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.