The gates have been re sited, the new home is the traffic island on the Holyhead Road by the new Bus Station

The Patent Shaft Gates have been re sited to the “traffic island” by the bus station, this is great news especially for those that worked at the Patent Shaft and encountered this junction on the Holyhead road in the early morning and late night shifts 7 days a week, they will I am sure have fond memories and pride next time they pass the gates, and I hope remember like I will all the workmates that will not be able to do this.

” The Iron Giant “

During our campaign we have uncovered some great stories such as the article about James E York III see below and others in destinations such as Buenosaires, Japan, Costa Rica and India, this valuable information I feel puts a different light on the Patent Shaft gates and I am sure surprise all that read the article about the ex apprentice, and other Fathers, Grandfathers and great Grandfathers who have been involved in a variety of structures as listed in the articles, more bridges – Latest articles are from Costa Rica Brazil and Jamaica

I would like to thank the support of the Exprees and Star for keeping this campaign alive, and playing a part in deciding the fate of the Patent Shaft Gates.

Many passed through the gates, in particular one example of an apprentice whose career is briefly outlined below.

Many thanks goes to the great grandson James E York III for getting in touch and providing this wonderful article.

A HISTORY OF LONG ISLAND VOL III, by Peter Ross, LL. D., The Lewis Publishing Company, New York, NY. 1902. Page 136, JAMES E. YORK.

James E York is acknowledged to be one of the best informed men in all branches of iron and steel manufacturing, with its many ramifications, having taken an active part in its development in this country from its infancy. He is thoroughly conversant with its various phases and potentialities.

Born in England, February 3, 1846, at Wednesbury, South Staffordshire, Mr. York served his apprenticeship at this business in the only way in which a complete and accurate mastery of details can be acquired-by actual manipulation and hard work in a steel works. After twelve years spent at the works of the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company, Mr. York sought, like so many have done, a wider scope for his talents, and came to this country at a time when as yet its immense manufacturing developments were only in their very inception.

He obtained a position at Troy in connection with one of the earliest Bessemer steel plants erected in the United States, and carried out projects and improvements there that surprised much older heads than his own.

His next position was at Akron, Ohio where he had charge of the finishing department of the Akron Iron Company, and then of the finishing department of Swift’s Iron & Steel Works at Newport, Kentucky.

During this period he introduced patented improvements in the iron and steel business of great value and which are now in general use. The Burgess Iron & Steel Works at Portsmouth, Ohio, next claimed his attention, and as it’s manager he succeeded in putting it into a flourishing condition, although at the time he took matters in hand it was almost looked upon as a “forlorn hope.” These works were for twenty years in the hands of the York family, until they were finally merged into the Crucible Steel Company of America.

The next work that engaged his energies was the rebuilding of the New York & Ohio Works at Ironton, Ohio and he subsequently became the manager of the Birmingham Rolling Mill at Birmingham, Alabama Mr. York afterward organized the works of the York Iron Company At Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and when this plant had been put into successful operation he proceeded, at the request of the citizens of Ashland, that state, to form the Ashland Iron & Steel Company, and built the phenomenal furnace there which up to the present time is the largest and most successful charcoal blast furnace in the world.

During these years Mr. York frequently spoke in public on important phases of the iron and steel industry and on the suitability of locations at the head of Lake Superior, and he may be regarded as the pioneer of the movement to establish steel works and blast furnaces at that point. He was known as the ” The Iron Giant ” on account of the largeness of the plans he promoted to further the iron and steel business and the gigantic possibilities he thereby opened up for that part of the country.

The citizens of Duluth enlisted his aid in the development of business in their town. Living there and fully recognizing the importance of the immense iron ore deposits in that neighbourhood, he organized the Ironton Structural Steel Company and built works under the York patents for the manufacture of structural steel. These patents have since been adopted in Germany and a large manufactory erected there.

At the present time Mr. York is interested chiefly in utilizing his scientific and practical knowledge to introduce patented methods by which steel can be brought into more general and at the same time more economic use.
Kindness, amiability and courtesy not only characterize his social relations, but are a marked feature of his in his business life, and the humble employee never sees a trace of the overbearing taskmaster in him.

That the relations have always been of the pleasant est character is indicated by the fact that there has never been a strike in any of his mills. He believes in paying good wages and his employees know that faithful service will mean for them a good financial return, and will bring promotion as opportunity occurs.

