J. Brockhouse & Company Limited

This company had (and still has) its main works and head office in West Bromwich.  It was the lead company in the Brockhouse Group which had twenty-six companies in it all over the world.  It also had a branch in Wolverhampton and a branch in Wednesfield.

At Wednesfield the company made castings.  An account of this operation, by Gordon Fryer, who worked there from 1950 to 1963, can be found on another page.

Read Gordon Fryer's article

The company had its history written by Compton Mackenzie. (We are grateful to Andrea Miller for supplying us with a copy of this work).  This records that John Brockhouse was born in Wednesbury on 31st December 1844, was left an orphan at aged 12, and was apprenticed to R. Disturnal & Co, axle makers, of Wednesbury.  The owner was a man called Deeley who seems to have been a typical hard master and Brockhouse walked out on him when he was 15.  He got a job at John Rigby & Sons, spring and axle makers, of Holloway Bank.  When he was 20 Brockhouse moved on to Richard Berry & Sons of Birmingham.  In 1865, aged 21, he moved back to Rigby's as Manager.  A year later he married Maria, the daughter of J. Roberts of Wolverhampton.  In 1886 Rigby died and Brockhouse, feeling that the business would go into decline, decided to set up on his own account.  He set up as a spring and axle maker in a shop and forge behind the butcher's shop in Harvill's Hawthorne, employing eight men.  Maria helped finance the business by running a drapery shop, enabling Brockhouse to plough his profits back into the business, which mainly made springs for coaches, but also for anything else, including rickshaws..  In 1888 he was able to build his own premises, next to J & J Siddons, in Howard Street, West Bromwich. 

A company advert from 1959.

In 1896 the firm was turned into a limited company but it continued to be run by John Brockhouse and his sons.  By 1897 Brockhouse added axles to his repertoire and in 1897 he built new premises known as the Victoria Works.  

The company was particularly successful with John Brockhouse continuing as Managing Director almost until his death, aged 79, in 1922 when one of his sons, also John Brockhouse, took over. During the first half of the twentieth century the company expanded rapidly by taking over numerous other firms, including R. Disturnal & Co..  They seem to have been helped by having "a good war" from 1914 to 1918 and not bad one from 1939 to 1945, during which, in 1944, one of the firms they took over was Orme Evans & Co Ltd of Wolverhampton.  The firms they took over included those engaged in making springs and axles but also many others, so that by the second half of the twentieth century they were a typical large conglomerate.

At Wolverhampton the company occupied the Elms works on Penn Road, which had originally been built for Sunbeam.  When they moved here is not known, nor whether they took over Elm Works directly from Sunbeam or whether or not Sunbeam had sold out to a company, such as Orme Evans, which was later taken over by Brockhouse.

At Elm Works the company mainly made machine tools.  In successive editions of the Wolverhampton Official Handbook they listed the products of this works as:  high grade machine tools, automatic injection moulding machines, die casting machines, gear cutting machines, lathes, slideway grinding unit heads, keyseating, milling and broaching machines.

At this works they also did complete overhauls of all classes of machine tools; and their drawing office also carried out design work for other companies.

A company advert from 1962.

The Elms Works on Penn Road, taken from a Brockhouse advert.

The company seems to have left Wolverhampton some time in the 1960s.  But all further information about the company in Wolverhampton and Wednesfield, would be very welcome.

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