Although Wednesbury is well known for the production of tube and tube-fittings, it also had several manufacturers who specialised in the production of cast iron gas, steam, and water main cocks. One of the earliest, and the longest surviving producer was Richard Garbett, based at Monway Gas, Water, and Steam Cock Manufactory, 64 Portway Road, Wednesbury.
Richard Garbett and his descendants were, and still are, extremely skilled engineers.

Richard's skill and fine workmanship can be appreciated by looking at the working model of a steam engine, opposite, that was built by him in 1865.

The location of Richard Garbett's factory, at the northern end of Portway Road, by its junction with Holyhead Road.
Unfortunately little is known about the company, which was founded by Richard Garbett in 1872.

The business remained in family hands until the end. When Richard Garbett retired, his nephew John Thomas Garbett took over, followed in turn by his three sons, Frank, Harry, and Sidney.

They were ably assisted by other family members including Doug Garbett, Leonard Garbett, Jackie Garbett, and Alf Arnold.

Thanks to the family's hard work, the business survived for over one hundred years, producing a wide range of cast iron gas, water, and steam cocks of all sizes. It closed in the early 1980s.

It must have been a happy place to work. The employees were very loyal, most of them staying there for much of their working lives.

An impression of how the factory looked, as seen from the eastern side of Portway Road.

An old business card.

An advert from 1918.

A range of Garbett's iron main cocks with brass plugs.

A small cast iron main cock.


A much larger version.

Photos of the factory

The front of the factory. Courtesy of Ian S. Bolton.

The following photographs are stills from a video film made on an early camcorder, by Tony and Pauline Highfield, just after the factory closed.

The factory yard showing the back of the main building with the office upstairs, and the gateway into Portway Road.
Another view from the yard looking along the back wall of the main building.

The buildings at the northern end of the yard, with the furnace in the background.

The cupola furnace that produced the iron for the foundry.

There was also a brass foundry which produced the castings for the plugs that were used in the cocks.

A close-up view of the bottom of the furnace.
The building in the western corner of the yard that was originally a stables.
The machinery in the factory was driven by overhead line shafting. In this photograph Doug Garbett sorts out a belt that has come off the pulley.
One of the grindstones in the sand mill, which prepared the sand for the foundry.
The hydraulic testing machine that pressure-tested the completed cocks.
A batch of finished cast iron main cocks in the warehouse.
A view of some of the cast iron cocks that were on the shelves in the warehouse.
Another view of finished products in the warehouse.
A large cast iron main cock with a brass plug.
Another view of the cast iron main cock.
A slightly smaller cast iron main cock.

The top of a receipt from the 1890s.

After closure, much of the machinery was generously donated to the Black Country Living Museum. If anyone has any information about the firm, please send me an email. I will be delighted to hear from you.

I would like to thank Tony and Pauline Highfield, and Richard W. Garbett for their help in producing this section.

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