The Industry & Railways of the South West Black Country
BAILEY, PEGG &
Ironfounders, Iron Merchants and Engineers
Brierley Foundry, Brierley Hill, and 81, Bankside, London, S.E.
This well-known firm has been in existence since the end of the eighteenth
century, but they did not at that time carry on operations at the works
at Brierley Hill, where the manufacturing part of their business is now
concentrated. In the first instance their general foundry was in London
in immediate proximity to Blackfriars Bridge. Mr. Crawshay Bailey one
of the partners in the firm, came of a Welsh family, and was a brother
of Sir Joseph Bailey. Mr. Samuel Pegg, the other partner, was the more
active element of the works, which had a large output, the distribution
of which was facilitated by the London foundry being alongside the great
waterway of the Thames. A very large order which the firm received for
shot and shell about the year 1820 was one of the causes why the manufacturing
part of the business was brought down to the Black Country. Mr. Pegg visited
Brierley Hill, and took premises where the present works are situated.
Here the manufacture of shot, shell and guns was in due time vigorously
prosecuted, as, although the Brierley Hill foundry was started principally
for the manufacture of shot and shell, the manufacture of cannon was afterwards
add, these being made of cast iron and bored out of the solid. The cannon
that were cast at the works had a reputation which is shown sufficiently
by the fact that not one of the many guns that Messrs. Bailey, Pegg and
Company for the Government ever failed to pass the test, to which they
were put at Woolwich Arsenal. As to the calibre of the guns, they range
from 32 pounders down to small swivel guns for merchant ships, and for
signalling. Mortars were also manufactured at the works, these reaching
up to a bore of fifteen inches. A large amount of ordnance of this size
was made for Sardinia, and at one time the firm used to send a great many
of the guns made at the works abroad. The old mode of transit was usually
and almost necessarily by canal, a slow but sure way of getting goods
across the country. At the present time, it may be noted that goods sent
by canal take a week to reach London, an this indicates what was the usual
minimum time in pre-railway days.
The guns from the firms foundry found employment among other places, in
the Crimea, during the Russian war; and it may be recalled that within
very recent memory an old cannon made by the firm did noble service for
the defenders of Mafeking during the memorable siege of that place by
the Boers. Very general interest was aroused in this particular gun from
the accounts the went the round of the newspapers regarding it, and which
were accentuated by the illustrations given in the pictorial journals.
It is worth repeating what was published at the time regarding Skipping
Sally, which was the name the gun got at Mafeking during the siege.
The gun, the story goes, was in the possession of two Germans in South
Africa some forty years before the war, and then passed into the possession
of a native tribe. What the Germans bartered it for is not known, but
when it again changed ownership, and another tribe acquired it, they paid
twenty-two oxen for it as the purchase money. After this, it gravitated
from some cause to Mafeking, and it was said, it was occasionally trotted
out during tribal fights for a little exercise. At last came the Boer
war, and with it an opportunity for the ancient gun from Messrs. Bailey,
Pegg and Companies foundry to show their was life in the old dog
yet. We believe the gun got its name of Skipping Sally
from its skittishness at times when discharged, but how well it assisted
the plucky defenders of Mafeking goes without saying.
The interest which the circumstances excited in the public mind will be
well remembered, and, it may be added, that Messrs. Bailey, Pegg and Company
subsequently gave a similar gun to the town of Brierley Hill, were it
stands on Church Hill, and another one to Bromsgrove. The identity of
the Mafeking gun as being one of the firms make is fully established by
the lettering upon it. on all the guns that they cast were the letters
B. P. which stood for British proof. The B.P.
is to be seen on some old guns still in their foundry yard, and it is
rather a singular coincidence that the letters also are also the initials
of Baden Powell, the defender of Mafeking. Besides the letters and crown
cast on, Messrs. Bailey, Pegg and Company used to cut B.P.&Co. on
the surface of their guns.
The changes made in the manufacture of modern ordnance left the old type
of guns obsolete, except for such purposes as use on merchant vessels
and for signalling. Mr. Pegg was pressed to put down plant for making
steel guns of the new type, but he decided not to do so, and as the foundry
had plenty to do in other kinds of work, the gun trade was gradually abandoned.
The business of the firm had, been, steadily increasing in the production
of goods for peaceful times and uses, rather than for naval military purposes.
