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«A SHORT HISTORY OF NEWMAN HENDER & C0 Roy K. Close 1 Beginnings Samuel John Newman, the founder of Newman Hender, was born in fihe Crimea in 1845 during ...»

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Reprinted from: Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal for 1994 pages 11-23


Roy K. Close

1 Beginnings

Samuel John Newman, the founder of Newman Hender, was born in

fihe Crimea in 1845 during the time his father, also Samuel, was

engaged as an engineer and architect on the creation of the

docks there. Brought to England in 1856, he took up residence

at Nailsworth after receiving his education at several schools in south east England. He began his business career in engineering at Stroud. He then ran an ironmongery business on the Cross at Nailsworth before establishing a small engineering company at ‘The IDyehouse, 'Woodchester' in 11879. This was in partnership with a Mr Brice, and they used their family names, Newman and Brice to identify the company.

In early 1875 he had married Miss J.S. Marmont, the daughter of Joseph Marmont, owner of Frogmarsh ‘Pin Mill, now a small trading estate. They had three sons and three daughters and as we shall see, all three sons were involved in the development of the company through the first half of the present century.

The original production unit was housed on the first floor of a five storey mill built on the Dyehouse site by Cockle and Paul in the early 1800s, with a small foundry alongside. It employed six people which soon increased to twenty as business developed. The site of the first foundry later became first a loading dock and after the Second World War, a small office block housing the finance departments. The several floors of the nineteenth century mill later became homes for despatch, staff canteen, drawing and design offices, casting store and a maintenance shop during the same period.

In 1890 Brice left and Samuel was joined by his elder son, C.P.

(Percy) and a year later by his second son Jack. Both had been educated at Wycliffe College and both were fifteen years old when joining the Company. For a few years they traded as Newman and Co (Valve Specialists) with a Mr Hopkins as foreman but in 1896 amalgamated with Hender, Stephenson who operated at Day's Mill Nailsworth, later to become Davis's Silk Mill.

Frank Hender senior had been apprenticed at Newman and Co as a brass finisher. This was followed by a spell as a mechanic at Fielding and Platt, Gloucester before starting as a brass founder and finisher on his own. He was subsequently joined by Stephenson who resigned following the 1896 amalgamation. Thus as a private limited liability company, the Newman Hender Company was formed with Samuel Newman as chairman, Percy Newman and Frank Hender as joint Managing Directors and Jack Newman as Company Secretary while Joseph Hender (Frank's father) was also included on the board of Directors.

To accommodate the increasing plant and workforce a new workshop and offices were built opposite the existing building across GiddyKnap Lane. The former later became the toolroom and stores while the office block was eventually rebuilt to house the company's main offices. Shortly after, a new foundry was built on the Nailsworth side of the original mill and other developments quickly followed. Samuel's third son Franz Lindsey became a director responsible for production in 1905. He had served an apprenticeship locally and at Alfred Herbert's of Coventry. Five years later the company joined a combine of other similar businesses which became known as United Brass Founders with sites at Manchester, Birmingham and Halifax as well as Woodchester. The combine then built a new works at Ormskirk, a name which ironically was to figure extensively in the eventual closure of the Newman Hender Company some seventy years on.

Samuel Newman resigned as Chairman and a period of reorganisation followed. This was intended to meet world competition and develop export trade, but the outbreak of war in 1914 interrupted the largely completed project. This resulted in a rebound effect on its recovery at the war's end.

Their updated methods and plant made them highly qualified to meet the requirements of munition production which resulted in the suspension of all peacetime production of normal products for the duration.

Obviously this allowed their competitors to seize the initiative by taking over the combine's old markets and to prepare for new customer demands without any real competition.

In 1919 when all war contracts were cancelled, the combine made desperate attempts to regain its pre-war market and status, but this, together with the general financial slump of the time proved beyond them. In the early 1920s they were forced into liquidation and a receiver was appointed.

2 Down But Not Out »

This black period continued with, first the retirement of Frank Hender, senior, and then the death of its founder in March 1921 at the age of 73. This robbed the firm of its father figure and also Stroud district of one of its leading citizens. This was followed almost immediately by the sudden death. Franz Newman at the age of 39. Left almost isolated in the company, Percy Newman took the first steps of recovery. He realised what a serious state of affairs would ensue to employees, their families and the area generally if the Woodchester factory were to close. So, assisted by friends Percy re-purchased the old family ‘business and, reverting to the old name of Newman Hender, set out to rebuild the family firm.

