Local History- Unit 1: Settlement & History, Steve Birks

Goodwin foundry was started in 1883 on Ivy House Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, alongside the Caldon canal, on the opposite side of the canal was the Eagle works of J & G Meakin built in 1859.

R. Goodwin and Sons (Engineers) Ltd were an Iron foundry and engineers supplying castings and equipment to local industry.

The following are extracts from first years books:

Materials paid for

Engine & lathe   
Drilling Machine
1 pair of bellows
1 bell & safety valve
Lathe, rack & 3 pulleys
Paid to Smith for old metal
Stocks & Dies gas threads
1 Ratchet Brace & 4 taps gas
Pattern Makers tools
1 spirit level
2 oil cans 1 strap punch
2 Brushes 6 Strap laces
Repairing belts
For coke   1ton 1cwt 0qtr    @ 27/6 per ton   From Granvilles
1 Steam Gauge
To timber for patterns
Paid to Hunt for old metal
£20 0s 0d
£7  0s 0d
£7  0s 0d
£2  12s 6d
£1  1s 6d
£1  0s 0d
£4  12s 3d
        15s 0d
        10s 0d
£2  3s 0d
       2s 0d
       2s 4d
       3s 0d
       3s 6d
£1  8s 10d
      10s 3d
        6s 2d
£20 0s 0d



April 20th, 1st Days Casting 1883

Castings Supplied Hanley Colliery Co.

April 21st   15 Cage Guides                                                             4cwt 2qtr 13lbs
May 15th     3 Gig Pulleys with Brake ring pins & Bored and fitted @ 17/6 each
May 15th     6 Hammer heads @ 1/- each
May 28th     1 Bending Block 7.0.0 @ 6/6
May 28th     Pattern to Do
May 28th      1 Mortar pan bottom                                               1 ton 3cwt -qtr -lbs
May 28th     Pattern to Do
May 28th     Drilling 88 holes 3/4 & holes for cages             
£4 12s 4d
£2 12s 6d
       6s 0
£2  5s 6d
       7s 6d
£6  18s 0d
       5s 0
       12s 0

Lingard Hulme Colliery

April 29th 
For work at colliery R. Goodwin 1 1/4 days      
For work at colliery J. Goodwin 1 1/4 days           


£1  9s 4 1/2d
£1  8s 1 1/2d

large iron casting
The casting is the tub of a ‘beater’ used for processing paper pulp as part of the paper manufacturing process.
In the background, the large cylindrical item, is the beater rotor.

probably the castings are for the nearby Brittans Ivy House Paper Mill


click for Goodwin 1952 advert
click for Goodwin 1952 advert

I started work at Goodwin's in July 1969 when I was 16, I had applied for a job in the laboratory at Shelton Bar steel works in Etruria but a similar job was advertised at Goodwin's and fortunately I took the one at Goodwin. When I started there were two other people in the laboratory and melting was carried out on one shift. Melting was carried out in an electric arc furnace (producing steel) and in a coke fired cold blast cupola (producing cast iron). The sand moulds were made either on a semi automatic moulding line, or the large moulds were made on the floor by hand. The sand was bound together with clays and about 3-4% water.

I worked in the laboratory carrying out analysis of the metal by hand using chemicals. The carbon level of the steel was very important so we had to check the carbon while the molten metal was in the furnace - this took about 15 minutes. The furnace men were able to gauge the level of carbon by bending a cooled sample of the metal, there was trouble to pay if the laboratory result did not agree with what they though it should be. When the steel was cast the laboratory staff analysed it for 4 other elements, this took about 1.5 hours.

semi automatic moulding line
semi automatic moulding line


Other duties included testing the sand on the moulding line for moisture level and strength and sometime testing the mechanical strength of the castings so they could be certified. Only about 1 cast in 50 required certification. The floor moulding of the large castings was done by hand and was a skilled job. The moulders told me that before the use of clays to bind the sand together they used to use straw and horse manure!

The firm had an apprentice scheme and I was enrolled in the trainee metallurgist scheme. I attended the Northern Collage of Further Education  on a day release basis. We took chemistry at the Tunstall annex, chemistry and metallurgy at the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem, engineering at the new collage buildings in Moorland Road, Burslem and sometimes studied at the foundry collage at Longton. Other students on the day release course were from Shelton Bar, Michelin Tyre Co, Birketts and other local foundries. For the last two years of the City and Guilds course we went to Wolverhampton and then Manchester University because there were not enough students to continue the course at the local collage.

The chemical analysis laboratory was right next to the furnaces and because of the furnaces and Bunsen burners and muffles used was very hot. I remember fainting one day because of the heat, eventually the laboratory was moved to a larger building at the front of the factory.

