Industries Part Two
Pit Bank Wenches
The employment of female labour generally tends to economy in the wages-sheet. Pit bank girls earn from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d. a day (or "shift") which consists of eight working hours.

They are generally employed for sorting and loading the coal. When the tubs or skips come up the pit, a man receives them first, and they are then handed over to the women.

They sometimes take them along tram rails to load carts or boats, or who screen the coals, or pick them by hand in the process of sorting to determine the various qualities.

As a class, pit bank wenches are neither immodest nor immoral; but as may be expected, they are somewhat masculine in tone and brawny in physique. They wear no distinctive working costume in and around Wednesbury, although at Wigan they wear trousers like men. In Staffordshire a cotton bonnet is used to keep the coal dust from the hair, a little shawl to protect the shoulders; the skirts are short, and covered with a coarse apron tied tightly round the bottom to keep the petticoats from blowing up. A pair of strong hobnailed boots complete the attire.

Isaiah Oldbury, Reliance Coach Ironworks, Wednesbury

The Smithy.

The Reliance Coach Ironworks, owned by the present Mayor, Mr. Isaiah Oldbury occupy a high and influential position in this important branch of manufacturing activity.

It is about twenty three years since the present works were started, and thirty three years since the business was founded by Mr. Oldbury.

Its very successful career from the inception to the present time abundantly testifies to the energy and ability brought to bear upon its management.

The works have been enlarged from time to time to meet the increased demands, and only recently a malleable iron foundry has been added.

Axle and turning shop.

They now cover a considerable area of ground, giving constant employment to between one hundred and fifty and two hundred hands, and being equipped with all the requisite steam power machinery and labour-saving appliances to facilitate rapid and economical production. The chief manufactures include coach bolts and nuts, steps, scrolls, dash irons, clips, shackles, and coach ironwork in general; also mail, Collinges, drabbles, and other axles, and springs.

For all these productions Mr. Oldbury enjoys a high reputation both at home and abroad, hence his large and steadily increasing connections; and it may be stated that he is a well-known contractor to Her Majesty's Government, the War Office, and Admiralty; also to Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell and Co., Limited, and Sir Joseph Whitworth and Co., Limited. None but the most durable and best finished goods leave the premises, whilst the productive facilities are such as to ensure the speedy execution of all orders.

C. Walsh Graham, Timber and Slate Merchant

Steam Joinery Works, Sawing, Planing, and Moulding Mills, Wednesbury.

(Adjoining the L. & N. W. Station).


This business was established upwards of twenty five years ago on the land now occupied by the Art Gallery. Before long the growth of the business necessitated a move to the present extensive and convenient premises in Potter's Lane, where a very large and important trade is carried on.

A large stock of all kinds of English and Foreign timber is kept. The manufacture of joinery of every description, by well adapted machinery, is a speciality.

The slate trade is also an important department, Mr. Graham being agent for Lord Penrhyn, and the owners of other noted Carnarvon quarries.

Estimates are given, on application, for the whole of the timber, joinery, slates, &c., required for buildings.

There are prosperous branches in connection with the business at Wolverhampton and Soho, and Mr. Graham is also senior partner in the firm of Graham and Bennett, Derby.

Mr. C. Walsh Graham.

Foster Bros., Limited, Lea Brook Tube Works, Wednesbury.

Manufacturers of Tubes and Fittings, for gas, steam, and water purposes, plain, galvanised, enamelled, tin-lined, or coated with Dr. Angus Smith's or other solutions.

Telegraph and telephone poles, hydraulic tubes, wire and cable tubes, railway signal and point rods, well boring tubes, core bars, coils, for hot water, steam, and refrigeration purposes; lap welded iron and steel boiler tubes, gun metal cocks and valves, etc.

London Office and depot: Lambeth Hill, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.

Mr. R. W. McDonald.

Isaac Griffiths and Sons

Manufacturers of patent welded wrought iron tubes and fittings for gas, steam, and water.

Galvanised iron tubes and fittings. Hydraulic tubes, stocks, dies & taps. Pipe hooks, and core bars for ironfounders.

Coils of all descriptions, etc.

Imperial Tube Works, Mesty Croft, Wednesbury.

This well known business was founded by the late Mr. Isaac Griffiths, who was in the service of the Russell family before the invention of gas tubes, and was connected with them altogether for more than forty years. Latterly he was general manager for Messrs. John Russell and Co., a position which he resigned in 1860 to commence business in partnership with his brother, Mr. John Griffiths, and Mr. Thomas Billingsley, under the style and title of Griffiths and Billingsley.

After about ten years' partnership, Mr. Isaac Griffiths left this firm, and purchasing the site of the tube works formerly conducted by Hughes, Pritchard and Hughes, in Friar Street, he erected thereon an entirely new factory, which, known as the Imperial Tube Works, has been carried on ever since under the style and title of Isaac Griffiths and Sons. Mr. Isaac Griffiths, the senior partner, died in 1874 and the business is now carried on by his sons, Messrs, Isaac and W. H. Griffiths. All the usual branches of the tube and fitting trade are followed, and core bars for ironfounders are made, with various other specialities. The establishment is thoroughly well equipped in all respects.

Job Edwards, manufacturer of Patent Welded Wrought Iron Tubes for gas, steam, and water.

Wrought and malleable iron fittings of every description.

Stocks, dies and taps. Stampings of all kinds.

Eagle Tube & Junction Works, Wednesbury.


Of the two manufactories carried on by Mr. Job Edwards at the present time, the Junction Works in Potter's Lane was the first established. This was in 1863. Gas fittings and general smiths' work constituted the staple trade, and a large and valuable business connection was speedily acquired, and has kept on growing from that day to this.

