James Horsfall and Joseph Webster
James Horsfall, a wire drawer from Digbeth invented high tensile steel wire. He moved to Hay Mill (grid reference SP108849), a disused blade and sword factory at a water mill on the River Cole, rebuilding it as a steam-driven mill. The mill originally belonged to Hay Hall (SP108845) in Tyseley. In 1855, his company merged with Joseph Webster's of Penn Mill, Sutton Coldfield. He was a major manufacturer and exporter of the piano wire to Europe in 1824.
In 1853, Horsfall had patented a heat treatment process which strengthened the wire. This led to improved piano wire (giving a near monopoly), wire for making needles in Redditch, fishhooks, and umbrella frames. The firm made the armoured wire for first successful transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866, using 30,000 miles of wire (1,600 tons), made by 250 workers over 11 months. The strengthened wire also made possible the construction of aeroplanes and automobiles.
Horsfall built houses and, in 1863, a school for his workers’ children. In 1873, he built a church, St Cyprian's, designed by Frank Barlow Osborn and now grade II listed, over the mill race on the mill site. This developed into the village of Hay Mills.
The company today also makes springs.
- John Philip Lethbridge (2002-01-01). Victorian Birmingham. ISBN 978-0-9512227-8-2.
- Christopher Upton (1993-09-30). A history of Birmingham. Phillimore & Company. ISBN 0-85033-870-0.
- Webster and Horsfall
- BBC article on the mill and the transatlantic cable
- National Archives - Short history
- Origins of Hay Mill and Hay Hall
- Historic England. "St Cyprian's Church - Grade II listed (217056)". Images of England.
- Historic England. "Hay Hall - Grade II listed (217524)". Images of England.