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Celebrating bridge firm's global reach

Sandwell | News | Published:

It was once one of the Black Country's biggest employers, and its influence stretched across the world. Bridges from Wednesbury's Patent Shaft Steel Works spanned the globe.

It was once one of the Black Country's biggest employers, and its influence stretched across the world. Bridges from Wednesbury's Patent Shaft Steel Works spanned the globe.

Its girder bridges were found in India, Argentina, Burma, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, and Nigeria, as well as over the River Severn at Stourport.

Now the proud structures are the focus of a new history project to find photographs of the bridges and to get the company archives in Sandwell off dusty shelves — and open for the public to see.

Known locally as The Shaft, the company based in Hallens Drive was responsible for feats of engineering including the creation of the mammoth transporter bridge Puente Transbordador in Buenos Aires — one of just two dozen transporter bridges in the world.

Built in 1914 the movable bridge spans the Riachuelo River and is still in existence, although not in use, today.

This aspect of Sandwell's industrial past is coming under the microscope as part of a project by artists Katie Shipley and Julian Walker. They have been commissioned to work with the people of Sandwell to think up new ways of curating the archives, known as "Forging Links".

As part of this project Julian Walker, pictured above, has set up the Bridges Project, which will look at the work of the former steelworks.

Patent Shaft closed its doors in 1980 after nearly 150 years.

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The Bridges Project has been set up to find Sandwell people who may have photographs of the firm's bridges. All the pictures will be brought together for an exhibition.

Mr Walker said: "We will visit Smethwick Library on March 4 and 15 for workshops involving research into the bridges and photographic material from the archive."

Documents and photographs will go on display during this summer's Sandwell Arts Festival. Anyone with pictures that may be of use should contact 0121 525 6861.

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