A new blue plaque has been unveiled at Webster & Horsfall to honour 19th-century industrialist, James Horsfall, as part of Birmingham Heritage Week.

Horsfall’s company manufactured all the wire for the first successful trans-atlantic telegraph cable. The cable connected Europe and America by electronic communication for the first time in 1866. His patent steel wire, still manufactured by the company today, made the internal combustion engine a reality and created cables strong enough for deep cast mining.

The Bishop of Aston, The Right Reverend Anne Hollingshurst, and Charles Horsfall, Chairman of Webster & Horsfall and a direct descendant, unveiled the plaque on Sunday 13th September. The ceremony took place outside St Cyprian’s Church, at Hay Mills, built by James Horsfall in 1870 for the benefit and wellbeing of his work force.

Charles Horsfall, in unveiling the plaque, said,

“I am extremely proud to be here today to unveil this plaque to my great, great grandfather.  At last we are able to give him the recognition he justly deserves for his extraordinary achievements.

He has been the inspiration to succeeding generations of his family who have carried his company successfully into the twenty first century and continue to follow his principles of experiment and innovation as we work to bring green energy solutions to Birmingham.

I would like to thank the Birmingham Civic Society for giving us this opportunity to celebrate James Horsfall in this way.  St Cyprian’s Church, so long closely associated with our company who share in this commemoration, and most important our employees past and present and all those in our community who have, over centuries, helped to realise the aspirations of this extraordinary man.”

The legacy of Birmingham’s 19th century industrial heritage lives on at Webster & Horsfall, which is located at Hay Mills. The company is one of Birmingham’s oldest surviving and this year it celebrates 300 years of continuous innovation and invention, exemplified by the work taking place at Tyseley Energy Park (TEP).

Video courtesy of Norman Bartlam.


Know of someone who has helped put Birmingham on the map? Nominate them for a blue plaque.  Anyone can nominate someone and all nominations are researched and considered by our heritage committee. The only criteria is that the individual died 20 years ago or more and lived in the city for at least five years.

Pictured: Charles Horsfall.