The Lloyds of Wednesbury

The family’s first link with Wednesbury began when Sampson II married Sarah Parkes in 1727. Her father, Richard Parkes, of Oakswell Hall, Wednesbury, which he acquired in 1689, was a wealthy landowner, who owned a lot of coal mines in the area. He also had a 500 year lease on the Wednesbury mines owned by Richard Shelton and others.

At the time the mines were regarded as being of no value because of constant flooding, and so the owners thought themselves fortunate that Richard Parkes would pay for a lease, for what to them was valueless. Some years later when mine pumping engines became commonplace, this would all change.

Richard Parkes died in 1729 and left his estate to be equally divided between his four daughters. Sarah Parkes’ share of the estate came into the possession of the Lloyd family, and was inherited by her only child, Sampson Lloyd III, who also inherited an estate in Wednesbury that belonged to his cousin Betsy Fidoe.

Sampson’s son, Samuel I, born in 1768, devoted himself to the family’s banking interests. In 1818, his son Samuel II, who became known as ‘Quaker Lloyd, came to live in Wednesbury at the age of 23, in order to exploit the family’s land for coal and iron production.

After Samuel’s arrival in Wednesbury, one of the principal landowners, who inherited his land from his late father, Richard Shelton, the man who agreed to lease his mining rights to Richard Parkes, contested it on the grounds that no mining had been carried out in his father’s lifetime. Now that steam pumping engines were commonplace, coal could be profitably mined in the area for the first time, and so the mining rights became a valuable asset.

In 1818 a Chancery suit to settle the question was instigated by Richard Parkes’ heirs. Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, was extremely slow in giving judgments. Three years later he had still not made a decision on the matter, and so the dispute was settled out of court. Once this had been done, mining operations quickly got underway, and the firm of Lloyds, Fosters & Company was formed to oversee the operation.

A Newcomen pumping engine, of the type improved by Smeaton, and Watt was installed near Hobs Hole. It successfully drained water from a seam of coal eight feet thick, and about 60 feet below the surface. The land also contained iron ore, which the company smelted, and clay, from which was made bricks and tiles. The firm also ran Ball’s Hill and Mounts Collieries, and in about 1825 began smelting the ore at Old Park Works. The output soon amounted to half of the production of pig iron in the town.

Samuel Lloyd II "Quaker Lloyd". From
"Wednesbury Faces, Places & Industries".
Old Park Works rapidly grew in size. By 1851 products included railway wheels, railway turntables, and steam engines.

Initially the wheels were fitted to axles made by the Patent Shaft & Axletree Company, but in 1854 when that company also began to make wheels, Lloyds started to make their own axles in a forge and plate mill built especially for the purpose at Monway Fields.

The new factory called The Monway Axle and Tyre Works produced axles, tyres, and iron plate for boilers and bridges. At the same time a third blast furnace was built at Old Park to supply the extra iron.

In 1849 Lloyds were the first firm in Staffordshire to adopt furnaces using hot blast, which saved 10,000 tons of coal a year. In 1857 the efficiency of the furnaces was again improved by using the waste gases to heat the blast.

Just before Samuel Lloyd’s death in 1862, he signed an agreement with Henry Bessemer for the use of the Bessemer process, which the company began to use in 1865. This was the first factory in the Black Country to make mild steel, at a time when Old Park Works were the largest steel works in the area. By 1866 over 3,000 people worked there. The introduction of mild steel was an important factor in the demise of malleable iron production in the area.

Samuel Lloyd, or "Quaker Lloyd" as he was known, had been a good employer. His kindness could be seen from the help that he gave to widows and orphans of employees who lost their lives in the company's collieries. He also opened the British and Foreign Society School in 1820, in the old Quaker Meeting House in Lower High Street, and was involved in parish affairs. He also began a successful campaign with the Rev. Isaac Clarkson to suppress bull baiting in the town, and became a member of Wednesbury’s Local Board in 1852, becoming Chairman in 1853.

