Bradley & Co. Ltd
(Beldray) Mount Pleasant, Bilston
A short account by a former employee
Part 2: 1945 - 2005
|When the war finished this country was almost bankrupt and the
two main aims of industry were financial - either to earn
dollars or to avoid having to pay them!
Bradley's started to make lawnmower grass boxes for, appropriately enough, a company called Green's. This firm exported much of their produce and one can easily see how much space would be taken up in the ship's hold by a consignment of grass boxes. Previously they had been spot welded (though not by Bradley's). So we produced them with rivet holes in the wrapper plates and end plates and they were shipped as loose items and fitted together in the country to which they were sent. In fact I made one of the piercing tools.
|Another new departure was the production of loom
These were used in the textile industry and were made from spring steel, only about twice as thick as a sheet of note paper. They had previously been imported from America so, here again, the aim was to save dollars - so we were told.
The press on which the loom needles were produced, at 30 strokes per minute, was made by a Brighton firm called C.V.A., if I remember rightly. Here again was evidence of England's financial plight: we were told that we had to obtain a special permit to purchase this press, because most of C.V.A.'s production was going to Argentina to help pay for beef!
Unfortunately the loom needle project was not a great success - even though I made the tools! This need for a permit could well have been true, for I recall that during the war, when I tried to buy a micrometer from Hughes and Holmes in Wolverhampton, they asked me to provide a government contract number to prove that it was going to be used for "work of national importance"! Fortunately I had no difficulty with that.
This is me, with one of the loom needles, at the Made In Bilston Exhibition, 2002
An advert from 1950, showing just some of the products.
|Other new products in the post-war years were far
more successful. The firm expanded its product range with the
introduction of ironing boards, fireguards, clothes airers, step
ladders, plastic and steel wheelbarrows, incinerators and, later, rotary clothes lines.
The company used the following brand names for housewares: "Beldray", "Dennison" and "Ryland".
Under their "Kiddiproof" brand name they made a very wide range of child safety products such as baby gates, child harnesses, socket covers and many more. And, of course, they made what is probably their best known product, the Beldray Ironing Board - and the company were the first to make steel ironing boards in the UK. Locally, at least, nearly everyone seems to own one of these.
|In or about 1950 the firm underwent a change of direction with old lines being dropped and new lines introduced. New managers were brought in. These chnages were not, I think, well handled by Mr. Bradley and there was much unease amongst in the workforce. I feel that if Herman Bradley had still been around things would have been very different. As it was, a number of people left the company (including myself). The new Managing Director was a Mr. Turner Hood. The firm's new product lines seem to have been very successful but in the later years of the cntury the firm had its ups and downs and had several changes of ownership. On 27th September 2002 the Express and Star reported that the firm had made 47 of its workers redundant as part of a restructuring process and the company still retained 324 people. The it was announced that all production was going to move to China or elsewhere in the Far East. But this scheme never happened and, in 2005, the company closed for good.|
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