Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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William Edmund Kenrick

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William Edmund Kenrick (1908–1981), hardware manufacturer

1908 born at Edgbaston, Birmingham, son of Wilfrid Byng Kenrick and his wife, Norah Beale.

Educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford

1930 joined the family business, Archibald Kenrick and Sons at a time when the cast-iron hollow-ware and hardware trade had been in permanent decline for a decade, and the senior Kenricks were much involved in public affairs. New cast-iron products which had been added to the company's range in an attempt to enter a growing market, such as electric and gas irons, had made no headway, failing to achieve profitability to offset losses in the traditional trade. The exception was the cast-iron bath, which was the largest selling item until the demand for munitions rescued the company after 1939. Hollow-ware was then discontinued.

1937 following the board of directors' rejection of a management consultant's recommendation that professional management should be introduced from outside the Kenrick family, his father appointed William as head of the sales department.

1939 William married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Loveday.

1945 Wilfrid Byng Kenrick withdrew from day-to-day involvement in management; his son, William, was promoted to managing director.

An Australian inventor offered William the option on a patent (Shepherd's) furniture castor produced by die-casting, which on William's recommendation the board took up. These developments, combined with William's insistence that henceforward sales and the consumer, rather than the plant's capacity to produce, should determine product policy and investment, enabled the firm to survive, though still on the narrow basis of a single product.

1963 William became chairman as well as MD; William was the fifth generation of the Kenrick family to head the firm

1964 William's son Martin joined the company.

1965 Foundry closed

1978 William retired as managing director and chairman; Martin Kenrick became chairman.

1981 Died in a road accident.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of the William Edmund Kenrick, ODNB