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On the foundry floor at the Birmid, Smethwick

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: January 08, 2009

Comments (14)

ONE of the largest employers in Smethwick, giving jobs to thousands of locals, was Birmid Industries, perhaps better known, simply as the Birmid. These pictures from the heyday of the famous Black Country foundry have been sent to us by John Charlton of Willenhall.

The images date from the late 1950s or early '60s and show the workers making aluminium castings, the products that made Birmid a world leader in its field. John, who worked at Dartmouth Auto Castings, part of Birmid, retired from the company a few years ago, one day found these photographs lying in an office. He thinks they may have been taken at Birmingham Aluminium Castings, one of the other firms that made up Birmid.

Birmid was made up of several Smethwick foundries that came together to form the industrial giant. Some of these firms dated back to the earliest days of the 20th century, such as Birmingham Aluminium Castings, founded in 1903. Birmal, as the business was popularly known, was one of the first aluminium foundries in the country and established a reputation in the burgeoning motor parts industry of the 20th century. It made the very first die-cast aluminium pistons in the world and during the First World War it pioneered aircraft engine casting. In 1920 Birmal merged with the Midland Motor Cylinder Company, creating the name Birmid.

Midland Motor Cylinder Company traded under the name Midcyl and was founded in 1914 in Fawdry Street, Smethwick, by A.E. Pearce and P. Pritchard, as makers of motorcycle engine cylinders. Its first order was for 50 cylinders for the Radco motorcycle, produced by cycle component makers E.A. Radnall in Birmingham, but it soon after began making aero-engines too. By the 1950s Midcyl was the largest maker of motorcar engine cylinder blocks in Europe.

Darmouth Auto Castings, or Darcast, was established in 1915 and it was one of the most advanced foundries in Britain. It made products largely for tractors, compressors, pumps, refrigerators and car parts. The company pioneered the making of crankshafts using greensand and shell moulding.

Another Smethwick company that made up Birmid was Pneulec, the company that made foundry equipment, advanced moulding machines and provided engineering service for foundries.

The main Birmid works closed in the 1980s and the firm was once more divided into its constituent parts, some of which, such as Darcast, are still in production today.

John does not know the names of any of the Birmid workers photographed (probably in the 1950s or 60s?). Can reader supply us with any names? The pictures show the men ladling molten aluminium into dies and finishing the castings.

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  • Black Country Bugle User  |  August 14 2012, 6:57PM

    Sorry Mathew I d;ont remember your grandad

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  August 07 2012, 10:29PM

    Peter Meakin, Do you remember my Grandad Mr Tomlinson, I don't know his first name but he worked there in the 30's and 40's and helped develope the cylinder head made for the spitfires.

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  • Black Country Bugle User  |  July 29 2012, 4:19PM

    I am still going at the age 84years

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  July 16 2012, 10:46AM

    any job ?

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  January 09 2012, 9:26PM

    Worked in Birmingham Aluminuim castings 1965 until 1975 would like to make contact with electricians with whom i worked with, some of the names Steve Banner, John Williams, Ranjit Singh

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  • Black Country Bugle User  |  December 11 2011, 3:37PM

    My grandfather worked at the Birmid, as a maintenance engineer fitter late 50's early 60's George Bernard Wilcox. He was hit by an overhead crane in the foundry, and killed on the 28th May 1961 aged 35. Wonder if anyone remembers him?

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  • Black Country Bugle User  |  June 26 2011, 7:37PM

    Worked in the wages office at the MMC from 1943 until 1946 leaving to go into the RAF

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  July 30 2010, 10:37AM

    Forgot to add my father was named James Thomas Pargeter. 1917-1987.

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  July 30 2010, 10:33AM

    I have recently found, my Dads, long service certificate, from the Birmid. He received in 1963, for his 25 years service, to the the Birmid. Always knew he had the Mantel shelf clock, but have never seen this certificate, until yesterday, which was signed by the Directors of the company.

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  July 30 2010, 8:48AM

    I worked for the Midland Motor Cylinder Company between 1962 and 1967 serving an apprenticship in the Inspection Dept.

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