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The first round of voting for The Regional Wall of Fame reached a breathtaking climax last month, as the search to find the first faces to grace the wall was concluded by the general public; who, after a close contest voted authors David Lodge and Arnold Bennett as the most renowned authors from the Midlands. Now, it’s time for round 2 to begin, as we embark upon the search to find the most famous industrialist from the regions of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcester and the West Midlands. The shortlist has been drawn up, and the voting is about to begin! We are inviting members of the general public to participate again by calling our dedicated hotlines, and placing their vote for the person whom they think is the most renowned industrialist from the Midlands.

The list features 12 of the greatest industrialists, all of whom were either born in or resided in the Midlands area. The companies and the products they created have helped shape the way we live and work on a global scale. Many of the machines and ideas they patented not only helped kick-start an industrial revolution, but some of the processes and inventions they created played a substantial part in the development of manufacturing and industry, helping to make England a global force both commercially and innovatively.

Vote for Herbert Austin (Birmingham) - 09011962040
Vote for Matthew Boulton (Birmingham) - 09011962041
Vote for the Brintons (Worcester) - 09011962042
Vote for George Cadbury (Birmingham) - 09011962043
Vote for The Chances (Birmingham) - 09011962044
Vote for Abraham Darby 1st,2nd and 3rd (Worcester/Shropshire) - 09011962045
Vote for Sir Alfred Hickman (West Midlands/Staffordshire) - 09011962046
Vote for Noah Hingley (Birmingham) - 09011962047
Vote for Sir William Lyons (Birmingham/West Midlands) – 09011962048
Vote for The Tangyes (Birmingham) – 09011962049
Vote for James Watt (Birmingham) - 09011962050
Vote for Josiah Wedgwood (Staffordshire) - 09011962051

Once the votes have been collated the exhibits will be unveiled at City Plaza, Birmingham. In future months the Wall of Fame will be looking for the most renowned actors, light entertainers, comedians, Industrialists, musicians (pop, Jazz and classical) and politicians.

John Hemming (MP), originator of The Regional Wall of Fame said,
“As an entrepreneur myself, I would hope that this contest would inspire people to take up the phone and vote, the list above features some of the most recognisable captains of industry, many of whom, through their products have become known globally”

The deadline for the 2nd round of voting ends on March 31st 2006. Votes can also be processed via email at The Wall of Fame headquarters and sent to Ernie Hendricks or to John Hemming (MP) Any media enquiries should be addressed directly to John Hemming (07958 398 388) or Ernie Hendricks 0121 256 1310. Mail can also be sent to Regional Wall of Fame, Osmond House, 78 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8BB. All calls cost 10p per minute, of which The Regional Wall of Fame receives 3p, monies that will be used exclusively to promote and develop The Regional Wall Of Fame.

Herbert Austin (1866 – 1941)

He became an engineer after doing an apprenticeship in Australia, and was asked by Frederick Wolseley, a businessman, if he would supervise a sheep shearing equipment factory in a small workshop in Birmingham. The company also made bicycle components and small machine parts as sheep shearing equipment only sold at certain times of the year. In 1901 Herbert became a member of the board and in 1911 he became chairman. He was always interested in developing a petrol driven car and in 1905 he launched out into business for himself as the Austin Motor Company, setting up in Longbridge. The company flourished, but production ceased during the First World War and the plant made guns and aircraft. After the war, the company went on to make the successful Austin 7; it was around that time that Herbert became Conservative MP for Kings Norton. As he became wealthy he gave money to philanthropic causes supporting the hospitals in Birmingham. He was made a Baron in 1936 and given an honorary doctorate of law from Birmingham University in 1937. He had two daughters, one of whom had a son who was killed in action in 1915. The peerage of Lord Austin became extinct after his death in 1941.

Matthew Boulton (1728-1809)

Matthew Boulton, the son of a silver-stamper, was born in Birmingham in 1728. After the death of his father, Boulton purchased a piece of barren heath at nearby Soho, and opened a much larger coin-making works. In 1773, Boulton went into partnership with the inventor, James Watt. For the next eleven years Boulton's factory produced and sold Watt's steam engines. Boulton & Watt's machines were very popular because they were four times more powerful than those that had been based on the Thomas Newcomen design. James Watt continued to experiment and in 1781 he produced a rotary-motion steam engine. Whereas his earlier machines, with their up-and-down pumping action, were ideal for draining mines, this new steam engine could be used to drive many different types of machinery. Richard Arkwright was quick to see the importance of this new invention, and in 1783 he began using steam engines in his textile factories. Others followed his lead and after fifteen years there were over 500 of Boulton & Watt's machines in Britain's mines and factories. In 1786 Boulton applied steam power to coining machines. So successful was the process that as well as his supplying the home market, he produced coins for foreign governments as well.

