Hartshorne .. I wonder of we are related?

Did you ever want to know everything there was to know about Hartshorne the haulage contractor, of 20 Old Park Road, Wednesbury? …………….Yes?rail hartshorne

The business survived as ‘Hartshorne Motor Services in Bentley Mill Close, Walsall.

How it all began:

Alfred Hartshorne’s father E. Hartshorne set up a haulage business at Bull Street, Darlaston, sometime in the early 20th century, most probably using army-surplus lorries from the First World War.
Alfred worked in the business with his father and sister Zilla until there was a family disagreement in 1929.
No one knows the story behind the falling-out but the upshot was that Alfred left the family firm to start his own haulage business at a yard at the corner of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street in Wednesbury.
Through the 1930s Alfred built up a steady business as a general haulage contractor and during the Second World War, like many haulage firms, he was placed under the control of the Ministry of War Transport.

In 1949 the government nationalised the road haulage business and although compensated, Alfred effectively lost his business.
Prior to this two of his most important customers had been F.H. Lloyd, then one of the biggest steel founders in Europe, and Wilkins and Mitchell, makers of Servis washing machines.
For F.H. Lloyd, Alfred Hartshorne used to transport the high quality silica sand used in casting from pits at Leighton Buzzard and Congleton.
To carry on in business Alfred effectively set himself up as a sand merchant, with five or six heavy trucks, buying up the sand at source and transporting and selling it to F.H. Lloyd.
He also operated a fleet of specially built lorries for Wilkins and Mitchell that could carry around 100 machines at a time.
These were designed so that their washing machines could roll from the production line directly onto the transports without the need for expensive protective packaging.

Bryan Mason (Who gave most of this information) first met Alfred Hartshorne in 1949. At that time he was articled to a firm of accountants in Walsall and he was assigned to look after the Hartshorne books.
They developed a close working relationship, with Bryan cycling to Alfred’s home at Rawnsley near Cannock. Even while on National Service, Bryan still found time to look after the Hartshorne accounts.
When Bryan married, Alfred would visit every week for dinner and would be put out if he did not get his favourite home-cooked fish and chips.

Through the 1950s and early ’60s A. T. Hartshorne grew into a very profitable business.
In the mid 1960s the company’s workshops were compulsorily purchased by Darlaston UDC.
In return the council sold a plot of land at Bentley Mill Close and there Alfred built new workshops and offices, which opened in 1966.
Twelve months later Alfred decided to retire and he sold his fleet of vehicles to F.H. Lloyd and Wilkins and Mitchell.
However, Alfred still had his new workshops and offices at Bentley Mill Close, ideally situated close to the M6 and the perfect place to set up a commercial vehicle service and repair business. So in October 1968 Hartshorne Motor Services was established.
Alfred, though retired, was chairman with Stan Bachelor as managing director and Bryan Mason as director and company secretary.

Bryan remembers well the visits by Alfred Hartshorne to the workshops at Bentley Mill Close.
“He would come in every Friday,” said Bryan, “he’d usually cadge a cigarette in the workshops and then he would go to lunch with Stan and I. We discussed more business and got more done at those lunches than we would ever have in an ordinary business meeting.
He had a £5 bet with Stan that the business would never reach a turnover of £1million; today it’s £70million.”

Initially HMS was a purely commercial repair business but they soon set up their long-standing association with Volvo.
Volvo trucks were first imported into the UK in 1967 by a Scottish firm, Ailsa Ltd.
This company wanted to set up a servicing network across the country so in 1969 HMS became a service and parts dealer for Volvo, and in 1971 it became a full Volvo distributor.


When they celebrated their 40 years in business, they employed just under 500 people across the Midlands at centres at Walsall, Pensnett, Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Shrewsbury, Alfreton, Newcastleunder- Lyme, Willenhall, Atherstone, and Stoke-on- Trent.
Some workers had been with the firm for 30 years or more and there were many second and even third generations of the same family employed.

Alfred T. Hartshorne passed away in 1977 and Stan Bachelor died in 1999.
At the last point in all this information, HMS was run by Stan’s son David Bachelor and Bryan’s son Ian Mason.
The business supplied Volvo vehicles and serviced them for a number of major businesses, such as DHL and Travel West Midlands, as well as working with many smaller transport and haulage companies.

