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 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 They were superseded by Super Alloys.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.
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.
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: