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 companies:
  Charles Richards and Sons Limited
  David Etchells & Sons Limited
  Rubery Owen & Company Limited
  Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds
  Garringtons Limited
  Wilkins and Mitchell Limited
  The Steel Nut & Joseph Hampton Limited
  The Darlaston Bolt & Nut Company
  The Wellman Smith Owen Engineering Corporation Limited
  E. C. & J. Keay Limited

 

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 hundredweights each.

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
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, and pressings.

 


Samuel Platt Limited, King's Hill Foundry. From the collection of the late Howard Madeley.

Wilkes Limited

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 2006.
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 1884.
 
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.


 
Sand, Clay, Bricks and Pots

George Ward (Moxley) Limited is a well known firm which was a significant employer in the town. It was the last in a line of manufacturers to exploit the rich glacial sand and clay deposits in the Moxley area. Some of the deposits were alongside the Walsall Canal, which allowed heavy loads to easily be transported at a time when many roads were simple dirt tracks.

The fine-grained sand deposits were ideal for use in moulding boxes in local foundries, making it possible to produce accurately detailed castings. Sand from the sand beds was used for casting as early as the late 18th century by John Wikinson at his Bradley foundry and ironworks.

For much of the nineteenth century the clay was used for brick-making, at a time when there was a great demand for bricks, because most of the local towns were rapidly expanding. The many brick makers included the Wood family (John Wood, Thomas Wood, and William Wood) who ran Moxley Brickworks, alongside a small canal basin in between Baggotts Bridge and Darlaston Road Bridge; Hodgins and Bromley, brick and tile makers, and sand merchants; Price's Brickworks; W. R. Price & Hewitt Lime & Brick Works; Murby's Brickworks at Moorcroft Wood; David Rose alongside the Albert and Moxley Ironworks; Martin & Foster; and Baggott's Bridge Brick Works near to Baggott's canal bridge.


An advert from 1921.

Conditions in the early brickworks were extremely basic, and work was hard. The report by the Children's Employment Commission of 1864 includes the following description of the girls who worked at Woods Brickyard and David Rose's Brickyard:

At Mr. David Rose's Yard, Moxley.

Anne Wooley: I began when I was 15. I mould now. I am 24. I am paid by the thousand. I have 2 girls to carry clay. One is going 16 and the other going 15. I make about 2,000 bricks in a day. I have to work the
whole time from 6 to 6 to do that. I always stop half an hour for breakfast and 1 hour for dinner.

The clay carriers at this yard had to carry the clay from the bottom of the pit to the tables at the top; the ascent was about 10 yards in 70 yards.

At Mr. Wood's Yard:

In this yard the girls had to carry the clay up a steep rise of about 12 yards in 50 yards.

Mr. J. Swindley, currier, Freeth Street, Oldbury: I have lived in the town 30 years. I am well acquainted with the habits and conditions of the girls employed in the brickworks. The employment of young females at this work is looked upon as a shame by all us tradesmen. The girls have to do men's work along with the men, I have often been shocked to hear the language and indecent talk among these girls when they work. After their work is over which is generally about six o'clock, they dress themselves in better clothes and accompany the young men to the beer shops. They are a good deal in the habit of spending their earnings in beer shops with the men. They are ignorant of all household work, and quite uneducated.

In the early part of the twentieth century, George Ward took over the Baggott's Bridge site and opened the Jubilee Brick & Sand Works, producing bricks and supplying sand to foundries, and for polishing.


An advert from 1921.


Edgar Ward.

In 1920 George Ward was joined by his son Edgar after he finished his schooling, first at Dorsett Road Council School, then Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.

In the early 1920s the demand for bricks fell, and so in 1921 Edgar developed a method of producing flowerpots from the Moxley clay. Something that had been unsuccessfully attempted before.

The firm then began producing flowerpots, which were very popular and sold in large quantities.

Edgar was also a member of Darlaston Council who represented the Catherine's Cross Ward, and lived at Marlborough House, 59 Moxley Road, Darlaston.

In the late 1930s the family moved to 8 Ednam Road, Wolverhampton and called their new house 'Darlas'.


Workers at Ward's clay pit in the 1930s. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.


Producing a large pot on the potter's wheel.


The fully-loaded kiln.

Wards produced all kinds of traditional clay pots and became well known for their high quality products.

Eventually the firm had to move with the times. Plastic pots were added to the product range. They were a cheaper product and finally-took over from the clay pots.

Wards had three rotational moulding machines, and around 20 injection presses, mostly Windsor machines. Most of the products were made from polypropylene or high density polyethylene.

The later product range consisted of  moulded plastic plant pots, planters, propagators and watering cans, much of which was exported.

The firm was finally taken over by Plysu in 1997. After which production at Darlaston ended.


An advert from 1972.


An advert from 1963.

Comrade Cycles

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 & Sons

It became a family business. Simeon's daughter Florence, sons Jack and Richard, grandsons John and Philip, and granddaughter Lynda also worked at the factory.

They became well known for their high standard of craftsmanship.

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 Stake.

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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