“And this is where I falter, as I have no idea if they are still in business today …. Maybe you can enlighten me? …… But here is little more from people that used to work there:

Harry Brierley of Aldridge tells about his time there;
Harry said: “I worked for E. Hartshorne at Bull Street, Darlaston. The firm was run by Alfred Hartshorne’s sister and her husband Jack Beardsmore, who we called Mr B.
Later on the business was run by their daughter Eileen and her husband, New Zealander Rick Deverell. The manager was Tommy Saunders.
“I drove a 4-wheeled ERF, also a Thames Trader, ex-BRS 8-wheeler and a Guy Invincible.
The firm also had a 4-wheeler Jensen. The other drivers there were the Lowe brothers, Harry Grant, Jack Baker, Big George Lakin, and Jimmy Littlehales.
We carried everything, greasy bright steel, British guide rails, and wheat for Walsall flour mills, which we had contract vehicles for.
I left the company in 1959.”

Robert Severn also said;
WITH reference to the photograph of Alfred T. Hartshorne’s lorry, I have some slight knowledge of the Hartshorne family.
In 1923, at the age of 14, my late mother Kathleen Blick, as she was then, worked for the Hartshorne family at a public house they owned in Darlaston.
This was the Springhead Tavern on the Walsall Road just below and on the same side as Gordon Street.
I cannot remember Alfred’s father’s Christian names but I believe his initials were E.T. Hartshorne.
Alfred had a sister called Zilla who married a man called Jack Beardsmore and I believe some sort of partnership existed between Jack Beardsmore and Alfred’s father.
However, at some stage Alfred started his own business, hence his name appears on the lorry in the photograph.

Many years later, the Beardsmore’s lived in a magnificent house in Slaney Road, Pleck, which boasted a music room, morning room etc., and a tennis court in the grounds!
I watched the Queen’s coronation on their television in 1953.

In the 1920’s my mother, as a young girl, worked for Mr and Mrs E.T. Hartshorne as a barmaid at the Spring Head Tavern on Walsall Road, Darlaston.
Mr E.T. Hartshorne also ran a small transport business.
My mother used to recall that in addition to the haulage business Mr Hartshorne used to put seats on the back of his lorry at the weekends and use it as a kind of primitive charabanc to run trips to the local countryside.
The Hartshornes had a son Alfred T. and a daughter Zillah. Father and son ran the transport business together until eventually there was a falling out.
Alfred borrowed money to buy his first lorry and that’s how the Alfred T. Hartshorne company began.

My mother also recalled that in the first few years of Alf’s breakaway things were so desperate for he and his wife that, unknown to their parents, his sister Zillah used to smuggle food out of the pub to feed them.
Eventually, however, Alf’s venture began to prosper and he built up a fleet of modern (for then) well turned out and maintained lorries.

I can remember as a schoolboy at the nearby Kings Hill school in the 1930’s and 40’s A.T. Hartshorne’s depot on the junction of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street, always being a hive of activity.
In the late forties the then Labour government nationalised all transport.
I would imagine that Alfred T’s for certain and possibly the smaller E.T. Hartshorne would have thus been taken out of the private sector.
Much later when road transport was re-privatised I don’t think Alfred T. Hartshorne’s ever re-emerged as a haulage business. E.T. Hartshorne, however, now ran by Zillah’s husband Jack Beardmore (or Beardsmore) and eventually their son-in-law, did.
I know that the business was still running in the fifties and sixties because I rented a lock up garage from them at their depot in Bull Street, Darlaston.

Back to Alfred T. In recent years I have seen adverts and mentions in the business news of an Alfred T. Hartshorne in Bentley Mill Lane between Darlaston and Walsall who I believe are in the business of selling, repairing and maintaining vehicles connected with the heavy haulage trade.
I think they are still there. I don’t think that Alfred and his wife had any children, but to me, it seems likely that this is continuation of the original business name.
About 100 yards along Old Park Road from Hartshorne’s garage there used to be an old chapel facing the top of Franchise Street. Looking at the arched front door in the picture above, and the side extension it looks very much like the chapel I remember as a boy.

(It can be confirmed that the business at Bentley Mill (Hartshorne Motor Services) was founded in 1968 when the premises were acquired from Mr Hartshorne

“And there you have it ….. I know a bit about everything I do! …. And now most of you do too”   Smile


Rides on Railways …. Observing the Wednesbury Savages.

Here is a lovely description of Wednesbury people, by Mr Samuel Sidney as he take’s us on a train journey past Wednesbury & the Black Country…..  around the 1800’s.

What he writes will not surprise most of us by now, we have heard it all before. … Aye we? But those a little newer to THOW and my never ending quest to find ‘anything’ Wednesbury related might take offence at the description of our own. But don’t …. It’s all true! 

Enjoy …. you savages!

Taken from the book ‘RIDES ON RAILWAYS by Samuel Sidney.


