Eliza Tinsley - A Nail Making Entrepreneur

At the end of our last extract from Edward Nayler's newspaper cuttings I left readers with the question of who was the young lady, named Butler, who would later have such an influence in Sedgley?

In Nayler's records he writes: "January 9th 1839 - On the first Inst., at Sedgley, by the Rev. William Lewis, Vicar, Mr Thomas Tinsley, nail factor, to Eliza, only daughter of the late Mr Benjamin Butler of Wolverhampton." (Mr. Butler was a malster - or a brewer.)

A Factor was the manager, or enabler, of production. It seems appropriate at this point to provide the fascinating continuation of the Tinsley story. The Tinsley family would be able to afford the purchase of the rod iron that they then doled out to the local nailers to be forged into finished nails, in their small backyard nail shops. Sedgley, Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Coseley had many "shops," and to a lesser extent, the other parish villages. Farmers often used it as a second industry, or for personal use. The finished nails would be returned to the warehouse at the weekend, for the Tinsley's commercial distribution, and usually given the guarantee that more iron would be available on the following Monday - Saint Monday as it was often known. The nail trade was a continuous process. We have a surviving warehouse in Brick Street, though this was not Tinsley's, but Stephen Wilkes's, another local factor, and one remembered for his large contribution to the creation of the former Congregational Church in Bilston Street, now St. Andrews.

Thomas Tinsley had taken over the business from his father. Sadly his married life was limited to twelve years, and Eliza became a widow with six children. They lived at "The New House" that they had built. We now know it as "The Limes". Their garden is now "The Coronation Gardens" on Dudley Road. The local nail makers expected a new owner as their Factor. They had not reckoned, with Eliza's strength of character. Quickly, she soon became known for her constant attention to the trade. A local memory was of her in her "widow's weeds" - "The Black Widow!" It is said, that upon her approach nailers whispered to one another "Look out! The Widder's coming."

No one could have anticipated the growth of Eliza Tinsley's influence. Nails, chain, Admiralty contracts, and warehouses in Bromsgrove, Catshill, Dudley, Old Hill, Stourbridge, Sedgley, and Wolverhampton. Her benevolence appears in many subscription lists. The local Temperance Hall had its stone laying at her hands, (now preserved at St. Andrew's church.) She died in 1882. The family cross stands near the south wall of All Saints Church. Though no Tinsley now remains in the industry, the business name of Eliza Tinsley is still in use today.

Way back in time Edward Nayler's family must have been nail makers.

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