"Wednesbury parish has long been celebrated for its valuable mines of coal and ironstone, and for the manufacture of gun locks, and various other articles of iron and steel, among which are coach and railway axletrees, springs, hinges, screws, files, spades, shovels, hoes and other edge tools, gas tubes, and a variety of cast iron articles.
The coal in this neighbourhood is considered the best in the kingdom for the smith's forge, on account of its peculiar intensity of heat. It is found in separate beds, from three to fourteen feet in thickness, and is a source of ample revenue to its proprietors. A peculiar species of iron ore called blond metal is found here, which is chiefly used in the manufacture of horse shoes, hammers, axes, etc. A reddish earth called kip is also found in the neighbourhood, and used in glazing vessels of various kinds.
The trade of Wednesbury has long had the benefit of a general inland navigation, by means of the Walsall & Birmingham Canal, which has a branch extended to the western extremity of the town, where the coal masters have commodious wharfs. The town has lately been joined to the great network of railways now traversing the kingdom, by means of the South Staffordshire Railway, which has a station here.
During the late war, the grand staple article produced at Wednesbury and Darlaston, were gun locks, of which immense quantities were sent weekly for the use of the Birmingham musket manufacturers. Very high wages were obtained for the forging and filing of these locks before the general peace, but they subsequently fell as much as 70%. Many of the workers afterwards found employment making other articles, and the gun lock filers and forgers are now reduced to a quarter of their previous number. But the parish has generally recovered its prosperity owing to the establishment of several large iron works, and the introduction of many new manufactures during the last thirty years.
In 1825, Mr Cornelius Whitehouse, of Wednesbury, obtained a patent for an improved method of manufacturing iron gas tubes, for the use of street lamps, etc, but he soon afterwards sold his invention to Mr James Russell, and they are now manufactured here by the Russell family.
During the last 15 years the parish has participated largely in the manufacture of wheels, axles, shafts, and nearly all sorts of iron work for the railways, except the rails. Messrs Lloyds, Foster, & Co, of the Old Park Works, employ more than 1200 hands in smelting iron, and in the manufacture of bar iron, steam engines, boilers, railway wheels, turn tables, and a great variety of cast iron articles.
The Patent Shaft & Axletree Company, of which T Walker, Esq, is the managing partner, employ about 700 men, and have powerful rollers, hammers, and other ingenious machinery for making their welded iron shafts, axles, railway carriage wheel rims, and links for suspension bridges. John Bagnall & Sons, Fletcher Rose & Co, and some other firms, have extensive coal and iron works in the parish. Mr Elwell, of Wednesbury Forge Works, employs about 300 hands, and machinery, propelled by water and steam power, in the manufacture of spades, shovels, hoes, axes, and other edge tools, for the home and foreign markets.
[From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851]