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Stateside move in battle to save gates

Sandwell | News | Published:

The campaign to save the iconic gates of a Black Country steel factory has found its way across the Atlantic.

The once grand entrance to the former Patent Shaft Steel Works is lying dilapidated and damaged on scrub land in Wednesbury. However, campaigners want the gates spruced up and restored, with a move to a prominent position in the town.

Now one of the trans-Atlantic ancestors of former Patent Shaft apprentice and renowned 19th century American industrialist James E York has backed the appeal, after finding out about it on the internet.

His great-grandson, James E York III, came across Ernie Rogers' www.patentshaft.com website when researching his family history and got in touch with campaign organisers to pledge his support.

His great-grandfather, who was born in Wednesbury in the 1846, began sweeping floors at the steel factory known as 'The Shaft' and served his apprenticeship with the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company. After 12 years he emigrated to the States where he became known as 'The Iron Giant' for his pioneering improvements to the iron and steel industries in areas such as Ohio and Kentucky.

Father-of-three Mr York III, aged 53, an insurance sales agent from Ohio, said he had never been to England but would love to visit and see the gates restored in all their glory.

"If and when they get the Patent Shaft gates restored, the dedication of them would make an excellent time to make the trip. I believe that saving the gates to a plant that had such a long and distinguished history is a small but fitting tribute to the plant, to the goods it produced, as well as to the many who passed through them and the ripple effect the plant had on the iron and steel industry for many years," he said.

Former Patent Shaft worker Ernie Rogers, who set up the campaign website from his home in Bournemouth, said he was delighted the appeal was attracting global attention.

Wednesbury History Society is looking for volunteers to lead the campaign. Call 07530 865192 for details.

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