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Thomas Smith & Sons, Saltley

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Hello, I'm interested in writing a short history of my great, great grandfather's family firm, Thomas Smith & Sons, Saltley, Birmingham, England. It was established in 1848 when Thomas started in his drop forge making and selling hammers around Birmingham, England.

From a business catalogue in 1912, his firm made tools under the "Snail Brand" trademark. Although I don't make objects in iron myself, I do however collect "Snail Brand" tools and display them at events.

I note that one of your members is JESmith, also a descendant of the same family firm. If at all possible, I'd really be grateful if we could correspond and share information on writing the short history.

regards

Snailbrand

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Hello there, I was brought up living next to the entrance on Hams road Saltley and my father worked there for many years. The drop forging went on every day except Sunday and strangely on that day we had trouble sleeping (it must have been the absence of the rythym of the dies dropping) ... I can still recall the smell of the hot steel 60 years later.

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Welcome aboard Guys, glad to have you. If you put your general location in your header it'll make it easier for folk living close to make contact.

 

I LOVE it when this kind of hookup occurs, the internet has shrunken the world in such marvelous ways. I surely hope you correspond here so I can tag along.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Welcome to I Forge Iron, with 28,600+ registered members, and many more than never signed up;  I am sure some one will have some kind of information for you.

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Good day.

Though I am not one to join up to forums I came across this forum when I typed in for information on the final closure date of Thomas Smith & sons of Saltley, in Coleshill, Birmingham UK.

It is good that people can get to chat about their varying interests but what prompted me was Snailbrand(newbie) requesting info on Thomas Smith & Sons. I began my apprenticeship in august of 1953 (which tells you what age I am...a worn out 77 year old ). Most important though, is the request for information by Snailbrand. I know that it has been three years since but if the any info is still required I will only be too happy to give same....most importantly I do have a centenary book which was given to some employees which gives the history from 1848 to 1948 (In dickensian style) and my father gave his copy to me when I started with the company.....This copy is in quite good condition because I treasured the memories of that time. I was told in 1971 that there was only one copy other than mine in existence, though I know not if it is true. If this proves to be of interest to the Great, Great, grandson of the founder of this company I will gladly send it off by mail with my compliments because it is just gathering dust, so as to speak.

J.L.C. Birmingham UK

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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Good day to all.

Iron dwarf, I thank you for emailing Snailbrand and I do hope that your message is received. I have attached pic of Thomas Smith who was the founder of the company though Snailbrand may well have a copy of same. Much appreciated. J.L.C. Thomas Smith & Sons

Thomas Smith.jpg

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On 6/12/2013 at 4:47 AM, dicko said:

Hello there

Hello Dicko, many thanks for your message. What years did your father work at Saltley? Would you know who the Manager was at the time? Several years ago I managed to visit the Saltley site for the first time. I was pleased to learn that the Birmingham Council had given the building a Heritage Listing.  

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On 9/10/2015 at 9:01 AM, Thomas Smith of Saltley said:

Good day.

Though I am not one to join up to forums I came across this forum when I typed in for information on the final closure date of Thomas Smith & sons of Saltley, in Coleshill, Birmingham UK.

Dear J.L.C., many thanks for your message. Yes, I'd love to hear about your time at TS&Sons for my research. It sounds as if your father also worked at the firm- for him to have received the book. I managed to visit the Saltley worksite several years ago. The Birmingham Council has listed the building as a Heritage SIte. I wonder what Thomas Smith would have thought about that! As for the Coleshill site, I was lucky to receive several photos of the site before it was completely bulldozed.

I am the great great granddaughter! I  started researching the family tree in 2001 and found it difficult to find information about Thomas Smith and his business because I live in Australia. I had a breakthrough on www.ancestry.co.uk and contacted the other Smith descendants.

I have some newspaper articles on the firm too. The firm made bicycles in the 1880s and was nearly declared bankrupt twice.

If you are still willing to send me the book, I'd really appreciate that as I don't have one.

best wishes, Margaret, NSW Australia   

On 9/10/2015 at 3:20 PM, the iron dwarf said:

sent the op a message, dont know if he is still around or has the same email but it may get there

Many thanks for the message. I was pleased to see a few people were interested in my post and wanted to add information to my research on Thomas Smth and Sons of Saltley, makers of the Snail Brand tools and also the Saltley Cycle, popular inthe 1880s.

best wishes, Margaret, NSW Australia

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Good day to all.

Iron dwarf, I thank you for emailing Snailbrand and I do hope that your message is received. I have attached pic of Thomas Smith who was the founder of the company though Snailbrand may well have a copy of same. Much appreciated. J.L.C. Thomas Smith & Sons

Dear J.L.C., Again, many thanks for your message and photo of Thomas Smith.

regards, Margaret, NSW Australia

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Good day Margaret.

