Williamson's Providence Work's

  • 17 Jan 2012
  • Trade and Industry
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Well over 100 years ago, a local tinsmith, William Blizzard Williamson, founded a sheet metal works in Providence Street, and called it the Providence Works. It was small but it became the base of operations for Metal Box's biggest money -spinner in the UK, for at Worcester (Perry Wood), the firm made up to two million open top cans a day to carry vegetables, fruit, beer, beefsteak, puddings and dairy cream. The Providence Works was amalgamated with a number of other UK can and tin box makers under the Metal Box Co. Ltd. trade mark name in 1930, to fight terrific competition from American high speed production, but Metal Box was founded nine years before.

In the old days, Providence Works produced travelling trunks, cash boxes, baths, general tinware and camping washstands for expeditionary forces. A special line was the beautiful Judge's and Barrister's Wig Boxes, and Worcester people may have seen the replica of the original F.A Cup which was stolen from an Aston shop window after the Villa had won the Cup. In 1885, George Williamson, son of the founder, invented and patented the cutter-lid tin, familiar to older readers who brought their favourite brands of cigarettes in 'round fifties'. On this device the British export trade in cigarettes and tobacco was built. Cigarettes packed in this way became familiar all over the world, and Williamson Patent Worcester was embossed on each tin.   

After the 1914-18 War, the business took a new turn. The cutter-lid patent ran out and large tobacco firms started to make their own. The founder's grandson, G.Williamson, decided to extend the metal printing side of the business instead. But the factory still needed another product to replace the business lost by the patent expiry. To meet the growing need of the late 20's, the first high speed food can line was installed. It soon became apparent that the Providence Works, and a new factory was built at Perry Wood, in 1931. The Prince of Wales, late Edward Vlll, visited the plant, which by then was producing up to a half million cans a day. In 1955, the Providence Works was sold, and on the original site a new Post Office telecommunications centre has been erected.