Webster & Horsfall

March 30, 2014

webster horsfall logo

Most of the companies whose good news is reported on this site depend heavily on the custom of the auto industry. This gives rise to fears about the effect of a downturn in that sector. Webster & Horsfall are a welcome exception, making springs, speciality wire for radar and electronic equipment, parachutes, instrumentation, surgical implant wires, spring clips for golf carts and so on. It has clients throughout Europe, North America and Asia.

Webster & Horsfall was established in 1720 and some of the local work-force now are the fifth and sixth generation to work for the company. James Horsfall, a wire drawer from Digbeth, invented high tensile steel wire in 1853; a heat treatment process strengthening the wire was granted Letters Patent by Queen Victoria. It is said that this led to a near world-wide monopoly in exporting piano wire. Another account reports its main exports were to Europe.

James Horsfall leased the Hay Mills site in 1841, when it was a sword and gunbarrel factory, but did not buy it until 1852, relocating the wire manufactory from the Penns and Plants Mills. He replaced a water mill on the River Cole with a steam-driven mill. In 1855, his company merged with Joseph Webster’s of Penn Mill, Sutton Coldfield. He built workers’ houses and a school for their children, later transformed into a chapel. In 1873, he built St Cyprian’s church, now grade II listed.

transatlantic telegraph cable 1866  transatlantic telegraph cable






Webster & Horsfall made the armoured wire for the first Atlantic Telegraph Cable, laid by Brunel’s steamship Great Eastern, in just 14 days in 1866. 30,000 miles of wire were made by 250 workers over 11 months. Read on here.

James’ son Henry was approached by T. C. Batchelor to develop and perfect his inventions for Locked Coil and subsequently Flattened Strand ropes, now used mainly in the mining industry, and an associated company, Latch and Batchelor was formed in 1884 on part of the Hay Mills site.

The companies came under direct Government control in both World Wars. In the 1914 – 1918 war it was the sole manufacturer of shell fuse spring wire, anti-submarine netting, mine, aircraft and balloon cables and in the 1939 – 1945 war it was bombed several times during air raids.

Work is now underway to redevelop the ten acre Tyseley site as an industrial park with industrial, storage and distribution space.

The buildings of architectural interest on the factory site, including the former workers’ housing on the Fordrough and a former schoolroom will not be affected by the redevelopment proposals. Charles Horsfall, chairman of Webster & Horsfall, believes the proposals will help safeguard jobs within the company, as well as regenerate one of the most deprived areas of the city: “The development of our Tyseley site will generate an income stream from our surplus land to help us do this.

“Our goal is to reach our 300th anniversary, in 2020, fighting fit.”


Another success story: Sertec rebounds after recession

February 23, 2014

sertec logo

Five years ago Coleshill’s presswork firm Sertec made 170 job cuts, reduced wages across the board by 16% and introduced short-time working and job-sharing to dig its way out of the recession.

Since then, these experts in a range of steel and aluminium manipulation and assembly processes, including transfer and progression presswork, tube manipulation, wire forming, deep drawing, welded and self piercing riveted components, have created 150 new jobs and won Jaguar Land Rover’s top supplier award competing against around 1,200 companies worldwide.

sertec workers

 In November Sertec invested in a new plant on the former Greenwoods Communications site in Coleshill and made a capital investment in new equipment, some of which it hopes will be subsidised by the Regional Growth Fund, for which it is currently under consideration. 

The firm now has three sites in Birmingham – in Saltley, Tyseley and Aston..




Andel Plastics of Tyseley invest in new machines

April 13, 2013

andel plastics header

andel locationAndel Plastics Limited, based on the Monarch Trading Estate, Kings Road in Tyseley, is a privately owned, family firm which has been in business for over twenty-five years.

Injection mould toolmakers and plastic injection moulders, the company employs toolmakers with 30 years experience in complex quality tooling, accredited to the ISO9001 standard.

It has a range of twenty-two machines from 50 to 300 andel plastics toolstonnes with vast experience of overmoulding and  auto-unscrewing tools.

They supply many sectors, including medical, signalling, plumbing, automotive, electronic, metering, gas and water metering markets.

Andel Plastics are members of Made in the Midlands and place their latest news on its website.

andel machineIn order to increase their capacity for tool making and to plan for the future, they have invested in three new machines – a CNC wire eroder, CNC hole burner and a Hurco CNC machining centre – and taken on a new tool room apprentice.