In the early history of the works an extensive trade was done in colliery plant and ornamental iron work, and when the forerunner of the present day bicycle, the "bone shaker," enjoyed a fleeting popularity, Mr. Edwards laid himself out for the manufacture of this machine, and was amongst the largest makers. Its successor, the "spider wheel" bicycle, found Mr. Edwards still convinced of the possibility of profit being reaped from this branch of trade, and many thousands of sets of stampings and fittings were made at the Junction Works. Had the same policy been pursued when the "spider wheel" gave place to the "safety" Wednesbury trade would no doubt have benefited to a very considerable extent.

In 1880, Mr. Edwards erected the Eagle Tube Works in Portway Road where a steady and growing trade in tubes and fittings for gas, steam, and water has since been carried on. Quite recently it has been found necessary to enlarge these works. Between one and two hundred men and boys find regular employ under Mr. Edwards, whose name is well known wherever tubes are bought, and whose reputation ranks very high in the trade.

Henry Hollingsworth, Wholesale and Retail, Holyhead Road, Wednesbury

Beef & pork butcher

Wednesbury has not a single business house which is better known amongst the inhabitants or which enjoys a more widespread reputation outside the town than that of Hollingsworth’s.

Established in the year 1857 by the late Mr. Henry Hollingsworth, in whose name it is still conducted.

The business has proved singularly successful, and a continuance of prosperity is assured as long as it remains in the able hands of the four sons of the founder, who are now the guiding hands of the concern. In 1879 the late Mr. Henry Hollingsworth met the demands of a rapidly growing trade by the erection of the large, handsome, and convenient block of buildings which stands at the corner of Holyhead Road and St. James' Street, and which is such a familiar object to all who know anything about the town.

The premises are extensive and well arranged. The capacious shop, the window of which displays to the public a tempting array of pork pies, sausages, joints etc., provides accommodation for a crowd of customers. The pigs, which are slaughtered for the benefit of these customers, are dealt with by skilled butchers, curers, and so forth, in places which are admirably adapted for the various purposes. In addition to a large slaughter house, clean and wholesome, there is a curing room, fitted with a first class refrigerating apparatus, and in which hundred of legs and sides in various stages of conversion into hams and bacon may always be seen; a sausage house, lard rooms, ham rooms, bacon room, and a drying room capable of dealing with 500 hams and sides at one time. There are also, of course, the usual fasting pens, and a spacious yard. The machinery, which is all modern, is driven by steam.

The extent of the firm's operations may be judged from the fact that in the season upwards of 200 pigs are killed every week, and last Christmas the number rose to over 300. The meat and other articles of food thus produced are not all consumed in Wednesbury. In addition to numerous agents throughout the Black Country district, supplies are daily forwarded to the order of firms in all parts of the country from Carlisle in the North to London in the South. More than 20,000 hams, for instance, all cured on the premises, are sold every year to dealers at a distance. Hollingsworth’s sausages and pork pies are also well known and appreciated by people who only know Wednesbury as the source of these favourite productions.

During the past year electric light has been installed at the establishment, adding greatly to the attractiveness as well as to the utility of these thoroughly up-to-date premises. We should say that whilst retaining pork as the staple article of trade, the firm are now butchers in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and beef and mutton of the best quality can always be obtained.

Alfred Longbottom, Practical Tailor, Old Assembly Rooms, Russell Street, Wednesbury.

Mr. Longbottom has only been three years in Wednesbury, coming hither from Stourbridge, but thanks to the display of a vast amount of energy and a good deal of well-directed enterprise, he finds himself today at the head of one of the biggest businesses in the town.

Mr. Longbottom’s first stand in the town was at the bottom of Spring Head, but he very rapidly outgrew the capabilities of this particular shop, and removed to the premises in Lower High Street formerly used for the same kind of business by Mr. John Bryne. 

Judicious advertising and personal effort brought customers in rapidly increasing numbers from all parts of the town and district, and as Mr. Longbottom only uses reliable stuff, guarantees a good fit, and charges reasonably, a customer once gained, means a customer retained. Another move, the third in three years, has just been made. The premises in Russell Street, known as the "Assembly Rooms" and as the "Old Town Hall," have been secured by Mr. Longbottom, and have been adapted to the purposes of his trade.

The rooms, in which in the old days magistrates administered justice, and all public gatherings took place, which served as the Mechanics' Institute, and later as the headquarters of the Young Men's Christian Association, and which have been utilised for a young ladies' school, a dancing saloon, and a variety of other purposes, will now resound to the hum of the sewing machine and the rattle of the machinery, which at the end of the nineteenth century has come to the aid of the busy tailor.

The workroom measures 60 feet by 30 feet, and the stock and cutting room is 40 feet long by 30 feet wide. They are light, airy, and well ventilated, Mr. Longbottom having taken care to ensure the comfort and the convenience of the large number of men and girls whom he employs. Ladies' and gentlemen's garments of all kinds are made on the premises, and in such large numbers as to have a beneficial effect on the town from an industrial point of view.

Griffiths & Billingsley

A Furnace Stack

The Quaker's Furnaces, in the Darlaston Road, were put out of blast and demolished in 1877, they were out of date, and iron-making was becoming profitless. The stack was left standing for nine years.

This Furnace Stack was "dropped" in June, 1896. A corner was first cut away (to give it an inclination in falling), and then three charges of blasting powder were simultaneously exploded, and the 110 feet of chimney came down with as little commotion as possible.


Return to
Industries part 1


Return to
the contents


Proceed to