Towering achievements


Rocky says ‘A little corner of Brownhills Common at the end of Engine Lane off Coppice Side this time. Early 1980’s and the chap doing a turn is Phil Wilkinson – Foreman of the Tower Shop. Again the background will be of more interest to the local historians.’

Over the years, local factories made some pretty famous products – Crabtree made world-renowned electrical products, Aldridge Plastics moulded toys like Hungry Hippos and Action Man, Craig & Derricott still make well known control gear, Geometry International made brands of stationary we all knew.

One very important and successful product was made for years at structural engineering and fabrication company, Strumech who were based on Coppice Side in Brownhills, opposite the Potclays clay pit, latterly a landfill.

The Strumech Versatower is a telescopic, trailer mounted tower used by everyone from lighting providers to the military to outside broadcast units to radio hams. Wherever you need to get something high in the air in a  portable manner that can be easily erected and dismantled, you use a Versatower.


Rocky says ‘Chasewater 1968, has a look of the French Riviera.’

These were made at Coppice Side for years, until Strumech was bought by another company, Elliott Workspace, a few years ago. The Brownhills factory is now occupied by a different company, but in it’s day, it was a hive of industry turning out not just the towers, but structural and heavy steelwork of all kinds.

In the last week, good mate of the blog and former Strumech man Rocky Sprogs has been scanning some old images of Strumech which he’s kindly allowed me to post here – for which I’m very grateful. We have precious little recent industrial history here and test are wonderful images, so evocative of the time.

Note the changing state of the clay pit, several photos of which it’s in the background.

Cheers to Rocky for a wonderful donation, and if you have anything to add, and memories you wish to share, feel free: comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.


Rocky says ‘Coppice Side, Brownhills about 1986 once the Tip was full and capped off. Can’t say much about the young chap as it might give my age away – Ha!’


Rocky says ‘This pre-dates me but shows a pretty open view from Coppice Side across the tip and Potters Clay site to the houses on Lichfield Road. In the Picture is Brian Hinton testing out the winch action on a lighting unit. Hidden behind the lights is Paul Sealey, Works Enginner and sometime Mr. Fix It.’


Rocky says ‘Chasewater sailing club at night – the light, of course, from a Versatower.’


Rocky says ‘This was some form of wheel fabrication for seperating something like clay and water. It also features Chas O’Neil (Slaes Director) and Roy Garbett (at this time a Foreman & later Works Manager) Taken at Strumech on Coppice Side Brownhills.’


Rocky says ‘This is on Coppice Side, Brownhills and I believe it is inside the tip known as Birch Coppice whilst it was being filled in. I can’t remeber the chaps name though. (Late 70’s or early 80’s)’


Rocky says ‘Chasewater 1968 again and this time 3 of the 4 main players at Strumech are in the picture. Left to right Frank Weetman (Factory Manager later MD) In the middle one half of the MD team Brian Hinton (Mech – anical) and on the right Chas O’Neil Sales Manager. The forth (un-pictured) being George Parsons (Stru – crural).’


Rocky says ‘A contact sheet of shots taken at a boat event on Chasewater from 1968.’

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11 Responses to Towering achievements

  1. Pedro says:

    Many thanks to Rocky and Bob.

  2. Clive says:

    Nice one Rocky and Bob. Myself being a radio ham always wanted a Strumech Versatower as they were well known in my field of intrests as a high quality tower. My problem was I could not afford one, and if I could afford one my garden is’nt big anough.

  3. Stephen cawley says:

    My late mom Jane Cawley worked at Crabtree for at least 20 years,they were probably the biggest employer of women in Brownhills,she had previously worked at Pearce Pressings in Lichfield road,the last factory before the chemical bridge opposite superalloys,this was next door to artistic containers who made decorative face powder compacts for women.
    I did my apprenticeship at Birlec from1973 till it closed in 1980,l had friends who worked at Edward rose,binks bullows and Aldridge.
    My dad and brother both worked at McKechnie metals in Aldridge,dad for 25 and my brother for 42 years till it closed 3 years ago.
    My dads brother Alan was foreman at Ogley Mill and yes as said previously they made cantilever tool boxes painted metallic blue as I remember they also make wire puzzles of different shapes that interlocked
    My dad Trevor Cawley was a miner prior to working at McKechnie,he was at wyrley sinking,then Cannock and lea hall,we lived in coppice side ,bug row till I was about 4 so 1961 when we moved to clay hanger and later to brownhills,My dad came from Ogley crescent and became a labour councillor for BUDC in the 60’s and was also on Stafford county council around 68

    Loads of memories

  4. Robert shepherd says:

    I worked at strumech versa tower from 1995 to 2003 it was a good company to work for happy memories !

  5. Emma says:

    Oh wow Strumech!!! My late dad was Paul Sealey and worked there for 28 years…sadly he was killed outside the place too. Thanks for the memories

  6. Ian Fryer says:

    Very fond memories of working with Strumech with its last MD, Phil Colley in the late 1990s. Strumech helped local RMD to supply the challenging formwork that shaped the elliptical, conical river piers supporting the wonderfull, if initially wobbly, millennium bridge in London.

    Ian Fryer – Engineering Director RMD Kwikform, global head office Aldridge

  7. Tk says:

    Enjoyed reading this… I bought my first computer from Strumech (the “SEED” part) around 1980. No IBM PC yet. No MS-DOS. No Windows. A terminal with 80 cols x 24 lines, monochrome, cost, today’s money about £3700… but they were good times, none the less!

    • Remember those days. Buying a Rodime R0353 10 meg hard drive for big £ and it came with a manual containing a circuit diagram.

      Also, 8 inch floppies and tractor fed dot matrix printers.

      Them were the days

  8. Emma Roffey says:

    Fab to see these. My dad was Paul Sealey as in photos.

  9. Jeremy Lefever says:

    Whatever happened to Roy Garbett? When I worked for The Directorate of Telecommunications, The Scottish Office we used many Strumech Verstowers. Used to drive down to Brownhills from Edinburgh to get them serviced.

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