Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Suffolk Iron Foundry (1920)

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February 1937.
1938.
February 1943.
Jan 1945.

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August 1946.
Suffolk Colt. Mower engine.
1957.
1957. Suffolk Swift 10".
1958.
1958.
1965.

Suffolk Iron Foundry (1920) Ltd, of Gipping Works, Stowmarket, Suffolk

Sifbronze Welding of Gipping Works, Stowmarket, Suffolk. London Office: 90 Judd Street, WC1. Telephone: Terminus 3720. (1929)

of 13 St. Andrew Street, London, EC4. Telephone: Central 1488/9. Telegraphic Address: "Utilware, 'Phone, London." (1937)

Suffolk Iron Foundry (1920) Ltd of Sifbronze Works, Prentice Road, Stowmarket (1944)

1914 Louis Tibbenham took on part of a factory in Stowmarket which had gone bankrupt, and set up his own company, the Suffolk Iron Foundry, to make castings such as flywheels and ploughshares for the local industry. Just as the business got going, the Great War started, the bank-rate went up and business ground to a halt.

WWI Tibbenham struggled on, picking up small contracts and learning, in many cases by bitter experience, about business. At one stage, having built up a good trade in ploughshares, he signed a contract which, he discovered later, forced him to stop making them. So he turned to making mangles.

By the end of the War the company was doing well. It had grown too big for its premises and so another site, some six acres of bog and rubbish tip by the River Gipping in Stowmarket, was bought for £500. The railway company provided a siding close by and work began on the site.

The whole site was planned by Louis Tibbenham, and the buildings were designed by him, resulting in his winning a first prize in a competition run by the Foundry Trade Journal.

The new factory coincided with a major contract which took up nearly all the Foundry's capacity and then disaster struck when the contract was cancelled. Louis Tibbenham had to find something to fill the void and so he decided to turn to specialist castings. Prime amongst these was the lawn mower, soon to become recognised as the 'Suffolk' range.

1920 Private company.

On a train trip to London, Tibbenham met Mr Milne (of C. S. Milne and Co) who was producing oxy-acetylene welding equipment and was told that ‘welding’ was a new process for engineers to join metals and would replace the traditional cast iron structures. Mr Milne wanted some ‘cast iron’ rods containing extra silicon, which were duly produced and proved to be very successful. They performed so well that they became a production item in due course, under the brand name, Super-Silicon Rod.

Tibbenham developed a brass welding rod with the rather attractive additive of a few horseshoe nails. This eventually led to a range of rods and also flux powder, which was initially sold via their sole agent, the British Oxygen Co, whose main interest was the supply of welding gases.

1929 Tibbenham gained a patent on methods of welding bronze.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Lawn Tennis Posts (for grass or hard courts) Patent Marking Pins, Lawn Markers, Clock Golf, Golf Course Requisites, Tennis Ball Cleaner, and "Drake's" Bowls Marker and Shingler Lawn Mowers. (Stand No. B.28) [1]

The name Sifbronze was created for the welding rods, based on the initials of the business (SIF). As the process was new to engineers, there was the need to pass on technical assistance and advice; this was done via a small leaflet ‘SIF TIPS’ which was freely circulated in the late 1920s and mailed to all their customers (Sifbronze were now competing with BOC). Demon blowpipes and gas regulators were added to the product range; Frank Tibbenham, the elder son of Louis, took on the responsibility in the business for Sifbronze.

1932 Published the first issue of a new journal devoted to "Hints and Tips for the Welder of To-day" called Sif-Tips.[2]

1937 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Mangles, Lawn Mowers, Scales and Weights, Spring Balances, Mincing Machines. Sundry items in Cast Iron (ferrous). Electric Fires. Sports Goods. (Stand Nos. A.707 and A.606) [3]

1937 Manufacturers of welding rods. "Sifbronze" Welding Rods.

1938 Proprietary names used included:

  • For Lawn Mowers: Jumbo, Meteor, Shingler, Suffolk
  • For Mangles and Wringers: Foldaway, His Majesty, Lazylift, Royal, S.I.F., Somersault, Suffolk,
  • For Safety Razor Blades: Royal.

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers - "Sifbronze Works, Stowmarket, are specialists in oxy-welding equipment, and have a full range of rods and fluxes for welding all materials. "Sifbronze" is an approved material as a proprietary article for aircraft construction."

WWII. Demand increased dramatically during the war for the production of munitions and Halifax bombers. Suffolk Iron Foundry was also busy with the production of bomb trolleys and grenades etc.

Post-WWII. After the War, the foundry moved into the production of mangles, mincers and lawn mowers, initially hand-operated mowers.

1954 The first fully-powered lawn mower, the Suffolk Punch, was introduced, heralding a whole new era of development in this field. Produced its petrol engine on site. Sifbronze extended its range to include welding equipment such as blowpipes and regulators.

1955 Louis Tibbenham decided to retire, handing over to his son, Frank.

1958 the company became apart of the Qualcast Group.[4]

1959 Introduced the Suffolk Colt mower

1961 Ironfounders, engineers, manufacturers of machined castings, lawn mowers, domestic articles and appliances, welding materials and accessories, automotive components and equipment for H.M. Forces. 700 employees. [5]

1967 Qualcast acquired Birmetals and formed a large public company Birmid Qualcast

1969 After a reorganisation of the group, Suffolk became part of Birmid Qualcast (Home and Garden Equipment) division

1970s With the advent of TIG and MIG welding processes, the range of consumables was expanded further, especially with the introduction of SIFMIG shaved aluminium wire. Sales were still direct to the welder, but in the 1970s distribution outlets were being formed and Sifbronze started to change its marketing policy in favour of selling via a network of distributors. There has been continuous development of the product range to meet changing market demands (Hilco electrodes, flux cored wire) and the purchase of Eurobraze added the GasFlux process and specialist products.

1975 Atco Mowers lawnmower production moved from the West Midlands to the Stowmarket site of Suffolk Iron Foundry (1920) Ltd.

1980s Sifbronze was taken private in a Management buy-out led by Paddy Tibbenham, allowing Paddy and his team to concentrate on further developing the Sifbronze product range.

1988 Birmid Qualcast became part of Blue Circle.

2007 Weldability acquired Sifbronze

Products


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair p161
  2. Iron and Steel International, Volume 5, 1932
  3. 1937 British Industries Fair p421
  4. The Times, Apr 09, 1960
  5. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE