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British Industrial History

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GKN

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GKN plc is a British engineering company formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds which can trace its origins back to 1759 and the birth of the industrial revolution.

1902 Nettlefolds was combined with Guest, Keen and Co to create Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds[1].

1902 Purchased Crawshay Brothers, the company formed to continue steel production at the Cyfarthfa Ironworks.

These mergers heralded half a century in which the name GKN became synonymous with the manufacture of screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners. The company reflected the vertical integration fashionable at the time embracing activities from coal and ore extraction, and iron and steel-making to manufacturing finished goods.

1911 Listed as manufacturer of Bolts and Nuts for the Railways[2]

1914 Listed as ironmasters, steel manufacturers. [3]

1919 Absorbed the extensive nut and bolt and other interests of F. W. Cotterill, of Darlaston, this firm having previously absorbed John Garrington and Sons, forming the largest nut and bolt company in the country.

1920 Acquired John Lysaght which brought in works at Newport which were the "largest and best equipped in the UK for manufacture of black and galvanised sheet", large constructional iron and steel works at Bristol, and five blast furnaces and an up-to-date steel works and adjoining ironstone reserves at Scunthorpe. This purchase also included the whole of the ordinary shares of Joseph Sankey and Sons [4].

1921 The chairman, Edward Steer, mentioned to the annual meeting that he had started work with Nettlefold and Chamberlain 52 years ago. Most of the preference shares in John Lysaght had now been acquired as well as 99% of the Ordinary shares[5].

Acquired the Vulcan Works, Darlaston, Horton and Son, Enoch Wilks and Co, James Simpson and Sons, Tolley Sons and Bostock, and the Staffordshire Bolt and Nut Co.

Acquisition of a controlling interest in Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss, of Wolverhampton, makers of wrought iron, gate and fencing products.

1925 Joint company, Guest, Keen and Piggotts Ltd, formed with Thomas Piggott and Co making and selling steel water pipe at GKN's Cardiff plant[6]

1926 - February. Reported to have secured a contract for the supply to the Egyptian State Railways for 100,000 steel sleepers.[7]

1926 - December. Work was resumed in the rolling department of the company's iron and steel works at Dowlais, after a stoppage of about eight months, while the same company's Dowlais Works at Cardiff re-started the day after. About 800 men commenced work immediately, while the remainder of the workmen were taken on as soon as coke was available to relight the blast furnaces.[8]

1930 The steel side of the works in Cardiff was closed and the South Wales Steel works of GKN were amalgamated with those of Baldwins to form British Iron and Steel Co

1930 Acquired an interest in Stenman of Sweden, maker of screws, and Exors of James Mills, maker of bright drawn steel products, a similar field to that of the company[9]

1934 New works constructed at Dowlais.

1934 See GKN: 1934 Review.

1935 Guest, Keen and Piggotts closed

1937 British Industries Fair Advert for Nettlefolds Screws. Screws, Bolts and Nuts, Rivets, Cotter Pins, Set Screws, Screw Hooks, Screw Eyes, Gate Hooks and Eyes, Porcelain Enamelled Screw Hooks, Nails, Wire, Clout, Pipe Brads, Panel Pins, Wire Netting Fasteners, Plyers, Patent "Hank" Rivets, Brushes, Nettlefolds' Parker-Kalon Hardened Self Tapering Screws, Drive Screws, Screw Nails, Masonry Nails, Thumb Screws, Wing Nuts. (Engineering/Metals/Quarry, Roads and Mining/Transport Section - Stand No. B.606 ) [10] Manufacturers of screws, bolts and nuts. [11]

1940 Advert. Nuts, screws and other fixings. [12]

1941 AA image on this page. [13]

1945 Advert. Hardened self-tapping screws under the name of Nettlefords-Parker-Kalon. From Birmingham. [14]

1945 Advert. Foundation bolts and locknuts from the Nut and Bolt section of Atlas Works, Darlaston.

1948 The works and property of Brymbo Steel Co were transferred to GKN, which used the steel "sheet" bars produced by the works.[15]

