W is for Wharfinger
By SMALLWOOD, R[obert] , 1837

R. Smallwood, General Wharfinger & Commission Agent. Wheelwright, Blacksmith &c.

  • Author: SMALLWOOD, R[obert]
  • Publication place: Birmingham
  • Publisher: Commercial Wharfs. Worcester Wharf
  • Publication date: c1837-1858
  • Physical description: Engraved trade card.
  • Dimensions: 102 by 135mm. (4 by 5.25 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 17947


Worcester Wharf was a large waterside complex functioning as the commercial terminus for Birmingham during the nineteenth century. One of the wharfingers, or keepers and dealers, along its docks was Robert Smallwood. He is first listed as one of the wharfingers in 1837, although there was a coal dealer of the same name also in Birmingham in 1818.

Smallwood appears in the directories of 1846, 1854 and 1858 too; in 1854 he was also listed as a cider merchant. Indeed, cider is one of the wares named on the present trade card, as well as oak, fencing and lumber. There continue to be records of a wine merchant named Robert Small in Birmingham during the 1870s, although it is not clear whether the Smallwood of the present trade card had added wine to this extensive list of goods in which he dealt.

The trade card also mentions “wheelwright, blacksmith &c.” and the image in the centre shows a number of buildings presumably belonging to Smallwood which may have been the centre of such operations.

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