Pickford's Wharf

In the 1780s Pickfords began transporting goods on the canals. In the mid 1790s they had 10 boats, and by 1820 the number had increased to 80, rising to 120 by 1840. Pickford's Wharf at Wolverhampton opened in 1821 on the southern side of the Minerva Iron and steel Works branch. The company ran a number of 'fly' boats which ran non-stop day and night delivering important and perishable goods throughout the canal network. They were drawn by teams of galloping horses ridden along the towing path and changed at regular intervals. The boats had the right of way over all other traffic, particularly at locks. The scale of the operation can be judged by the large number of destinations that goods could be sent to every day, except Sunday, including:

Tipton, Worcester, Gloucester, Bristol, Tewkesbury, Gainsborough, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester.

Every night except Sunday boats went to:

Liverpool, Manchester, Preston Brook, Chester, Warrington, Stockport, The Potteries, Newcastle, Congleton, Macclesfield, Leek, Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, and Leeds.

Also on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to: Kidderminster, and Stourport.

The company initially tried to compete with the railways, but by the mid 1840s advertised as railway and canal carriers. Eventually road traffic prevailed and their canal operation ceased. At one time or another the company had offices in Berry Street, Fryer Street, and later Great Brickkiln Street, all in Wolverhampton.

The location of Pickford's Wharf.

Pickford's Wharf as it is today.

The basin extended beyond Pickford's Warf as far as Shakespeare Passage, which ran off Shakespeare Street. It included several other wharves and was used by the adjacent manufacturers.

A map showing the full extent of the basin.

Bridge Iron Foundry

On the northern side of the basin, on the corner of Minerva Lane and Horseley Fields stood the Bridge Iron Foundry, established in 1845.

The business was run by Thomas Bridges and Sons and produced all types of castings for machinery, and steam engines.

It was also listed as a tool and lathe manufacturer in 1894.

The works produced a wide range of products including hydraulic presses, condensing steam engines, and corrugating machines for the manufacture of corrugated iron.




An advert from 1896.

An advert from 1861.

An advert from 1896.


Atlas Iron Works

The next wharf on the northern side of the basin belonged to the Atlas Iron Works. The works were owned and run by John Whitehouse and produced a wide range of products.

The company specialised in ironwork for ship builders and riggers, such as shackles, clip-hooks, tackle-hooks, and  ship's scrapers.

Other products included wrought iron hinges, horseshoes and crowbars.

Town Warf stood halfway along the southern side of the basin, with its own coal yard.

In the 1960s F. J. Evans, coal merchants were based there.

Between it and Minerva Lane, in the late 19th century was a brick works.

Today over half of the basin has gone, it now only extends to about halfway between the canal and Minerva Lane.

An advert from 1861.

An advert from 1879.

Adolphe Crosbie & Company

Paint manufacturer Adolphe Crosbie opened for business in Walsall Street, on the southern side of the branch in 1875. In its early years the company also had a waste acid factory and a number of canal boats.

Adolphe Crosbie.

Adolphe Crosbie lived at the Hollies, Larches Lane, Wolverhampton. He was born in Westbourne Park, London, and educated at Notting Hill Collegiate School. He qualified as a teacher of phonetic shorthand.

He was a member of the Society of Chemical Industry, the Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce, the Birmingham Exchange, and the Phonetic Society.

He was a Conservative member of Wolverhampton Council from 1892 until 1895, and in 1901. He was keen on amateur athletics and used to compete in meetings of the London Athletic Club. He greatly enjoyed playing tennis and became Captain of the Staffordshire lawn tennis team. He regularly played at the Newbridge Lawn Tennis Club, where he became match secretary. He was also a popular Rugby referee. In his earlier years he lived for a time in South Africa.  

An advert from 1899.

An advert from 1929.

An advert from 1930.

Over the years Crosbies has manufactured a wide range of paints and varnishes, sold under the 'Wulfruna' and 'Crodurol' brand names.

In the 1920s the company's products included a range of coatings for the shipping industry, including the following: Anti-Corrosive Composition, Anti-Fouling Composition, Boot Topping, Odourless White Enamel, white and coloured enamels for cabins etc., and all classes of varnish and oxide paint for ships use. Crosbie's boiler composition was a successful product that prevented scale and incrustation and was recommended by many of the insurance companies.

Other products include industrial metal primers and finishes, wood primers and preservatives, stove enamels, water-based emulsions, dry colours, paint for colouring cement, bituminous paints, and 'Scrumdurol' graining compound.

An advert from 1936.

An advert from 1942.

An advert from 1953.

An advert from 1958.

In 1970 Crosbies were acquired by Thomas Varty. Sadly, a great catastrophe occurred in 1972 when much of the factory and the manufacturing equipment were destroyed in the largest fire the town had seen since the Second World War. Thanks to the efficient workforce, production continued and the factory was rebuilt. As a result of the fire, the company decided to acquire additional factories to ensure its survival, in the event of a similar disaster in the future.

In 1973 Griffiths Bros, who manufacture ‘Airspeed’ coatings were acquired, followed by Manchester based Williams Casco Limited. In its later years the company produced a wide of diverse products including floor coatings, and varnish and enamels for the electrical industry, particularly suitable for electric motors.

Crosbie's factory, as seen in 2016.

The business went into liquidation in April 2018, as can be seen in the following notice from The Gazette:

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