Steel company played major role in coronation of a king
Steelway is a Wolverhampton success story. It was founded in 1928 at the Queensgate Works site in Wolverhampton by C. W. Goodyear. Three years later it merged with F. Hammond & Co, a noted manufacturer of handrail standards.
In addition Steelway was the sole selling agents of drop forged handrail standards manufactured by J. Brockhouse & Co of West Bromwich and in turn Mr. J. V. H. Brockhouse was the selling agent in London for all Steelway products.
In 1935, this new company made its mark impressively on the national scene. On March 19, Mr Hore-Belisha, the dynamic Minister of Transport, inaugurated the pedestrian guard rails at Britannia Crossing, in Camden Town, London. They were only the second such safety barriers in the country and they had been made by the enterprising and innovative Wolverhampton company at its factory on the Bilston Road.
The order had come because the previous year, Steelway had manufactured the United Kingdom’s first pedestrian guard rails, which had been installed in July at the busy junction of Prince’s Square. These safety guards had been an immediate success in stopping pedestrians walking off a blind corner into the path of motorists and they had drawn the attention of Hore-Belisha.
He had become Minister of Transport in the National Government in 1934 and was a man with a mission to improve road safety. During the year he came into office, 7,343 people were killed and 231,603 injured in road accidents. Half of them were pedestrians and three-quarters of the accidents happened in built-up areas.
Hore-Belisha was appalled at this “‘mass murder” and strove to end it. His Road Traffic Act of 1934 introduced a speed limit of 30 mph for motor cars in built-up areas; he rewrote the Highway Code; and he introduced the driving test and Belisha beacon. He also championed the installation of pedestrian guard rails. In March 1935 he announced that “as part of the experiment” which he was carrying out with the highway authorities, safety barriers were to be erected at both the Britannia Crossing in Camden Town and the junction with Cambridge Road, Stepney.
The guard rails at the latter were put up on March 22, 1935, three days after the one in Camden. Both installations were “at the edge of the footpaths to prevent pedestrians from stepping off the kerb in dangerous places and to guide them to the marked pedestrian crossings where there will be gaps in the rails”. It was stated that if they succeeded “the experiment will be extended to other important road junctions in London’. Thanks to the pioneering design and manufacturing expertise of Steelway succeed they did, as was made plain by an announcement from the Minister in February 1936. As a result safety barriers went on to be developed on a large scale in London.
Two years after the launch of Steelway’s first pedestrian guard rail in London, the Wolverhampton company manufactured the sockets and detachable uprights to form crowd control barriers for the 1937 coronation of King George VI – parts of which were used again for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
A letter of appreciation from New Scotland Yard was sent to Steelway after the 1937 event. It read: “Now that the coronation is a matter of history, I should like to express my thanks to your firm for the efficient way in which you met the demand for barrier material. As you know the barriers were of unusual design, which required special attention by you in manufacture. They proved most satisfactory, and I have not had any complaints regarding them. This is a matter of satisfaction to all concerned.”
A pioneering enterprise in industrial access metalwork, Steelway became well known and highly regarded for its flooring, ladders, stairs, handrails, guardrails, and platforms. It continues to be held in esteem for such products