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Family memories of Doulton's famous Springfield works

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 02, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Fred Hingley's long service award from the Doulton and Co works, Springfield, Rowley Regis

  • 4-way and 2-way conduits at Doulton's Springfield works "brown side"

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THIS grand long service certificate was awarded to the grandfather of Richard Hadley of Rowley Regis. As you can see, Fred Hingley worked for Doulton and Co. at their large Springfield works and Richard got in touch with the Bugle after seeing our article on the works in the May 22 edition.

The Springfield works were established in 1848, making mainly pipework and brown salt-glaze items, using clay from the nearby pits at Saltwells.

Richard's grandfather Fred started there around 1902 and he worked in the glazing department.

Both of Richard's parents worked there too. His mother Mary Hingley was born in 1911 and also joined the glazing department and went on to be head glazer. She was at Doultons for all her working life, except for the years when she was raising the family.

Richard's father Dick Hadley also worked there his whole life. He was born in 1913 and worked as a refractory brick layer. It was his job to line the kilns for firing; this was a delicate job to ensure the items being fired did not crack in the process.

Later, when the old kilns were replaced by tunnel kilns and the goods being fired were loaded onto trolleys that were pulled through the kiln, Dick was in charge of ensuring their smooth operation. Richard recalls there were often instances when the trolleys would topple over and block the kiln. It was his father's job to crawl inside the red-hot kiln, armed with a crowbar and with a sack soaked in the water over his head, to right the trolley and clear the blockage.

As a child Richard would often take his father's dinner in a billy can to him at the works. He also remembers the children's parties held in the works canteen by the bridge across the canal.

Initially, the Springfield works made only water and gas pipes and the like but in the 1920s the works expanded to both sides of the canal when they started making sinks and toilets as well. The two halves of the works were known as "brown side" and "white side" after the different wares they produced.

During his parents' time, Richard remembers that the managing director was Mr Croft. He lived in a large house, Springfield House, still standing today, and Richard remembers him walking across the fields to work every morning. Opposite Springfield House was another large house, now demolished, that was converted to a hospital during the war.

Have you a story and pictures to share about the Black Country's rich industrial heritage? Contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle .co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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