Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Henry Boys, Brickmaker, Walsall

A request in finding two bricks made by Henry Boys of Walsall by Pat Little, a direct descendant of Henry's, has led me to research & write this post detailing the history of Henry Boys's Company. 

Pat has supplied me with information, photos & an article from his Obituary which appeared in the Walsall Observer in 1894. 

After directing Pat to where to find examples of Henry's bricks at Cawarden Reclamation Yard in Rugeley, she came home very happy with many examples of Henry's work.

Photo by M.F.

Photo courtesy of Pat Little.

Henry Boys.

Information in these next six paragraphs was taken from Henry's Obituary, which appeared in the Walsall Observer in 1894 & supplied by Pat.

Henry was born in 1832 on Wolverhampton Street in Walsall. He left school at the age of 14 & went to work for his brother John, who carried out contracts for South Stafford Railways.
At the young age of 17, Henry decided to start his own brick making business on Queen Street & he was very successful in first few years, until the day he was served with 29 writs against him, all in one day, for damages to the adjacent property & persons. These claims brought an end to his company & Henry was not to venture back into business for another three years. 

Not to let his life & business shrewdness slip, he took up the post of being in charge of Moat Gardens, in which he laid out as a pleasure grounds. After this new success Henry reopened his Queen Street Brickworks & then went on to sink Waterloo Colliery, which was in production by 1868. The Waterloo Colliery also had a brickworks & was located east of Pleck Road alongside the Gas Works & many iron & tube works which lined both sides of the Walsall Canal. Pat has told me that Henry's brother John, owned narrow-boats in which he transported Henry's bricks via the canal.

As his new business thrived, Henry expanded his company by opening Wyrley Colliery, Moat Colliery & two more brick yards, Paddock Brickworks on Dark Lane (now Lincoln Road) & a yard at Huddlesford near Lichfield. Henry went on to produce some 27 million bricks for the building of Whittington Barracks.

Being personally in charge of all these businesses, Henry's health started to suffer, so in 1887 he decided to hand over the reigns of his companies to his nephew, Thomas Boys, son of his brother John.

Henry had been an immensely private man & as a prosperous business man he had never taken up any public positions in the town, same as fellow local business men. Instead Henry distributed his wealth by donating £1000 towards the cost of building a new hospital in Bradford Street. He then donated bricks to the value of £109 towards the building of the Science & Art Institute in Bradford Place. By Deed in 1887, Henry settled in trust twelve almshouses on Wednesbury Road with an endowment of £4000. These almshouses were designed by F.E.F. Bailey of Walsall & were built with bricks from Henry's own yard. 

Henry died on 16th March 1894 & is buried in Queen Street Cemetery, a short distance from his home & one of his brickworks. His plot is marked by an imposing monument. In Henry's Will he left in the Henry Boys Charity, provisions to annually supply Whitney blankets to poor widows over the age of 50 at a cost of £1,250. Also the same amount to supply boots to poor, infirm & unemployable men & then £1000 for shoes for orphaned boys & girls between the ages of 6 & 12. He also left a further endowment of £4000 towards the almshouses. In total the sum left by Henry in his Will was £48,000.

Photo by M.F.

Three examples of Henry's ornamental bricks.

Photo by Pat Little.

Photo by Pat Little.

Henry first produced bricks around 1850 at his Queen Street Brickworks, but as previously wrote, this first venture only lasted a few years. When Henry returned to brickmaking, I have the following Kelly’s Trade Directories entries for him.  

H. Boys, Waterloo Colliery, Walsall, 1868 edition.  

Henry Boys, Waterloo Colliery, Queen Street Brickworks, & Paddock Quarry Works, Walsall, 1872 edition.

Henry Boys, Queen Street Brickworks ; offices & residence Queen St. Walsall, 1876 edition. 

Henry Boys (patent & ornamental), Queen St. Brickworks, & Paddock Ornamental Brick, Tile & Quarry Works, Dark Lane ; offices & residence, Queen St. Walsall, 1880 & 84 editions.

Henry Boys Lim. James Bridge Colliery & Brickworks, Paddock Ornamental Brick, Tile & Quarry Works, Dark Lane ; offices - W.W. Evans manager, Queen St. Walsall, 1892 edition.

Henry Boys Ltd, Samuel Aston, manager, brickworks - Dark Lane ; offices - Queen St. Walsall, 1896 edition. 

Henry Boys Ltd. William Walter Evans manager, brickworks - Dark Lane ; offices - Wolverhampton St. Walsall, 1900, 04 & 08 editions.

 Photo by M.F.

Photo by M.F.

Locations of Henry's works.
I have established that the Waterloo Colliery & Brickworks was on land near to the Walsall Canal, east of Pleck Road & possibly on Wolverhampton Street.

Henry is recorded in the 1881 edition of Walsall's Red Book as residing & having his offices at 176, Queen Street as well as his brickworks. The site of his Queen Street Brickworks is today occupied by many small industrial units & building merchants yards & this road also runs adjacent to the Canal which Henry may have used to transport his bricks. 

The Paddock Ornamental Brick, Tile & Quarry Works was on land situated north of Dark Lane (now renamed Lincoln Road) & continued towards Hoar Brook, which runs through Walsall Arboretum. Today this area is now occupied by Prince's Avenue, Beacon Street, Crabtree Road, Walhouse Road & Broadway North, Walsall's ring road. 

James Bridge Colliery & Brickworks was located off Darlaston Road, on land which was leased from the Earl of Bradford on a 21 year lease at £75 p.a. on 29th December 1890, but this lease was terminated on the 26th September 1901 & replaced with a new lease the next day at £175 p.a. I have found another reference stating that brick making had ceased  by 1897 at this works, with the colliery closing in late 1901. Again the Walsall Canal also runs close to this site, so the company may have still used the canal to transport it's bricks ?  The land on which the colliery & brickworks had stood is now occupied by large industrial units.

According to the Walsall Observer article, Henry owned another brickworks at Huddlesford near Lichfield, but this is not listed in Kelly's Trade Directories with Henry's other brickworks. I then found in an article about the Huddlesford brickworks, stating that it was not listed as being owned by Henry Boys, but by William Thomas master brickmaker, who did make bricks there for the Whittington Barracks up to 1880 when he retired. So it may have been an agreement between Henry & William for William to make some of the 27 million bricks required for the Whittington contract. After 1880 this brickworks was taken over by Harry Hodgkins & then by his wife Mary, until it closed in mid 1890's.

Many Thanks to Pat Little for helping me to bring Henry's story to the web.

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