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Black Country History Web Site
Black Country History is a searchable website which allows users to find information about documents, maps, photographs, art works, objects and more held by archives and museums services within the Black Country.
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Dudley Archives and Local History Service
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JOHN BRADLEY & CO. (STOURBRIDGE) LTD.
- Ref No: D6
- Date: 1689-1971
- Description: This collection contains production records; correspondence; a great many title deeds and papers relating to the local area; wills and probate; papers relating to patents, licenses etc.; financial accounts; shipping orders; tax records; insurance documents; maps and plans; personnel records including wages and pension records. The collection also contains sub-fonds of records of John Bradley & Co. (Stourbridge) Ltd., a later company which was formed out of the original firm; and records of the National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers.
- Admin History: John Bradley & Co. was formed in 1800 by John Bradley, the managing partner, together with financial backing from Thomas Jukes Collier (1761-1846) and the trustees of Henry Foster, John Bradley's late step-father who had died in 1793.
In January 1802, a Deed of Co-Partnership (D6/1/D6/1) was drawn up between John Bradley, Thomas Jukes Collier, and the six other children of Henry Foster, late of Stourbridge, Manufacturer of Iron Goods, deceased. The parties mutually agreed to be co-partners and joint traders together in the management of the Stourbridge Forge, Steam Engine, and Mill, for the manufacturing, selling and vending of Iron.
The business of John Bradley & Co. was to convert pig iron into wrought iron, for use in local industry. From 1807, William and James Foster, step-brothers of John Bradley, took equal shares in the Foster holding of the Company. Thomas Jukes Collier resigned from the Partnership in 1810, and William Foster left in 1813, leaving John Bradley and James Foster as equal partners in John Bradley and Co. at this time.
In 1814, the business expanded by taking over the site of 'Dovey's Glass Cutting & Engraving Works' at Stourbridge, and a new Works was built.
John Bradley died in January 1816 at the age of 46 years, leaving James Foster in sole control of John Bradley & Co. James Bradley managed to expand the Company into coal mining as well as iron-manufacturing, and enhanced the reputation of John Bradley & Co. as manufacturers of good-quality products. James Foster entered into a partnership with John Rastrick in 1819, which became known as 'Foster, Rastrick & Co.'.
Henry Bradley, son of the late John Bradley, became a partner of the Company in 1827 with his Uncle, James Bradley. In 1832, the Company owned: Stourbridge Old Works, Stourbridge New Works, Stourbridge Foundry, Shutt End Colliery, Brierley Hill Iron Works, Scotts Green Colliery, Baptist End Colliery, Erdington Works, Hampton Lode Works. Henry Bradley left the Partnership in 1837, leaving James Foster as the sole proprietor once more. He was a well-respected member of the local Community, becoming Whig M.P. for Bridgnorth in 1830; a Justice of the Peace for the County of Staffordshire in 1832; and in 1840 he became High Sheriff of Worcestershire. He died unmarried in 1853 and the Company passed to his nephew, William Orme Foster, son of William Foster who had left the Partnership in 1813 to trade independently.
The Company continued to expand under William Orme Foster, and by 1869 John Bradley and Co. was one of the largest iron manufacturers in the Midlands, with a total of 95 puddling furnaces. W.E. Owen & Co.'s Directory of Worcestershire & Gloucestershire in 1880 shows John Bradley & Co., iron manufacturers and founders, at Stourbridge, and also at Brierley Hill, Brockmore and Shutt End.
In the late 19th century there was a depression in the Iron industry which greatly affected John Bradley & Co. and caused them to reduce their works and output, and to drop their share of the market. By 1900, only the Shutt End Colliery and Stourbridge Ironworks remained active. William Orme Foster died in 1899, and his son William Henry Foster inherited his fortune. He had served as M.P. for Bridgnorth until 1885, and was appointed to the High Shrievalty of Shropshire in 1903. The Company continued under his control until 1913, when he sold the Shutt End Collieries; and in 1919 he sold the last remaining part of the Company, the Stourbridge Ironworks, to Edward J. Taylor Ltd.
They continued the business, keeping the John Bradley name, under the title 'John Bradley & Co. (Stourbridge) Ltd.' The new Company was registered on 11th October 1919 by: Edward John Taylor of Wollescote Hall, Stourbridge, Chain Manufacturer; Richard Lowndes of Beauty Bank House, Stourbridge, Iron Manufacturer; and William Frank Taylor of Lynwood, Kidderminster, Chain Manufacturer (see the Memorandum and Articles of Association, D6/2/A1/1). The business was managed by Richard Lowndes, a long-standing secretary to the South Staffordshire Ironmasters' Association, for which organisation some records survive in this Collection.
After the Second World War, the Company was taken over by John Bagnall & Sons. The Bradley business was then acquired by N. Hingley & Sons, Ltd. in connection with that of E. Baylie & Company, Ltd., as a subsidiary of John Bagnall & Sons, in the mid-20th century. They later became part of the F.H. Lloyd Group of Companies. The Lloyd Group then sold the Bradley premises to Sidney Smith & Sons (Stourbridge) Ltd., manufacturers of manhole covers.
The Collection contains a great many Title Deeds, dating between the 17th - 20th centuries, to lands and property in Stourbridge, Amblecote, Kinver, Kingswinford and surrounding areas. There are also a number of accompanying maps and plans. The Foster family in particular seem to have been wealthy landowners with varied interests. These Deeds are of great value to the researcher interested in local history since they record the ownership of these lands and property through time, in some cases over the space of centuries.
The records in this Collection were deposited at Dudley Archives & Local History Service as accession number 8435, and were catalogued as part of the 'Documenting the Workshop of the World' Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in August 2005.
- Level: Fonds
- Related Material: Records also held at Staffordshire Record Office, their ref: 3409 and D888.
- For more information contact: Dudley Archives