Unlikely role played by the Steeway stretchers
This news story is taken from the Express and Star article dated Thursday January 28th, 2010, by Carl Chinn. To view the original page please click here.
Back in November, Black Country Memories featured the history of the long-established and important Wolverhampton firm of Steelway on the Bilston Road.
This pioneering company manufactured the Uk’s first pedestrian safety barriers, which were installed at the busy junction of Prince’s Square in July 1934.
They had been designed after long and careful experiments and with the assistance of Mr Edwin Tilley, the town’s chief constable, and Mr HB Robinson, the borough engineer and surveyor.
The barriers stopped pedestrians walking off a blind corner into the path of motorists and they quickly gained attention elsewhere. On March 19, 1935, Mr Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport whose name is recalled in the Belisha beacon, inaugurated London’s first pedestrian safety barriers at Britannia Crossing, Camden. They were also supplied by Steelway.
After this launch, a second installation was carried out on March 22, 1935, at Whitechapel Crossing for the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney.
Two years later the innovative 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 pioneering enterprise in industrial metalwork access, Steelway became well known and highly regarded for its flooring, ladders, stairs, handrails, guardrails and platforms.
During the Second World War, it went over to war work and was involved in the manufacture of stretchers for injured personnel. One of the photographs used in the article showed a metal stretcher being presented to the St John Ambulance Brigade. This drew the attention of Graham Speller.
Graham recognised “these stretchers very clearly as they had an interesting use after the war years.
“My family is from South East London and around the Brockley and New Cross area there are numerous blocks of council flats and maisonettes built in estates separated from the rest of the world by brick walls and metal fences.
“The metal part of the wall was made up of the aforementioned stretchers filling the gap between brick pillars and on top of a low brick wall.
“My dad, who used the stretchers in his work during the Blitz, pointed them out to me as we made our way between various homes of our extended family.
“I now live in the West Midlands but am quite certain that some of those stretchers can still be seen performing their original task if you ever journey through that part of the world.”
To view this original article please click here.