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Thomas Adkins, b.1792, d.1841

Thomas was a very successful industrialist, who contributed to the development of the Birmingham area during the industrial revolution. He built a factory in Handsworth for soap manufacture in 1817/18. Thomas's soap factory was judiciously located beside the Birmingham canal opposite the junction with the Cape Arm canal. The Birmingham / Wolverhampton railway was built some years later and runs past on the northeast side, and the area is marked today by the adjacent railway junction known (and marked on the street map) as Soap Works Junction. The factory no longer exists having been demolished decades ago. The site, though, has not been re-developed (2022) and the last time I looked at it (passed by on the railway) it was being used as a dump for demolition concrete and they were crushing it for re-use. A difficult access has probably detured redevelopment - the only way in is via a very narrow street and under a very low railway bridge.

At a later date he purchased a large mansion close to his factory from James MOILLIET, the son of Jean Louis MOILLIET the Birmingham banker. This house was named The Grove and Thomas then became known as Thomas ADKINS of The Grove, or of Smethwick. The Grove no longer exists, it was located a short distance south of the factory near the end of the Cape Arm canal. The area is very industrial today with a new hospital (2022) covering part of Thomas's estate, but includes Grove Lane and Grove Street and, nearby, Moillett (sic) Street. Although obliterated by the hospital development, there was also Keen Street (Guest Keen & Nettlefold, GKN), an industrial family related to Thomas.

With the death of Thomas ADKINS of Smethwick in February 1841 his business, Thomas Adkins & Co., soap manufacturers, was carried on by his three sons, George Caleb, Francis and Henry. The three brothers later began manufacture of red and white lead and lead by-products. The son, Henry ADKINS, contributed in 1866 two chapters to a book celebrating Birmingham businesses, one describing in considerable detail his company's manufacturing process for soap, and a second chapter describing their production of red lead (a paint), a new range of products which the sons introduced after Thomas's death. Francis may well be the Francis Adkins associated with the Heath Lead Works in 1853, though I have not found sufficient information on this.

George Caleb died in 1887 and the business of Thomas Adkins & Co. was bought by his relation Sir Henry Wiggin's company, H Wiggin & Co., in 1888. [8]

A successful entrepreneur would mark his success by having portraits painted of himself and his wife, and in this case, his daughter too. It is known that there was also a picture of Thomas to complement that of Anne. However, this has been lost and if it still exists its whereabouts is unknown. [95]

 


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