Steve Birks operating the spectrograph (1973) 
Steve Birks operating the spectrograph (1973)


Because the application for the castings the company was making was becoming more important a direct reading spectrometer was installed in about 1973 to carry out the chemical analysis. The spectrograph only needed one operator (instead of three chemists) and could analyse 17 elements in 5 minutes (against 4 in 1.5 hours). At this time the order book was enough for there to be three shifts and so there was no loss of jobs. The original spectrograph shown in the photograph was connected to a teletypewriter and calibrated by hand. In about 1987 a newer spectrograph was installed which analysed 23 elements and is computer controlled, the computer carries out the calibration automatically and stores all the results obtained.

Tapping the 3 ton electric arc furnace (1980)
Tapping the 3 ton electric arc furnace (1980) 


Developments in melting furnaces:

Later on I became one of the shift metallurgists in charge of the melting furnaces, by this time the coke fired cupola had been cut down. The company was starting to produce casting for more critical applications, such as valves and high pressure pumps and cast iron was not suitable for these applications. Also cold blast cupolas caused pollution which was becoming more unacceptable and were inefficient, the cost to convert to hot blast and to improve the arrester was not worth the investment. Now (1999) the company has 4 electric furnaces with increased capacity (up to 10 tons) and also an AOD refining vessel (installed 1994) which produces very high grade steel and nickel alloys used for power generation castings and other critical applications.

The foundry developed and grew over the years, more bays were added together with office space. Goodwin grew to become a group of companies Goodwin Foundry in Hanley, Akron Standard in Newstead and Hoben Davis in Newcastle-under-Lyme. In 1977 a new large three story building was built at the Hanley site to accommodate the group offices. Following an explosion in 1983 the foundry was extended and modernised.

Click for details on development of Goodwin foundry

Click for details on 
development of 
Goodwin foundry

Click for details on the 1983 explosion.

Click for details 
the 1983 explosion.


Developments in quality:

When I joined Goodwin's typical castings were 20 - 1500 kg in weight, many were for local steel and pottery industries such as Shelton Bar, Edwards & Jones, William Boulton. Few castings required special certification. Over the years there has been a massive decline in the requirements of local industry for castings and today over 75% of Goodwin's castings are exported. Every single cast is tested and certified and every casting is given a unique serial number so that it can be traced in the event of a problem.

National and International developments in quality requirements lead to the introduction of two standards for quality (BS5750 and ISO9000). In 1984 Goodwin's were the first steel foundry to be accredited to this standard.


Developments in health and safety:

A section of a 1952 advert shows a foundry man pouring iron with no protective equipment. But note the flat cap and the tie.

 1952 picture of foundry man pouring iron
1952 picture of foundry man pouring iron

Compare this with the earlier picture tapping the electric arc furnace, special molten metal goggles and visors (to a British Standard) are worn together with helmets and spats (to stop metal splashing down the shoes). Although these were worn when around molten metal in other areas of the foundry only safety shoes were compulsory.

Safety has developed in all foundries. Now at Goodwin's regular safety meetings are held by the managers and also by workers representatives. Helmets and eye protection are worn at all locations in the factory and ear protection in noisy areas. The Health and Safety Executive make recommendations for hearing tests and certain of the workers are tested every year for "white finger vibration" (a problem which affected a lot of miners using vibrating equipment). In 1998 the European "Working Hours Directive" meant that a medical survey had to be offered for night shift workers. 

Environmental Developments:

In common with the pottery industry and many others the foundry industry have had to reduce pollution and environmental impact. The installation of extraction and cleaning plant for the melting furnaces and other dusty operations helps Goodwin meet the requirements of the "authorisation" to operate which Stoke-on-Trent council monitor. Sand reclamation further reduces the impact on the environment.

All new equipment such as compressors (1993) and heat treatment furnace (1999) are designed to be energy efficient. In 1999 Goodwin's were accredited to the new British Standard ISO14001 for Environmental Management, which means control of energy, pollution, noise, use of resources, etc.



From the foundry in 1883 the Goodwin group has grown to include a factory in Korea and office in Germany as well as a Radar design and build company and in the last few year an Internet access and authoring company. Gas from the North Sea, electricity from Southern Electric together with castings for the Tsing Ma bridge in Hong Kong and Jianying bridge in China in 1999 are a long cry from coke supplied by Granville and pulley castings for Hanley Colliery in 1883.

Computers are used extensively in solidification simulation, stress analysis, chemical analysis and control of the heat treatment furnaces. The payroll, invoicing and accounting all need computers and you can find Goodwin's on the Internet: www.goodwin.co.uk  www.easat.co.uk  www.hoben.co.uk 

click for details of the
Goodwin coat of arms

questions/comments? email: Steve Birks