Inspired by the Archives

Made in Oldbury was a project exploring unique archive materials in Sandwell in relation to local industrial heritage.  The project was organised by artist group Laundry, working with Sandwell Community and History Archives Service (CHAS) and Oldbury and Langley Local History Societies.

The project took its name from ‘an exhibition of local Industrial effort’ held at Langley Baths in 1949, an exhibition which was intended to promote Oldbury to the world at large. Alderman K.H. Wilson, JP, chairman of the Local Employment Committee, explained why the exhibition was being held:

‘Much has been written and more said in public during recent months about production and the need for more and more of it if our country is to succeed in its fight for economic stability and all those who produce have been asked repeatedly to give 100 % output. It is true to say that a very large number of the main products of Oldbury works are not ‘finished articles’ in the generally accepted understanding of the phrase. They are largely raw materials for the fabrication or production of many goods seen in the shops or used by all of us every day. We go on day by day producing and producing steel stampings, tubes, chemicals, and many other bulk articles, but do we ever stop to think or ask why they must be produced or what they ultimately become?

Our Local Employment Committee has sponsored this demonstration not to advertise any particular product, but in an endeavour to show everybody what Oldbury makes, why Oldbury makes it, and where Oldbury products go – what becomes of the millions of feet of tubes, thousands of tone of chemicals and the steel stampings that we are so accustomed to see in our local factories.

Do you tend a machine, do you work in a filter press, do you grind an edge tool just as a means of earning your weekly wages, or do you do it with some zeal and pride? I hope this latter is the case as it is only by having this stage of production as perfect as possible that the final articles can be made without undue waste and so at prices and quantities that will satisfy the demand and help our country to recover its commercial stability.’

Made in Oldbury Souvenir brochure, 1949.

The legacy of this particular project is this web site and a publication ‘Fabrication – Made in Oldbury’.

Sandwell Community and History Archives Service were an essential element in delivering this project. They ensure that written, oral and visuals records of Sandwell are collected, recorded, preserved and made accessible to current and future generations.

Archivist Ian Gray tells us:

“In our Archives are documents that have been created by a variety of different people in a number of different places and institutions. They include the political, personal, domestic, industrial, religious, educational and social histories of Sandwell dating from 1369. These unique documents offer the people of Sandwell and beyond a journey through the development of the area, through the impact of the industrial revolution and two world wars, to the changing nature, and de-industrialisation of the late 20th century, right up to the present day.

This material is available in a wide variety of formats; from paper, newspapers, parchment, photographs, maps and film in both analogue and digital formats; our online catalogue can be viewed at blackcountryhistory.org, a shared resource with Dudley, Walsall & Wolverhampton archives, which contains many digital images of the Black Country area. Archives offer a key role in our society; they can help us look to our future by giving us a new perspective upon our past.”

The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Oldbury Local Area Budget.

Images sourced from the collections of Sandwell Community History and Archives Services (CHAS) and Langley and Oldbury Local History Societies, except where individually credited. Thanks in particular to material sourced by Dr Terry Daniels and Keith Hodgkins.

Project lead: Brendan Jackson.

Contributing creatives: Geoff Broadway, Richard Flatley, Richard Franks, Brendan Hawthorne, Kate Jackson, Pete James, Paul Lacey, Jain Mckay, Alicja Rogalska, Billy Spakemon, Joshua Whitehouse.

Additional thanks to Kate Jackson for co-ordination duties!

Local history contributors:
Dave Adams, Kelvin Atkins, Joan and John Beach, John Cleare (www. mountaincamera.com), Brendan Clifford, Ruth Collins, Chris Cooper, Dr Terry Daniels, Percy Eamus, Jacqueline and Roy Forge, Bryan Harris, Keith Hodgkins, Black Country Society, John Hutchcocks, Roy Jones, Dennis Lawley, Helena Hinton, Barry Matthews, Sheila Mundon, Derek Palgrave, Bill Parkes, Lyn Paynter, Martin Prestidge, Pat Sealey, Jan Seward, Mark ‘Stan’ Stanford, Roy Taylor, Angela Weston.

Thanks to:
Maureen Waldron, Ian Gray, Judith Bate, Rory Powell, Sandwell Community History and Archives Service.
Alex Howell, Arts Officer, Sandwell Museum Service.
Oldbury and Langley Local History Societies.
Peter Lee, Head of School, Langley Q3 Academy.
Friends of Langley Library.
Oldbury Writing Group, Oldbury Library.
Richard Allen, Marketing & Business Development Director, Metsec.
Andrew Langford, SMBC Neighbourhood Services.

Made in Oldbury