My father came to England from Jersey, Channel Islands in 1914 when he was 18 years old and though he began working for Thomas Smith & Sons at Saltley Mill he also worked as a gardener for two of the Smith family members. My father worked on the upset forging machines which was extremely hard work, but then all workers in the forge worked very hard. He retired in 1961. In 1959 Thomas Smith relocated to Coleshill and the move virtually bankrupted them because although the new factory was set up with a few forging units in place, virtually everything else was moved and made ready in the two week holiday July/August shutdown. It was quite an achievement, it really was. We went off on our holiday break at Saltley Mill and resumed work at Coleshill two weeks later. For 10 years after the Bank took over the financial reins, so I believe. The centenary book gives just about all the information that you will need about the company, It does make interesting reading. I am sure that you will be enlightened. You can make contact at [email protected] if you wish and arrangements will then be made for me to send the Centenary Book at no cost to yourself. Best regards. J.L.C. Thomas Smith of Saltley

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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On 9/11/2015 at 6:46 AM, Thomas Smith of Saltley said:

Good day Margaret.

Dear JLC,

What wonderful history! Our connection is closer than I could imagine i.e. your father working at the firm plus being a gardener for two of the Smiths. I wonder which family members? My great grandfather was Thomas Smith's eldest son, William.

About six years ago, I started collecting various Snail Brand tools to display at the local Hunter Valley Farm Machinery Club. I have information that the Snail Brand tools were used for Ford tractors and appeared in the tool kit for Jaguar cars.

best wishes, Margaret NSW Australia

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Good day to you Margaret and to all.

My father did mention William, though I can recall Albert Smith being spoken about more clearly when my father related his fond memories of his time with Thomas Smith & Sons. Albert, as you would know was the younger brother of William. The one Smith family member that I was more aware of was Leslie Smith a grandson of Thomas Smith, he became a member of the board and he was at the company when I began my apprenticeship. From what my father told me, Leslie was down to earth and quite a flamboyant character.

There are a few references to Thomas Smith & Sons moving to Coleshill in the sixties but that is not my recollection, especially when I can remember the move and also remember my visiting the Coleshill works in early 1960 on leave after my National Service training a couple of months before I went to Canada with the Regiment.

It has to be remembered that, though Thomas Smith made it's name through it's Snail brand hand tools it also made many other types of forgings. Camshafts, Crankshafts, Crown pinions etc. There is so much to remember in detail.

I did gain great work experience and skills from being at Thomas Smith's which stood me in good stead for my later work ventures. Coupled with my 2 years National Service, some time of which was in administration, I gained sufficient experience to later become a Dieshop Superintendent at another company and then later on again becoming a works Manager for a small manufacturing company for the last twenty years of my working life. Yes, I have a lot to thank Thomas Smith for giving me my first solid step. There is much more to be said. Best regards Margaret, J.L.C -Thomas Smith & Sons.

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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Good day Margaret.

Just a few words on Thomas Smith at the time that I first started there.

Thomas Smith Apprentice Pay-1953
To give an insight into wages paid. At the start of my employment my pay was £1.25 shillings per week equal to $2.73 Australian dollars in today's money rising to approximately £5 at the time I was 20 years of age. When I had completed my apprenticeship at 21 years of age in June
of 1959 my wage had risen to about £11.0 per week which was approximately 75% of a skilled mans rate. It was generally accepted that from when an apprentice had completed his training it would take a further 3 years to be fully skilled. even though some young men acquired skills
more readily, and that is why many qualified apprentices left the company that they worked for to acquire more skills and obviously to get better pay.

The apprentice indentures that a young man would sign, was witnessed by the father/guardian and also the mill manager. I can remember clearly a part of the document which said "that the apprentice would obey his masters at all times". Obey his masters, (imagine that today.)

Whenever someone arrived late for work they would often try to sneak in to avoid the foreman, alas, almost all times the word would go around that "Tommy Somebody" was late and someone would be on the lookout for him. When he arrived everyone would take a hammer or a lump of metal and bang it loudly onto a metal surface for a few minutes, that would bring the foreman to look around to see who it was. It would bring a slight grin to the face of the foreman as he looked at his watch as he saw the man get to his place of work. The foreman almost always took it all with a smile, though not if the person was late a second time in that same week.

On the day when an apprentice had completed his training at 21 years of age it was custom and practice for him to buy everyone in the Dieshop a bottle of beer and a pork pie and as the beer and pork pies were being taken around everyone banged away with their hammers or whatever was at hand and made a terrible din. The following day someone would go around to all those that had received the beer and pork pies and they chipped in a few shillings to a collection for the newly qualified young man. Almost every time he received a few £ pounds more than he had paid out. The young man was then expected to use that money to purchase drawing and measuring tools.

