tallow candles for sale in his shop at 28 Pinfold
Street, which he produced in a small backyard workshop. He soon opened a small factory behind Slater &
Company (solicitors) in Walsall Road, not far from the
Bull Stake. Unfortunately the building burned down in
1900 and manufacturing ceased. His son Alfred soon
opened another factory on the southern side of Heath
Road next to several old flooded mine shafts, one of
which supplied the works with water. Products included
tallow candles, yellow and carbolic soap.
The candles were made by repeatedly dipping candle
wicks, suspended from a frame, into molten tallow, until
the required thickness was obtained. After each dipping
the tallow was allowed to cool. One ton of tallow made
around 25,000 candles, and in a record year in the 1930s
the company made 4,000 tons of candles of various kinds.
In 1910 Gilbert Partridge took over at the works
which were sold to ESSO Limited in 1957. Within a few
years the factory closed.
|Read about a local pioneer
of the trade union movement
An advert from 1922.
An advert from 1963.
Simeon Taylor had a shop at 76 Pinfold Street, where he
sold sports goods, and repaired bicycles at the back. He
suffered from hearing difficulties and so his wife
helped in the business.
The Taylor family lived upstairs above the shop and
had several children. Simeon built a workshop and
started to assemble bicycles.
Sometime later Simeon purchased an old nut and bolt
factory on The Leys, in between Alma Street and Stafford
Road, in which to manufacture bicycles and tricycles.
The factory was previously occupied by David Harper &
It became a family business. Simeon's daughter
Florence, sons Jack and Richard, grandsons John and
Philip, and granddaughter Lynda also worked at the
They became well known for their high standard of
|Simeon died in 1960 after a long illness. By this
time half of the company's products were exported, and
many competitors had ceased to trade because of cheap
foreign competition. Comrade went on to become the
largest independent cycle manufacturer in the country.
The company was hit by the recession in the late 1970s
and 1980s, and moved to new premises near the Bull
Unfortunately it all came to an end in 1987
because of the continuing recession, and the large
number of cheap foreign imports that flooded the market.
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