Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Wolseley Engineering

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March 1971. Wolseley 23 and 27 Grasscutter.
Wolseley Merry Lawn Mower.
Wolseley Merry Tiller.

Wolseley Engineering Company, of Witton, Birmingham

Frederick York Wolseley founded the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co Limited in Sydney, Australia. The company was one of the first to produce a mechanical sheep shearing machine.

1889 After moving the company to Birmingham, England, Wolseley formed Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co Ltd to further exploit his sheep shearing patents and other agricultural equipment, including the stationary engine. Herbert Austin became his works manager and the two started to experiment in the manufacture of motor cars.

1896 The company produced the first Wolseley motor car, a brand which was to become one of the UK's most popular motor cars

1901 After producing almost one hundred cars, the motor car and machine tool parts of the business were sold to Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited, as Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co which eventually became part of the Rover Group. Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co concentrated its efforts on the manufacture and marketing of its sheep shearing and other agricultural equipment.

1905 Four years later Herbert Austin resigned from the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co taking some of the senior staff with him. His brother Harry also joined him in this new venture, having worked with him at Wolseley in Birmingham. He took over an old print works, in Longbridge, to form the Austin Motor Co.

1952 Issue of shares by Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co was heavily subscribed.[1].

By 1956 the company had been renamed Wolseley Engineering[2]

1958 During the 1950s Wolseley Engineering expanded to manufacture a successful range of electric fencing and motor cultivators. The company merged with George H. Hughes, another Birmingham based business manufacturing wheels for prams and later wheels for industrial use, and was renamed Wolseley Hughes.

1958 Wolseley Engineering was a Private company, subsidiary of Wolseley Hughes

1961 Manufacturers of sheep shearing and horse and cattle clipping machines, electric fencer units, small cultivators and combines, petrol and paraffin engines, toilet clippers and aero engine components.

1961 Maker of the Merry Tiller cultivator[3]

Before 1965 Witton Electronics was a subsidiary

1960s Acquired a number of heating and oil burning companies in rapid succession in the UK.

A move into merchanting followed.

1965 Mr C. W. Imlay, director and secretary of the company, retired[4]

1973 Wolseley Hughes merged Wolseley Engineering and Webb Lawnmowers[5]

From 1980, the Group expanded its businesses through organic growth and acquisitions in the USA, Canada and Europe.

1986 The Group was listed on the London Stock Exchange and changed its name to Wolseley plc.

From the 1990s to the mid-2000s, the Group continued to expand across Europe, including into the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium and the Nordic region, the USA and Canada.

2009 as a result of the financial crisis, the Group implemented a comprehensive restructuring programme across its businesses to reduce fixed costs and close underperforming branches. During this period, the Group focused its resources, in particular, on the core plumbing and heating markets. This strategy resulted in the disposal of a number of the Group’s businesses.

2017 the Group changed its name to Ferguson plc to better align the name of the Group with its largest subsidiary in the USA.

2018 the Group exited its Nordic Operations, a building materials distributor.

2019 the Group disposed of Wasco (its Netherlands B2B business), the remaining Central European business unit.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 11 November 1952
  2. The Times July 12, 1956
  3. The Times Feb. 4, 1961
  4. The Times Jan. 1, 1965
  5. The Times Nov. 2, 1973
  • [1] Wolseley
  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0
  • [2] Ferguson plc