Feet of Potclay

The Potclays Site (or Potters Clay and Coal Company, Swan Works Site), taken I would say in the early 1970s, and featured on the Potclays Company history page. Click for a larger version.

I’ve had a very intriguing enquiry come in from a reader, connected to the Potters Clay company that operated the Birch Coppice quarry site between the Pelsall Road and Coppice Side in Brownhills for many years, and who still have premises in the yard opposite the Swan pub to this day.

The reader asked the following:


I need some help, please…

Can you find or do you know who the founders of the original company that started up as Potters Clay and Coal were?

Theres not a mention of them any were on the net.

I have been told that a relative, Samual Ramses Jones may have been involved.

I just looking for more information, really – Samuel’s daughter is still alive.

We know they lived at The Croft I think it was Pelsall Road – I maybe wrong. Her father died in 1939 or 40.

If you have any more info at all please can you contact me, apparently he was a well known gentleman of his time in that area.

Well, thanks for a wonderful enquiry, that I’m hoping the Sunday research crew might get their teeth into.

I’ve had a good look around, and the Potclays website has a potted (get it?) history there, which you can see at this link.

The site says on this page:


Founded in 1932, the Potclays Group presently comprises the holding company, Potclays Limited, and three subsidiaries: The Potters Clay & Coal Co. Ltd., Potclay Kilns Ltd and Forward Transport Ltd.

Several other companies have been merged into the group during its history including Harry Fraser Ltd. in 1976, H.&.L Kilns Ltd in 1983, Claytec (UK) Ltd in 1992 and D.J.Shaw in 1992. The group is a relatively small one employing about 45 people.

We operate from two sites: The Potters Clay & Coal Co. Ltd, which is the oldest member of the Group, still operates from the original site where it was founded in 1932. Called ‘Swan Works’ (in Brownhills, South Staffordshire), it functions as our main clay mine and clay processing. The other companies are based in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent: Material processing, glaze manufacture, kiln manufacture, warehousing, showrooms and main offices are located at Albion Works.

And on the history page itself, the following:

The Potters Coal and Clay Company was established as a clay mining company in 1932 at Brownhills, South Staffordshire under the Directorship of William Noake. It was later incorporated as The Potters Clay and Coal Company Limited with William Noake as Governing Director.

The company operated mines in Brownhills (Birch Coppice) and Walsall (Bentley and Landywood), extracting and processing high quality, pale firing fireclays that we still use to this day.

Warbreck Noake took over the Directorship of The Potters Clay and Coal Company Limited following the death of William in 1939.

…So no mention of Samuel Jones. Now something tells me the reader may not be local, and am wondering if this may all be confused with Brownhills in Stoke on Trent?

I can’t find any mapping evidence of The Croft on the Pelsall Road on either 1:10,000 or 1:2,500 mapping at the wonderful NLS archive, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist – if researching that, note up until the mid 1910s Pelsall Road was known as Wolverhampton Lane.

In the meantime, I found a couple of wonderful photos of the Birch Coppice Quarry which I’d estimate were from the 1970s on the Potclays site. The one that really made me think is this one:

This is a remarkable image. Note the two Ruston Bucyrus dragline excavators, one of which is still a landmark on the site skyline. I wasn’t originally sure this was Birch Coppice, as it looked too deep, then I noted the office block on the skyline – see notes below. This I would say has to be mid to late 1970s. Click for a larger version. Image from the Potclays website history page.

I couldn’t initially see that being Brownhills, and looked to the buildings on the left skyline, and had a bit of a surprise.

This building here…

I’m sure this is the old Labro works on Coppice Side. I’m sure that I remember in the 197s, the top floor was a flat and there was a caged parrot in one of the windows. Original image from the Potclays history page.

Does indeed appear to be the former Labro Works (Was that Lakin Brothers? I think they made boats?) – see it today in this Augmented 3D image from Apple Maps.

I think this is some kind of storage warehouse these days, and may have been a joinery company in the 1980s. But I think it’s the same building. Current imagery from Apple Maps.

Further, the 1981 aerial image fragment below, taken from the Lichfield District Council aerial survey set taken in 1981 shows that the northeastern corner of the quarry was quite deep and had that curved profile and treeline. At the time of the 1981 image I believe the deep part of the quarry was being used as landfill.

So, in short, what do you know? Please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Remarkable 1981 aerial survey imagery of the Birch Coppice quarry/landfill supplied by Gareth Thomas and Lichfield District Council. Click to view a large version – its well worth a look.

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4 Responses to Feet of Potclay

  1. andkindred says:

    Don’t know if this helps
    1939 Register
    16 Chester Road, next record Hussey Arms
    JONES Samuel R, born 17 May 1900, Managing Director …
    The image is unclear, but the transcription reads … “Coal & Clay?” – they will have seen the original. The issue with the image is that the latter part is on the curve near the binding and is out of focus.
    JONES Ida L, 16 Apr 1901, unpaid domestic duties (i.e. housewife).
    Plus 2 closed records, probably children, and a domestic servant.

  2. aerreg says:

    just to put my pennyworth in the open cast pictures remind me of the poplar site at mid cannock one

    of europes largest excavators lay un assebled on the surface due to public protest as to its size on the subject of mr jones geoge jones of kingswood colliery lived next to the hussey arms he was a great public figer i knew him well one thing stays in my mind he drove an american studybaker car

  3. Phil says:

    My dad drove for labro back in 60’s to the 80’s they moved furniture all over the uk

  4. Ivor says:

    I remember the work starting on the opencast as World War 2 came to an end. The trees were cut down in the big “Coppy” and then some tanks, converted to be bulldozers came with late Scrapers, made by Onions. As soon as they started excavating there were problems with the water table causing flooding. Caterpillar D7s were soon brought in. There was also a drag line at one stage.
    There were also pockets of coal amongst the clay which came in useful on the fire at home.
    Later on they laid rails down into the bottom of the hole which we sometimes unleashed at nights and had lots of fun rinding them down to the end of the track, jumping off at the last minute. On one occasion my trousers git fixed on the tub and I couldn’t get off, It was the first time I had been winded! In the early days one of the lads from Bug Row was badly burned on one of the bulldozers, neighbours collected cotton wool so it must have been beef the NHS was founded.
    The water provided me with a place were I could paddle my canoe. There was once a dog fight that ended in the water and went on until one of the dogs was dead, the pool ran red with blood, I remember it was a Sunday.
    The land around the excavation caught fire and burned underground for several years,
    My cousin was a lorry driver’s mate and from time to time I was taken to the potteries or to Mitchells and Butlers in Smethwick, I also remember being taken to Hereford and Burton on Trent.
    We were in lodging in my grandmothers house 79 Coppice Side opposite the “Coppy”

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