Dudley Firm Celebrates 105 Years in Business
(January 2003)

By Mick Pearson

The Wellington Road firm of Griffin Brothers was founded in 1898 by William Griffin who formed a partnership with his brother Moses.

They began their business at the house at 10 Wellington Road in Dudley and the factory is still located on that site today, 105 years on.

As far as we know 10 Wellington Road was lived in by William, work was carried out in the yard at the side of the house. Going into the office to speak to the current generation of staff it is clear that the "house" is still there, much extended to form the factory where work is now carried out

Griffin Brothers Factory, the "house" is to the lower right hand corner, the roof has obviously been changed to accomodate the factory roof.

The firm used another site in conjunction with 10 Wellington Road for a number of years. This was situated just over the road and is now the site of The Earl of Dudley Arms (The Tatters).

In the early days the firm concentrated on production of metal chimney liners (both for commercial and house chimneys), and also metal trays for nuts and bolts, and anything else metal trays could be used for. In the 1930s the firm changed it's production to making kegs and drums, this is still their business today. A visit to the company website will give you a better idea.

Griffin Brothers Factory premises in Wellington Road, Dudley. Difficult to imagine this as a house.

In the early days customers tended to be local and early deliveries were carried out by handcart. Later a horse and cart was the main form of delivery. Today the picture has changed, the customer base is around 200 and clients are as far afield as Glasgow, Weymouth, Holyhead and Tunbridge Wells. Products also find their way further afield than the UK. Products also find their way into Europe - mainly Spain, Holland and Germany, but also Saudia Arabia has it's fair share of Griffin kegs where they are used in the oil industry.

The key to Griffin Brothers' success is their ability to supply small quantities of a product. Today, many of Griffins clients are local, a good example of a local manufacturer, in the heart of the Black Country, doing what hundreds of companies did for decades in this industrial heartland.

Following on from the success of the first generation of Griffins were the 4 brothers - George, William, Moses and Alfred. Pictured below with Black Country comedian Harry Harrison are William, George and Alfred (see below)

From left to right - Bill (William's son), William, Harry Harrison, George, George (son of George) and Alfred.
(Picture taken in January 1976 for Dudley Herald article)

By this time production had moved on to include kegs - "putty" kegs for storing oil/paint/chemicals (with loose tops) - these are still produced today. Also, drums were produced, these had seals and were used for liquids rather than solid materials.

Currently the third generation of the family are involved in the company. A total of 7 brothers and sisters, 3 of whom still work for the firm. The eldest member of the family today is Vera who is 76 years old and she still works almost daily in the factory. Vera assured me she can still cope with the welding that is a vital part of the production process. This is despite having a triple heart bypass in 2002, and currently waiting for a knee operation. May and George are the next two, both now retired. Jean comes next, she still helps out when needed, Dennis, the next youngest still works at Wellingotn Road. Next comes Alan who retired in 2001, and currently at the helm is Brian. The photograpg below shows more of the workforce, can you recognise any of your friends or relatives?

This was another photograph taken for the Herald article in 1976. Vera can be seen on the far right, middle row. Some of the other workers include Colin Brazier (middle row 3 in from left, John Simmons (standing over left shoulder of Colin), Antony and Bernard Windsor are stood together in the back row and their mother (sadly now deceased) is in front of them (wearing black coat she has curly blond hair)

Griffin Brothers could be sub-titled "A Family Affair", not only from the above picture, but Brian, the current boss, met his wife Della Hillman in the 1950s when she worked for the firm. Two of Della's brothers also worked here. Brian and Della have been married for 40 years. They have 3 children - Michelle (husband works at Griffins), Mark (who helps out - especially when the computer breaks) and Kerry who works in the office on a part-time basis (guess what - yes her husband works here as well). I think the idea of a family business, employing family as well as others (including more than one member of the same family) is becoming more uncommon in today's mobile job market, it must make for stability in the workplace?

Two factors make this company typical of the Black Country, and illustrate why it is an important example. The first is the fact it is a local firm, trading locally, and still completely independent and privately owned. The second is the involvement of family members not only as managers, but in the day-to-day operation of the company. Again, indicative of many Black Country companies.

In this current climate of families dispersing far and wide across the country, it is heartening to see a family that not only live locally, but also work together, for the benefit of themselves, and the others they employ.

To see the Dudley Herald article, eloquently written by Harry Harrison, click here => LINK

I would like to thank Griffin Brothers for their invitation to write this article - especially Kerry and Vera, and Sue who works alongside Kerry in the office. All photographs were supplied by Griffin Brothers.

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