Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,469 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


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1876. Turret clock for Bombay University.
Early speedometer calibrated in Versts (a Russian unit of length, approx 1km[1]).
Early speedometer calibrated in Versts.
January 1919.
January 1920.
March 1932.
1949. Clocks. LHS.
1949. Clocks. RHS.
October 1951.
October 1952.
October 1952.
March 1953.
December 1960.
Dec 1961.
October 1962.
Oct 1966.
March 1968.
September 1968.
October 1975.
October 1976.
March 1989.

Originally of St. John's Square, Clerkenwell (1876), then later of Cricklewood, London, NW2, and then of Cheltenham

Smiths is a British engineering company involved in wide-ranging speciality engineering activities and later became Smith's Industries.

1851 Samuel Smith & S. Smith and Son

1851 The company that became Smiths (Smith and Son), started as a clock and watch business in the mid 19th century. A family business, it was founded by Samuel Smith, Senior as S. Smith and Son.

1873 Samuel Smith, Junior opened larger premises on The Strand and later had shops in Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square in London

1882 Listed at 151/153 Newington Causeway as Watchmaker and Jeweller. [2]

1884 Listed as 'Smith Samuel goldsmith, jeweller, optician, watch maker and jet ornament manufacturer. 151 and 153 Newington Causeway' [3]

1895 Listed as Samuel Smith, Watchmaker and Jeweller of 151 and 153 Newington Causeway [4]

1898 'Smith Samuel and Son, 9 Strand WC; watchmakers to the Admiralty, high-class watches with certificates from the Royal Observatory, Kew; premier positions 1885 to 1898; medal for non-magnetizable watches; split seconds chronographs; sole makers of the four-dial non-magnetic chronographs and revolving escapement watches.' Also one line entry under jewellers. [5]

1900 At the start of the 20th century and the age of the automobile they produced the first British odometer ("mileometer") and speedometer.

1913 April. Advert in Autocar for Speedometers. S. Smith and Son of 9 Strand, London. [6]

1914 Advert for S. Smith and Son wrist watches gives addresses at Trafalgar Square and 68 Piccadilly [7]

1914 S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories)

1914 Formed a public company S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd to acquire from S. Smith and Sons[8] that part of the business concerned with manufacture of speedometers, carburretors, and other motor accessories[9] with headquarters at Great Portland Street. The company was run by Samuel Smith Junior's son Allan Gordon Smith and the turnover was more than £100,000.

1915 Factory at Cricklewood built to make speedometers and employed 400 persons. The employees soon increased to 2,000 and they also made aircraft instruments and shell fuses for war time contracts.

In 1919 Smiths acquired M. L. Magneto Syndicate

1919 January. Advert for 'Starting and Lighting Systems'. S. Smith and Sons of 179-185 Great Portland Street, London. [10]

1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with electrical lighting equipment for commercial vehicles. [11]

By 1927 had acquired KLG Sparking Plugs

1929 The British Jaeger Company had become part of Smiths

1928 The company formed a department to make escapements, having previously bought these from Switzerland. This became A. B. E. Co at Chronos Works, Cricklewood.

1929 The Aircraft Instruments Department was formed

1930 Smiths agreed a trading deal with Joseph Lucas Ltd whereby the two would not compete in certain areas and Lucas took on part of Smiths non-instrumentation assets. Smiths became the dominant supplier of instruments to British motorcar and motorcycle firms.

1931 Acquired the rights for an automatic pilot

Also see Bluecol

Formation of Smiths English Clocks

1931 Smiths, then called S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd, entered the domestic clock market and formed a new company, Smiths English Clocks, as the Clock and Watch division of S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd, with Cricklewood as the main factory. Smiths were one of the first companies to produce synchronous electric clocks. These were put on the market towards the end of 1931.

1932 Smiths English Clocks was formed. By this time they were making 4,000 clocks each week

1932 Smiths purchased English Clock and Watch Manufacturers of Coventry and acquired the trade names Astral and Empire which they used extensively

1933 Lucas purchased North and Sons Ltd., then one of the leading manufacturers of magnetos and also a manufacturer of speedometers and other instruments for motor vehicles. Lucas subsequently recovered half the purchase price from Smiths: Lucas took over the magneto side of the business and Smiths, the instrument side.

