Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Webster and Horsfall

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of Patent Steel Wire Works, Birmingham, makers of steel wire including piano wire and armouring for transatlantic cables.

1852 James Horsefall started producing music wire.

1853 He patented his heat treatment process for wire. He was also made a wire grade especially for a plough manufacturer in Leeds.

1855 Joseph Webster joined the business

1856 James Horsfall moved his wire mill from the centre of Birmingham to Hay Mills (a disused sword factory).

1864 James won the whole wire order for the Atlantic Telegraph Cable, requiring 1600 tons to be delivered within twelve months. The wire was drawn from Bessemer steel produced at the company’s own mill at Killamarsh, Derbyshire. This was the largest order the company had ever received, and remained so for the next hundred years, but the material proved to be too brittle.

1865 Made the Atlantic cable at a new purpose built mill.

1865 Received a repeat order when the cable was lost in the final stages of laying it. The core of the new cable was the same as the previous one but the sheathing wires were galvanised and made of softer iron, covered with untarred yarn, under the patented armouring method of John and Edwin Wright. Galvanising was done by Richard Johnson and Nephew of Manchester. Horsfall's patent steel wire was the only material capable of lifting and recovering the original cable from two miles deep in the ocean.

1866 Steel wire for the Atlantic cable dispatched. The new cable was successfully laid by the SS Great Eastern. Of Hay Mill, Birmingham.

Some years later his son Henry was approached by T. C. Batchelor to develop and perfect his inventions of Locked Coil and subsequently Flattened Strand ropes.

1884 Latch and Batchelor was formed on part of the Hay Mills site.

2016 Trading at Hay Mills, Birmingham. Webster & Horsfall website

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0
  • The Engineer of 8th June 1866 p425
  • Latch and Batchelor Company History [1]
  • History of the Atlantic Cable and Undersea Communications [2]