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Business News


Machine 59 (1997) © Arthur Lockwood. From the Birmingham Museums Trust collection. This watercolour is included in the Horsfall exhibition at the museum until 4 October.


Historic family firm finds its place in the 21st Century


By Jessica Brookes


A specialist wire manufacturer is marking its tercentenary by showcasing its innovative past. Since its establishment in 1720, Webster & Horsfall, based in Hay Mills, has been developing wire and wire rope used in a plethora of objects, from World War II bicycles to teeth braces. Webster & Horsfall were the first


to adapt crucible steel to produce high-carbon steel piano wire, invented a heat treatment process for producing high tensile wire, and, alongside fellow sister company Latch and Batchelor, invented flattened strand and locked coil mining ropes. The company also produced high


tensile steel wire used in the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable, running under the Atlantic Ocean and enabling faster communication between North America and Europe in 1866. Charles Horsfall, chairman and


sixth generation Horsfall, said: “I believe that Webster & Horsfall has impacted hugely on local and global history.” Webster & Horsfall’s locked coil


wire rope, through their Latch & Batchelor brand, was used in the construction of the Warragamba Dam in Sydney. The company also manufactured


80,000 miles of wire used in anti- submarine netting, aircraft and balloon cables in the First World War. A display of the firm’s wire


innovations and history is on show at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 4 October.


Former and retired businessman,


Sandy Robertson has been archiving the avalanche of documents, photographs, drawings and letters included in the exhibition. He said: “John Webster, who


founded the company, was very much an innovator and he wanted to take control of the production processes used to create the iron goods he was selling. “In amidst the major


developments of the steel industry, you found the Websters very much at the forefront. “The innovations that this


company was responsible for enabled the combustion engine, aeroplane flights and even space travel. All of this needed a very special quality of wire.” Webster & Horsfall’s current


innovative project is Tyseley Energy Park, developed in association with the University of Birmingham. The park produces renewable


electricity from a waste wood biomass plant and aims to drive further industrial growth in a sustainable way. The energy park also includes


the UK’s first low and zero carbon refuelling station. This year the University of Birmingham plans to build a £10m Energy Innovation Centre on TEP. David Horsfall, a seventh


generation family member, is responsible for developing the park and said: “Through a collaborative partnership with business, academia, Government and industry, TEP is transforming infrastructure, and creating the models and solutions needed in the 21st Century.”


April 2020 CHAMBERLINK 15


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