Brintons of Kidderminster

William Brinton first founded a business for the dying of cloth, fabric and spun yarns 1783, in Hill Pool, Kidderminster. In later years a factory was established by Henry, the son of William to make carpets which became very successful. By the time Henry became the Lord Mayor of Kidderminster in 1840, there were well over 2,000 carpet looms and 24 carpet manufacturers in Kidderminster and by 1876 the company was the biggest in the town with spinning facilities and was being run by Henry’s older son Henry Jnr. Developing and producing their own looms gave them an edge on competition and a reputation for producing quality carpets. The royal warrant was granted in 1957 in recognition of supplying carpets to the royal households. Brinton’s have made the worlds largest ever woven carpet, 135,000 square meters of custom designed axminster was supplied for the Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong. In 2005 Brintons supplied 20,000 square metres of custom woven carpets for P&O’s Arcadia. The main operations have moved out of Kidderminster town center but an administrative presence still remains. Brintons have become an international company, selling carpets throughout the world, and is still a privately owned.

George Cadbury 1839 – 1922

Born in Edgbaston, George was the son of a tea and coffee dealer John Cadbury. The family were the first to sell cocoa in Britain in a powder so customers could add water or milk to make a tasty drink. Georges Quaker upbringing meant he dedicated a lot of time helping others less privileged than himself, he felt the need to give something back as an act of helpfulness. Cadbury strongly believed that if you looked after your employees they would look after your business. He built his workers houses and grouped them around cul-de-sacs and gardens to create a community. He also built a hospital, reading rooms and washhouses. In 1897 Cadbury made their first chocolate bar, it was called Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and soon became Britain’s best selling chocolate bar. His confectionary is now recognised world wide, and his contributions to Birmingham and the area of Bournville still stands today.

James and Robert Chance

The Chance brothers started a family business that lasted for six generations. The founder was Robert Lucas Chance, who purchased an existing glass making company in Spon Lane Smethwick in 1824. With his driving force and business acumen he established the largest enterprise in Great Britain for the manufacture of plate and window glass, lighthouse lenses and optical glasses. It was the founder’s nephew James Timmins Chance, whose ingenuity in mechanising the glass-making process gave the firm their pre-eminent position. The firm glazed the Crystal Palace and Houses of Parliament, made the white glass for the four faces of Big Ben and created ornamental windows for the White House in America. Chances manufactured stained glass windows, ornamental lampshades, microscope glass slides, painted glassware and lenses, lights and machinery for lighthouses around the world. Chances perfected the first optical lenses to block the harmful ultra-violet rays of the sun.

Abraham Darby (1st, 2nd and 3rd) (1678 - 1791)

The Derby family’s business spun out across three generations, and were all connected with the Iron Industry. Abraham Derby the 1st was born in Dudley, Worcestershire, in 1678 the son of a Quaker family. Originally the creator of the Baptist Mill Brass Foundry in Bristol he soon turned his attention to Iron as he saw it as a cheap substitute to Brass for the manufacture of cooking utensils. He patented the idea of sand casting and after leasing an old Iron Furnace in Coalbrookdale he went on to perfect a technique for smelting iron ore by the use of coke. Soon the works in Coalbrookdale on the river Severn began producing iron of the highest quality. It was his son; Abraham Derby the 2nd who discovered how to make wrought iron from coke- smelted ore. This process produced a malleable wrought iron as opposed to a cast iron that could be rolled out in a rolling mill. Abraham the 3rd lived for just 41 years from 1750 but enhanced the company’s reputation by constructing the world’s first cast iron bridge, a 100-foot structure that had been prefabricated in his factory. The bridge is still in use today.