He appointed W(Bill) Howarth as joint Managing Director with himself. Jack Newman became financial Director and Secretary and was greatly assisted during these troubled times by the support (both financial and practical) of Mr Alfred Holland and Sir Bernard Greenwell, Bart. His vision, faith and effort began to be rewarded with the development of the Milliken valve which 'had been manufactured under license at Woodchester.

During the 1930s this product provided the company with the equipment to gain initial entry into the oil market with the first supply of bolted-up Christmas Trees. (A combination of several valves and pipe lengths bolted together.) This period also saw expansion in the foundry area with the installation of an iron casting production unit.

In 1932 Percy Newman was joined by his nephew F.R. (Ray) Newman (Franz's son) as a technical engineer in which role he later played a significant part in the development of the Newman McEvoy cfilfield equipment. Mr Percy's son N.P. (Noel) Newman had joined the company in 1929. After completing his education, he had spent his early years becoming familiar with the various parts of the factory before joining his father on the administrative side. His appointment as Managing Director in 1938 confirmed the arrival of the new generation of the family in the company and enabled his father to concentrate on the job as Chairman and father figure which he so much enjoyed.

In between however, another of the older generation had been lost when in 1935 Jack Newman died suddenly in his 58th year.

This robbed the firm of its financial expertise. He was replaced by the appointment of Arnold Trow as Secretary.

Further appointments saw the arrival of Sir John Langman on the production side and Geoffrey Bass as Technical engineer to support Ray Newman in the years prior to the outbreak of war in 1939.

This again saw the company involved in munition production which included some forty million fuse caps and primers for the Admiralty and the Ministry of Defence. These were produced in two specially created units. The former was on the second floor of a corrugated building at the GiddyKnap side of the machine shop, which later housed a variety of production and technical departments. The latter was in the ground floor of the old cloth Mill alongside the sports field at the Inchbrook end of the site which later became the Sports and Social Clubhouse.

Another wartime product made in considerable quantity was a circular brass flange or tray used in the manufacture of parachutes, which had three holes through which the cords were fed. The foundries also played their part in the war effort producing many tons of castings included many parts for the engines of Bedford trucks manufactured by Vauxhall Motors, the forces main workhorse on land.

However, despite its considerable war involvement and the restriction on exports, the company or N.H. as they were usually referred to, still managed to maintain a reasonable level of its peacetime products. In wartime probably as a form of publicity, all shop floor personnel wore an enamel lapel badge bearing their own check number, the Company name and the words "National Service, we also served”. One other development at the end of the war was the use of private coaches to transport many of the 800 or so employees from their homes in the Tetbury, Sherston and Cirencester areas. It was an arrangement the company made with Ives Coaches of Tetbury which was to play an important part in the post-war years.

3 Re-building /Expansion The end of hostilities saw the return of many of the company's employees from war service. This was also the quiet period when N.H began to look for new markets as well as attempting to regain those they had lost to the export restrictions previously mentioned. Targeted were many parts of the British Empire and agencies "were quickly set-up in.Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa and among the products which benefited were bronze wheel and gate valves and bronze and iron air cocks. The late 1940s saw the company purchase the former G.N. Haden plant at Trowbridge which became known as N.H.

Engineering Ltd. This produced forged steel valves and fittings for the petroleum industry as well as egg grading equipment and circulating pumps.

In 1948 the company went public, trading on the London Stock Exchange. This was necessary because of the widening interests and growth of its products, and because its financial interests were exceeding the financial ability of the family and its supporters. Lcoking back it seems ironical that the periods immediately following both wars saw the company involved in widely contrasting activities. Both helped to shape their immediate future although in completely different ways, one involving liquidation, the use of private money and one man's beliefs, the other seeing, growth. and. development requiring public funding.

