The photographs in this post are drawn from a set of wonderfully evocative images taken by Jon Talbot in the early 1970s.
The Coombeswood tube works was built on an acre of (previously) wooded parkland located alongside the Dudley No. 2 canal (the Lappal and Selly Oak line) which had opened in 1798. The works, producing iron and steel tubes, began operating in 1860 and was progressively enlarged to finally occupy some 61 acres.
After numerous mergers Lloyd & Lloyd merged, in 1903, with A & J Stewart & Menzies to form the eponymous Stewart & Lloyds.
In 1967, Stewart & Lloyds were one of 14 major companies merged to form the British Steel Corporation, and ultimately, after privatisation in 1988, became part of Corus Steel Tubes Ltd. By 1996 the site was being stripped out prior to complete closure.
By about 1960 water transport to and from the Coombeswood site had ceased, however some 90 boats continued to be used internally, on transfer work, as the works extended along both banks of the canal for almost 1/2 mile.
Many of the remaining boats used for this internal traffic were, as can be seen from the photographs, the long-lived BCN day boats, though a number of ‘butchered’ long distance boats, with cabins and all standing gear removed, were also retained.
[This brief summary of Coombeswood, is largely based on a more detailed article ‘The Works in the Wood’ written by Jon Talbot for the December 2001 Waterways World]