Box clever?

Here’s one to get the researchers and detectives amongst the readership scratching their heads. Let’s see what we can turn up, as this is quite unusual and I think there’s some history to be found here.

Ann Cross has written to me asking about a wooden box that came into her family during their tenure at The Royal Exchange, in Walsall Wood. Ann, you’ll recall, wrote fantastic articles about her family history there. She’d really like to find out more about the history of this beautifully constructed case, and the legend inscribed upon it.

Please have a read, and a think, and either comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

I thank Ann for yet another humdinger of a contribution, and also for her very kind words. The pleasure is all mine, it really is, just glad you folks enjoy reading along.

Ann wrote:

Hi Bob,

I am hoping someone may be able to help out with this one, if you can put it together for me with the photos I am sending.

Am loving the bike rides, the pictures are great!

Many thanks and best wishes

Ann Cross


Image kindly supplied by Ann Cross.

This box has lived in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Greater Manchester and Dorset, but started life in West Bromwich. It was made by Richard Cliff Ltd of Bromford Road, West Bromwich, timber merchants and case makers.


Image kindly supplied by Ann Cross.

Not just any old hammer and nails box, this was robustly made with dovetail joints, wire bound, with handles on each end and a hinged lid. The Richard Cliff logo is stamped on the lid.

Above this, attached with drawing pins (one is missing) is the Royal Exchange business card, complete with layers of dust and grime, about 50 years worth! However it is possible to read under magnification, especially when you know what to look for:


Image kindly supplied by Ann Cross.

Proprietor W CROSS
27 Lichfield Road
Walsall Wood 
Telephone Brownhills 2317

The top right hand corner says Coaches Welcome, but is partially obscured by a drawing pin. The top left hand corner says something I think but remains undecipherable and we cannot remember!

On each end of this old wooden box it says Allbrooks West Smethwick charged 1/- and stamped over that, deposit 6/-. Allbrooks were suppliers of bottled mineral water.

On the long side are the initials N I P T A and underneath (REGISTERED)


Image kindly supplied by Ann Cross.

Can anyone help out please?

The old wooden box now resides in South Gloucestershire, still dusty, still missing one drawing pin.

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15 Responses to Box clever?

  1. morturn says:

    That sure is a well made box, very robust. The wire reinforced dovetail joints suggest it has been designed to take some abuse and not burst open if dropped.

    The battens on the outside of lid suggest it is designed to be stacked with others, I think that this is a shipping container for bottled mineral water.

    Quite a lots of manufactures had wooden cases like these to send out their goods; the cases would have a deposit or a charge if not returned.

    Its a lovely item

  2. Pedro says:

    A lovely item indeed, many tales it could tell….
    Allbrookes Mineral Water – Stone St – West Smethwick….Codd-neck bottles…

    For sale on eBay…

    Black Country Bugle…Brewing Memorabilia…

  3. Pedro says:

    On the subject of bottles and local companies, has anyone else come across the tongue twister?…(only to be tried when on mineral water)

    “He rattles his bottles in Accles and Pollocks’s yard.”

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    I’m going to chop chop chop till my jaws drop!

  5. morturn says:

    I found this film of a box making factory still in operation, all of the plant is still driven by steam.

    • Pedro says:

      Great film!

      The only info that I can find as yet for the makers is when they went in to liquidation…

      London Gazette November 1970, Richard Cliff Ltd, timber merchants and case makers.

      Saw mills, Bromford Road, West Bromwich

  6. Ann Cross says:

    What an amazing film! Many thanks to morturn and Pedro for all the info, very interesting indeed! NIPTA is still elusive I’m afraid but I am still looking.

    • Pedro says:

      Yes NIPTA is elusive.

      Does it refer to the crate manufacture or the mineral water?

      Regards Peter

      • Ann Cross says:

        I just don’t know, I thought it might be some sort of trade association but nothing on Google seems to be relevant. It must be long gone.

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  9. Benjamin Cliff says:

    Dear Ann Cross,
    I am Benjamin Cliff, descended from Richard Cliff who started Richard Cliff Timber Limited in the late eighteenth century as a sawyer, making wooden rulers, in Scotland street, Birmingham. The business was moved into West Bromwich at some time and moved into making packing cases and timber merchants. The business then expanded further and moved to Bromford lane, Oldbury in the early 20th century, where they also produced packing crates for Austin cars, GEC and sets for the BBC amongst other things. The business was sold to Vincent Timber Limited in the early seventies when the fourth Richard Cliff wanted to retire but had no heir. I have a Beer crate made by the company with some likeness to your crate, and the same stamp. My grandfather knows more, and has lots of memories as he worked their up until the business was sold. He once had a head on crash in one of the old lorries with a bus. He also has a video recording of ‘the works’ as we always call them.
    Regards Ben.

    • Ann Cross says:

      Hi Ben, sorry about the delay, my computer has been on the blink!
      All very interesting thank you for the info, and the big question is, do you or your grandfather know what NIPTA was? Would be great to finally know.
      Best wishes

      • Ben Cliff says:

        Hi Ann,
        My grandad thinks it was made before his time, he suspects your crate is an ammunition crate, as the company made these during the war.

  10. Ben Cliff says:

    P.S he has no idea about NIPTA, sorry.

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