The Patent Shaft and Axeltree Company Est 1840


Men of Steel ( listed 24th May 2012 )


MEN OF STEEL ( By: Bryan Reardon )
"There were some people working there who died within a matter of months after it closed," said former Patent Shaft Steel Works employee Bryan Reardon.

About 5,000 people were employed in the 19th Century
" Their lives were shattered. I'm almost certain they died of a broken heart."

In 1980, the Black Country firm closed after about 150 years in the business, leaving a total of 1,500 people without jobs.

Like many firms facing cuts in today's recession-hit world, the steelworks had been a very different place more than 100 years before.

Back in the 19th Century, about 5,000 people had been employed to create plenty of bustle in that corner of the Black Country.

Steel products were taken around the world for bridges, wagons and railway equipment.

Twenty-nine years on since the closure of the steelworks, its former workers and other people with links to the works will reunite to remember its place on the local landscape.

On Saturday, hundreds of those people are expected to gather at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery to talk about the old times.

Organisers said it had been forced by the popularity of the previous reunion event, which had attracted up to 300 people. ( Next re union 9th June 2012 )

A book about the factory, called Men of Steel, will also be unveiled.

It was the happiest time of my working life

Bryan Reardon, former employee

Mr Reardon, 73, who wrote it, said he had plenty of memories, after working at the factory in a variety of roles between 1960 and 1977." There was a lot of camaraderie there," he said. "As I was quite young, I was very fortunate to have some really decent Black Country characters to work with. "It was the sort of company where it was not surprising to find someone's father worked there and grandfather as well.

Demolition of works

This is the first book Mr Reardon has written and he said it had been compiled as a "labour of love" over about two decades.

Stories and photographs, including those depicting the demolition of the works in 1983, were collected. "No-one had seen it," said Mr Reardon.

"It was just gathering dust on my bookshelf."

Even though it was finished about a decade ago, it was only when the Wednesbury History Society became interested a year ago that publishing the limited edition book became a reality.

Only 250 copies have been printed, but more than half of those had gone in pre-orders.

John Keay, from the society, said people still had "a lot of affection for the place".

"They were all proud people and those who went to the last reunion were proud of working at the Patent Shaft," he said. "A lot of families who may have had relatives who have passed on have been interested.

"I wondered if there would be enough people around to buy the book after 30 years, but there's been a bigger response than I expected."

An exhibition about the factory is also on show at the museum on re union days.



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