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
||The Wellman Smith
Owen Engineering Corporation Limited
||Another well known company, E. C. & J. Keay
Limited was founded in 1879 at New Street, Birmingham by
Ernest Charles Keay and his brother James Keay. They were
builders and ironmongers. In 1884 they moved to Cyclops
Works, West Bromwich and began to manufacture fencing,
fittings, and steel fabrications.
The site that would
eventually be occupied by the company at James Bridge,
originally belonged to Samuel Mills, the wealthy
industrialist and land owner who ran Bills and Mills
ironworks at The Green. After his death in 1864 much of
his land was sold-off by his executors, Richard Mills,
Martha Mills, and James Slater.
In January 1870, just over an acre of land alongside
James Bridge Railway Station and Walsall Road was
purchased for £150 from the executors by Simeon Carter,
who three years later formed his own firm, Carter, Ford
& Company Limited, manufacturers of wrought-iron
bridges, girders, roofing, railway ironwork, and cab
A Keay builders plate.
|The company opened James Bridge Ironworks on the
site, but only had a relatively short life, going into
liquidation in September 1886.
In December of that year, the company's property and
assets were put up for sale, and in January 1887 were
acquired by the Keay brothers. In June 1888 they
purchased an adjacent three acres of land from Martha
Mills and James Slater, along with a strip of land on
the opposite side of Heath Road.
An advert from 1963.
Keays produced the steelwork for
this one hundred feet clear span
|In 1887 Keays moved to "Bridge Yard", as
they called the James Bridge site, and produced many products over the years,
specialising 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.
|E. C. & J. Keay was incorporated in 1893, and listed
in the 1896/1897 Peck's Trades Directory of Birmingham
as makers of steam boilers. By 1898 the business had
moved to James Bridge, and within twelve months 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, transported to the site on the firm's
Pollen railway girder wagons. Keays also supplied 1,000 tons of
steelwork for Leicester railway station, the cast iron
pillars used in Kensington High Street Underground
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, railway signalling
equipment, and the fencing and gates for Willenhall
Memorial Park. Keays also built Norfolk Bridge at
Shoreham-by-Sea in 1923. In 1935 the firm became a
In 1957 Keays became a subsidiary of
N. Hingley and Sons, Limited, and in November 1960, part
of F. H. Lloyds, when the firm took over the Hingley
Group. Sadly they were another victim of the
recession of the 1980s. The F. H. Lloyd group collapsed
An advert from 1912.
Keays provided the structural
steelwork for the Midland Counties Dairy on the
corner of Lea Road, Wolverhampton. Built in 1930/31.
|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
|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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