Mr. York was married January 22 1874 in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Miss Mary Elizabeth McConnell, a daughter of Samuel Mcconnell, of that place, and they have one child, Howard P. Mr. York attends St Paul’s Episcopal church, Flatbush, and makes his home at No. 1811 Albemarle Road, Flatbush. He belongs to the Midwood Club, the Engineers Club, the Iron and Steel Institute of London. England, and also the American Institute of Mining Engineers, New York.

To the subject of this review there has come the attainment of a distinguished position in connection with the great material industries and financial institutions of our nation, and his efforts have been so discerningly directed along well defined lines that he seems to have realized at any one point of progress the full measure of his possibilities for accomplishment at that point. A man of distinctive and forceful individuality, of broad mentality and most mature judgment, he has left and is leaving his impress upon the industrial world, while his study of economic questions and matters of public policy has been so close, practical and comprehensive that his judgment is relied upon and his utterances have weight in those circles where the material progress of the nation is centered.

Our history is being eroded just like these gates, please help me to restore these gates and the history they stand for.

If you have any comments or maybe a bit of history about the Patent Shaft then please email to the address below. I will endeavor with your help to restore these gates and hopefully the memories they represented.

Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallary

The Re-Union:

The next re-union for former Patent shaft workers is being planned and to hopefully celebrate the resiting of the Patent Shaft Gates to the Round about by the new Bus Station on the Holihead Road. There will also be an exhibition at the Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery.

It has been suggested by the organisers that a regular re-union should be arranged and was agreed by everyone in attendance at the last meeting, however as we know these things take time to organise and at the end of the day volunteers are always needed so anyone prepared to help please contact. www.wednesburyhistorysociety.co.uk.

Our history is being eroded just like these gates, please help me to restore these gates and the history they stand for. Well it looks like we have saved the gates and thanks to everyone that helped.

If you have any comments or maybe a bit of history about the Patent Shaft then please email to the address below. I will endeavour with your help to restore these gates and hopefully the memories they represented.


The scene now.


MEN OF STEEL ( By: Bryan Reardon )
“There were some people working there who died within a matter of months after it closed,” said former Patent Shaft Steel Works employee Bryan Reardon.

About 5,000 people were employed in the 19th Century
” Their lives were shattered. I’m almost certain they died of a broken heart.”

In 1980, the Black Country firm closed after about 150 years in the business, leaving a total of 1,500 people without jobs.

Like many firms facing cuts in today’s recession-hit world, the steelworks had been a very different place more than 100 years before.

Back in the 19th Century, about 5,000 people had been employed to create plenty of bustle in that corner of the Black Country.

Steel products were taken around the world for bridges, wagons and railway equipment.

Twenty-nine years on since the closure of the steelworks, its former workers and other people with links to the works will reunite to remember its place on the local landscape.

On Saturday, hundreds of those people are expected to gather at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery to talk about the old times.

Organisers said it had been forced by the popularity of the previous reunion event, which had attracted up to 300 people. ( Next re union 9th June 2012 )

A book about the factory, called Men of Steel, will also be unveiled.

It was the happiest time of my working life

Bryan Reardon, former employee

Mr Reardon, 73, who wrote it, said he had plenty of memories, after working at the factory in a variety of roles between 1960 and 1977.” There was a lot of camaraderie there,” he said. “As I was quite young, I was very fortunate to have some really decent Black Country characters to work with. “It was the sort of company where it was not surprising to find someone’s father worked there and grandfather as well.

Demolition of works

This is the first book Mr Reardon has written and he said it had been compiled as a “labour of love” over about two decades.

Stories and photographs, including those depicting the demolition of the works in 1983, were collected. “No-one had seen it,” said Mr Reardon.

“It was just gathering dust on my bookshelf.”

Even though it was finished about a decade ago, it was only when the Wednesbury History Society became interested a year ago that publishing the limited edition book became a reality.

Only 250 copies have been printed, but more than half of those had gone in pre-orders.

John Keay, from the society, said people still had “a lot of affection for the place”.

“They were all proud people and those who went to the last reunion were proud of working at the Patent Shaft,” he said. “A lot of families who may have had relatives who have passed on have been interested.

“I wondered if there would be enough people around to buy the book after 30 years, but there’s been a bigger response than I expected.”

The gates themselves are actually in a film that was broadcast on television back in 1989! details sent in by SIMON COATES called
First and Last, about a man who decides to walk from Lands End to John O’Groats, the scene around 57 minutes in shows the gates and the last days of the demolition of the shaft. Watch Film scene.

An exhibition about the factory is also on show at the museum on re union days.