Walsall is usually remembered as the centre of an extensive leatherworking industry, but in reality there was much more. It used to be known as ‘The town of a hundred trades’, which included all kinds of metalworking, tube making, iron and brass founding, electrical engineering, car and motor scooter making, chain making, lock making, and much more.

Walsall became a wealthy Black Country town because of its many industries that flourished, thanks to the hard-working, and skilled labour force. At the beginning of the 19th century the principal trades in the town were as follows:

awl blade makers
buckle makers
bradoon makers
bridle bit makers
bit makers
bone and ivory turners
brush makers
brass coach founders
bridle cutters
bridle and harness tongue makers
carpenters’ tool makers
coopers’ tool makers
curb makers
coach bit makers
  coach harness makers
iron founders
dog chain makers
nail makers
saddler’s ironmongers
spur makers
spur rowel makers
stirrup makers
snaffle makers
saddle tree makers
set makers.
In 1864 William Franklin wrote a paper about Walsall's trades as part of a government report.

Read his paper      


Leather Trades

The industry started from small beginnings in the early 19th century. The 1801 census lists the occupations of the heads of households, and acts as a rough guide to the number of people employed in the industry. The following list is based on the information in the census:


Bridle cutters
Coach harness makers
Glove makers
Thong makers
Whip makers



Number of people employed



The number of people employed in the saddlery and harness trades rapidly increased during the 19th century:




Number of people employed


Before the leather trade developed in the town, Walsall was well known as the centre of the lorinery trade. Since the 16th century Walsall’s blacksmiths had been producing hand-forged bits, buckles, saddle trees, spurs, and stirrups etc. Some loriners diversified into saddle and harness making, as a way of extending the range of their products. It seems likely that saddle and harness making in Walsall developed as a result.

Read about Walsall's Leather Industry

One of Walsall’s oldest manufacturers, founded in 1760, is Eyland and Sons Limited, originally based at Rushall Street Works, number 11 Lower Rushall Street. The firm was established by Moses Eyland, and produced spectacles and buckles. It became one of the best known spectacle manufacturers in the area.

It is listed in the 1818 Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory by W. Parson and T. Bradshaw as Moses Eyland, optician and saddler’s iron monger. In the editions of William White’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire for 1834, and 1851, the firm is listed in two sections: buckle makers, and opticians and glass grinders. In the 1899 Walsall Red Book the firm is listed as spectacle manufacturers and buckle manufacturers, but it seems that spectacle manufacturing soon came to an end.

By the early nineteenth century the factory occupied much of the row of terraced houses that still stand today, although some were demolished in the slum clearances during the 1930s. They were originally small workshops. Parts of the factory were in a large courtyard at the back, much of which was destroyed by a fire in 1878. New buildings were then added behind the terraced workshops.

The row of houses in Lower Rushall Street, Walsall. Once the site of Rushall Street Works.

According to Howard D. Clark in his book ‘Walsall Past and Present’ published in 1905, the firm exported large numbers of spectacles to many parts of the world, but this part of the business was badly affected by protective tariffs in various countries, and so the firm diversified into gilding, electro-plating, nickel plating, and buckle manufacturing.

The business still survives, and now operates from F. H. Tomkins’ factory in Brockhurst Crescent, Walsall.

The old workshops in Lower Walsall Street were renovated in the 1990s and converted into apartments.

The old courtyard and factory at the rear is now called Eyland Grove, and is occupied by apartments and a car park.

From the 1916 Walsall Chamber of Commerce Year Book.

From the 1958 Walsall County Borough Directory.

Heavy Industries

Heavy industry and large scale manufacturing came to Walsall in the 19th century thanks to the building of the Walsall branch of the BCN, the Wyrley & Essington Canal, improvements to the roads, and the advent of the railway.

The heaviest industry in the town was iron-making, which developed due to improved transportation, and copious supplies of local coal, iron ore, and Wenlock Limestone, used as a flux in the smelting process. Walsall like many other Black Country towns had several ironworks and non ferrous metalworks.

An advert from 1935.











An advert from 1935.

