In 1945 experts at one of the many Warrington wire works estimated that Warrington wire had been put to 1,300,000 different uses around the world. Here are just 6 of them.

Barbed Wire, Western Front

Much of the barbed wire at the Western Front during the First World War was made by Rylands Brothers. Members of the Royal Engineers laid miles of Warrington barbed wire in the spaces between the trenches – one of the most dangerous jobs in wartime.


Transatlantic Telegraph Cable, Atlantic Ocean

In 1856 Rylands Brothers made 10 tons of wire every week which was turned into 2,500 miles of cable. It took 3 tries to lay the cable under the Atlantic Ocean between Ireland and Canada but eventually it reduced the communication times between Europe and America from days to a matter of hours.

Wright Flyer, Ohio

Two American inventors named Wilbur and Orville Wright designed, built, and flew the first airplane in December 1903. The used fine piano wire – reportedly made in Warrington – to support the wing struts so they would not flex in flight.

Underwired Swimwear, California

The Firth Company in Warrington specialised in making wire for corsets and swimwear. They even exported different types of wire for swimwear on the East and West coast of America because of the differing salt content of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.



South Africa

Rylands Brothers and Whitecross wove wire fences and exported them around the world where they were used to enclose the rapidly expanding farmlands of the American Prairies, the Australian Outback and South Africa. Warrington wire encircled the world!

Farm gate and fence in rural grassland area of South Africa

Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong

Warrington wire rope was used in the construction of numerous bridges around the world including the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong, the largest suspension bridge of its type in the world. Other bridges using Warrington wire rope include the Humber Bridge in Hull and the Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey.

Some different types of wire made in Warrington:

  • Bright wire
  • Annealed wire
  • Tinned or coppered mild steel wire
  • Flat wire
  • Shaped wire
  • Cut wire
  • Chain wire
  • Telegraph wire
  • Mattress wire
  • Stitching wire
  • Welding wire
  • Rivet, nut and bolt wires
  • Brylanised cable wires
  • Galvanised solid and strand fencing wire
  • Hinged joint fencing
  • Sheep netting
  • Chicken wire
  • Barbed wire
  • Chain link fencing
  • Plastic-coated netting
  • Galvanised netting
  • High tensile steel wire
  • Wire and strands used in pre-stressed concrete
  • Baling wire
  • Florist’s wire
  • Wall ties
  • Wire ties
  • Garden tying wires
  • Nails
  • Conveyor belts
  • Screens
  • Filters
  • Perforated metal sheets
  • Wire brushes
  • Sieves – for industry and agriculture as well as cooking!
  • Woven wire cloth
  • Woven wire gauze
  • Wire screens 

Some things that Warrington wire was used for:

  • Hairgrips
  • Wire portions of earrings, brooches etc.
  • Hooks and eyes on bras
  • Suspenders
  • Carding wool
  • Knitting machines
  • Weaving machinery
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Coat hangers
  • Zip fasteners
  • Foundation frames for hats
  • Rivets on shoes
  • Parasols and umbrellas
  • Dog leads and collars
  • Bicycle spokes
  • Hair curlers
  • Hairbrushes
  • Corsets and underwired bras
  • Spectacle frames
  • False teeth
  • Watchstraps
  • Pinion wire – for watch and clock parts
  • Safety pins
  • Piano wire
  • Toys – axels on toy cars, Meccano etc
  • Wire baskets and shopping trollies
  • Wheeled bins in factories 

Some uses that Warrington wire ropes were used for: 

  • Suspension cables for bridges
  • Mining (mine elevators, haulage systems etc)
  • Transatlantic and other telephone cables
  • Telegraph cables
  • Electrical cable
  • Lift cables
  • Ploughing
  • Ships rigging
  • Cranes
  • Cable cars

This article was written for the Wire Works Project 2020-2021, a National Lottery Heritage funded project aiming to highlight and celebrate the legacy left by the wire industry, which dominated Warrington’s employment structure for over 170 years, putting the town at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.