The foundry produces pipes and connections of all kinds for gas, water,
steam, heating, and other purposes. One development of this part of the
pipe business is the manufacture of cable pipes for laying down of telegraph,
telephone, and electric wires. The breakdown of over-head telegraph wires
during heavy snow storms has been one cause contributing to the demand
for pipes for these purposes.
At the London warehouse of the firm at 81 Bankside, close to Blackfriars
Bridge, a large stock of manufactured goods is kept, while the manufacturing
process goes on at Brierley Hill. Here they have for a long period been
able to keep their workmen regularly employed, without the fluctuations
that sometime arise; the works indeed, being one of the most regular places
of employment in the district. A walk through the premises brings home
to the mind the variety of goods here produced. There are pattern stores
with a prodigious number of patterns of all kinds, and covering the demands
which have to be met during a long series of years. One of the pattern
shops, a two-storey building, is about seventy feet long, and proportionately
wide; and another of the stores on the other side of the canal appears
to have still larger area.
Passing from among the patterns to the fitting shops are to found fitting,
drilling, planing, slotting, and shaping machines, and turning and screw-cutting
lathes with their powerful and ingenious mechanism. In some cases the
casting itself revolves, and in others the machine attacks it at rest.
Just outside this fitting shop is to be found the motive power of the
works, and a fan providing blast for the cupolas whirls round, making
1,200 revolutions per minute. What is known as THE OLD GUN MILL
is now fitted with lathes for boring or turning very large cylinders.
Some of the cylinders we saw before us had a diameter of 6ft. 6in.
Out in the open the canal passes through the works, and is the most conveniently
situated for loading and unloading purposes.
The raw material for the pipes, cylinders, and castings of various kinds
mostly reaches the wharves by boat, and is taken by a steam hoist to a
staging on a level with the mouth of the cupolas, were it is reduced to
liquid metal. A fierce heat issues from the mouths of the cupolas as one
passes in front and two of these are used alternately in preparing the
metal for distribution in the foundries. Cylinders of very large size
are made, some reaching as much as sixteen feet in diameter, but, in the
case of these large cylinders, they are made in segments, and not all
cast in one piece. The castings, whether small or large, have to be made
from one simultaneous supply of liquid metal, so that the manufactured
article shall be thoroughly homogeneous. One of the pipe foundries is
sloping in its arrangement, and the liquid metal thus more easily fills
The metal from the cupolas when wanted for the castings is run out from
a small aperture into a large lined ladles which travel along on a tram
line to the spot where the casting is to be made. Intense heat is, of
course, thrown out from the great cauldrons of metal that the foundrymen
push along. There is an ingenious arrangement for raising the vessel of
metal to the required height for letting it into the mould, and this once
safely done, the after part of the business is a matter of comparatively
easy detail. When the castings are taken from the moulds they are carefully
examined, and after any machine work required has been done they are distributed
north, south, east and west to the consumer. Before they are dispatched
from the works, however, they are in many cases dipped in heated tar,
and so made better able to resist the wear and tear of the elements.
The patterns stored in the large pattern shops are some index of the variety
of the productions which the firm lay themselves out for. The socket pipes
and connections for gas and water alone make a long list, and it may be
noted that all pipes are tested by water pressure before leaving the works.
The socketed drain pipes and connections form another category, these
being of various weights, including those specified by the London County
Council. Retort settings, hydraulic mains, retort mouthpieces, sewer grates,
manhole doors, and fire hydrants, well-boring tubes, cylinders, tank plates,
hot water apparatus and coil cases come among the productions of the firm.
Besides the utilitarian side of these productions, some of the articles
take also an ornamental form. Among these might be named coil cases for
hot-water coils, ornamental gratings, ventilators, etc., columns and lamp
posts, which now in many cases take a very ornate form. We should have
to extent this list very much to attempt to particularise all the articles
that the firm supply to consumers, with their ever-varying wants.
With regard to the personnel of the firm, we should add that succeeding
the old firm, the business was conducted afterwards by Mr. William Petley,
Mr. Henry Pegg Chappell, and Mr. Joseph Petley; and that the present firm
consists of Henry Pegg Chappell, Mr. William Petley (son of the late Mr.
Joseph Petley), Mr. Henry John Chappell, Mr. Harold Petley Parry and Mr.