You can’t talk about Bloxwich without mentioning the mining and metal work that went on here. Medieval Bloxwich had 600 people, but by the 1700s it had expanded with the coal-mining and the cottage industries that had grown up in the area. By 1853 there were 19 colleries, three of the newer ones were in Bloxwich.
Near Beechdale in the early 1800s there were blast furnaces, many factories and lots of coal mines. The mines were very small and not very deep. On the other side of Bloxwich was farmland.
Video interview: Bloxwich resident Ivy Lennon talks about her dad, who joined the WW1 army aged 15 and then went into the mines.
White’s Directory of Staffordshire (1834) records 80 Bloxwich firms involved in various types of bit-making. There were also eleven stirrup makers, sixteen lock makers, and six tack manufacturers at that time. Spur making for cockfighting also went on. Much of this industry clustered around the part of the village still known as Sandbank right up until the 1930s and 40s, and was carried on in small workshops at the backs of cottages, now long gone.
Light metal trades, especially awl-blade and bit making, have been a speciality of Bloxwich workers since the Middle Ages. By the early 19th century industries such as bit-making were becoming far more important than farming, and it has only been in the past few years that awl blade making has disappeared from Bloxwich industry.
Thomas Somerfield & Sons Ltd of Clarendon Street, Bloxwich made awl blades, needles and what was then the world’s biggest needle at 6ft long. The pictures above show workers and manager Albert Lawrence (centre) in 1982. The firm was in operation from the late 1700s until the 1990s.
J + J Wiggins of Bloxwich “ Old Hall” were the creators of the worlds first stainless steel tableware, (shown above) a toast rack in 1928; soon to be followed in 1930 by their first stainless steel teapot; and in 1964 the iconic Alveston ‘Aladdins Lamp’ teapot was created and is still highly sought after by collectors. Old Hall closed in 1984 due to oversees competition.
Walsall Corporation raised this mound of old metalworkers’ anvil stones (mostly glacial boulders found in local farmers’ fields) as a monument to the ‘bitties and tackies’ of Bloxwich, and it was restored in the 1980s after having been neglected for some time.