doc

HISTORICALLY Halesowen has been regarded as the town of nailers.

A perusal of old trade directories such as Pigot’s National and Commercial Directory of 1835 or Kelly’s Worcestershire Trade Directory of 1864 will leave the reader in no doubt as to the importance of the nail trade to the town.

The Rev. R. B. Hone’s evidence to the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842 painted a bleak picture: “I believe there is less demoralisation where children are employed in small workshops, as here in nailing, than when they congregate in large numbers. My parishioners are all nailers and the children begin to work in little smithies, one of which is usually attached to each cottage, with their parents; girls at about 11 and boys at nine or ten”

In 1868, the American consul in Birmingham, Elihu Burrittt, toured the area and after a visit to a brickworks in Old Hill where he described the pitiful conditions endured by the child labourers, he continued on to Halesowen which he described as follows. He said: “We continued our walk to Halesowen, an ancient town squatting down among the hills on the little Stour. Here hammers, from a thousand pounds to one in weight, make the picturesque valley echo with the heavy bass and sharp treble of their music night and day.”

Another account of 1844 claimed that “the whole population of this beauteous region being, without distinction of sex, nailers.” Surely a sculpture that is symbolic of nail manufacturing would be the most appropriate art form for the Grange traffic island. Incidentally, the descriptions of Halesowen show that Halesowen was not in the Black Country.

John Billingham

Halesowen