1949 Six subsidiaries were identified for nationalisation - the holding company, 39 domestic subsidiaries and 19 foriegn subsidiaries were to be excluded from nationalisation[16]. After further negotiation, only 4 subsidiary companies were to be nationalised[17]

1951 Four subsidiaries of the company were nationalised, and were vested in the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain[18]:

1954 In order to achieve control of the whole production chain, GKN reacquired from the Holding and Realisation Agency[19]:

1955 GKN reacquired from the Holding and Realisation Agency[20]:

1957 Acquired L. H. Newton including its subsidiary Birwelco and its associated company Brown Fintube (Great Britain)[21]

1961 Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds Ltd are a holding company for 83 subsidiaries with 75,000 employees. [22]

1961 GKN Steel Company formed to incorporate all of the steel companies in the group[23]

1961 Manufacturers of grey iron castings for the Automobile Industry, British Railways, and miscellaneous castings, including cable brackets for the underground railways. 1,219 employees (not sure which part this refers to). [24]

1962 Acquired Acton Bolt Ltd

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Fastenings made by the Heath Street Division. [25]

1964 The company had a dominant position in fasteners but was otherwise just a medium-sized engineering group with steel interests[26]

1965 Acquired Projectile and Engineering Co (Peco), maker of plastics moulding equipment[27]

1966 Business re-organised, with the UK business arranged into 7 sub-groups[28]:

1967 Acquired Birfield Industries including its subsidiary Hardy Spicer and Co of Birmingham becoming part of GKN Transmissions[29]. Hardy Spicer made constant-velocity joints which, historically, had few applications, even following the improved design proposed by Alfred H. Rzeppa in 1936. In 1959, Alec Issigonis had developed the revolutionary Mini motor car which relied on such joints for its novel front wheel drive technology. The massive expansion in the exploitation of front wheel drive in the 1970s and 1980s led to the acquisition of other similar businesses, such as Vandervell Products, leading to a 43% share of the world market by 2002.

1967 GKN South Wales was one of the larger steel re-rollers not subject to nationalisation[30]

1968 Start of move to build a large position in steel stockholding.

1969 Acquired R. H. Windsor, makers of plastics machinery

1970 Formation of plastics machinery subsidiary GKN Windsor, which would include the machinery interests of R. H. Windsor and the Peco division of GKN Machinery [31]

1972 GKN acquired Firth Cleveland for its complementary interests in hot and cold rolled strip, sintered products, reinforcements, wire fasteners and garage equipment; GKN had not decided what to do with the retail side of the business[32]

1974 GKN acquired Kirkstall Forge Engineering, the country's largest manufacturer of axles for heavy vehicles, which would become part of GKN Transmissions[33].

1974 GKN acquired a major competitor in steel stockholding, Miles Druce and Co, after delays due to need for approval from European Commission and uncertainty about the rules[34].

By 1974 the company had re-created itself as an integrated steel company, producing it, converting it and either selling it or using it to manufacture its own automotive products, fasteners and engineering and building products[35][36]

1974 GKN reorganised its engineering sub-group into 3 parts[37]:

1974 Mr. I. F. Donald was appointed Chairman of GKN Powder Metallurgy and Mr. M. O. Bumfrey continued as managing director. Mr. P. B. Hamilton was appointed a non-executive director. Mr. C. J. Williams and Mr. C. T. Taylor resigned their appointments on the board of the company. Mr. Williams and Mr. H. D. Browne remained a non-executive director.[38]

1979 GKN purchased Sheepbridge Group, makers of automotive components and distributor[39], including Advance Motor Supplies

During the 1980s, GKN sought to invest its earnings from constant-velocity joints in developing other nascent technologies.

