Michael Blamire-Brown the President of Stourbridge Historical Society welcomed 56 members and 15 visitors to the first meeting after the summer break. Michael spoke of the success of the two trips that took place during the summer; Walcott Hall at Lydbury North and a walk around Alcester with Tim Bridges. He then introduced Stuart McMaster who gave a talk entitled The Industrial Heritage of the Black Country.
Stuart explained that he would be focussing on two companies; the well-known Noah Hingley and Sons of Netherton and the less well-known Bailey Pegg and Co. Noah Hingley began making chains in Cradley and moved to Netherton around 1852 where it became the manufacturer of a large-scale chain and anchors on the Dudley no. 2 canal. Stuart showed the audience and an example of a stud chain cable which the company produced and explained that the stud element of the chain provides strength and prevents the chain from tangling.
As the firm progressed through the mid 1800’s they started making stock anchors which required great muscle power. In 1850 they acquired a Nasmyth Steam Hammer which enabled them to produce bigger anchors. In 1910 Harland and Wolf gave Hingleys and order to provide chain cables and the anchor for the Titanic. It was the world’s largest anchor weighing 15 tonnes 16 cwt, 18 feet 6 inches long and 10 feet 9 inches wide. It was towed to Dudley Station by 20 shire horses, taken by train to Fleetwood and then shipped to Harland and Wolf in Belfast. Stuart showed a photo of the anchor and the horses transporting it, one of the fore deck anchor under the sea and one of the re-enactments of its journey in 2010. Interestingly, the cost of producing the original was £261 7sh 9d and the replica £50,000.
In the 1920’s Hingleys diversified into alloy forging and in the 1930’s and early 1940’s they produced parts for the Gloster Whittle jet engine. During world War II the company became a centre for the munitions industry and made parts for the Navy. In 1960 they stopped making wrought iron; the last company in the Black Country to do so. In 1969 Wright’s Forge and Engineering Limited of Tipton merged with Hingleys whereupon it was renamed Wright Hingley Ltd. In 1974 it became part of John Folkes plc of Lye.
Bailey Pegg and Co. began life at 81 Bankside London but moved the manufacturing element of the business to Brierley Hill when the company received a large order for shot and shell (the generic name for artillery ammunition) in 1820. Stuart had brought some cannonballs to the meeting. He explained that the shot was a solid cannonball and the shell a hollow one and described the production method. The move to the Black Country enabled the raw materials required, which were readily available in the area, to be moved easily along the Stourbridge Canal. In 1858 the coming of the Great Western Railway made it easier still. Stuart showed an interesting photo of fitters in the foundry. Eventually they began making cannons which were highly regarded around the world. They were made of cast iron and the core was bored out of the solid piece. He explained that cannons are numbered by the size cannon ball that they can fire. The cannons that they made for the Government never failed a test. The audience also saw photos of a 32 pounder in China, a 4 pounder in Sweden, 2 pounder in Norway and a 6 pounder that was used at Mafeking. Two cannons made by Bailey Pegg in 1822 were sent to Canada in the mid-1800s. When the Hudson Bay Company lost a significant number of miners who broke their contracts to go to look for gold in San Francisco they were advised to recruit in Brierley Hill England. The families that went landed in Nanaimo 27th November 1854 after a 6-month voyage. A wooden fort was erected to keep them safe and two Bailey Pegg 6 pounders were installed there. They are both still in Nanaimo for the benefit of tourists. Interestingly, there is a Nanaimo Way in Brierly Hill and a Brierly Hill Street in Nanaimo and the arrival of the miners is still commemorated in Nanaimo
On Church Hill in Brierley Hill there is a 6 pounder which was presented to the town when Baden Powell took Mafeking. Stuart was a prime mover in its recent renovation following a long period of neglect. The company’s production of cannons ended in the 1890’s after which other forms of work followed such as the production of pipe. The company closed in 1966.
Michael thanked Stuart for his fascinating talk. the next meeting will be on 17th October when John Pettit will speak on The Rothschild Dynasty.
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