Cradley Castings Limited, Mill Street, Cradley
The Last Day at Cradley Castings - A Photographic Record
Another chapter closed in the industrial history of Cradley on Friday 1st November 2002, when Cradley Castings Limited finally closed for business. I was there on that day with Bev Pegg, the third-generation Director of the family firm, to take a photographic record of this old iron works at Mill Street, Cradley, and to mourn its demise.
The company was started in 1921 by William Pegg and others, as The Cradley Chain and Manufacturing Company. It was one of innumerable chain workshops in Cradley, but set apart from most of the rest in that it employed chainmakers, whereas most chainmaking was done on a one man or one woman basis, often from home. The 1920s was a period of decline for hand-made iron chain as machine made chain took its place. By 1945 the business was in jepoardy and William Pegg's son Ashley initiated a new venture into grey iron castings.
For the Chain and Manufacturing Company, chain making died out gradually and foundrywork grew to replace it, sub-contracting for larger foundries at first but eventually manuafcturing directly for its own customers, including parts for gas and electric cookers and fire baskets for domestic coal fires. In 1957 the company changed its name to Cradley Chain and Castings to reflect the changes, and continued to evolve into higher quality castings, such as components for diesel engines, pumps, compressors, machine tools and general engineering.
In 1972 the company became Cradley Castings Limited, an overdue name change since the last chains were made in-house in 1957, although chains were supplied until the late 1960s. Cradley Castings kept up with advances in foundry tecnology, and in 1973 installed a snap flask moulding system to facilitate the manufacture of double sided pattern plates, and in 1975 an air set moulding system was intoduced to enable higher quality castings. Bev Pegg, grandson of the founder, worked in the foundry and pattern shop, attended technical college, and took over as managing director.
By the 1980s the company had purchased all the houses and other land in Mill Street, which was all incorporated into the factory premises. The old kerbstones of Mill Street were visible inside the factory until the end.
In 1996 the company employed some 54 people and produced grey iron and aluminium castings, with major customers in the motor trade, including Aston Martin. Computer systems administered production and quality control and there were facilities for spectro-graphic analysis, microscopic examination, hardness and ultrasonic testing and X-ray where necessary. In that year Bev Pegg compiled an illustrated history of the manufacturing company, as much to do with its workers as its products (Through the Years, a 75 years Scrapbook of Manufacturing in Cradley, available from the Cradley Links Bookshop).
However, the company now faced new competition from the Far East and elsewhere, and within a few short years was finding it difficult to compete. By the turn of the century the end was approaching and in October 2002 production ceased.
The last day at Cradley Castings was a sad day, for Bev Pegg to witness the end of his family's 80 years in manufacturing on the site, and for Cradley as a whole, which lost another place of employment and one where so many of our relations and friends have worked over the years. I hope the photographs on this page will contribute to the local industrial archaeology record and to family histories.
Bev Pegg's parents were both opera singers and as a teenager he too showed musical promise, but skiffle, jazz and rock and roll were more his thing. He has been entertaining audiences for many years in a wide variety of musical styles and today describes himself as "Vocalist / Guitarist / Comedian".
There are several films and soundtracks of Bev and his bands on You Tube - just search on "Bev Pegg" to find them there. Bev has recorded several LPs (vinyl) and CDs and appears with The Black Country Night Out theatre show. Robert Plant formerly of Led Zeppelin has made about six impromptu appearances with The Bev Pegg Band over the past 10 years.
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