Graham Robinson, Technical Director of Andel Plastics explained: “We are really pleased to have taken on our new apprentice, Adam.  We are very keen to invest in the next generation and to pass on the wealth of knowledge we have.”  Adam has already achieved NVQ Level qualifications and is continuing to attend college whilst acquiring injection mould tool making skills.

Exhibiting at Interplas 2011, which had nearly 10,000 visitors, was good for business and it is hoped that the next event in 2014 will be even more successful.


We wish them well.


Newby Foundries of Smethwick expands and diversifies

March 7, 2013


newby foundries logoSmethwick’s Newby Foundries Ltd, a family firm founded in the late 19th century, currently produces iron castings for vacuum pumps, turbochargers, and hydraulics. They also manufacture motorsport, medical and marine components.

On the 18th December 2012, Newby’s bought Gabriel and Company, adding the manufacturing of steel castings to their existing iron casting products. They took over the premises, deployed a number of managers to the original site and retained some of Gabriel’s workforce.

Founded in 1884 by Percy Gabriel who bought a small brass foundry in AB Row, Birmingham, for £235, Gabriel’s began trading with 13 employees during the reign of Queen Victoria. The foundry, which remained in the Gabriel family, came to be regarded as a leading manufacturer of stainless steel castings and fabrications, later specialising in the manufacture of fittings for tramways, buses and railways and exporting to Africa, Asia and South America.

gabriel's bench

Gabriel and Company celebrated 125 years of casting in 2009 and commemorated the occasion with a specially commissioned cast bench in Centenary Square Birmingham in a ceremony hosted by Cllr Michael Wilkes, the City’s Lord Mayor.

In December 2010, after operating from a rented factory in Tyseley for 14 years, they bought new premises and capital plant in Smethwick, hoping to increase production and the size of castings manufactured at the foundry.

However, as Insider Media notes, Gabriel’s was hit by the costs associated with a move to new premises, combined with a ‘sudden and temporary downturn’ in PKF logoorders. In November last year, Graeme Brown of the Birmingham Post reported that the company had called in PKF administrators. PKF hoped to find a buyer and the firm was continuing to receive orders in the meantime.

Terry Golden, the business development manager of Newby Foundries, who bought Gabriel’s in December, told Engineering Capacity that they have renamed the company ‘Newby Foundries Ltd (Steel Casting division)’.

newby foundries

He added, “As we move along, we will be working with Gabriel’s existing accounts and customers and will introduce some of Newby’s original customers to the steel castings market with the hope of enhancing the development of Newby Foundries. So it’s an exciting time for us but is also a major learning curve.”

Investment by Utensa of Tyseley, offering “Not just the same old retail range of Far East imports . . . but a genuinely alternative range of British Made Bakeware”

November 5, 2012

We were recently writing about a very interesting firm with West Midlands roots, now based in Cannock. When a call was made to establish just where their manufacturing took place and the number employed there, it was disappointingly revealed that all products were now made in China.

Utensa, formerly Dunnetts of Birmingham, was founded in 1885 by Mr Rivers Dunnett who traded as a manufacturing ironmonger in Bristol Street. Loveday Street before settling in the present premises in Kings Road, Tyseley in 1922. During the war years Dunnetts made bomb fins and Land Army boxes for the Ministry of Supply.

Independent shops and stores will now come first

Due, it has been said, to over-reliance on one large customer, Dunnetts went into administration in January 2009. Robin Clark, formerly the managing director of the buyer, Utensa, a distribution company for whom Dunnetts had been a major supplier, commented: “Now, the people who’ll come first will be the independents”.

Sufficient plant and machinery was purchased from the administrator to enable production to recommence in February 2009. It has 142 products, including its best-selling extra-large roaster, a range of ingenious gadgets and a meat thermometer. Utensa started with five employees and now have 25 staff.

We will not supply supermarkets

Mr Clark explained: “Our aim is to supply a niche trade to independent shops and department stores. We will not supply supermarkets because of their tendency to look at what sells here and then go abroad – usually to China – to have everything made cheaper and invariably of poorer quality. It has been a struggle to get sources of steel with which to manufacture but we are finding it and I believe beating the Chinese at their own game.”

He said that Utensa was “making good profits in a recession because our customers in the UK, New Zealand, Ireland and Europe appreciate that British-made goods are still among the best in the world.

A loan from the not-for-personal profit revolving fund, the Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART), has enabled Utensa to modify existing tooling to meet the demand for a new heavy gauge product and create two new jobs.

Last month Business Desk reported that business secretary Vince Cable visited Utensa – to see how it is faring after receiving this small business loan.