This fine collection of photographs, dating from the early 1920s, has been brought to us by Alan Jenkins of Wombourne. They show workers of the Walsall firm of Eyland and Sons about to depart on their annual works outing to Evesham.
Alan is now retired but he used to be the proprietor of the Silver Knight garage in Lower Rushall Street. His garage stood next door to the old Eyland and Sons works and Alan rescued these photographs one day when they were about to be burnt.
Eyland and Sons was one of the oldest businesses in Walsall. As you can see from this old advert that we have found in our archives, the company was established in 1760. For many years they were leading makers of spectacles and optical lenses, exporting their glasses all over the world. This description of the company comes from Walsall: Past and Present by Howard D. Clark, and published in 1905:
"A large firm of spectacle and eye glass makers, Brazilian pebble workers, and optical glass grinders have been established in Walsall since the eighteenth century. Before the age of protective tariffs, large quantities of spectacles were sent by them to America, India, and other parts of the world, but the industry has since been seriously affected as a consequence. With the characteristic perseverance of the race, they have now turned their attention to other branches of local industry, and in addition to their original trade, they now do an extensive business in all parts of the world as electro gilders, platers, nickellers, buckle manufacturers, etc."
The business was founded by Moses Eyland and by 1813 they were making spectacles at the Lower Rushall Street works. By 1818 the business had diversified into making saddler's ironmongery but by 1834, according to William White's History, Gazeteer and Directory of Staffordshire, they were grinding lenses and manufacturing "about 3,000 pairs of spectacles per week."
Moses Eyland's son Charles was Mayor of Walsall from 1857 to 1859 and by the 1880s the firm was grinding glass and rock-crystal lenses on a massive scale. At this time they were also making buckles and gilding and electro-plating. These would become the mainstay of the business when, as was suggested above, international tariff barriers killed off the export trade in spectacles.
It would seem that Eyland and Sons have hired every charabanc in the Black Country for their day out. There were a least four of these massive coaches and we believe that even more were used on the day to take the entire workforce out to rural Worcestershire. Sitting five abreast in the big leather seats everyone is dressed in their best clothes. All the ladies are in their finest hats while the men wear their Sunday suits with buttonholes.
We don't know what the itinerary for the day was, but presumably it would have involved a meal somewhere and maybe games of some sort. We can only guess how long it would have taken the convoy of charabancs to travel to Evesham. The Eyland workers certainly appear to have set off in the highest spirits as each bus pulled up outside the works to be photographed.