1987: The end of a landmark

I’ve long been interested here in the lost chemical works in Brownhills that once produced tar and cleaning chemicals, and latterly scrapped old aeroplanes and military waste for the valuable metal alloys they contained.

The final hours of the Superalloys stack, 1987. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

The adjacent area of canal has always locally been known as ‘The Chemical’.

The stack begins to fall…
Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

In the scrapyard days, Super Alloys as it was known was a magnet for local kids and tatters alike, and often had an interesting array of decaying military waste around the building.

One of the things it was most notable for, though, was the huge chimney that was a landmark visible for miles. It was finally demolished in 1987. The site is now, after a long period of dereliction, a warehouse for the Castings company.

The Chemical, or latterly Super Alloys, was located where the large Castings warehouse is now. Imagery from Apple Maps.

Recently, in the whole heap of stuff donated by Sir Gerald of Reece to the blog, he sent some really clear photos of the Super Alloys stack being demolished, which I intersperse through this post. They are wonderful and I can’t think where I was when this happened, but I certainly missed it.

I think this is what remained of the Superalloys furnaces. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

I also think that the curious image I featured here on Saturday was the remainder of the smelting furnaces at the site after demolition.

Nearly down… Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

Gerald Reece had this to say about The Chemical in his book ‘Brownhills A Walk Into History’, 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 They were superseded by Super Alloys.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 Super Alloys 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?

A landmark is reduced to rubble. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

Gerald has also asserted that a number of souvenir hand bells – which are surprisingly common – were cast out of metal recovered by Super Alloys 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, tug my sleeve on social media or email me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Years ago, I wrote a post enquiring 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:

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.
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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8 Responses to 1987: The end of a landmark

  1. Graham says:

    I think that the wellie was being used as a hammer?

  2. my memory days of the old chmie are MR NORTH was the manager very important bowler hat man children with brething problems would often be taken for a walk to its gate to lnhale the air filt fumes of tar MR RUSHTON AND JAMES drove the fire steem wagon which used to be stored overnight in oliver twists farn yard and super alloys fist offices were redudent london underground coaches thanks for the memory

  3. Andrew Upton says:

    My father worked thete for some year leslie upton.

  4. Alan Haycocks. says:

    I went to a number of fires there whilst serving at Aldridge fire station during the 70s and early 80s.
    It was usually a big pile of magnesium alloy which someone had set fire to by using a blow torch to cut up an old plane fuselage.
    We usually, against scientific advice, hit it with a couple of large jets of water. There’d be a large eruption, we’d be showered with tiny ‘meteorites’ of burning magnesium, fire would go out.
    Back to the station in time for tea and sticky buns. Job done.
    Health & Safety……Pah!

  5. BrownhillsBob says:

    Health and safety – pah!

    • Alan Haycocks says:

      A touch too much magnesium me thinks.
      The correct method, in my day, was to cover the burning metal with dry sand.
      Good in theory but sometimes a little impractical.

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