Like many factories, Old Park Works issued tokens as part of the employees’ wages, known as truck payment. The tokens could only be spent in the company’s tommy shop. Many employers did this as a way of exploiting their workforce by charging high prices in their shops, and sometimes selling inferior goods. Lloyds, Fosters’ shop was very different, providing only the best quality goods at low prices, often lower than in shops in the town centre. The shop sold the best meat in town, and Samuel Lloyd took great pride in buying articles and food from the shop himself, particularly tea and meat.

The Lloyd family in 1860, on the lawn of the family home, The Hollies.

Back row left to right: Wilson Sturge, Sarah Sturge (neè Lloyd), Wilson Lloyd,
William Henry Lloyd, Anna Lloyd, Joseph Foster Lloyd, Mary Pease
(neè Lloyd), and
Samuel Lloyd.
Front row left to right: William Lowe, Rachel Lowe
(neè Lloyd), "Quaker Lloyd",
Mary Lloyd, Henry Pease, and Elize Janson
(neè Lloyd).

By the time of Samuel’s death, the company had become prosperous, and it looked as though more success would surely follow. Around the time of his death, the company signed one of its largest contracts, which would go terribly wrong.

In 1856 the old London Bridge over the River Thames was demolished, which greatly changed the tidal currents around the original Blackfriars Bridge, scouring the sediments, and making the bridge unsafe. This led to its demolition in 1860, and the planning of a replacement bridge. A new bridge was designed by William Cubitt, and the contract for its construction put out to tender. The lowest tender, received from P. A. Thom & Company was accepted, and work soon got underway.

The company ordered the necessary ironwork from Lloyds & Fosters and agreed to pay cash monthly for each delivery. A contract was signed, and the first batch of ironwork was sent to London. At the end of the month, after delivery, no payment arrived. P. A. Thom were unable to pay, and sent a note agreeing to settle their debt in four months, which again was never paid. Samuel Lloyd junior strongly advised the company to cease deliveries at once, but the shareholders, who at the time owned three quarters of the shares, ignored his plea, and decided to finance the contractor.

P. A. Thom & Company were having great difficulties in finding a solid foundation for the stone piers which had to be sunk into the London clay below the bed of the river. The daily tides made the job much more difficult than anticipated, and work progressed at an extremely slow pace. There were also problems at the northern end of the bridge, where the Fleet Ditch had been pouring water into the river for thousands of years, softening the ground to such an extent that no solid base could be found. It took another two years before the bridge opened, but by this time Lloyds, Fosters & Company had gone.

By 1867 Lloyds, Fosters & Company had lost a quarter of a million pounds on the operation, and were forced into liquidation. The company was sold to the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company Limited, which did so well on the deal that in seven years the profits were sufficient to pay the whole of the purchase money in dividends.

Samuel Lloyd junior left Wednesbury for Birmingham after joining his cousin, Edward Rigge Lloyd, son of Isaac Lloyd, to set up the firm of Lloyd & Lloyd, at the Albion Tube Works in Nile Street, Birmingham, in 1859. They manufactured boiler tubes, and were pioneers in the production of large diameter, gas-welded, wrought iron and steel tubes. In 1870 they took over Henry Howard & Company, owners of Coomb Wood Tube Works at Halesowen, and in 1903 joined forces with tube maker A. & J. Stewart Limited, to form Stewarts and Lloyds Limited.

Sampson Lloyd, “Quaker Lloyd’s” brother, was secretary of Wednesbury Mechanics Institute which began life in an old house known as “Old Library House” on Church Hill, next to the gates of St. Bartholomew’s Church. It later moved to Russell Street.

When the vicar at St. Bartholomew’s, Isaac Clarkson built a new vicarage by the parish church, Sampson rented the old vicarage, opposite the Old Leathern Bottle pub in Vicarage Road. In 1851 Sampson and Edward Elwell junior became trustees of the Wednesbury Benefit Building Society, later known as Wednesbury Building Society.

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