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British Industrial History

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John Sutton Nettlefold

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John Sutton Nettlefold (1792–1866).
Martha Nettlefold nee Chamberlain (1794-1866).

John Sutton Nettlefold (1792–1866) was a British industrialist and entrepreneur

1792 September 23rd. Born in London

1819 October 7th. Married Martha Chamberlain (1794-1866) and had sons Edward John Nettlefold, Joseph Henry Nettlefold and Frederick Nettlefold

1823 Nettlefold opened a hardware store at 54 High Holborn, London. He acquired from John Gilbert, who was a mechanical watchmaker of St. Marylebone, the patent which he had taken out for "certain improvements in the method or methods of making screws of iron, brass, steel, or other metals for the use of all kinds of woodwork".

1826 Nettlefold set up a workshop to make wood-screws in Sunbury-on-Thames. The Sunbury factory was powered by a waterwheel.

1834 Nettlefold saw the importance of steam power, setting up a new factory using steam power in Baskerville Place, off Broad Street, Birmingham which later became Nettlefold and Sons.

Nettlefold was a Unitarian; he married a co-religionist Martha Chamberlain (1794–1866), the sister of one Joseph Chamberlain and the aunt of Joseph Chamberlain, his more famous son and namesake.

1841 Listed as Nettlefold, J. S., Ironmonger at 54 High Holborn [1]

1851 Living at North Hill, Hornsey (age 59 born London), a General Merchant. With his wife Martha age 56 (born London) and their children Edward J. (age 30 born London), an Ironmonger; Ann (age 27 born London); Ellen (age 25 born London); Joseph (age 23 born London), Ironmonger; Kate (age 21 born London); Henrietta (age 19 born Acton); and Frederick (age 17 born Acton), Ironmonger. Plus three servants. [2]

1852 Listed as Nettlefold, John S. and Son. Who. Ironmongers. 54 High Holborn. [3]

1854 Nettlefold spotted an opportunity to purchase a licence to a U.S. patent for manufacture of a novel wood screw. with a pointed end, acting as its own gimlet. The license, and the establishment of a new factory, demanded an investment of £30,000. Nettlefold sought and obtained the involvement of his brother-in-law as equal partner for an investment of £10,000 and the two established a factory for Nettlefold and Chamberlain in Heath Street, Smethwick, delegating its management to their sons, Edward and Joseph, and the junior Joseph Chamberlain.

1861 Living at The Grove, St. Pancras. (age 69 born St. George's in the East, London), an Ironmonger. With his wife Martha (age 66 born London) and their children Ann (age 37 born Brompton), Henrietta (age 29 born Brompton) and Frederick (age 28 born Chelsea), Ironmonger. Also JSN's nephew Peter Booker (age 53 born Charlton, Wiltshire), a Barrister at Law. Also their grandchildren Marion, Ethel and Arnold Steer. Plus four servants. [4]

1866 April 12th. Died and buried in Highgate Cemetery

The factory on Heath Street, Smethwick, was located by the canal and the railway on the outskirts of Birmingham; it comprised 20,000 square feet in two single-storey sheds. By 1864 it had 600 employees.

Nettlefold organized the building up of the firm's virtual monopoly of the woodscrew trade in Britain. These two operations went together, for additional capital was needed to buy up competitors, and iron and wire suppliers. The neighbouring firm, Birmingham Screw, was acquired; this permitted further extension at Smethwick.

In later years, the management of Nettlefold and Chamberlain was passed to Joseph Henry Nettlefold and Frederick Nettlefold (1833-1913), and later was absorbed into Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds.

1905 The partnership between F. Nettlefold, A. Steer and O. Nettlefold "under the style of Nettlefold and Sons, High Holborn, W.C.", was dissolved[5]. This presumably means that the shop in London was kept out of the later limited company.

See Also


Sources of Information

Biography of Joseph Nettlefold, by Barbara M. D. Smith, ODNB

  1. 1841 Post Office London Directory
  2. 1851 census
  3. 1852 Post Office London Directory (Small Edition)
  4. 1861 Census
  5. The Times, 19 July 1905