Even thought he was not born in this part of the world he soon became one of the most important people in this area of his time.
Born as the eldest son of the firths who were from forest gate part of London, the main job of his father was a sea captain.
William started his working life as a office boy in 1901 at that time earning 10 shilling’s ( there were 20 of them to one pound ) , soon after he became an he began to work as an agent and merchant within the London area which started his connection with in the tin plate industry.
By 1919 William Firth started to establish himself as a selling agency in south Wales for tin plate, at first he found it hard to make contact with the then Richard Thomas & Company, but at the end of 1923 both Richard Firth and Richard Thomas and co had joined to become one company. Shortly after Firth joined the board of directors at Richard Thomas & Co.
Firths main job was to establish the tin plate selling agency which in turn turned Thomas and co as one of the main players for the industry.
In October 1929, the steel works in Ebbw vale had been closed down after the then chairman had died, so Firth under the company of Thomas and co decided to purchase as many of the tinplate mills in this country. At this time Ebbw vale was one of the most unemployed and distressed areas of south Wales’s mainly being brought about by the closure of the coal and iron companies in the area, So Thomas and co under the recommendations of Firth decided to purchase in the area .
In 1931 he had become the chair man for the company and at the end of 1932 he had been knighted. Firth knowledge within the industry turned the tin plate works at Ebbw Vale into Ebbw Vale Steel works with the works which was the largest tinplate group until the closure in 2002; this in turn made the town both prosperous in industry and socially, without his efforts Ebbw may have become a much smaller town than it is today.
The Ebbw Vale works was once again opened, this time costing more to build and operate with the initial output of between 300 – 350,000 tons of steel strip a year at an investment of 4.5 million. When works started for business in 1936 the aim was to produce over 600 000 tons of strip metal costing between 6.5 million soon after the company started to get into trouble financially in 1938 the banks intervened to save the day
One point to note is that in 1936 with the capital from the bank of England the Works was all but demolished apart from two blast furnaces; this made way for the new hot and cold sheet plant the first of its type at the time out side of the USA.
1940 Saw the retirement of Firth from the Ebbw Vale works.
By this time he had become the chairman of the international tin cartel, and the Welsh Manufactures association. He was also the president of the tinplate and sheet manufactures association vice president of the British Iron and Steel federation.
As you enter Sir Eugene Cross Park through the main gates to the welfare ground you are entering the gates that were that opened by Aneurin Bevan and dedicated to Firth, a person who was influenced and became his friend.