When the sad news news broke about the apparent closure of one of the Black Country's longest surviving independent companies, James Grove & Sons Ltd, on December 21st last year, it drew to a close the history of a firm famous for making buttons since 1857.
The economic downturn of recent years has granted few favours to business and industrial endeavours, whether they be young, energetic and full of new ideas, or traditional and long established, and it would appear that James Grove has finally succumbed and been consigned to the history books. But how differently things appeared back in 2005 when the Bugle was invited to the button factory at Bloomfield in Halesowen to record the inside workings and the outside buildings of the company, the premises of which was on the verge of being demolished and the works relocated to a brand new complex just a couple of hundred yards away.
It was fairly evident that a move was desperately needed for the company to continue the work of making buttons in the 21st century, and a tour of the factory emphasised this fact by revealing several rooms that Charles Dickens himself might have described in one of his novels. From piles of stag horn to a magnificent press from a bygone age; from the whirling of the wooden polishing drums, to reams and reams of old button catalogues; it was an experience never to forget.
Horn buttons More stories about James Grove’s will no doubt be published over the coming months, a firm that once famously made buttons for the soldiers’ tunics in the American Civil War and continued to manufacture military buttons throughout its 155 year history. It will however be the firm's production of horn buttons, once up to 40 million a year, that will last longest in the memory.