The following pages are an attempt to supply something amusing, instructive, and suggestive to travelers who, not caring particularly where they go, or how long they stay at any particular place, may wish to know something of the towns and districts through which they pass, on their way to Wales, the Lakes of Cumberland, or the Highlands of Scotland; or to those who, having a brief vacation, may wish to employ it among pleasant rural scenes, and in investigating the manufactures, the mines, and other sources of the commerce and influence of this small island and great country.

In performing this task, I have relied partly on personal observation, partly on notes and the memory of former journeys; and where needful have used the historical information to be found in cyclopaedia’s, and local guide-books.

This must account for, if it does not excuse, the unequal space devoted to districts with equal claims to attention. But it would take years, if not a lifetime, to render the manuscript of so discursive a work complete and correct.

I feel that I have been guilty of many faults of commission and omission; but if the friends of those localities to which I have not done justice will take the trouble to forward to me any facts or figures of public general interest, they shall be carefully embodied in any future edition, should the book, as I hope it will, arrive at such an honour and profit.


The first diverging railway after leaving Handsworth, on the road to the north, is what, for want of a better name, called the South Staffordshire, which connects Birmingham with Dudley, Walsall, Lichfield, and Tamworth, thus uniting the most purely agricultural with the most thoroughly manufacturing districts, and especially with that part of the great coal-field which is locally known as the “Black Country.”

In this Black Country, including West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Dudley, and Darlaston, Bilston, Wolverhampton, and several minor villages, a perpetual twilight reigns during the day, and during the night fires on all sides light up the dark landscape with a fiery glow.

The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome; the natural dead flat is often broken by huge hills of cinders and spoil from the mines; the few trees are stunted and blasted; no birds are to be seen, except a few smoky sparrows; and for miles on miles a black waste spreads around, where furnaces continually smoke, steam-engines thud and hiss, and long chains clank, while blind gin-horses walk their doleful round.

From time to time you pass a cluster of deserted roofless cottages of dingiest brick, half-swallowed up in sinking pits or inclining to every point of the compass, while the timbers point up like the ribs of a half-decayed corpse.

The majority of the natives of this Tartarian region are in full keeping with the scenery—savages, without the grace of savages, coarsely clad in filthy garments, with no change on week-days and Sundays, they converse in a language belarded with fearful and disgusting oaths, which can scarcely be recognized as the same as that of civilized England.

On working days few men are to be seen, they are in the pits or the ironworks, but women are met on the high-road clad in men’s once white linsey-woolsey coats and felt hats, driving and cursing strings of donkeys laden with coals or iron rods for the use of the nailers.

On certain rare holidays these people wash their faces, clothe themselves in decent garments, and, since the opening of the South Staffordshire Railway, take advantage of cheap excursion trains, go down to Birmingham to amuse themselves and make purchases.

“It would be a useful lesson for anyone who is particularly well satisfied with the moral, educational, and religious state of his countrymen, to make a little journey through this Black Country.

He will find that the amiable enthusiasts who meet every May at Exeter Hall to consider on the best means of converting certain aboriginal tribes in Africa, India, and the Islands of the Pacific, need not go so far to find human beings more barbarous and yet much more easily reclaimed.”

The people of this district are engaged in coal-mining, in ironworks, in making nails, and many other articles, or parts of articles, for the Birmingham trade.  Their wages are, for the most part, good; fuel is cheap; well supplied markets, and means of obtaining the best clothing are close at hand.

But, within sixty years a vast dense population has been collected together in districts which were but thinly inhabited as long as the value lay on the surface, instead of in the bowels of the earth.

The people gathered together and found neither churches, nor schools, nor laws, nor customs, nor means for cleanliness at first, nor even an effective police to keep order.

And thus they became one of the most ignorant, brutal, depraved, drunken, unhealthy populations in the kingdom, unless it be a set of people in the same occupations in the neighbourhood of Manchester.

“We shall never forget, some five-and-twenty years ago, passing near Bilston on a summer’s holiday, and seeing a great red, pied bull foaming, and roaring, and marching round a ring in which he was chained, while a crowd of men, each with a demoniacal-looking bulldog in his arms, and a number of ragged women, with their hair about their ears, some of them also carrying bull-dog pups, yelled about the baited bull. It gave us an awful fright, and haunted our childish dreams for years after.”

The first change forced upon the governing classes, by feelings of self- protection was an organized police, and the “Black” people are now more disgusting than dangerous.

