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12th December 2011




Archdale's of Ledsam Street

Archdale’s were an engineering company based in Ledsam Street, which was well known for its machine tools sold all over the world. During the redevelopment of the  1960’s they moved to Aldridge.





Colliers of Barker Street

Staff Group photo of Colliers, Barker Street taken in about 1921


My aunt Nellie Butt, 3rd row, 4th right


Ted Brookfield





INCO of Wiggin Street

After leaving school I worked for INCO research labs in Wiggin Street from 1959-1961. My first job was testing powder metal cores in the Physics section. I then went to the thermal testing lab in Soho at the end of Vittoria Street. I had applied to go into the Chemistry lab as I was mainly studying Chemistry at Chance College Smethwick so as there was a waiting list I left INCO to go to Albright and Wilson in Oldbury.



I enjoyed my time at INCO and played for the football team in the Birmingham works league (that was a tough league). The picture is of the INCO team that went to play the Mond factory in Clydach, Wales (I think it was 1961). I cannot remember any of the names but I think I was the youngest, I am third from the right, back row, next to the goalie.


Does anyone have any names for these once young men?


Keith Fisher




W. Pimm and Son's Ltd., 229 Icknield Port Road - Telephone Edgbaston 5911/3

I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Mac and his wife Pauline. It turns out that Pauline and I were in the same class at Dudley Road Junior School.  She then went on to the Lordswood Girls’ School and into the same school year as my wife to be – I went on to the adjoining boys’ school. Pauline’s mum also worked at Pimm's the Pets and Gardens Suppliers in Icknield Port Road – where my dad, also Bill Burton, worked for all his working life, apart from his national service.  Neither Pauline nor I have ever seen anything about Pimm's on the web so I said that I would put my memories at least, of the firm on the web – and where better to put them than on Mac’s wonderful website.


Pimm's, more properly known as William Pimm & Son Limited, were based at 229 Icknield Port Road, in the next block of shops to those shown in the photograph labelled 226 Icknield Port Road on Mac’s website. William Pimm the elder, born 1881, an iron worker from Burford, Oxfordshire moved to Birmingham in about 1900, lodging in New Spring Street in 1901. He appears to have started up a wireworking business and according to my dad’s stories soon made enough money to build the whole block of shops shown just along from Mac’s photograph. He and his wife lived and worked at 229 and rented the other three units out. His business at the time was a mix of speculative building, as well as wire working – it seems that the Pimm's empire started with the manufacture of birdcages! William (and Lily whom he married in 1903) had four children and sons William (born 1910) and Frank (born 1919) went into the family business. The business was eventually handed down to the two sons with Bill, as he was always known, taking the leading role. My dad started work there in about 1937 as a 15-year wire solderer. The firm rapidly expanded from making birdcages at 229 into the wider pet trade and became a major Midlands wholesaler as well as having a number of retail pets and gardens shops – “Pimms for Pets” being painted on the shop fronts as well as on the fleet of delivery vans and lorries.


The business expanded in Icknield Port Road as well. They eventually occupied two of the units in the block, taking over 230, which I think had been a café at some time. Bill and his family (wife Evelyn and daughter Irene) moved to a detached house in Selwyn Road, off Gillott Road. The remaining two units were, in my time, occupied by Violet Dawson’s grocers store and Sammy and Wally Taylor’s “Livewires” electrical store. Pimms also occupied a large single storey building at the back of the block, accessed down a passageway alongside Livewires. The passageway also lead to Railway Terrace, a row of terraced houses. Pimm's also used two substantial terraced houses opposite, 166 and 167, as warehouses. Behind these houses was a large concreted yard area used by Pimm's for vehicle parking and the storage of further supplies in the open and in a long corrugated iron shed that backed onto the walling of Summerfield Park and the Harborne Railway. The area was accessed by a long drive from Summerfield Road, the park entrance.


