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Bilston Foundries (Bilston Baths)

A short history by

Reg Aston

Bilston Foundries, on its original site in the Highfields area of Bradley, was in a district steeped in industrial history and fully serviced by road and canal.  To its rear were the sites of the Capponfields Iron Works and Barbor's Field Furnaces, while opposite were the factories of the Thomas Perry Company.

The firm became known for the manufacture of cast iron baths and around 1936 the various model names included "PYTHON", "MAGNA" and the smaller "ARTISAN"

The 1940 Kelly's Directory records the firm as Iron Founders, Highfields, Bradley. Telegrams "Hygienic" and a telephone number of Bilston 41406.

Bilston Foundries was a firm where families were employed, fathers, sons, brothers; and where an entire family would be part of, say, a moulding or a slinging gang.

The firm employed some German P.O.Ws to carry the baths from the foundry to the sandblast and enamel shops.

Baths were made to special order and could be made in all shapes and sizes and, as the catalogue stated, "In design there is something to please every taste and suit every style of decoration.  In particular, there is a large choice of colours".  Among the famous customers were the British film star, Diana Dors, holiday camp magnate, Billy Butlin; and royalty was well represented by Princess Margaret. Lovely Bath Card  

In 1956 the Company catalogue displayed a range of luxurious bathroom suites with chrome fittings. 

Bath Advert

The names listed were: "THE VENUS", "THE BERMUDA", "THE MARINA", "THE MAGNA" (in three types: Midget, Artisan and two sizes of Magna), "THE CRESTA" and "THE MERMAID".  All baths were supplied with adjustable feet and were supplied in two lengths, 66" or 72".  The width was variable from 25" up to 31". In January 1958 Bilston Foundries opened a new mechanised foundry at Batmanshill.  It officially opened on 29th April 1958 but the early days were marked by a succession of plant breakdowns.The original "Handmade Baths" site closed during 1958 and a number of the older employees left the Company.

The firm continued with troubled times and within a short time the firm was sold to Allied Ironfounders and then again to Glynwed.  As the problems in production were tackled so the general trading state of the Company improved and it was reported a bath was made in under 60 seconds. 

The successful times were destined not to continue because cast iron baths were under threat not only from the popular plastic, fibreglass, and steel baths but also from cheap foreign imports.

1956 Bath Advert

By the mid 1980s the firm, by now known as Vogue Baths, was in trouble and the final bath was cast on 28th June 1985 and the Batmanshill factory finally closed on 30th August 1985.

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