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British Industrial History

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J. A. Jordan and Sons

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of Bilston

Ralph and Jordan - (J. A. Jordan and Sons Ltd) of Beehive Works, Earl Street, Bilston

  • 1868 Company founded.
  • 1872 Entry in a Post office Trade Directory of a James Ralph and Co, frying pan maker of Earl Street, Bilston.
  • 1896 Kelly's Directory for Staffordshire lists both James A. Jordan, holloware; and Ralph and Jordan, wrought iron, holloware manufacturer, tinners, galvanisers and manufacturers of enamelled iron advertisement plates, Beehive Works, Earl Street, Bilston.
  • 1893 Manufacturers and patentees of Tinned and Galvanized Wrought Iron Hollow-ware, and makers of ‘Alpine’ high class Cycles. The works covered about 1½ acres, divided into different departments suitable to the business: large tin and galvanizing shops, finishing shops, warehouses for show, stock, packing and sorting rooms and offices, etc. c200 employees. Ralph and Jordan were also makers of The Universal Enamelled Iron Goods.
  • Nothing more is known of their bicycle making activities. Although they may have continue for some years as makers of holloware, vitreous enamelling became their main activity.
  • 1911 Private company.
  • 1918 The company's main business was the production of enamelled advertising signs. A full colour catalogue issued that year, displayed signs produced for some of the most well known national and local companies, including Wearwell Cycle Co, complete with its winged wheel logo.
  • 1924 Trade directories indicate that the company had become known as J. A. Jordan and Sons.
  • The following decades showed expansion with the building of additional premises, with one side of Earl Street dedicated to the enamelling of gas cookers, while the other side produced enamelled signs of all shapes and sizes, including bus stop signs, road signs, signs for tea, chocolate and cigarettes. Almost certainly the "Players" cigarettes advert was the most famous with the "Sailor" design recognised everywhere. They employed artistic designers to produce some types of sign. A stencil was cut for each colour which was applied and fired separately. The mixing of the correct proportion of the various ingredients to produce each colour was critical, as was the ability to withstand repeated firings.
  • It is said that some of the secrets of the trade were lost when key important employees retired taking their "recipes" with them. This would, no doubt, have added to the decline in the company's fortunes but the firm's work with vitreous enamels was supported by chemists and laboratories in Greencroft.
  • 1950s-60s The firm diversified into the wind-rotating advertising signs that normally appeared on garage forecourts and into station name plates for British Rail. They also produced signs for international companies such as National Benzole, HMV and Coca Cola and a local company, Midland Counties Ice Cream.
  • Although Jordans continued to be most famous for their advertising signs, they continued with other enamelling work, which included the
  • 1961 Vitreous enamellers and makers of enamelled iron signs. [1]
  • 1974 Entry in the Wolverhampton Official Handbook : "Vitreous enamelling of steel and cast iron. Manufacturers of architectural panels. Press work capacity up to 350 tons, spot welding undertaken". The "architectural panels" were fire resistant panels used on the facades of large buildings.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Local History