Walsall's Ironworks and Metalworks
T. Partridge & Company Limited. Structural engineers
Johnson Brothers & Company Limited. Fencing, railing, gates
Swallow Motorcycles
Swallow Sports Cars
Kirkpatrick Limited

Other Industries

Chain making

In the middle of the 19th century, chain making was a significant industry in Walsall, particularly chains associated with horses and carts. As the demand for such chains fell in the 20th century, the industry declined, but in the 1970s Walsall still had five chain makers, 3 making harness and dog chains, and two making chains for industrial applications.

William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire published in 1851 lists the following manufacturers:

Dog and Light Chains

Thomas Clark, Wisemore
Samuel Cooper Rycroft
George Griffiths, Stafford Street
Benjamin Harmes, Hammer Forge Lane
Joseph Kendall, Bank Street
Stephen Parker, Stafford Street
Thomas Reynolds, Stafford Street
Joseph Richardson, Wisemore
Joseph Russell, Ryecroft Street
James Shale, Stafford Street and Blue Lane
Elijah Whitehouse, Stafford Street
Edward Wilkes, Lower Rushall Street

Cart Harness Chains

John Adams, Birchills Lane
Thomas Boot, Lower Rushall Street
Davis Dewsbury, Wisemore
John Emery, Pool Street
Joseph Moseley, Church Street
Henry Shelley, Green Lane
Samuel Stephens, Ablewell Street
John Watkins, Nichols’ Yard
Edward Webster, Green Lane
Edward Wilkes, Lower Rushall Street

Curb Chains

William Barnett, New Street
John Beebee, Wisemore
William Bellingham, Upper Rushall Street
Joseph Butler, Stafford Street
Joseph Cooper, Stafford Street
Samuel Cooper, Ryecroft
Thomas Cooper, Ryecroft


Curb Chains cont.

Daniel Derby, Wisemore
George Evans, Thurstan’s Buildings
George Griffiths, Stafford Street
James Hale, Ablewell Street
Isaac Hanby, Lower Hall Lane
Charles Hanby, Hill Street
James Hawcroft, Caldmore
John Hickin, Bank Street
James Holden, Townend Bank
Joseph Lowbridge, Hammer Forge Lane
Joseph Lowbridge, Blue Lane
Thomas Mills & Son, Albert Street
Richard Morroll, St. Pauls Street
George Noke, Green Lane
John Osborne, Blue Lane
Samuel Osborne, Blue Lane
James Parker, Day Street
Stephen Parker, Stafford Street
Charles Reynolds, Stafford Street
Charles Ridding, Stafford Street
Edwin Roper, Hill Street
John Russell, St. Pauls Row
Joseph Russell, Ryecroft Street
Richard Shelley, Marsh Lane
Joseph Somerfield, New Street
Thomas Swan, Caldmore
Charles Webster, Caldmore
John Webster, Green Lane
John Webster, Marsh Lane
William Webster, George Street
Charles Whitehouse, Wolverhampton Street
Thomas Whitehouse, Marsh Lane
James Williams, St. Pauls Row
Simon Williams, Fieldgate

By 1935 the number of manufacturers had greatly reduced. The following list is from the Walsall Red Book for that year:

Chain Makers

P. Bull & Son, Margaret Street
W. J. Burns, 12 Carless Street
J. H. Carter, 16 Butts Road
J. A. Dewe, 72 Bath Street
O. D. Guest Limited, 51 Vicarage Street
J. H. Hawkins & Company, 16 Station Street
J. T. Hyde, 1 Caldmore Road
H. D. Jackson Buckle Company Limited, Hospital Street
F. Martin, Vicarage Place
S. Middleton, Back 18 Burleigh Street
H. Noakes, 77 Regent Street, Brownhills
T. Russell, 75 Regent Street, Brownhills
Stokes & Sons, Northcote Street
F. H. Tomkins Limited, 14 Caldmore Green
S. Venables & Son, 20 Shaw Street
Walsall Locks & Cart Gear Limited, Neale Street
Job Wheway & Son Limited, Birchills Chain Works, Green Lane

An advert from 1935.

Awl blades

Awl blade manufacturing began in the town in the late 18th century, and concentrated in the Bloxwich area. Awl blades were a necessity in the leather and saddlery trades until the introduction of stitching machines which greatly reduced the demand. A few manufacturers survived in the Bloxwich area, but by the mid 1970s only one still survived, Thomas Somerfield & Sons Limited, Clarendon Street, Bloxwich.