The skilled men that worked as benchands(Diesinkers) made many of their own special hand tools to do specific work on the dies-Various shaped High Speed Chisels, Scrapers, Riffler files-(fine files of different shapes and sizes) and tracers. The Diesinkers also had to make all
form gauges and templates from drawings which were used by the Die millers to create the shapes and forms in the dies and then the Diesinkers would fine finish the impression(s) It was quite hard work for the Diesinkers because they had to use chisels, scrapers,etc. it required physical effort using their hands all day. After a couple of years of doing this type of work, their fingers, wrists and forearms had built up considerable strength and they had, as it is said, a grip of steel.(Plus plenty of calluses).

Hope this added information may be of use to you Margaret, as it does relate to Thomas Smith & Sons custom and practices.

Best wished, JLC. Thomas Smith & Sons

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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thomas there were 20 shillings to the pound so it could be £2 5s or did you mean £1 and a quarter of a pound ( £1 5s )

Edited by the iron dwarf
FORBIDDEN

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Good evening Iron dwarf. Thanks for the correction. What I was attempting to write was £1.25 -- 25 shillings, looking at what I have written earlier has me confused. It's my age, well that is my excuse anyway. Best regards, JLC.Thomas Smith & Sons.

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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I would like to thank "I Forge Iron", and especially "Iron Dwarf" for passing on my contact and creating the opportunity for me to be able contact "snailbrand" regarding Thomas Smith & Sons of Saltley. My being able to give information, provide a Centenary Book and to discuss my earliest working years with Thomas Smith & Sons brought back many memories. It has been great to have conversed with "snailbrand" and for her to be in possession of a book which I feel is rightly hers, her being the great, great, grand daughter of the founder. My best wishes to all. J.L.C.

Edited by Thomas Smith of Saltley

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I am happy to help in a small way.

I hope some of the information about the company will be online for all to see sometime, I only knew about the spanners they made as I see them often, it would be nice to see a couple of pages from an early catalog for example.

do not worry about a simple mistake like the money, it is easy to make and not hard to spot.

I wish you all the best and thank you for sharing your knowledge

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Dear Web Master and John, (a past apprentice at Thomas Smith & Sons, Saltley),

Well, what a marvellous time I've had over the last few weeks! Little did I know when I introduced myself as a descendant of Thomas Smith (through his son William), that I'd  meet John H. John H has been very generous with his time in sharing his memories of working at the firm plus sending me, a booklet "The Centenary of Thomas Smith & Sons of Saltley Ltd 1848- 1948".  All of these things "bring to life" the story of the firm.

So, again, I'd like to thank this website for making the opportunity for people to connect. Well done!

Through the website, I have also connected with a Smith descendant from the firm. I have shared several emails with a descendant of Albert Edward Smith, another son of Thomas Smith, founder of Thomas Smith & Sons. Again, thankyou.

So far in my research, I have travelled to England to meet descendants of these sons of Thomas Smith, the founder: William, Thomas junior and Albert. However, I am still trying to locate the descendants of the other son, John. I believe some of his descendants emmigrated to South Africa.

I wonder if this website could connect me with John's descendants?

best wishes

Margaret

NSW Australia

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Dear followers of Thomas Smith & Sons of Saltley Ltd

I have another question for the forum, this time about the Smith O Saltley football/soccer team in1914.

My research looking through old newspapers, has found that the firm also known as Smith O Saltley, had a team in the Birmingham Midlands English football/soccer league in 1914. I wonder if anyone knows about the team? In some instances, members of other teams (who also worked together) enlisted for World War 1. Could this have been the case for this firm? 

regards

Margaret from Australia

great great granddaughter of Thomas Smith, the founder of the firm  

 

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 Hi everyone,  I know this topic concerning Thomas Smith & Sons has been going for a while now but I have a book in my possession from this company.  My partner's grandfather used to work there,  the book is called The century of Thomas Smith & Sons and was issued in 1948. It has the name Perfect on the cover, the person to whom it was issued to is Joseph Perrett and it also has the number 38 which may be his works number. Anyone know him.. Thanks

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My grandfather served under Gen John (Blackjack) Pershing during the Mexico Excursion chasing Poncho Villa in 1915-1916. He enlisted as a blacksmith and when the Army converted over to trucks from horses and mules he became a mechanic. After leaving the army he worked in Cleveland Ohio as a mechanic on Pierce Arrow and Franklin automobiles.

When he passed away in 1962, I inherited all of his tools. Many of his hand tools (spanners/wrenches) were marked as Snail Brand. Unfortunately in 1970 someone broke into my van and stole the tool box containing most of them. I have a few of the larger wrenches that were not in that tool box that I will check on the maker shortly.

What a great thread on the history of the company. I had no idea those tools were made in Great Britain.

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