Sterling stuff

Sometimes I write articles on flights of fancy, never expecting them to garner much response. This blog is largely the noise made by a kid lost in the local history equivalent of a sweet shop, and sometimes the places I end up tend to be dead ends.

When Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found the newspaper article about the Birchills Ironworks, we both thought it was a remarkable evocation of industry at the time, and worthy of an article for that alone. After the initial reader interest, I went a bit mad with the mapping, and it has rather seemed to capture reader imagination.

I never expected that at all, which just goes to show that after four years of doing this, I still haven’t a clue what I’m doing.

Thankfully, readers have been sending some interesting material. Roger ‘Ziksby’ Jones has four something really unusual, and reader Laurance Thacker has generously shared a couple of incredible images.

If you have anything further to add, please feel free. It’s nice to be able to spark interest like this once in a while.

I’m also after material on the power station; I’ve since found out about the cooling arrangements it used which are really interesting, and I’d like to post more about that and life at the station in general.

BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or comment here.



A 1970 sketch view of the Leamore/Birchills skyline from Rough Wood. Image kindly supplied by Roger ‘Ziksby’ Jones, as featured in a 1970 Walsall Parks Department booklet.

Hi Bob,

Your maps of Birchhills Iron Works and the surrounding area reminded me of the attached. It’s the centrefold from a 1970 nature trail booklet on Rough Wood from the Walsall Council Parks Dept. It’s an artist’s impression of the Bloxwich road/Green Lane skyline as seen from the grassy knoll (no, not that one!) in the south east corner of Rough Wood. Today the view is almost entirely obscured by trees. The view covers almost all the points mentioned on your blog.



Roger kindly shared the whole booklet which can be downloaded here (PDF file, 35 meg, may take a while).

young dorricott 1890's walsall.

A truly remarkable image of the John Russell works and product line. What stands out is that the faces of working Walsall haven’t changed much. The chap third right – he could be on any factory floor in town today. Second right is Joseph Dorricot. A remarkable image kindly supplied by Laurence Thacker.

Meanwhile, reader Laurence Thacker has kindly donated a couple of wonderful items of ephemera from the John Russell Tube Works in Walsall. That photo is just amazing – bear in mind that tube forms like these – used for early heat exchange and heat radiation purposes were hugely important to the steam age. They were used in boilers, quenches, chemical works and washeries. These were very important bits of engineering, made by very, very skilled people.

Hi Bob,

I thought you might be interested in this photo of my Great-grand father Joseph Dorricott .

The photo shows him at the John Russell tube works in Walsall. The photo was taken to show the range of products the being manufactured on the site at the time and was taken in the mid 1890’s. Joseph is second from the right.



Talbot-Stead sales 1915

Contact details from the Talbot-Stead sales brochure. Note Admiralty Approval was a selling point. Note also that Walsall telephone numbers were 3 digits back then. Image kindly supplied by Laurence Thacker, of unknown date.

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5 Responses to Sterling stuff

  1. Pedro says:

    Great illustrations of the products of John Russell & Co, from the Story of Walsall

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Pedro, you beat me to it! I remember meeting the owner sometime in the 90s – something to do with redevelopment plans. At the time they were importing steel tube from Turkey. They cut it, put threads on and packaged it up with connecting collars to suit their customers. The place had a distinct Dickensian character and he joked that he could make more money taking people on tours!

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