Hill Top Foundry

Wednesbury was once well known for two industries, tube making and edge tools, both of which played a part in the early history of Hill Top Foundry. One of the country’s leading edge tool makers, Edward Elwell, based at Wednesbury Forge, had an uncle, also named Edward Elwell, who established the West Bromwich branch of the family, and founded the original factory on the site. Edward’s factory consisted of an ironworks and foundry which produced cast iron holloware.

Around 1850, the 30 acre site was acquired by five people who were partners in a new tube-making company. One of them, Thomas Foster had previously worked for James Russell at the Crown Tube Works, on the High Bullen. He left after Russell’s death in 1849. Two of the partners with the surname Brown put up most of the capital. One of the other partners named Cuxon ran the business with Thomas Foster. The factory became known as the "The Old Patent Tube Works". Some of the locals called it "Anchor Works" because of the company’s anchor logo which was prominently displayed on the front of the building. Others knew it as “Browns” after the name of the two brothers who had supplied much of the capital.

The Old Patent Tube Works in 1862.

Part of the original frontage of The Old Patent Tube Works at the Black Country Living Museum.

The business initially seems to have been quite successful, but in 1875 it failed, possibly due to the depression at the time, or possibly, as tradition has it, that while Foster was away in France commissioning a new tube mill, Cuxon mismanaged the business. Whatever the cause, Foster was left to repay the firm’s debts. It took him 8 years to pay-off the creditors.

The factory was then acquired by John Russell, James Russell’s younger brother, who had moved from his factory at Church Hill.

The company also opened a new tube works at Runcorn, and built a new tube works at the Hill Top site. The new venture was unsuccessful and the company sold out to Stewarts and Lloyds in 1929.

In 1934 the site was acquired by the Hill Top Foundry Company Limited, which was founded in 1799 at Hawkes Lane, Hill Top, West Bromwich. By the early 1930s orders were pouring-in and the firm found it difficult to cope in their relatively small factory.

In order to cope with the overflowing order book, the company had to increase production, and so the much larger Old Patent Tube Works in Smith Road would be ideal.

The firm purchased the factory (which was extended to cover four acres), as well as thirty acres of surrounding land. The facilities were ideal. A railway siding ran alongside the casting shops at cupola level, so that pig iron and coke could be directly transferred from railway wagons to the cupola platforms. The transfer of molten metal from the cupolas to the various foundries was assisted by the addition of overhead runways and electric cranes.

An advert from 1918.

An advert from 1949.

The heavy foundry specialised in machine tool castings up to six tons in weight, another section produced electrical, general, and repetition castings. The self-contained malleable foundry produced castings from a few ounces up to 1½ hundredweights, and used pulverised fuel to anneal them. The aluminium foundry, also self-contained, produced casting from a few ounces up to 400 pounds in weight, in a variety of alloys, to suit the customer's requirements. There were also die departments  for the production of zinc base and aluminium alloy pressure castings.

Casting sand was almost entirely mechanically handled from its loading into rotary screens to the storage bins in the different departments. The sand mixing part of the process, in which any foreign matter was removed, and the various sands were mixed and aerated, and the moisture content stabilised, was laboratory controlled throughout. The engineering department which carried out general machining to customer's requirements, produced its own tools, dies, and jigs, and also manufactured a range of machines, including grinding and moulding machines that were used in the factory, and also sold to other foundries, both at home and abroad. Other manufactured items included domestic weighing machines and scales which were produced in the light assembly and hardware department.


In the early 1950s the core shops were extended to cope with increasing demand, and were fitted with the latest coke-fired, thermostatically-controlled drying stoves. Other departments included a drawing office, a well-equipped pattern shop for the production of patterns in wood and metal, and a laboratory where raw materials could be analysed, along with various processes in the works.

New production methods were always adopted where possible to comply with the company's policy of "being right up-to-date", and castings were supplied to many industries including engineering, lighting, electrical manufacturing, agriculture, transport, and domestic appliances.

Hill Top Foundry.

An advert from 1954.

In more recent times the factory became part of Associated Electrical Industries (AEI), which was taken over by GEC in 1967. Many of the castings produced at the time were for AEI and GEC products, such as motors, generators, and transformers.

A letterhead from 1978.

It still survives today as Newby Industries Limited, producing high quality castings, and specialising in rapid prototyping. Two other businesses now occupy parts of the Smith Road site. They are Top Tubes Limited, and Sunlight, a supplier of workwear.

Return to the
previous page