Leaving, now, the gold and gilt jewellery trades, which, as I have said, form a large industry in our midst, let me just briefly refer to some of the odd trades that are carried on in Birmingham. Among these I will first of all mention the manufacture of ship Logs, because it seems somewhat curious that an insular place like Birmingham, whose only suggestion of maritime operations is the canal, should produce Logs—that is, cunningly devised instruments for ascertaining the speed of ships. Yet if I go to north country ports, such as Leith, and if I go south to Dover, or west to Cardiff, I see the “Cherub,” the “Harpoon,” and other Logs made by the firm of T. Walker and Sons, Oxford Street, Birmingham. As I have said, it seems a little strange, if not funny, that Birmingham should produce ship appliances. Nevertheless, the present Mr. T.F. Walker, and his father before him, have been making and improving ship Logs till their trade name is known and their productions seen in every port of significance here in Britain and abroad as well.
A city, however, that produces Artificial Human Eyes may see its way to make anything; consequently, all sorts of diverse things are produced in Birmingham, from coffin furniture to custard powder, vices to vinegar, candles to cocoa, blue bricks to bird cages, handcuffs to horse collars, anvils to hat bands, soap to sardine openers, &c., &c., &c.
There are also in Birmingham certain trades that without being large industries have taken fixed root in the locality. For instance, there is the glass trade, which employs a good few men, and, perhaps, it used to employ more. On this point I am not certain, but I do know that one large glass manufactory that existed in my younger days—namely, that of Rice Harris, which stood near where now stands the Children’s Hospital, Broad Street—was disestablished many years ago.
If I remember rightly Rice Harris’s glass works had one of those large old-fashioned brick domes that I fancy are not constructed nowadays. One or two, however, still remain, and I for one feel glad that Messrs. Walsh and Co., of Soho, allow their dome to stand where it did, just as a landmark and to remind me of pleasant bygone days.
I confess, too, that I like to go into one of these big glass hives, or rather glass-making hives, and see the workmen at their “chairs” blowing and moulding the hot ductile glass into its appointed form and patterns; and I like also to see the curling wreaths of smoke ascend and disappear through the orifice at the top of the dome. And when I look at this I wonder how that huge chimney is cleaned, and where the Titanic sweep is that could undertake such a gigantic job. Well, I can hardly say I wonder, because I think I have been told that the way the soot is cleaned from these well-smoked domes is by firing shot at the roof, which brings down the dirt.