The firm Benjamin Priest and Sons was founded at Old Hill in 1854 at a time when coal output was reaching its peak in the South Staffordshire coalfield and industries of all kinds were at their zenith here in the Black Country.
The firm was in the hands of the Priest family until just before the First World War, when in 1912 it became a private limited company. After going public in 1959, the company continued to attract orders for press work, welded fabrications, nuts and bolts, etc., many customers coming from the expanding car industry, and at that time around 400 were employed.
But in 1984, 130 years after the firm began production, an agreement was struck with Armstrong Equipment to rationalise its auto-component supply and the decision was made to end its bolt making operations, effectively closing the factory in Old Hill.
Nellie Billingham was an employee at Benjamin Priest and had worked there from the age of 14 until she was made redundant at the closure of the factory.
Nellie, who died in 2011, was a cousin of Bryn Williams from Cradley, and while sorting through a mountain of her photographs he came across two that had been taken at the Ben Priest factory, but possibly with over 25 years in between. He brought them to our attention and can name a few in the frames, but wondered whether any Bugle readers might be able to recognise a face or two.
In the earlier of the two pictures a youthful looking Nellie is seated fourth from the right on the front row; Betty Kirton is seated 7th from the right on the front row (married Bryn’s uncle Albert, on his mom’s side); and Cissie Williams is standing on the back row second from the left (married to Ted, Bryn’s dad’s brother).
Can Bugle readers help us out with any other names from either picture, or memories of working at Benjamin Priest and Sons, Old Hill.
If so contact jworkman@black countrybugle.
co.uk or ring Bugle House 01384 567678.