In the 50s/60s Emily Fulford, and her husband Dick lived in 165 Icknield Port Road. Emily ran the administration side of Pimm's business. Dad thought that 165 was also used at one time as the stationmaster’s house for when the Harborne Railway’s Icknield Port Road railway station was moved to the west side of Icknield Port Road. By the 40s my dad’s cousins Dick Burton and Eric Burton also worked at Pimm's. Dad worked then more in the warehouse side of the business and my uncles more as delivery drivers. Vi Dawson’s grocers eventually closed down and Pimm's occupied that unit. My dad then persuaded Bill Pimm that 166 was no longer required for storage and the Burton family, Bill, Phoebe and me, young Bill, moved from a tiny back-to back house in Irving Street into 166. Uncle Eric and his family eventually did a similar thing moving into 167 next door. They subsequently moved into the off-license on the corner of Summerfield Road where Auntie Ella became the “licensee”. It must have been about this time (early 60s) that Pauline’s mum Ida Hill joined Pimm's working in the office. There was also a Margaret and a Joyce working alongside her.


My mum, Phoebe, also worked at Pimm's at about this time – she worked in an upper unit built on the old single storey building at the back of the Pimm's block. With two other ladies, Judy Lennon and I think, her sister-in-law, Teresa they did pre-packing of bulk pet and garden supplies into small plastic bags for the retail side of the business. I also became a part time employee of Pimm's at this time. For a bit of extra pocket money I used to engrave the dog and cat identity disks that Pimm's sold from their retail shops and supplied to other shops. I was always fascinated by the addresses on the disk order slips, from all over the Midlands, looking them up in A-Z map books and street guides – improved my geography no end.


Other folk I can remember working at Pimm's were Jack Morris, a capable builder and repair man as well as Pimm's ratcatcher – mice and rats being a constant problem with the nature of the business – as well as occasional frighteners for mum and her co-workers! Frank Gossage and his brother David were sales reps/drivers, as was Freddie Frost. Dougie Giles was also a driver – I remember his broad London accent – he was an ex-London cabbie – he lived in the one old house that still stands next to the Bricklayers’ Arms just along Icknield Port Road. Geoff Perks looked after the fleet of vehicles from a workshop in one of the corrugated sheds in the yard at the back of 166. He was a Dunkirk veteran and always told the tale of how his tough wiry hair allowed someone to pull him by his hair from the sea into a rescue boat that had crossed the channel. He taught me a fair bit of my vehicle maintenance skills, push bikes to start with, then the family car. There was also an interesting Somali chap called Johnnie working at Pimm's at this time – he was famous for rustling up his stew-type lunches with a can of Chum or Pal and a few stewed veg from Hastings the greengrocers on the corner of Gillott Road.  


Pimm's had various retail shops around the Midlands. I can’t remember where they all were now. The one in the roofless old Market Hall in the Bull Ring was perhaps the best known. I think Jim Wise was the manager there although dad did some time there too. That one eventually moved out from the Market Hall to a more conventional shop on the opposite side of the Bull Ring just up from Oswald Baileys – there’s a photograph of it on the front of Carl Chinn’s Streets of Brum Book 2. My favourite shop was the Harborne one – where George Bird, known to me as Uncle George, was the manager. Whenever I went there with dad, sometimes on a school holiday or Saturday delivery run to the shop, we would always get tea and biscuits from Uncle George.


Pimms had some wonderful vehicles that would nowadays grace any veteran car rally. I remember a great big Austin flat-bed lorry, a flat-fronted Austin J-type van, and a pair of Trojan vans – three speed, three cylinder diesels that when fully- (or over-) loaded had to be reversed up very steep hills (reverse was a lower gear than first). There were Ford 8 and Ford 10 vans – dad used to borrow one occasionally for the weekend. We went on a family weekend away to Blackpool Illuminations once – camping in the back of the van in a Blackpool car park. He also used to borrow one for our Sunday fishing trips. Someone crashed into the back of us one Sunday – we were unscathed -  but dad had to return the van to Pimms on the Monday with the rear doors tied back on with rope. The original of Mac’s website 226 Icknield Port Road photo actually includes the very same van, standing outside the Livewires shop. Bill Pimm ran an Austin Sheerline, quite a posh limousine type car, but it was often pressed into service for deliveries, back end hanging down on the road and sacks of pet food tied on the running boards. Frank Pimm always seemed to run a Landrover, to ferry his daughter’s horsey things around – it was much better suited to occasional Pimm's deliveries.