An advert from 1935.

William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire published in 1851 lists the following manufacturers:


James Ashwell, Caldmore
Emma Collins, Pleck
Clement Ross, Bradford Street
James Ross, Little London


Charles Beech
Samuel Edge
George Evans
Henry Hackett
Charles Jones
Mark Nicholls
John Nicholls
Michael Parker
Michael Partridge
Thomas Partridge
John Reeves
Thomas Reeves
Isaiah Ross

  Bloxwich cont.

Thomas Ross & Sons
Edward Russell
Thomas Somerfield
John Stokes
James Taylor
James Taylor junior
Daniel Wilkes
Thomas Woodall

Short Heath

John Bullock
James Hodson
Mrs. Lebond
Henry Mason
Thomas Parker
Samuel Somerfield
William Somerfield
David Wilkes
Thomas Wood

The manufacturers in 1935. From the Walsall Red Book:

W. J. Goodwin & Son, Burrowes Works, Wolverhampton Road
W. C. Harvey, 30 Bell Lane
E. Hill, 20 The Green, Bloxwich
John Nicholls & Beddows, Wallington Heath, Bloxwich
J. Parker, 26 Marlborough Street
A. Ross & Company, 76 Sandwell Street
F. J. Ross & Sons, 140 Sandwell Street
Ross & Son, 501 Bloxwich Road
Somerfield & Sons, Clarendon Street
H. Vale & Sons, 18 Holtshill Lane

Lock Making

In the 19th century, Walsall had a number of lock manufacturers, mainly specialising in cabinet locks, and padlocks. In the 20th century the number fell. Only four remained in the 1970s, and about the same number remain today.

William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire published in 1851 lists the following manufacturers:

Cabinet Locks

James Archer, Prospect Row
Charles Carless, Hill Street
William Duncomb, Blue Lane
John Lowe, George Street
William Marshall, Hammer Forge Lane
John Purchase, Blue Lane
Edward Rose, Caldmore
Mrs. Round, Birchills
Charles Tuckley, Birchills Lane
Windle and Blythe, King Street


Elias Ash, Stafford Street
John Bates, Intown Row
John Bates, Whitehall


Padlocks cont.

James Hart, Wolverhampton Road
Henry Johns, Garden Walk
Joseph Mills, Mountrath Street
Mills and Tibbits, Upper Hall Lane

Rim Locks

Mrs. Webster, Adams Row

Trunk Locks

Samuel Bayley, Station Street

Stock Locks

Stephen Yates, Brewer’s Yard

Manufacturers in 1935. From the Walsall Red Book:

Ash & Rogers, Pargeter Street
Bloxwich Lock & Stamping Company, Bell Lane, Bloxwich
J. H. Goodman, 37 Harrison Street, Bloxwich
Hadley & Company, Mountrath Street
W. J. Heap & Son, 84 Lower Rushall Street
H. Johnson & Company, 150 Portland Street
D. Lycett, 45a Portland Street
Neville Bros & Company, Wednesbury Road
F. T. Sanders, 77 Field Road, Bloxwich
E. F. Sharpe, 14 Freer Street
A. E. Stych, 74 Pargeter Street
Walsall Locks & Cart Gear Limited, Neale Street
A. Wilkes, Bloxwich Works, Bloxwich
O. Wilkes, 39 Cairns Street
Stephen Wilkes & Company, Pargeter Street
S. Wilkes & Sons Limited, Park Road, Bloxwich

Brush Making

Brush making became an important industry in Walsall in the late 19th century. It began in the 1760s with just a handful of makers including Joseph Nightingale, who had a workshop in Chapel Street; Hannah Reynolds; George Reynolds, based in Church Street; and Simon Burrowes whose premises were in Rushall Street. James Pigot’s Commercial Directory for 1818 lists the following makers:

Thomas Brown, (bone and ivory) Rushall Street
Joseph Buss & Company, ( bone) Dudley Street
John Groves, (wood) Stafford Street
Charles Hall, (wood and bone) Park Street
Thomas Mele, (bone) Rushall Street
Joseph Reynolds, (bone and ivory) Rushall Street
Thomas Thornhill, Stafford Street

The industry slowly grew. William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire published in 1851 lists the following manufacturers:

John Adkins, Peal Street
William Allen, Ablewell Street
David Clarke, Park Street
Joseph Cook, Bradford Street
James Eagles & Sons, Park Street
Maria Fletcher, Lower Rushall Street
Philip Holloway, Wisemore
Richard Thornhill & Sons, Bridge Street
William White, Stafford Street

Bone & Ivory Brushes

Joseph Busst, Lower Rushall Street
Joseph Busst junior, Stafford Street
George Jones, Park Street

By the mid 1860s around 100 people worked in the industry, making brushes of all kinds, ranging from paint brushes, clothes brushes, and shoe brushes, to hair brushes. In the latter part of the century the industry was mechanised, and production vastly increased. Most of the factories were near the town centre, but three were in Bloxwich.

The number of manufacturers slowly fell, and by 1921 only nine were left. The number continued to fall to leave only three in the 1960s: Bradnack & Son at Defiance Works in Birmingham Road, Busst & Marlow in Lower Rushall Street, and Vale Brothers in Green Lane. In 1967 J. Brierley & Sons Limited moved to Forest Works in Forest Lane from Birmingham, to produce industrial brushes and personal giftware.

Busst & Marlow closed in the early 1970s, and Vale Brothers acquired Bradnack & Son, and moved to Defiance Works to concentrate on production of grooming brushes for animals. The company is now based in Long Street and also makes horse-whips,

There was also the United Society of Brushmakers, which met at The Prince in Delves Road.

Manufacturers of Clothes

By the late 19th century Walsall was at the centre of a large clothes manufacturing industry. The best known manufacturer was Shannons, founded by Scottish draper John Shannon, in 1826. In 1845 he opened a shop in George Street, on land he leased from Lord Bradford, and in 1870 opened a workshop there. The business employed 20 people to make men’s clothing for the local market. He was mayor of Walsall in 1850-51. After his death in 1875 he was succeeded by his son Edmund John, who greatly expanded the firm, mainly due to the recently invented sewing machine.

A Model Tailoring Factory.  From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 11th May, 1888

Messrs. Shannon and Sons, of Walsall, employ altogether 937 hands, 800 on the premises, 137 finishers off the premises. They turn out in very busy times 10,000 garments a week, and pay about £800 in wages. The conditions that prevailed during a visit paid yesterday, without a minute's warning, may presumably be accepted as normal conditions.

Every room was fairly ventilated. Half the windows were open, half the shafts and revolving fans and airbricks and soon were blocked up as the result of the workpeople's own carelessness. In one room a girl thoughtlessly placed her shawl and bonnet on the spout of an airshaft; in another, a lad, finding the ventilating chamber a handy receptacle for waist material, stupidly filled it up. But no system can stop such blunders as these.

In the largest room, where 200 women and girls were employed, complaint was made that there was too much air. There were no draughts, but the powerful ventilators in the V-shaped roof sucked up all the foul air and made the room cool. Gas-heated pressing irons are in use, and to minimise the heat, experiments are being made with escape flues, which are intended to carry off the air fouled by the gas burnt. The electric light has been recently installed, and now every workshop is fitted with arc lamps.

The pressing room is the only room uncomfortably warm, night or day, and it is proposed shortly to transfer the ironers to a larger, loftier, and better arranged gallery, with specially contrived flues and fans to carry off the hot air. Captain Bevan, the Walsall Inspector of Factories, has no improvements to suggest, the employees have no blame even for one's private ear.

The books show that fair wages are being earned. Last week the men, women, and children were exceptionally busy, and they will remain busy for two or three weeks so the wages paid last Saturday would be somewhat misleading. A glance at the average for a year is more interesting and instructive. There are 300 machines at work, managed by girls ranging from 14 to 25 years of age. These earned last year - according to age and ability - 9s.4d., 12s.6d., 16s.3d., 7s.10½d., 8s.9d., 10s.8d., 17s.1d., 5s.3d., 16s.ld. These are figures taken haphazard from hundreds of ledger entries.

Girls are generally engaged at 13 or 14 years, and earn little for two years; then, according to whether they are clever or stupid, they carry home from 7s. - 12s. a week; if they remain unmarried at 21, they can earn 18s. or 20s. in busy times and 15s. a week all the year round.

