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The Nail Makers

Albert CraneWherever enclosure took place, agriculture became more efficient, and less labour was required. Farmers of the bigger holdings prospered, but many cottagers and smallholders were forced off the land. Some of the unemployed turned to nail-making, the staple trade of the neighbouring towns of Halesowen and Bromsgrove. They built their cottages and workshops on waste land by the side of the road and on the steep bank above the brook at Dayhouse Bank. That ordinary labour were entering the trade in too-large numbers is suggested by repeated attempts by the master nail makers to exclude those not properly apprenticed.

Coal was mined in Halesowen or could be brought in on the River Severn and by 1628, a mill in Stourbridge was slitting iron into square rods for the nailers. The real money was made by the wholesalers like Humphrey Hill of Cradley, mentioned in the 1625 Quarter Sessions as "a driver into the country with nails". A prosperous farmer like George Harris of Hunnington, who described himself as a nailer in his will of 1633, had the wealth to organise the trade. Robert Brettell of Romsley, nailer, was also a man of property, but the first things mentioned in his will of 1682 are his shop tools and bellows, which he divided between his sons William and Robert.

Another local trade was that of making scythes. John Melley of Farley had 22 sheep and a cow when he died in 1605, but he described himself as a scythemaker. He probably lived at what we now call Farley Cottage and used Sling Pool to turn his grindstones. He left his biggest anvil in the "over shop" to his son John, a smaller anvil to his son William, and his other tools to be divided between them.

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