1981 British Steel forged a new £130 million joint company with GKN and bought out the steelmaking businesses of the ailing private sector group Duport. The interests acquired comprised of London Works, Flather Bright Steels and Nationwide Steel Stock. The Corporation followed this with the formation of a new steel company Allied Steel and Wire. This joint venture company of British Steel and GKN merged their interests in rod and bar production.[40]

1983 Sold Floform to Grosvenor Group [41]

1985 F. H. Tomkins purchased 6 companies from GKN[42][43]:

1991 the company abandoned further research in novel technologies and re-diverted its development efforts towards its constant-velocity joint business in which it was facing increasing competition from Japan. During the same period, the company finally withdrew from the manufacture of fasteners and from steel production. Changing its name to GKN plc, it diversified into military vehicles, aerospace and industrial services.

1994 GKN acquired the helicopter manufacturing business of Westland Aircraft.

1998 the armoured vehicle business was sold to Alvis plc, and subsequently incorporated into Alvis Vickers Ltd.

July 2000, Finmeccanica and GKN agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries to form AgustaWestland.

2004 GKN completed the sale of its 50% shareholding in Agusta Westland to Finmeccanica.

From the late 1990s, the company built a major global business in powder metallurgy, which operates as the GKN Sinter Metals group.

GKN's turnover for the year ended 31 December 2004 was just under £3.5 billion.

2015 GKN Plc. Revenue £7.7bn. Divisions are GKN Aerospace (inc acquisition of Fokker for £480 million), GKN Driveline, GKN Powder Metallurgy and GKN Land Systems. 56,100 employees worldwide with 6,000 in UK.[44]

Steam Locomotives

Manufactured a number of steam locomotives for their own use:-

  • 1906 Locomotive built at Ifor
  • 1908 Locomotive built at Ifor
  • 1911 Locomotive built at Cwmbran
  • 1912 Locomotive built at Ifor
  • 1914 Locomotive built at Cwmbran
  • 1915 Locomotive built at Ifor
  • 1916 Locomotive built at Dowlais
  • 1917 Locomotive built at Ifor
  • 1919 Locomotive built at Dowlais
  • 1920 Locomotive built at Ifor. The last at these works and a total of nine engines.
  • 1928 Locomotive built at Cwmbran


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Tuesday, Feb 04, 1902
  2. Bradshaw’s Railway Manual 1911
  3. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  4. The Times, 27 August 1920
  5. The Times, 16 September 1021
  6. The Times, Jun 27, 1925
  7. The Engineer 1926/02/19
  8. The Engineer 1926/12/17
  9. The Times, Jun 26, 1930
  10. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p627; and p371
  11. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  12. Mechanical World Year Book 1940. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p143-5
  13. [1] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  14. Mechanical World Year Book 1945. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p177-9
  15. The Times, Feb 06, 1948
  16. The Times, Feb 07, 1949
  17. The Times, Jun 25, 1949
  18. The Times, 13 October 1953
  19. The Times, 29 June 1956
  20. The Times, 29 June 1956
  21. The Times, Oct 19, 1957
  22. 1961 Guide to Key British Enterprises
  23. The Times, Aug 19, 1960
  24. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  25. 1963 Motor Show
  26. The Times, Feb 23, 1978
  27. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Aug 14, 1985
  28. The Times, Apr 06, 1966
  29. The Times, 26 January 1968
  30. The Times, Apr 26, 1967
  31. The Times, Jan 14, 1970
  32. The Times, Jun 21, 1972
  33. The Times, 21 March 1974
  34. The Times, Apr 13, 1974
  35. The Times, Feb 23, 1978
  36. The Engineer 1974/02/28
  37. The Times, May 16, 1974
  38. The Engineer 1974/05/30
  39. The Times, Apr 30, 1980
  40. The Engineer 1981/02/26
  41. The Times, Jan 15, 1983
  42. The Times, 30 July 1985
  43. The Times, 14 August 1985
  44. 2015 Annual Report