Juvenile's clothing is sold now at exceedingly cheap rates. A boy of eight years can be rigged out in quite a dainty costume for 3s. 3d. - jacket, blouse and knickerbockers. Yet in the making of these inexpensive suits, girls average 8s.ld., 7s.l0d., 9s.4d., and 13s.8d. a week, and averaged a little less for the year. Coat machinists who must possess more skill, earned last week - 12s.9d., £1.3s.9d., 8s.10d., and £3 a week, and averaged a little less for the year. Vest machinists do not earn quite so much; trousers baisters can gain from 12s.11d., to 23s.6d., per week; coat and vest buttonhole makers from 6s.10d., to 18s.8d.; coat pressers were paid from £1.7s. to £1.16s; trouser pressers were paid as much as £2.10s. (an average week would represent about 30s.) These wages are earned by working ordinary hours - eight to eight. The clean, neat clothes and bright faces of the people indicate that the only sweating they experience is that required by any diligence in any manual trade.

A wintry view of George Street, with Shannon's Mill on the left. From an old postcard.

By 1887 the workshop had become too small and so the impressive four storey Shannon’s Mill was built. The brick building was in three parts, two of eight and eleven bays, and a central part with eight bays and elaborate stone stringing.

Around 1890 the firm became John Shannon & Son Limited, and at the turn of the century the building was greatly extended. By 1905 Shannons employed over 2,000 people, mainly 14 to 25 year old girls who operated the 300 or so machines. The girls started work at the age of 13 or 14 and were not paid at all for the first two years. Before they were paid they had to learn all aspects of the trade and assisted other workers. After two years they could earn between 7 shillings and 12 shillings a week.

Shannon’s products included wholesale clothing manufacture, and high quality ready to wear men’s and boy’s suits, and ladies’ costumes. In 1913 Edmund Shannon was succeeded by his son John C. Shannon.

After the First World War there was a depression in the trade, which in 1926 resulted in the resignation of John Shannon, and the company going into liquidation. The company managed to survive, and went public to become John Shannon & Sons Limited with the Shannon family as major shareholders.

Read a description of a
visit to Shannons in 1897

Shannon's Mill from 1977. Courtesy of Paul Bowman.

During World War 2 Shannons produced large numbers of military uniforms and the future looked bright. After the war rates of pay slowly increased, and as Shannons were unable to pay higher wages, the number of employees fell, and the company reduced in size.

In 1973 Shannons still occupied the massive old works, and so the decision was taken to let parts of the building to other companies, including part of the Walsall leather goods firm W. A. Goold (Holdings), the saddlery firm E. Jeffries & Sons, the jewellery division of Pearmak, and Leonard Neasham, the gentleman's outfitters.

Shannons ceased trading in 2000 and the building remained empty for several years. It was due to be the centrepiece of a £53m regeneration project for St Matthew's Quarter, but on Friday 3rd of August, 2007 the mill suffered badly from a mindless arson attack.

The building was badly damaged, 60 percent of it collapsed. It had been the largest fire in the town for 25 years. By the end of the month the dangerously unsafe building had been demolished. A sad end to such a wonderful local landmark.

An advert from 1953.

Another clothing manufacturer, Stammers was founded in 1904. The firm was initially based in Dudley Street, but in 1906 moved to New Street after becoming a subsidiary of the Foster Bros. Clothing Company Limited of Birmingham. The factory was extended around 1925 and specialised in men's and boys' clothing.

The 1935 Walsall Red Book lists the following manufacturers:

Mark Cohen & Company, 2 Whittimere Street
T. Bednall & Company, Mountrath Street
Bradbury & Company, Teddesley Street
Harris Davis (Walsall) Limited, Adams Row
Hayward & Jones, 41 Station Street
Marshall & Hamblet, Littleton Street
Norton & Proffitt, Midland Road
Parkinson (Walsall) Limited, Chuckery Road
J. Shannon & Son Limited, George Street
Stammers Limited, New Street

There were ten clothing manufacturers in1963, but only six by 1973.

Electrical Engineering

One of Walsall’s most famous manufacturers was J. A. Crabtree & Company Limited based at Lincoln Works in Beacon Street.

