We can debate whether the economy is down the pan, but history is definitely in the gutter. Seriously though, you can see it. You’ve probably walked past it hundreds of times on your journey to work, school, or the shops.
Even the cast iron displayed today on the kerbs of a handful of Smethwick streets is by itself like a short section from a roll call of Black Country foundries. Within a few minutes walk of each other there are drain covers from Dudley & Dowell (Cradley Heath), Smith & Sons (Smethwick), Ridgacre (West Bromwich) and Hunt Bros (Oldbury). These factories have been part of a metal casting tradition which has employed thousands of local people over hundreds of years. The great thing about this little collection of objects is the short distance they’ve travelled—having all come less than six miles (retrace their journeys below).
Oh yes, and for those of you who now want to read more about gutter history there is always the wonderfully titled web resources of ‘drainspotting’ and ‘manhole miscellany’. Or just get down to the offices of Sandwell Community History and Archives Service in Smethwick, built of course next to the site of a Victorian foundry. Send us the history of your gutter!
6m from Dudley & Dowell in Cradley Heath to Church Hill Street, Smethwick
4m from Ridgeacre foundry in West Bromwich to Firs Lane, Smethwick
3m from Hunt Bros’ Griffin Foundry, Oldbury to Thimblemill Road, Smethwick
1/2m from Smith & Sons’ in Smethwick to Coopers Lane, Smethwick