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More memories of Joseph Sankey and Sons

By dan shaw  |  Posted: February 11, 2013

  • Ron Loach (back row, second left) and his Sankey work pals

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OUR recent stories on Joseph Sankey and Sons continue to generate interest, and little wonder; the great industrial combine employed thousands of Black Country folk over the years and many people across the region have a connection with the Bilstonbased firm. This week we have two contributions from readers, one a former employee and the other the owner of an item of Sankeysmade memorabilia.

First up is Ron Loach of Lanesfield, Wolverhampton, who joined Sankeys on leaving school and worked for the firm for almost half a century. He writes: “I have been most interested in the recent articles about Sankeys, due to having worked there from the age of 14 up until its closure, 47 years on, so I feel competent to relate a few of the happenings over the years.

“There have also been a couple of letters from a young lady that went by the name of Lucy Dodd, now living in the London area. After Lucy lost her first husband, and because my wife Audrey and I went abroad each year, she came to me and said, ‘I’d like to take my two girls on holiday, have you any suggestions?’ I said, ‘Have you thought about a cruise? Why don’t you try one not too far away, say the Norwegian fjords?’ She duly booked up and came back later to say they had a wonderful time.

“Next year the same thing happened. I suggested ‘Why not a nice cruise, this time a little further away, but be careful, you’ll probably come back with a new husband.’ ‘You must be joking,’ said Lucy.

“I believe the cruise turned out to be to the Canaries and, again, was enjoyed by all the family. But during our later talks the name Ken cropped up a couple of times. I said, ‘You’ve met someone.’ Blushing, she confided to me that she was off to London for the weekend. A few weeks later Lucy came up to me and said, ‘Being as it was due to your suggestion of a holiday cruise, I want you to be first one to see this,’ and she showed me a delightful engagement ring. I was over the moon for them. They wed and have lived happily ever after, somewhere near London. So Lucy Cox, nee Dodd, if you read and remember this, I’m still thinking of you.

“I’m enclosing a couple of photos of the lads in the toolroom at Sankey’s Bath Street works. At least seven of them have passed away, so I thought that while I’m still in the land of the living, you may give them a mention and publish the pictures and see if anyone recognised a friend of family member.

“The first photo was taken 1944-45. On the back row, left to right, are: Reg Turton, Ron Loach, Ron Massey, Derick Bamford and Walter Smith. On the front row are: Bill Routley, Joe Taylor, Ron Evans and Alan Southwick.

“In the second picture, on the back row are: Reg Turton, Ron Loach, Ron Massey and Jack Ferrier. On the middle row are: Ken Hammond, Joe Taylor and Jeff Boden. On the front row are: Bill Routley, Walter Smith, Ron Evans and Alan Southwick.” We have also heard from Peter N. Phillips of Coseley, who has sent in this photograph of a Sankeys-made jug.

Peter writes: “Upon a recent visit to Bilston Museum I noticed a display of copper jugs. I own one of these jugs, which must be at least 60-70 years old, and enclose a photograph.

“I believe they were made by Joseph Sankey of Bilston. There is a number ‘2’ on the base, along with a Sankey stamp.

“I understand it may be crocodile or lizard pattern. If any of your readers could throw any more light on these jugs, or indeed if they are of any value, I would greatly appreciate it.”

We finish with another photograph taken from the summer 1967 edition of Sphinx, the works magazine of Joseph Sankey and Sons, which has been loaned to us by Pat and Terry Jordan of Coseley.

The picture shows a retirement presentation at the Sankey Manor Works. Mr E. Winwood presents a stainless tea set and a transistor radio to Isaiah Hewitt, who was retiring after 51 years at the Manor Works. Terry Jordan can be seen at the back, second from left, among the group of workmates watching the presentation.

Bilston-born Joseph Sankey started his business in 1854, in partnership with Samuel Jackson.

15 years later Sankey bought out his partner and in 1871 his eldest son joined the firm. Joseph Sankey died in 1886 and the business passed into the hands of his sons. It continued its growth, expanding into more and more areas of production and taking control of many of its suppliers.

After the First World War the Sankey family sold their shares in the business, but remained as directors, as the company became part of the mighty GKN empire. It continued to be a major manufacturer and employer in the region through the 20th century until its demise in the 1970s and ’80s, with the Manor Works closing in 1978 and the Albert Street Works ten years later.

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