The business was founded by John Ashworth Crabtree who was born in Broughton, Lancashire, just north of Preston on October 24th, 1886. His father died when he was just five years old, and his mother and her family moved to Yardley in Birmingham. John’s career began as an engineering apprentice.

He initially worked for Verity's Limited, electrical manufacturers based at Aston in Birmingham, and then moved to J. H. Tucker Limited, manufacturers of switchgear in Tyseley, Birmingham.

After working in Tucker’s workshops, he moved to the drawing office, and whilst there invented, and patented an improved type of switch. John decided to start his own business, to manufacture the patented quick make and brake switch, after Tuckers refused to do so.

In 1919 he founded J. A. Crabtree & Company in a small disused leather works in Upper Rushall Street, Walsall. The switch became a great success, orders poured-in, and the company soon outgrew the small factory.

In 1923 the firm acquired seven acres of land in the Chuckery, alongside Beacon Street and Lincoln Road, where a new factory called Lincoln Works was built.

John Ashworth Crabtree.

One of the workshops in Upper Rushall Street.

Lincoln Works. From the 1974 Walsall Handbook.

It was named after President Lincoln who John greatly admired.

By 1926 around 600 people were employed on the site. The business prospered, and in 1929 John Crabtree developed the first plastic moulded switch which he called ‘The Lincoln Switch’.

The plastic that he developed was called ‘Jacelite’ to distinguish it from bakelite.

By the early 1930s Lincoln Works had grown into the best equipped factory of its kind in the country, and employed around 1,000 people.

In the autumn of 1935 John went to America on a business trip, and caught pneumonia, from which he died on November 27th, at the age of 49.

After John’s death, his widow took a leading role in the company, and in 1944 her son Jack joined the Board after graduating from Queen’s College, Oxford. He became Chairman and Managing Director in 1958.


View pages from
the staff magazine


View some of the
company's products



An advert from 1974.

Read about Crabtree in the late 1940s
Two new Crabtree products featured in an article in 'The Engineer', 15th April, 1960.
The new C-50 miniature circuit-breakers are designed to challenge the use of rewirable fuses for sub-circuit protection. As such they can be fitted in what is claimed to be the first all insulated consumer unit to give circuit-breaker protection to the sub-circuits.

The C-50 circuit breaker has an electromagnetically operated tripping mechanism, all ratings being set to trip on a sustained overload of 30 percent. "Nuisance" tripping by harmless transient overloads is prevented by a built-in inverse time-current delay device.

It will be seen from the photograph that the operating handle controls the moving contact through a collapsible over-centre toggle mechanism. Since the handle is in positive control in the "On" and "Off" positions, the breaker can always be opened or closed manually.

The moving contact traverses the 'V' shaped slots in a series of arc grid plates at the top of the switch and is shown in the closed position.

The overload coil and time delay device are located in the bottom of the moulded case of the circuit breaker.

Miniature circuit breaker (C-50) set to trip on 30 percent overload, and fitted with inverse time delay.

The All-insulated consumer unit enclosing a 60A double-pole isolating switch and six miniature circuit breakers, of ratings from 2.5A to 50A.
The fully-insulated consumer unit consists of a moulded cover in a silver-grey colour, enclosing a 60A double-pole isolating switch and up to six miniature circuit-breakers, which can be of various ratings, from 2.5A to 50A.

In 1961 the company launched the UK’s first circuit breaker, and continued to produce vast numbers of plugs, sockets, switches, and motor control gear. By the late 1960s the workforce had grown to over 3,000.

View some images, and the programme from the Queen's visit to Lincoln Works in May 1962
In 1972 the company was acquired by Ever Ready, and after a succession of owners, Lincoln Works closed in 1997 and production was moved elsewhere. Crabtree became the largest private employer in Walsall, so the closure came as a great blow to the town.

An advert from 1935.

The earliest electrical engineering company in the town was possibly the Walsall Electrical Company founded in 1884 by Frederick Brown to make bells, electrical fittings, fuses, indicators, lamps, and switches. It had an office at 57 Bridge Street, a factory at the rear of 57, 59, 61 and 63 Bridge Street, and became a limited company on the 2nd December 1892. There were three directors; Frederick Brown the Managing Director and major share holder, John Hildick the Chairman, and Henry Nicklin. There was also an office in Birmingham.

