John Maddock & Co Ltd Oakengates
This was one of the few local industries not owned by the Lilleshall Company. John Maddock began making nails in 1869 on the site of the original Stirchley Forge, and moved to Oakengates in 1878. The company cast malleable iron, making tools as well as parts for the cycle and automotive trade. The factory expanded into Station Road and then, in 1938, the company also bought the old Snedshill works. William Lee Ltd took over in 1983 when parts for commercial vehicles were being made. Maddocks had 200 employees in 1891, 575 in 1960, and 86 in 1983.
Following a threatened closure in June 1986, a new company called Oakengates Foundry Ltd took over, supported by Wrekin Council. However, the site did eventually close and the site is now occupied by housing, including Hancocks Drive, Reynolds Drive, and Newlands Road.
Many local people still remember the bad working conditions at the foundry which was nicknamed ‘The Black Hole of Calcutta’. The author of this item’s father worked here as a dresser and fettler, grinding the castings. “A childhood memory is seeing him cough up black phlegm from the dust”.
One famous employee was Johnny Hancocks who was born in Oakengates. He became a footballer with Wolverhampton Wanderers, helping them to win the FA Cup (1949), and was even capped for England. After his playing career ended, he became a player/manager for a time and then, following retirement from football aged 42, worked at Maddock & Co until finally retiring in 1979 aged 60. He died in 1994. Footballers’ wages were very different back then!
The Christmas parties held in the canteen at the Maddocks site for the children of workers are fondly remembered by many. These were very large in the 1960’s when the number of employees was at its height – nearly 600.
Photographs from Wellington Journal
The Company’s output of malleable iron castings was essential during the Second World War so, as men were called up to military duties, women workers took their places. However, due to the working conditions, it was not the most popular of places to be assigned to. My dad’s sister was sent here as a war worker, and fought very hard to be sent to the Donnington Depot instead!
What is malleable iron?
Malleable iron is used for small castings requiring good tensile strength and the ability to flex without breaking (ductility). It is transformed from normal brittle cast iron by a controlled heating process. The most common products are electrical fittings, hand tools, pipe fittings, and machine parts.
Research Contributor: Kate Cadman
- Oakengates in the words of Oakengates people
- British History Online
- The Shropshire Wrought-Iron Industry C1680-1900, a Study of Technological Change
- Richard Hayman (shropshirehistory.com), Wikipedia
- Wolverhampton Wanderers Official website, Harvey E Steinhall, Gordon B Mannweller (1960)
- Malleable Iron Castings, Malleable Founders Society
- What is malleable Iron” Harvey E Steinhall/Gordon B Mannweller (1960) Malleable Iron Castings, Malleable Founders Society
- Johnny Hancocks info from official Wolverhampton Wanderers website Hall of fame section
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