Iron and Coal in West Bromwichá á á á á á á á á á á áá

Ashton and Smith Families á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á ááMaternal ancestors of John (Jack)áSkidmore

Ancestors of Mary Amelia Skidmore

Mary Amelia Skidmore’s parents were Mary Ashton (born c1838) and James Roberts Smith (1843 – 1890). They married on December 9thá1867 at St. James Parish Church, West Bromwich.á

West Bromwich experienced huge population and industrial growth in áthe 19thácentury, and was one of the most productive iron and coal producing areas, very polluted and interwoven with an extensive network of canals for transporting goods.

The Smith and Roberts families

James Roberts Smith earned a living as an iron roll turner, and would have worked at one of the many iron foundries in the area. A "roll turner" rolls iron and steel to shape it, and then creates objects (eg rails for the railways and various engineering components). It would be hard, hot and dangerous work. He only lived to 47 years of age, dying of heart disease in 1890. Maybe he worked at the J and S Roberts foundry in Swan Village at some time. His mother’s name was Hannah Roberts, daughter of James Roberts, a miner at the time of her marriage. These Roberts could have been related, but there are many families of that name in the West Bromwich area. Some of James Roberts Smith’s siblings had Roberts as a middle name, so the parents were obviously proud of it.


John and Samuel Roberts Foundries, West Bromwich. From the New Illustrated Directoryá“Men and Things of Modern England” 1858 á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á Source: Local Studies and History, Central Library, Birmingham.

James’s father was Samuel Smith born in Tividale (part of Tipton), son of John Smith a coal miner. He became a coal merchant but when he and Hannah married on Christmas Day 1840 at the parish church of Handsworth (a north-west suburb of Birmingham), he was an engineer. Hannah, not yet 21 years, could not sign her name. The couple lived in West Bromwich (including Swan Village and Carter’s Green) all their lives, and had seven children: James Roberts being the eldest, then Elizabeth Roberts c1845, Lucy c1847, Esther Roberts c1851, John c1853, Samuel c1855, Hannah c1859, and Sarah Mary Ann c1860. At least one of the sons, young Samuel, was not employed in the iron or coal industries. He became a schoolteacher.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Tividale like this:

TIVIDALE, a village in Rowley-Regis parish, Stafford; on the Birmingham canal, and at an intersection of railways, 1 mile N of Tipton. It has a post-office under Tipton, two Methodist chapels, and extensive ironworks, foundries, chain-works, brick-works, collieries, and quarries; and it exports great quantities of the stone popularly called Rowley rag Pop., 1,860.

Transition in Tipton. This drawing “Tipton Old Church” shows an ironworks amidst the ruins of a medieval church 1837. á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á á áSource: William Salt library

Map showing Tipton, Darlaston and Dudley (circled) and their location near Birmingham in the West Midlands of England.

The Ashtons

The Ashtons were also employed in the coal, iron and related industries in the early to mid 1800s. Mary Ashton’s parents were Job and Hannah Ashton both from West Bromwich who married in about 1835. They had nine children: Sarah c1836, Mary b & d 1838, Selinah c1840 (who disappeared from the records after this time), Hannah c1842, Mary c1845, Eliza c1847, Joseph c1849, Emma c1851 and Harriet c1855. Job Ashton was recorded as being a caster (probably an iron caster/castor) in 1841, as was his son Joseph 30 years later. Job then became a victualler (provisions dealer, or inn-keeper) from at least 1851 to 1861 living at Eagle Lane Tipton. By the census of 1871, he may be the Job Ashton, retired (?) dealer of Dudley Road with a second wife Elizabeth (there is a death record for a Hannah Ashton in 1870). Job’s death certificate of September 1876 shows he lived at Dudley Road and died at the age of 66 from “paralysis” (a stroke?) and his daughter H. Ashton (Harriet?) was present. Job’s occupation was given as “house proprietor” (public house or boarding house?). His son-in-law, James Roberts Smith was one of the executors of his will bequeathing his effects, valued at under ú800.


Owen Street, Tipton c1900. Source: genealogy

Click here to continue to Mary Amelia Smith and John William Skidmore’sástory.