A Chemical Romance

The Chemical, or in the time pictured, Superalloys works. Picture taken from The Aviation Forum, as posted by user Wildcat on the 21st February 2006.

I’ve been asked the question by reader Norman Taylor as to what I know about Brownhills Chemical Works – otherwise known as The Chemical or The Chemy, later the site of a notorious war scrapyard local kids were all attracted to.

The Chemical, for those who don’t know, was situated high on the Lichfield Road, Brownhills, next to the canal, just where the new Castings warehouse is today.

The Chemical, or latterly Superalloys, was located where the lrge Castings warehouse is now. Imagery from Apple Maps.

The simple answer is that I don’t know much, but local historian Gerald Reece came to my rescue with his book ‘Brownhills A Walk Into History’, in which he features the following passage.

Brownhills Chemical Works opened in 1870. In its early days it was a chemical plant producing acids and other coal based derivatives. It took some of its raw material from the Gasworks in High Street. The Chemical Plant took on many guises during its lifetime. One of its functions during and after the 1939-45 war was to recycle the scrap alloys from crashed aircraft. Brownhills Smelters was formed on 2nd December 1947. They were superseded by Super Alloys. When this Company went out of business the buildings were allowed to fall into an unsightly and unsafe condition. The Chimney, ‘The Chemi Stack’, a landmark for 120 years was felled in 1987. The demolition was carried out by Colin Jones of Porthmadog.

The Superalloys chimney was demolished in 1987, but do you know who pushed the plunger? These images are from Gerald Reece’s book ‘Brownhills a Walk into History’ but another set are on display in Brownhills Community Centre.

Now somewhere else (and I can’t for the life of me think where) it’s been stated that the famous chimney at the factory, pictured above beeing blown up, had the charge detonated by someone local who entered a competition to do it. Who was it? Possibly a local child?

Gerald has also asserted that a number of souvenir hand bells – which are surprisingly common – were cast out of metal recovered by Superalloys and sold as mementoes. You can read about that here.

Gerald Reece believes this bell was cast from metal recovered possibly by Superalloys in Brownhills.

Local historian Clive Roberts stated in his book ‘Snippets of History in and around Brownhills’ that for a while, before the war, the factory produced tar and the like, which would tie in with the gas works; but I’m also under the impression that Brawns of Home Farm Sandhills had something to do with the factory in the early days.

Obviously, I’m interested in anything you have to add here. You can comment on this post or email me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks to Norman for a great inquiry.

Years ago, I wrote a post equiring about the war scrap days, postwar and in to the 1980s, after finding some photos on an aviation forum – you can read the original post here. Forum contributor Wildcat back in 2006 said:

I spent many hours ‘browsing’ around the Super Alloys yard in the mid/late 60’s. What a treasure trove, if only I had realised exactly what I was playing with.

Entry as Matt said was from the rear ( I went in round the back of the ‘egg factory’). A couple of menacing dogs kept most away, but for reasons unknown they were always friendly to me and little brother. I remember seeing a few cockpits/fuselages as well as Anson Mainplanes and a large white fuselage under a canopy.

Nuff of the memory lane waffling, hears a couple of pics from the front of the yard. The condition of the Javelins is remarkably tidy ( doubt they had been there long) What price those fuselages today!!

I also found the images below on Flickr. in user Bobdcuk’s stream, from 1979:

Listed as ‘Brownhills Scrapyard 1977-York wings’ Photo taken from the Flickr photostream of user Bobdcuk.

Browse Bobdcuk’s Flickr stream, where I found the 1977 images.

Listed as ‘Brownhills scrapyard 1977 – Typhoon’ – the remembered military vehicle scrap is piled in the background, and also note the familiar view to the rear. Beneath the soil in the middle distance lies the Staffordshire Hoard, as yet undiscovered. Photo taken from the Flickr photostream of user Bobdcuk.

Listed as ‘Brownhills Scrapyard 1977 Typhoon’ – notice the welly being used as a glove, times were hard then… Photo taken from the Flickr photostream of user Bobdcuk.


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6 Responses to A Chemical Romance

  1. bipolardad24 says:

    XA760 in the first image is a Gloster Javelin FAW4 delivery date 20/02/1957, s.o.c. (Signed off charge or deemed unwanted by the RAF) 10/05/1962 as CAT 5C (Beyond economical repair or surplus, but salvage of components or spare parts is possible.) at No.71 Maintenance Unit Bicester and scrapped. They would dismantle it to the main parts (fuselage/wings/engines) and sell them by the tonne.

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    trawling through some old BUDC minutes a while ago..the Chemical works, owned by Mr Lane..Lanes farm..did produce a lot of the tar that was used by the council..1930s era..most notably when the Parade road, from the Watling Street to near the Council House was built The workforce comprised unemployed men who were employed by the Council to make this road
    Reg Fullelove recalls the steam lorry owned by the Chemical Works being garaged near to the works. I think the company was called Wolverhampton Tar Distillers…can readers please confirm or correct, please
    Regular supplies of tar were bought by the council during these years.
    kind regards
    and a big thankyou to Norman for his enquiry

  3. Norman Taylor. says:

    Thanks Bob and David for your very interesting reply it made for a great read
    Obliged Norman Taylor.

  4. The pictured Typhoon could still exist. Planes in that state tend to be passed on, accumulated with other airframes and added to or taken away from over the years so I have not found a clear answer to its identity or location!
    Remains no better that that do end up flying again – like this plan to make the only flying Typhoon https://hawkertyphoon.com/

  5. David Smith says:

    I can remember in the early 60s when the Chem had a load of WW2 anti-aircraft floodlights in the yard near the canal and the fun we had as kids throwing stones over to try & break the mirrors. I can remember the Javelins and also meteors due for the melt.

  6. aerreg says:

    hi bob the chemi in my day was owned by josiah and reg lane they had two distilleries brownhills and one in the black countrey the manager at brownhills was mr north transport between the two plants was a steam driven tanker the drivers were mr jame and mr rushton and pared over night in oliver twist farm yard children with breathing problems were often taken to close proximaty to the gates to the tar works to inhale tar fumed air to relieve congestion by the way like the lay out but ime avin problems sortin out instuctions what did you say thank goodness ha ha god bless

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