1934 Smiths bought the Enfield Clock Co; production at their Edmonton factory continued under the Enfield name until c1950

1935 Acquired Henry Hughes and Son, a marine instrument maker [12].

From 1937 the trade name "Sectric" appears on Smiths electric clocks

1939 Ralph Gordon-Smith, the son of Allan Gordon-Smith, arranged for a new site to be purchased at Bishop's Cleeve near Cheltenham to protect the business from potential bombing in the London area. The site at Bishop's Cleeve was Kayte Farm of 300 acres and it was purchased for £25,000 on the 6th April 1939. On 1st June S. Smith and Sons (Cheltenham) Ltd was formed as a subsidiary of the main business

British Precision Springs was set up to manufacture the hairsprings used in clocks as the source in Germany was not available during the war years

1940 In August the the main instrument repair department at Cricklewood was destroyed by bombing

World War II: Production expanded. There was a demand for motor, aircraft and marine instruments for the Services and the production of industrial instruments, hitherto imported, was begun. Fuses for shells were also manufactured.

1944 S. Smith and Sons (England)

1944 A major regrouping of the whole Smiths organisation was carried out.

1944 The name of the principal company was changed to S. Smith and Sons (England) Ltd with four divisions:

1947 The company had 17,000 employees with Cheltenham, the largest, having 2,500

1951 See S. Smith and Sons (England)

1958 Separate Smiths Aviation and Smiths Marine divisions were setup.

1960 An Industrial division was formed whose main operations were industrial instrumentation.

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Listed as S. Smith and Sons and showed Lodge sparking plugs, Radiomobile car radios and instrument panels. [13]

1964 The company employed 25,000 persons in 27 factories in the UK

1965 Smiths Industries

1965 With increasing diversification and international operations the name Smiths Industries was adopted to reflect wider operations. The contribution of clocks and watches to the business declined and Smiths stopped being the direct supplier of motor equipment to European car producers.

1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Technological Innovation. [14]

1966 the name of the principal company of the Smiths group was changed from S. Smith and Sons (England) Ltd to Smiths Industries.

1972 Formed a national motor accessory factoring firm, trading under the name Affiliated Factors Ltd with headquarters in High Wycombe and regional offices in Doncaster, Stoke-on-Trent, Worthing and Colchester. [15]

1974 Production of its tachograph increased from 400 units to 4000 units per month. This was due to the fact that new legislation, coming into place in January 1976, meant that all commercial vehicles had to be fitted with tachographs by 1978.[16]

Orders had been received from British Leyland and Ford.

1979 Provision made for restructuring and reorganisation of the motor vehicle component businesses[17]

1981 Further reorganisation of the motor vehicle and marine businesses after losses[18].

1983 With Lucas formed a joint venture on vehicle control systems, Lucas Electrical Electronics and Systems, bringing together 5 plants from each partner [19]; Smiths would own about 20 percent of the venture[20]. Most of Smiths automotive businesses had been sold to Lucas and to Hanson Trust; the medical division accounted for 40percent of profits; the largest profit came from aerospace; the Clock Co was closed[21]

1984 Sold the Godfrey Holmes and Affiliated Factors subsidiaries to GKN.

1986 Acquired J. D. Potter and Camper and Nicholsons Marine Equipment[22]

1992 Acquired Vent-Axia[23]

1997 Graseby plc was acquired by Smiths. Graseby Dynamics became Smiths' first venture into the detection sector.

1999 The Group had 3 main parts:

  • Aerospace
  • Medical
  • Industrial

1999-2000 Acquired the aerospace division of Invensys and the Marconi Actuation Systems business of BAE Systems and Fairchild Defense division of Orbital Sciences Corporation, maker of data recording and analysis systems[24].

2000 Smiths Industries merged with the Tube Investments and as a result of that merger the company name was changed to Smiths Group plc.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wikipedia
  2. 1882 Post Office London Directory
  3. 1884 Business Directory of London
  4. 1895 Post Office London Directory
  5. 1899 Post Office London Directory
  6. The Autocar of 5th April 1913 p vi
  7. The Times, Friday, Aug 07, 1914
  8. Companies House filing
  9. The Times 21 July 1914
  10. The Autocar of 4th January 1919 p45
  11. The Engineer of 29th October 1920 p426
  12. The Times 22 November 1935
  13. 1963 Motor Show
  14. The Engineer of 26th April 1968 p650
  15. Commercial Motor 4th August 1972
  16. The Engineer 1974/08/22 and 1974/08/29
  17. The Times, Nov 14, 1979
  18. The Times, Nov 11, 1981
  19. The Times, Mar 29, 1983
  20. The Times, Apr 13, 1983
  21. The Times, Nov 10, 1983
  22. The Times Dec. 23, 1986
  23. The Times, December 02, 1992
  24. The Times Thursday, Sept. 28, 2000
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • The Engineer of 5th July 1968 p9
  • Smiths Industries at Cheltenham by Chris Ellis. Published 1990 ISBN 0 904811 18 2
  • AA. [2] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry