Newsletter – October 2016

October 31st, 2016 by JCope

‘Made in Smethwick’ is not a phrase that you see very often these days unless you are a connoisseur of iron manhole covers, a few of which can still be seen in some old Black Country streets. However, Smethwick was once the industrial workshop of the world and this fact is still proudly stamped on the town’s seal. Its rise and decline was the topic of our speaker this month, Mary Bodfish.

With the arrival of the canal in 1769, Smethwick became an industrial boomtown as it then had easy access to abundant supplies of the coal, iron ore and limestone from the Black Country necessary for metal founding. At its peak, Smethwick employed 50,000 people. When coal gas lighting was installed in Boulton and Watt’s Soho foundry in 1800, the manufacture of steam engines could continue both day and night for the first time.

Glass production was second only to that of metal. Chance Brothers were responsible for the glass in the face of Big Ben and also for the tremendously successful invention of Crown Glass. 1.25 million sq ft of which was used in the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851. You may remember now with nostalgia such famous names as GKN, Ash & Lacy, Tangye, Evereds, the Cape Hill Brewery and Mason’s Jafarade, all of which sadly no longer exist.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 6th December. There will be a presentation by Dr Gillian White entitled ‘The Hugely Huggable History of the Teddy Bear’. Gillian is a NADFAS speaker and is well known to Society members. She will cover origin of the ‘Bear’ in the 19th century through Winnie the Pooh to Paddington.

Visitors are most welcome at all our events – see home page for details and contacts.

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