Black Coun­try but­ton her­itage saved

Black Country Bugle - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN WORKMAN

IN De­cem­ber 2012, James Grove & Sons Ltd of Stour­bridge Road Hale­sowen, Bri­tain’s last horn but­ton maker, closed its doors af­ter 155 years in busi­ness.

As a re­sult over 150 years’ of but­ton-mak­ing her­itage was at risk with the sam­ple books, his­toric dies and com­pany records in dan­ger of be­ing lost for­ever. There was a fear that China would step in to buy all that re­mained of the com­pany. But af­ter re­spond­ing to an ap­peal in a mag­a­zine back in June 2013, 18 months af­ter James Grove & Sons had closed, a com­pany called Courtney & Co from Bour­ton on the Wa­ter in the Cotswolds ac­quired the last re­main­ing but­ton mak­ing and fin­ish­ing ma­chines and much of the her­itage of this Black Coun­try stal­wart and saved it for the na­tion.

Bryn Wil­liams from Cradley, a for­mer em­ployee of James Grove, brought this news to our at­ten­tion just re­cently af­ter he bumped into for­mer manag­ing di­rec­tor Peter Grove. He told us: “It’s ex­cit­ing news and some­thing that ev­ery­one in the Black Coun­try should be pleased about, not only for­mer em­ploy­ees, but also all those sym­pa­thetic to hold­ing on to the tra­di­tions and her­itage that made the Black Coun­try great.”

Dis­play

Peter also told Bryn that the com­pany in the Cotswolds was in the throes of cre­at­ing a mu­seum in the name of James Grove to dis­play the his­tory of this once fa­mous Black Coun­try but­ton maker, a sit­u­a­tion the Bu­gle will keep a close eye on as this story de­vel­ops.

Courtney & Co are a new mould of but­ton mak­ers who are de­ter­mined to keep the name of James Grove very much at the fore­front of their op­er­a­tion. Taken di­rectly from their web­site they say: “Hope­fully 2019 will be the year when horn but­tons will be com­mer­cially pro­duced once more. To do so we are in­vest­ing in new ma­chines and premises and aim to launch the ‘James Grove Her­itage Cen­tre’ in which to show­case much of the com­pany’s her­itage that was ac­quired 6 years ago, to­gether with more ma­te­rial we have ac­quired since. The new cen­tre will also serve as a place of ref­er­ence for peo­ple to come and in­spect old pat­tern books and dies, un­der­stand the art of but­ton­mak­ing and find out more about a com­pany that was once the largest horn but­ton maker in the world.’

In 2005 the Black Coun­try Bu­gle had the priv­i­lege of en­joy­ing a guided tour of the James Grove & Sons factory on the Stour­bridge Road in Hale­sowen, dur­ing which time we were able to com­pre­hen­sively pho­to­graph the build­ings, the work pro­cesses and the ma­te­ri­als at hand such as the huge col­lec­tion of dies, the presses, the pat­tern books that dated back to the 19th cen­tury, and the pol­ish­ing drums that ro­tated at a gen­tle pace, rub­bing the but­tons up the right way. We were also able to meet some of the staff.

Sadly the buis­ness has gone, so too the build­ings, but thanks to Courtney & Co the name of James Grove & Sons will not be for­got­ten.

A few of the hun­dreds of dies be­long­ing to James Grove & Son

A bank of pol­ish­ing drums at Groves’ Hale­sowen factory

James Grove but­ton her­itage

James Grove & Sons

James Grove sam­ple books

James Grove em­ploy­ees in 2005

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