Sir Alfred Hickman (1830 – 1910)
West Midlands - Staffordshire

Alfred Hickman began his commercial career with his father G.B Hickman, the managing partner in the Moat Colliery, Tipton. The family acquired a steel works which prospered and led to Alfred becoming President of the British Iron Trades Council and president of Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce. Alfred’s company Tarmac initially came from an idea from Edgar Purnell Hooley who noticed a barrel of tar had burst. The spilt tar had been covered with waste slag from nearby furnaces and had, by chance, produced a remarkable dust-free, hard-wearing surface. In a short time he had formed the company Tar Macadam to produce road surfaces. Hooley was not a business man and in 1905, the business was taken over. The new chairman was Sir Alfred Hickman - now a Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton, and also owner of the largest steelworks in the area. Sir Alfred had been taken with the idea of being able to turn the vast amount of waste product from his blast furnaces into money! The company was moved to Wolverhampton and re-named Tarmac - a name that would eventually become part of the English language and used the world over. The initial business was supplying road-surfacing materials but soon customers were asking Tarmac to lay the material and then actually build the roads, and so the company developed a construction operation.

Noah Hingley (1795-1877)

The firm of N. Hingley and Sons has existed as a family run business since the 1830’s. Based in Netherton, Dudley, Noah started in his father’s workshop, producing nails and small chains. The business soon grew to employ 1600 people in the area, mining coal, smelting iron ore and manufacturing wrought iron goods. In the early years the Hingley plant would become the leading manufacturer of wrought Iron anchors and chains. Under his son Benjamin, the company’s claim to fame lies with the making of the anchors for ships like Bismarck and the Titanic. The biggest anchor weighed in at 15tons and was hauled from Netherton Ironworks by 20 shire horses.

Sir William Lyons (Jaguar Coventry) (1901 – 1985)

Renowned creator of the Jaguar car, he first started designing coachwork at the age of 21 when he became a partner of the Swallow Sidecar and Coach-building Co in 1927. The company offered coachwork designs for the Austin Sedan. In 1928 he moved his works to Coventry. The first success in manufacturing came with the SS1 and SS2, and soon afterwards the SS Jaguars. It was not until after the war that the name of his company changed completely to Jaguar Cars Ltd since the letters SS had bad connotations. With the XK120 and in later years the D types and E types, and wins at the Le Mans 24hr race, the brand became legendary; known for its classic good looks, build quality and performance. In 1956 William was knighted and eventually retired in 1972. He still visited the plant, where his opinions were always valued.

The Tangyes (1833 – 1906)

Richard Tangy was originally from Cornwall but came to Birmingham in 1852, he was involved actively with the Liberal party and also wrote books. He obtained a clerkship in a small engineering firm in the city where he gained a better understanding of engineering. He first started business as a hardware manufacturer and commissioning agent. With his two brothers who were also skilled mechanics, they carved out a niche for themselves manufacturing machinery. Their hydraulic lifting jacks were successfully employed in the launching of the steamship, The Great Eastern. A good employer, Richard introduced the system of Saturday half-holiday which was adopted in all English industrial works. The Tangyes family went on to sell their power machinery all over the world – hydraulic, gas, steam, oil and electricity. The business was turned into a limited company and in 1894 Richard Tangye was knighted. With his brother George Tangye, Richard also founded the Birmingham Art Gallery and the School of Art.

James Watt (1736 – 1819)

James Watt, the man responsible for calibrating ‘horse power’, was born in Greenock, Scotland in 1736. He became and instrument maker and soon developed a reputation as a quality engineer. He was sent a Newcomen steam engine to repair, and whilst putting it back together he discovered how he could make the engine more efficient by adding a condenser which was separate from the main cylinder. After an unsuccessful business venture, whereupon his partner went bankrupt, Watt teamed with the successful businessman from Birmingham Matthew Boulton. They sold Watts’s steam engine to colliery owners who used them to pump water form their mines. Other inventions included a rotary-motion-steam engine. Due to a patent granted by Parliament, the Boulton and Watt Company had a virtual monopoly over the production of steam engines, when he died the shrewd businessman was a very wealthy man.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1792)

Born in Staffordshire he was always destined to become a potter and designer of crockery. He started as a ‘thrower’ in the pottery of his eldest brother, Thomas. Due to smallpox he had to have his right leg amputated and so was forced to abandon throwing. He instead turned his eye on modelling. He went to work for the firm of Thomas Wheildon of Fenton and from there he opened works of his own. He made the models himself and prepared the clay mixes. It was in 1769 that he opened a new factory in Stoke On Trent where he improved on the clumsy ordinary crockery of the day and in 1762 he became the Queens potter. He invented the pyrometer to measure oven temperatures and took a keen interest in factory organisation. When he died he left a £500,000 fortune and a thriving business. His pottery is still collected by collectors all over the world.


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