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Maker's plates remind us of old local firms

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 02, 2014

  • Taken from a gun carriage?

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HERE are a couple of solid little reminders of old Black Country firms.

They're part of the collection of a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, but has very kindly put them our way.

The one at right is a small brass maker's plate, which measures about six inches by two. It is thought to have been taken from a Gun Limber carriage, built during the early years of the Second World War, around 1940.

The carriage was evidently a 15 hundredweight 2-wheeled trailer, and the makers were Fisher and Ludlow Ltd of Rolfe Street in Smethwick. As the owner points out though, fixing your address to anything used in wartime seems like asking for trouble!

The second plate bears the name of a well-known Darlaston company: Wilkins and Mitchell. This plate is a hefty cast iron piece, measuring two feet across, and painted over at some point.

It was originally affixed to a large power press, something Wilkins and Mitchell were renowned for. Their name though is perhaps better known by the general public as the manufacturer of Servis washing machines. The firm was founded by Walter Wilkins and Tom Mitchell in 1904, in Bell Street, Darlaston. They began to supply drilling, bolt-heading and slot milling machines to local firms, and then moved onto power presses, becoming one of the country's leading makers.

Perhaps their most famous power press was one which was built to press vehicle chassis frames (cold, rather than hot as had up to then been the process) made for near-neighbours Rubery Owen. First used in 1913 it was such a success that it worked for nearly sixty years, and for the last couple of decades has dominated the entrance to the Black Country Living Museum.

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