The expansion of N.H. in the late 1940s was featured in the local press, the reports mentioning the use of Joint Production Committees and leaflets to inform the employees of happenings in the company. Facts such as one stating that every 150 1" valve exported could purchase the equivalent of 10 cwt of butter or the rations for nearly 6000 persons, 14 cwt of cheese the same for 12,500 or 10 cwt of bacon for 2000, created considerable interest and publicity for both firm and employees. The reports also quoted a cost breakdown which showed 37% of its earnings spent on materials, 40% on wages and employee costs, 13% on plant and running costs, and the remainder on expansion, taxation and dividends.

However, 1949 was possibly the most important individual year in the company's post war development. As a result of the higher requirements being demanded by the Oil Companies, Ray Newman became involved in long negotiations for a licence to produce the McEvoy valve and other oilfield equipment. The McEvoy valve range was the largest selling valve not being produced in the UK at that time. Yet, it was required to replace the Milliken which had become unacceptable to the oil producers. This was another ironic twist in N.H. history when one realizes the only N.H. trade marked product still produced at Lewis and Hole for Ormskirk is the Milliken! It later became much used in the production of North Sea gas, as well as such differing substances as chocolate and electricity.

Thanks almost entirely to Ray Newman's efforts a manufacturing licence for McEvoy valves was obtained and production commenced in 1950. Due to the shortage of dollars in Europe at this time many European based oil companies (primarily Shell and BP) sought to make their worldwide purchases in sterling wherever possible. This was a significant factor in giving the Woodchester company an increased market share that might not otherwise have been available to them.

The original licence was initially used only for valve manufacture with the Christmas tree consuming all the available capacity which could not be increased due to labour shortages in the production areas. Also N.H felt (quite correctly) that the wellhead equipment was then less profitable and more competitive than the valve business.

The company lost its figurehead in 1951 with the death of Percy Newman shortly before his 76th birthday. Unfortunately his death was during the period of increased sales and profitability which must have given him immense satisfaction after his struggles in the 1920s. He had been associated with the family firm for over 60 years and his great qualities of leadership» and devotion to it ‘had served them ‘with. great fortitude and ability. The words of the late Sir John Langman at the funeral service are a fitting epitaph to him. "A strong disciplinarian who would never accept any standard but the best, business was his life. From an early age he gave himself unstintingly to building up the family business. It was his hobby and his enthralling interest."

Noel Newman was appointed Chairman and Managing Director and, supported by his cousin Ray, Sir John Langman and their fellow directors, he led the company into a period of expansion over the next couple of decades. This saw them become one of the leaders in world valve trade.

4 Expansion: The Boom Years After a few years of stability the next stage of development occurred at the end of 1954 when the company acquired Shipham and Company and their subsidiary George Clark, both of Hull.

These manufactured non-ferrous valves, fittings and castings particularly for use in the ship building industry, adding considerably to the product range of the fast growing group.

It was now that the company moved into the North American market to broaden its business interests there. So, in 1955 N.H. Canada was incorporated, providing a sales organisation supported by local stocks, to service the Canadian oil and natural gas industries. Over a quarter of a million pounds were invested in the new company which through its offices in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver had become very prosperous by the mid 1960s. In addition Noel Newman had given details of an agreement with the Velan valve company of Montreal whose products suited the specific requirements of the petroleum industry. This agreement of 1959 gave N.H. sole sales concessions both in the UK, and the several other markets outside the American Continent.

A period of constant production had now been achieved as these new overseas markets built up. Ln 1955 the first stages of manufacturing well-head equipment began as the company looked to improve this side of the oil market. They thus began quoting for and eventually securing orders in this field which gave them a wider interest in this area.

In the early 1960s a number of further acquisitions added considerably to its product lines and business competitiveness at home. First came the purchase of Sydney Smith (Nottingham) with whom N.H. had previously been linked through Percy Newman.

They had manufactured the world's first steam pressure gauge in 1847 of which George Stephenson had written 'a most important invention has been submitted to me for my approval.‘ This acquisition added a further range of valves for the marine and petroleum industry as well as the pressure gauges for which Smith's had become world famous. The total workforce of the group had now reached 2000, a far cry from the small numbers involved in its early years.

The group now also added an international sales unit at Zug in Switzerland whose main purpose was to handle all the export business which had increased so rapidly in the last decade.

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