Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,165 pages of information and 245,632 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


From Graces Guide

of Birmingham.

1854 John Sutton Nettlefold expanded his small London business in iron and screws to Smethwick where he set up a factory to make screws using advanced, new machinery licensed from America. He was able to expand his enterprise partly because of an investment by his brother-in-law, Joseph Chamberlain. The partnership Nettlefold and Chamberlain in Birmingham became one of the world's leading screw manufacturers. Both Nettlefold and Chamberlain put their sons into the business - Joseph Henry Nettlefold managed the business, with his brother Edward John Nettlefold, and his cousin Joseph Chamberlain.

1871 The Hadley Castle Iron Works was opened in Hadley, Shropshire, soon manufacturing wire and 400-500 tons of bar iron each week, an early example of Nettlefolds vertical integration of the business which was to continue for a long time.

1874 After the Chamberlains left the firm, the partnership Nettlefold and Chamberlain was dissolved and the business continued as a limited company.

1876 Machine for producing screws. The works had 2,000 machines producing half a million screws per week. (Exhibit at Birmingham Thinktank museum)

1876 Description of a visit to their works in 'The Engineer'. 12,000 machines packed under one roof. Some of the machines are for making the screw blanks from cold wire headed by a punch. The next operation is the turning down of the head; then the nicking of the head by a circular saw. The screwing was next done, and the screws were pointed on the new plan of the self-entering point. The machines are all devised by Mr. Nettlefold, are covered by his patent, and are made and repaired upon the premises. The wire mill, the bolt and nut mill, and the nail mill were then gone through. [1]

1876 At this time the company also traded under the names of Imperial Wire Co and the Castle Iron Co.

1878 Edward died leaving effective control of Birmingham manufacturing and engineering to Joseph, and his younger brother Frederick Nettlefold in London.

1879 Birmingham Screw and Manchester Screw Co were amalgamated into Nettlefolds

At some point acquired the screw business of Lloyd and Harrison and the wire and wire nail business of Mr John Cornforth.

1880 Nettlefolds was incorporated as a limited company; Joseph Henry Nettlefold was managing director; his brother Frederick was the only other director with the name Nettlefold [2]. The Nettlefold brothers went on to reinforce their dominant position in the British wood-screw market by a series of astute mergers and acquisitions; Nettlefolds was to establish a virtual monopoly in the British market.

1881 Joseph Henry Nettlefold died. Frederick Nettlefold became chairman.

At some point the company acquired the London Works site in Smethwick[3]

1885 Edward Steer laid out the Rogerstone (Mons) Steel and Wire Works[4]

1886 Production was taken back to Smethwick from Shropshire. The neighbouring firm Birmingham Screw was acquired, giving room for further expansion.

1893 Frederick Nettlefold retired from the chairmanship of the company [5]. The prosperity of Nettlefolds declined over the following decade.

Edward Nettlefold (1855-1909), son of Edward, having joined the company after leaving Cambridge, became a managing director at some point in the later years of the company [6].

1902 Nettlefolds was acquired by Arthur Keen's Guest, Keen and Co to create Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds. For many years, this company has been better known as GKN. Edward Nettlefold continued as a director of Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds until his death in 1909 [7].

1905 The partnership between F. Nettlefold, A. Steer and O. Nettlefold "under the style of Nettlefold and Sons, High Holborn, W.C.", was dissolved[8]. This presumably means that the shop in London was kept out of the Limited company when it was formed and hence was not taken over by Guest, Keen and Co.

2008 The company still had operations at the Hadley Castle Works.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Joseph Nettlefold, by Barbara M. D. Smith, ODNB
  1. The Engineer 1876/07/28 p60
  2. The Times April 8, 1880
  3. Wikipedia: Smethwick [1]
  4. The Times, Oct 31, 1927
  5. The Times, 6 March 1913
  6. The Times, 13 April 1909
  7. The Times, 13 April 1909
  8. The Times, 19 July 1905
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5