Not sure how Pimm's came to fade away and eventually disappear.


Competitors in the Midlands, like H G Turner, grew larger and there was much more competition from around the Midlands with Home Counties and Northern firms moving in on the patch.  I recall a chap called Gordon (forgotten his surname) being brought into Pimm's in some sort of executive capacity to try and improve and grow what had always been a small family business. Bill Pimm died quite suddenly in 1971. Dad always thought that Frank Pimm preferred to be out and about rather than taking the lead directing role in the business and Gordon seemed to run the business from thereon. Pimms eventually moved from Icknield Port Road when the block of shop units and the block of houses opposite, including our family home, were required to be demolished to make way for Icknield Port Road to be widened as part of the city’s new middle ring road. Much of the property in that part of Icknield Port Road was demolished. Icknield Port Road was never widened of course, Monument Road becoming the ring road instead. Last time I visited the area, only the original kerbstones of that part of Icknield Port Road remained – and the tree that was once in our garden – now part of an extended Summerfield Park.


In the mid 70s Pimm's moved to Farm Street, Hockley, just below the famous Hockley flyover. I think the retail side of the business started to disappear about this time along with the city centre shop. They later moved to Kendrick Way in West Bromwich – a stone’s throw from the then new motorway system. The business by then was only wholesale and seemed to go steadily downhill. Dad eventually negotiated a small redundancy cum retirement package in 1985 and Pimm's were soon taken over by some “Northern” pets and gardens wholesalers. The name William Pimm and Son Limited is still registered, but not trading, and its address is given to be near to that of a firm called Laurel Pet Supplies in Bury, which is maybe what became of the Northern wholesalers that acquired Pimm's.


That’s about as much as I can recall of Pimm's from my 61 year old memory bank. Please feel free to e-mail Mac with any supplementary information – or corrections.


Bill Burton







Biddle and Webb of Icknield Square

Biddle and Webb in Icknield Square, Ladywood


I joined B&W in 1990 and knew Mr Biddle or as everyone called him Mr B. We worked together to change the company from that of a sole trader to a limited company in May 1994. When Mr Biddle sadly died in February 1997, I took over as MD.


Mr Biddle was always one to look forward and worked hard every day to make the next sale the best that it could be. This is a good habit to have and one we continue to follow, but the down side is that he seemed not to worry or think about the past and what had happened. He was always very vague with me about the history of B&W.


From what I gleaned from him and his sons, the company was formed in the late 1950s/early 1960s, perhaps taking over another small scale auction, and may well have held auctions in church halls and the similar. The company’s co founder was a Mr Webb (I think Sydney) who I think may well have been the auctioneer side, when Mr Biddle brought the business skills and flare for PR and promotions. Mr Biddle was an entrepreneur and had run a couple of other businesses prior to starting the auction business.


In the 1960s, perhaps 1968ish, Mr Webb decided to leave and go to Australia I believe. Mr Biddle bought him out. I once asked him why he kept the name Biddle & Webb and did not call it Biddles, (which many people in my early years at B&W did call it). Mr Biddle told me he thought Biddle & Webb sounded more prestigious and established than Biddles.


He then ran it through the 1970s and 1980s as a partnership with his wife Betty. She predeceased him in the early 1990s.


We moved from Enfield Hall next to Five Ways station to Icknield Square in early 1970s, although for a number of years Mr Biddle kept both sites going, with Enfield Hall for pictures and antiques and Icknield Square for general and commercial auctions. Running two sites was he told me expensive and so when the current site had been improved he brought all the auctions to current location just off Ladywood Middleway.

Jeremy Thornton

Managing Director

Biddle & Webb Limited