The Managing Director's salary was £350 per year, plus 25 percent of the profits. The authorised capital of the company was £10,000 in £10 shares. Brown applied for, but did not always register the patents for the numerous electrical instruments and appliances that he developed, including advertising signs, galvanometers, lamps, medical induction coils, switches, and voltmeters.

Frederick Brown was born in Pensnett in March 1848. He was a member of an old Quaker family, and educated at the Friends School, Ackworth in Yorkshire. He began his career as a photographer with a Mr. Draycott at their premises at The Bridge. In 1881 he became manager of the National Telephone Company, and left in 1884 to set up the Walsall Electric Company.

An advert from 1954.

In 1891 he became an electrical engineering consultant to Walsall Council to advise on the method of power transmission to be used by the South Staffordshire Tramways. After a fact-finding trip to America, he submitted his report in July 1891, and was later appointed to supervise the installation of the overhead cabling for the trams.

In February 1893 Brown was appointed by the council to advise on their electric lighting scheme. He became a leading member of Walsall Chamber of Commerce, and was President in 1910 and 1911. 

By 1901 the firm had appointed agents in London and Liverpool, and after making an initial loss became profitable. John Hildick resigned from the Board in November 1908, and was replaced as Chairman by Henry Nicklin. At the same time a new director, James Osmonde Dale was appointed.

Frederick Brown died on 8th August, 1913 at Streetly. He was replaced by F. Bailey.

The early 1930s was a bad time for the company which was not profitable. It became Walsall Instrument Limited, on 10th August, 1932, and produced switchboard instrumentation, charging apparatus and regulators at Faraday Works, Algernon Street, Walsall. Sadly things did not improve and the business went into creditor's voluntary liquidation on 26th April, 1933.

The company managed to survive, and changed its name back to the Walsall Electrical Company Limited. The product range was extended to include crane plug boxes. The business again became profitable, employing around 50 people.

View some of the company's products from the 1947 and 1961 catalogues

In 1949 the company registered the 'WALTRIC' trade mark, but unfortunately the firm failed to invest in research and development, and so the products became outdated as technology changed. The products in the 1947 catalogue appear to be from the early 1930s rather than the late 1940s. In 1983 the firm took out a medium term loan to finance the development of a range of panel meters, which were quite successful. In 1992 the business merged with Beacon Instruments Limited to provide a wider product range, but suffered from increased competition from cheaper products made in the Far East and India. In 2002 the business was put up for sale, but little interest was shown, and it closed in 2004.

There were several other electrical manufacturing companies in Walsall including Bayley Bros., the Central Manufacturing Company, The Mechanical & Electrical Engineering Company (Walsall) Limited, and Electronics Design Associates.

Read about the Mechanical & Electrical Engineering Company (Walsall) Limited

An advert from 1976.

Other Locally Made Products

An advert from 1902.

Packing cases and cardboard boxes have been made in Walsall since the 19th century. In 1834 packing cases were being made by James Rooker Mason in High Street, and Mary Silleter in the Square.

In 1935 they were produced by T. Ginder & Son Limited of Whittimere Street, and Bradford Street; and John York of 19 Goodall Street.

In 1935 cardboard boxes were produced by Mrs. F. Burton, 33 Hart Street; B. Fenton, Midland Road; G. Parsons & Company, Back 33 Station Street; A. Platt, 115 Bridgeman Street; and The Walsall Box Company in Bank Street.

Other products included India rubber goods, rubber stamps, rope and twine, riddles and sieves, and plastic mouldings, which were produced by E. Perkins & Company Limited in Selborne Street, and the Plastics Products Company in Midland Road.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many bicycles were made on a small scale in most of the local towns, often at the back of a shop. The industry relied on locally made cycle accessories, many from Birmingham, and locally made tube for the frame. There were at least five manufacturers in Walsall: J. E. Wheway, builder of 'Cyverite' cycles; the Vanguard Cycle Company Limited, manufacturer of 'Vanguard' cycles, Ford & Butler, 15 Bradford Street; John More & Company, Highgate Cycle Works, Sandwell Street, manufacturer of 'Highgate' cycles; and Harry Lester of 25 Bradford Street.

An advert from 1902.

An advert from 1899.

An advert from 1899.

An advert from 1958.
An advert from 1958.

An advert from 1958.

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