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Remembering Coseley's Cannon Foundry with archive photos

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 05, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • The world-famous Cannon Foundry in Havacre Lane, Coseley

  • By the late '70s the old works were subject to vandalism

  • The Deepfields site viewed from the canal

  • The canal and Coseley Tunnel were vital to the growth of the business in the 1800s

  • By the 1920s the Cannon works covered 26 acres

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THESE are further photographs from the collection of Dave Westwood of Rowley Regis, the local history enthusiast who, in the late 1970s and early '80s, photographed much of the disappearing industrial heritage of the Black Country.

The pictures show the works of one of the famous names in Black Country manufacturing – the Cannon Foundry at Deepfields, Coseley.

The company was founded in 1826 by brothers Edward and Stephen Sheldon at a site called the Dowry in Havacre Lane, Coseley. The foundry was ideally situated on the bank of the Birmingham Canal and the opening of the Coseley Tunnel in 1838 further improved the site's transport links, enabling the Sheldon brothers to rapidly expand their business.

Cooking utensils and cast iron hollowware were the mainstays of the business and its saucepans, stewpans, kettles and pots were exported all over the world. The company became noted for its large iron pots, in particular a three-legged 14-gallon pot sold largely to the West African market for boiling palm oil. It was these giant pots that gave rise to the popular but mythical image of savage cannibals cooking missionaries in large pots.

The business originally traded as E. Sheldon and Company and on Edward Sheldon's death in 1853 it was carried on by his sons-in-law, William Barnett and John Hawthorne, and, in turn by their sons, Edward Sheldon Barnett and William Henry Hawthorne, and Richard Clayton, a solicitor, who had married William Barnett's daughter in 1874.

In 1884 the business became a limited company and changed its name to the Cannon Hollowware Company Limited, the shares held by the Barnett and Hawthorne families. A further name change came in 1900 when it became the Cannon Iron Foundries Ltd.

Cannon launched the first gas cooker in 1895 and models such as the "Hercules" became market leaders. Shortly afterwards Cannon began making domestic gas fires too and these two products became the company's staples in the early 20th century. Other products included sanitary ware, such as baths, with their "porceliron" finish which simulated the finish of glazed pottery, builders' ironmongery and, later, plant for the chemical industry.

In 1963 the company was bought by GEC and in 1993 its entire manufacturing facilities and offices were relocated to Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent.

Our first pictures from Dave's collection show the foundry buildings in Havacre Lane. In the first picture, the faded writing on the wall reads, "Cannon Iron Foundries Ltd – Deepfields near Bilston – General iron founders – tinned and enamelled hollowware – porcelain baths and sanitary ware."

Did you work at the Cannon Foundry? Have you any old pictures and memories to share? Contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to our editorial address on page 2.

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