The cholera of 1832, which decimated Bilston and Wednesbury, did something toward calling attention to the grievous social and sanitary wants of this district. In that pestilence several clergymen and medical men died, like heroes, in the discharge of their duties.  Some churches were built, some schools established; but an immense work remains to be done. Bull-baiting has been put down, but no rational amusements have been substituted for that brutal and exciting sport.

“In the northern coal fields, near Newcastle-on-Tyne especially, we have noticed that when the miner ascends from the pit in the evening, his first care is to wash himself from head to foot, and then to put on a clean suit of white flannel. As you pass along the one street of a pitman’s village, you will see the father reading a Chambers’ Journal or a cheap religious magazine at the door of his cottage while smoking a pipe, and nursing a child or two on his knee; and through the open door, a neat four-post bed and an oak or mahogany chest of drawers bear witness to his frugality.”

But in Wednesbury, Bilston, and all that district, when work is over you find the men drinking in their dirty clothes and with grimy faces at the beer-shop of the “Buttey,” that is to say, the contractor or middleman under whom they work, according to the system of the country, and the women hanging about the doors of their dingy dwellings, gossiping or quarreling,—the old furies and the young slatterns.

In the face of such savagery, so evidently the result of defective education, two opposite and extreme parties in the State, the anti-church Mialls and the pro-church Anthony Denisons, combine to oppose the multiplication of education that teaches decency if it teaches nothing else.

One great step has been made by the Health of Town’s Act, which is about to be applied to some of these coal towns; and railways have rendered the whole district so accessible that no foul spot can long remain unknown or unnoticed.

WEDNESBURY, pronounced Wedgebury, and spelt Wednesberie in Domesday Book, stands in the very heart of the coal and iron district, and is as like Tipton, Darlaston, Bilston, and other towns where the inhabitants are similarly employed, as one sweep is like another.

Birmingham factors depend largely on Wedgebury for various kinds of ironwork and “heavy steel toys.” The coal pits in the neighbourhood are of great value, and there is no better place in the kingdom to buy a thoroughbred bull dog that will “kill or die on it,” but never turn tail.

The name is supposed to incorporate that of the Saxon god Woden, whose worship consisted in getting drunk and fighting, and, to this day, that is the only kind of relaxation in which many of the inhabitants ever indulge.     :-O

The church stands upon a hill, where Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia, built a castle to resist the Danes, A.D. 914, about the time that she erected similar bulwarks at Tamworth and other towns in the Midland counties, but there are no antiquities worth the trouble of visiting.

Parties who take an interest in the progress of education in this kingdom among those classes where it is most needed, that is to say, masses of miners and mechanics residing in districts from which all the higher and most of the middle classes have removed; where the clergy are few, hard worked, and ill paid; where the virtues of a thinly peopled agricultural district have been exchanged for the vices, without the refinements, of a crowded town population, should traverse this part of Staffordshire on foot.     (Dare ya!)  🙂

They will own that, in spite of the praiseworthy labours of both Church and Dissent,—in spite of the progress of Temperance Societies and Savings’ Banks,—a crowd of children are daily growing up in a state of ignorance, dirt, and degradation fearful to contemplate.

To active philanthropists, not to seekers of the picturesque, archaeologists, and antiquarians, do we address ourselves. Still we ought to add that, in the iron works and rolling mills, there are studies of half naked men in active motion at night, with effect of red firelight and dark shade, in which the power of painting flesh and muscular development might be more effectively displayed than in the perpetual repetition of model Eves and sprawling nymphs.

He then moves on to our neighbours and it does get worse…. but I will add those at a later date.

But there is some very interesting stuff about the gun trade that I have decided to add also, because after all, we are well known for our gun lock making.  But saying that … It is only really interesting if you are keen on guns, as I always have been & I know a few more people on THOW page are too.

(This is from the same book, which as a whole, is a very interesting read altogether. This book can be found as a free eBook for anyone interested)

The visitor of the Black Country who has the necessary introductions, should by no means omit to visit a gun-barrel factory, as there are a good many picturesque effects in the various processes, beside the mechanical instruction it affords. The following is the order of the fabrication of a common gun:

The sheets for barrels are made from scraps of steel and iron, such as old coach-springs, knives, steel chains, horse shoes and horseshoe nails, and sheets of waste steel from steel pen manufactories.

These, having been sorted, are bound together, and submitted first to such a furnace, and then to such a steam hammer as we described in our visit to Wolverton, until it is shaped into a bar of tough iron, which is afterwards rolled into sheets of the requisite thickness.

From one of these sheets a length sufficient to make a gun barrel is cut off by a pair of steam-moved shears, of which the lower jaw is stationary and the upper weighs a ton, of which plenty of examples may be seen in every steam engine factory.

