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Noah Hingley's Ironworks seen from the air

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By Stuart McMaster

  • Hingley's Ironworks took up a huge swathe of land in Netherton

  • The canal snakes through the site, connecting Hingley's to the rest of the country

  • Though little now remains of the site, Noah Hingley's works once dominated this part of Netherton

  • These rare aerial images are thought to date from the 1960s

  • Lloyd's Proving House, where many of Hingley's mighty chains were tested for strength

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OVER THE last three years Stuart McMaster of Kingswinford has written several informative articles for the Bugle, the contents of which have provided our readers with a historical insight into the activities of Noah Hingley & Sons Limited of Netherton, Old Hill Ironworks and Hingley Athletic Club.

Now Stuart provides us with an opportunity to publish rarely seen aerial photographs of Hingley's Ironworks at Netherton.

Some months ago Stuart acquired four aerial photographs of the site, which are believed to have been taken in the mid 1960s, though their source is currently unknown.

The area of land occupied by Hingley's in the 1960s was huge; the boundary of the works as seen in these aerial photographs is described by Stuart in great detail. Beginning with a view of Hingley's looking northwest, reproduced at top left, Stuart writes:

"Starting at Bishtons Bridge, which spans the Dudley No2 Canal (a lorry can be seen approaching the canal bridge as it travels north along the Halesowen Road from Old Hill to Netherton) move along the Halesowen Road towards Netherton passing a three-storey office building and works entrance which belonged to Danks of Netherton Ltd (Boilermakers and Engineers). It is believed that Danks works, comprising two large workshops and other buildings along the canal, was in part erected on land previously owned by Hingley's.

"Standing next door to Danks's is a large modern looking machine shop with multi-pitched roof belonging to Hingley's. The end wall of the machine shop (running parallel with the Halesowen Road) and the south-side wall of the machine shop are integral parts of the boundary of Hingley's.

"Continuing on from the western end of the machine shop, Hingleys' boundary follows the northern edge of the canal as it winds its way towards Primrose Bridge/Cradley Road.

"However, within a relatively short distance from the end of the machine shop, the boundary is diverted across the canal via a road bridge to surround a large area of waste land (known as the ash banks) including a chain works, offices and small warehouse.

"The ash banks were created from furnace and steam boiler ashes removed from Hingley's ironworks and powerhouse on the north side of the canal. Remnants of some of the ironworks' buildings can still be seen, left of the tall stack (powerhouse chimney) in the centre, and right of Cradley Road.

"Continuing from Primrose Bridge, move left to right along the Cradley Road towards Netherton and then turn first right into Washington Street. The street was privately owned by Hingley's and was the primary means of access to Hingley's offices, ironworks, powerhouse, J Department and other departments. J Department was a self-sufficient forge with integral machine shop specialising in high precision forgings, including work for the aircraft industry.

"This was Hingley's largest, comprising office buildings and workshops located south of Washington Street and to the right of the tall stack in the centre of the photograph.

"The east end boundary walls of J Department and the large machine shop with multi-pitched roof referred to previously all run parallel alongside the Halesowen Road.

"Leaving Cradley Road along Washington Street, the street bends to the left and through the works towards the Halesowen Road. At this bend the works boundary turns north towards Chapel Street, between three buildings on the left and Hingley workshops on the right. At Chapel Street it turns sharp right, running parallel to the street towards Halesowen Road.

"The boundary, stopping just short of Halesowen Road, then turns sharp right running behind a two-storey flat roofed building and the Loyal Washington Inn, the L shaped building on the corner of Washington Street.

"The east end wall of the three terraced houses standing in Washington Street, to the left of the Loyal Washington Inn, completes the works boundary.

"Other Hingley buildings as seen from Washington Street looking towards Chapel Street , are identified as follows. There is a stockyard located behind the three terraced houses, and moving right to left, No 11 workshop (2 bays); the commissionaire's house; Hingley's head office with engineer's drawing office, maintenance workshops and works canteen at rear; and the warehouse and weighbridge office with carpenter's shop at rear and foundry.

The following buildings and site locations are also identified, though they may or may not be directly associated with Hingley's:

"GWR Withymoor Trans-shipment Centre located to the right of Halesowen Road comprising covered canal basin and goods station/railway sidings which connected with the GWR Dudley Blowers Green to Old Hill & Halesowen line.

"Just below the trans-shipment centre on the opposite side of the canal and to the right of Bishtons Bridge are additional workshops comprising two large bays and offices belonging to Danks of Netherton Ltd.

"On the left hand side of Halesowen Road, near Bishtons Bridge, is a small triangular plot with a building by the canal. The land and wooden warehouse building were leased from the Birmingham Canal Navigations by Hingley's in 1936.

"The building became the headquarters of the 1st Netherton (Hingleys Own) Scout Troop, however the building was demolished in 1965 following a devastating fire.

"Moving from right to left along the canal past Hingley's wharf to a canal basin on the southern side of the canal just beyond Primrose Bridge. I believe the canal basin, stables and large warehouse was referred to locally as Bantock's Horses Yard, however a wooden sign recovered from the site in the late 1950s indicates that it was officially the PUBLIC WHARF – LONDON AND NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY.

"It is also known that there was another sign, comprising white painted, 12-inch cast iron letters, attached to the rear of the stables which displayed the name LONDON AND NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY.

"The local name of Bantocks was a reference to Thom. Bantock & Co of Wolverhampton, a carrying company established in 1858. They were suppliers of shire horses, canal boats and horse cart builders, and boatage/road cartage agents for GWR.

"In 1895 the combined Bantock/GWR fleet of boats totalled 116 and the bulk of the traffic at Withymoor was connected with Hingley's Ironworks at Netherton, Harts Hill Ironworks, Brierley Hill and H. Doulton & Co, manufacturers of fire bricks, Rowley Regis.

"Directly opposite Bantocks, on the north side of the canal, is Lloyds Proving House, comprising three large workshops, offices, canal wharf and basin. Lloyds were licensed by The Board of Trade for testing anchors and chain cables and it was Lloyds who tested the Hingley anchor/s destined for RMS Titanic in 1911.

"Chapel Street is home to Primrose Hill Congregational Chapel, the second building on the right moving left to right from Cradley Road towards Halesowen Road. Established in 1853, it was closely associated with Hingley's since many of the congregation were Hingley employees; Hingley's war memorial was moved to the chapel following closure of Hingley's in 1986.

"Moving along Chapel Street towards Halesowen Road, a rectangular building with flat roof can be seen on the left hand side of the street just beyond Hingley's No 11 workshop and boundary; the building and adjoining yard were stables for Hingley's shire horses. The team of twenty shire horses selected to haul the dray to carry the large foredeck anchor destined for Titanic, from Netherton to Dudley in 1911, included six shire horses from Hingley's stables.

"Finally, the modern two-storey flat roofed building located at the Chapel Street to Halesowen Road junction is home to the Midland Research Co, Ltd a subsidiary of Hingley's established in 1946.

"Regrettably, the source of the four aerial photographs of Hingley's Netherton Works is unknown at this time, however many thanks to the photographer.

Also much appreciated historical information provided by Messrs Reg Ball, Reg Cooper and Ken Taylor former staff employees of Hingley's Netherton Works; Ray Weaver former employee of Thos. Bantock & Co, Cradley Heath; Mick Beech, Managing Director of C. Beech & Sons (Netherton) Ltd; and Ron Moss, Local Historian."

If any reader has past associations with, or has an intefrest in Hingley's, then both Stuart and the Bugle would be pleased to hear from you. Write in, give us a call, or send an email to gjones@blackcountry bugle.co.uk.

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