The slip of iron is made red hot, placed between a pair of rollers, one of which is convex and the other concave, and comes out in a semicircular trough shape; again heated, and again pressed by smaller rollers, by which the cylinder is nearly completed. A long bar of iron is passed through the cylinder, it is thrust into the fire again, and, when red hot, it is submitted to the welder, who hammers it and heats it and hammers it again, until it assumes the form of a perfect tube.

Damascus barrels are made by incorporating alternate layers of red hot steel and iron, which are then twisted into the shape of a screw while at white heat. The bar thus made is twisted in a cold state by steam power round a bar into a barrel shape, then heated and welded together. These are the barrels which present the beautiful variegated appearance which gives them the name of Damascus.

The barrels, whether common or twisted, are then bored by a steel rod, kept wet with water or oil, and turned by steam. The process occupies from two to three hours for each barrel.

The next operation is that of grinding the outside of the barrel with sandstone wheels, from five to six feet in diameter when new, driven by steam. These stones chiefly come from the neighbouring district of Bilston; in four months’ work, a stone of this size will be reduced to two feet.

The employment is hard, dangerous from the stones often breaking while in motion, in which case pieces of stone weighing a ton have been known to fly through the roof of the shop; unwholesome, because the sand and steel dust fill eyes, mouth, and lungs, unless a certain simple precaution is taken which grinders never take.

After grinding, a nut is screwed into the breech, and the barrel is taken to the proof house to be proved. The proof house is a detached building, the interior of which is lined with plates of cast iron.

The barrels are set in two iron stocks, the upper surface of one of which has a small gutter, to contain a train of powder; in this train the barrels rest with their touchholes downwards, and in the rear of the breeches of the barrels is a mass of sand. When the guns, loaded with five times the quantity of powder used in actual service, have been arranged, the iron-lined doors and windows are closed, and a train extending to the outside through a hole is fired.

Some barrels burst and twist into all manner of shapes; those which pass the ordeal are again examined after the lapse of twenty-four hours, and, if approved, marked with two separate marks, one for viewing and one for proving. The mark for proving consists of two sceptres crossed with a crown in the upper angle; the letters B and C in the left and right, and the letter P in the lower angle. For viewing only, V stands instead of P underneath the crown, the other letters omitted. After proving, the jiggerer fastens the pin, which closes up the breech.

In the mean time the construction of the lock, which is an entirely different business, and carried on in the neighbouring towns of Wednesbury, Darleston, and Wolverhampton, as well as in Birmingham, has been going on.

The gun lock makers are ranged into two great divisions of forgers and filers, beside many subdivisions.

The forgers manufacture the pieces in the rough, the filers polish them and put them together. In the percussion lock, there are fifteen pieces; in the common flint lock, eight.

By a process patented about eleven years ago, parts of a gun lock formerly forged by hand are now stamped with a die. The use of this invention was opposed by the men, but without success.

The barrel and lock next pass into the hands of the stocker.

The stocks, of beechwood for common guns, of walnut for superior, of which much is imported from France and Italy, arrive in Birmingham in a rough state. The stocker cuts away enough of the stock to receive the barrel, the lock, the ramrod, and shapes it a little.

The next workman employed is the screw-together. He screws on the heel plate, the guard that protects the trigger, puts in the trigger plate, lets in the pipes to hold the ramrod, puts on the nozzle cap, and all other mountings.

After all this, a finisher takes the gun to pieces, and polishes, fits all the mountings, or sends them to be polished by women; the lock is sent to the engraver to have an elephant and the word “warranted,” if for the African market, put on it; a crown and the words “tower proof,” if for our own military service; while the stock is in the hands of the maker off and cleanser, it is carved, polished, and, if needful, stained.

Common gun barrels are polished or browned to prevent them from rusting, real Damascus barrels are subjected to a chemical process, which brings out the fine wavy lines and prevents them from rusting.

All these operations having been performed, the barrel, the lock, and the stock, are brought back by the respective workmen who have given them the final touch, and put together by the finisher or gun maker, and this putting together is as much as many eminent gunmakers ever do. But, by care and good judgment, they acquire a reputation for which they can charge a handsome percentage.

For these reasons, with local knowledge, it is possible to obtain from a Birmingham finisher who keeps no shop, a first-rate double gun at a very low figure compared with retail prices.

Belgium and Germany compete with Birmingham for cheap African guns, and even forge the proof marks. Neither in quality nor in price for first-rate articles can any country compete with us.

And as they say in them darn cartoons:

“That’s all for now Folks”