In 1909 Chubb built their new factory at Heath Town, which sadly has now gone. The following is an article that appeared in 'The Engineer' magazine on the 15th October, 1909.

New Works at Wolverhampton

London has now lost practically all the large engineering works it once had. One by one they have been transferred to the Midlands, the North of England, Scotland, and other parts of the United Kingdom where better facilities for the metal working industry are to be found. Although this process of removal has been going on for years, firms are still taking their departure; but it seems that the time cannot be far distant when none but very small works will remain. In common with many other manufacturing firms, Chubb and Son's Lock and Safe Company has been compelled to consider the best means for providing for a larger output. The company's present chief works for safe making are in Camberwell. S.E., but seven years ago as an experiment, the firm opened a small branch works alongside its lock works in Wolverhampton, the object being to test the facilities and the relative cost of manufacture in London and in Wolverhampton. In addition to initiating this practical test, they carefully considered the relative advantages of ultimately establishing larger works at other manufacturing centres or in some country district.

The outcome of all the firm's inquiries and of the practical experiment with the temporary overflow works at Wolverhampton is that the directors came to the conclusion that Wolverhampton was undoubtedly the most suitable place for carrying out the firm's manufactures. They also believed it to be one of the most convenient places for workmen to obtain excellent and cheap housing. In consequence the company has purchased a freehold plot of land, 10 acres in extent, situated on the Wednesfield Road., just inside the borders of the borough of Wolverhampton, and within a few minutes of the goods stations of the London and North Western, Great Western, and Midland railways. On this site fine new works have been erected, and they were formally opened by the Lord Mayor of London yesterday. Not only are these works close to many houses and cottages suitable for the workmen, but within a short distance a large garden suburb is being planned, and upon this it will be possible for the men to obtain or lease modern cottages of an exceptionally good type and at a reasonable cost.

Before entering upon a description of these new works a few remarks relating to the history of the firm may prove of interest. The business now carried on under the name of Chubb and Son's Lock and Safe Company was commenced in the year 1818, when Mr. Charles Chubb, aided by his brother, Mr. .Jeremiah Chubb, invented the Chubb detector lock. From that date to the present time, although alterations have been made in the form and arrangement of the lock, the principles remain the same, and the firm claims that no key lock has since been invented which can successfully compete with it for security.

After the death of Mr. Charles Chubb in 1846, the business was carried on by his son and partner, Mr. John Chubb, till the year 1872, when, upon his death his sons succeeded him as sole partners until the concern was converted into a private limited company in the year 1882, since which time it has been chiefly owned and entirely managed by members of the family in conjunction with a board of directors. When the business was started it was confined to the making of locks, later on the manufacture of safes, strong rooms, and safe deposits was taken up, and at the present time, this latter branch of the business has grown to very large dimensions.

The foundation stone of the new factory opened last Thursday was laid by Sir George Hayter Chubb, on the 8th July, 1908. The works, which are shown here cover an area of 63,500 square feet, and as will be gathered from the plan, a good portion of this area is set aside for erecting purposes. The plan, although not quite correct as regards the arrangement of some of the machinery, will serve to show the general layout and the methods the firm has adopted for turning out its manufactures. The large erecting shop at the back of the centre line of machine tools is set aside for the construction of steel strong rooms, treasuries, and safe deposits; it is 850 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a height of 38 feet clear of all girders and roof principals. The height of the remainder of the factory is from 16 feet to 14 feet at the lowest point. One inaccuracy in the plan to which attention should be called is that this large shop just referred to, has been extended 75 feet to the right of the other part of the works, as can be seen from the illustration of the exterior of the works. Nearly the whole area is undivided by parting walls, and the general design of the buildings gives the maximum amount of light, avoiding as much as possible direct sun rays. Careful consideration has also been given to the question of sanitation and ventilation.

The centre part of the works where the greater number of the machine tools are situated is where the ordinary office safes will be constructed. There are twenty five standard sizes of these safes, and there are also many intermediate patterns which are fitted up to meet various requirements. The firm's object in designing these works has been to arrange the machines, so that as the work passes from one tool to another, the material which entered the door at one end gradually assumes the form of finished articles and ultimately leaves at the opposite end of the building, without during the course of manufacture, having travelled very far out of a straight line. The part of the building shown on the lower part of the plan has been set aside for special safe work, and it is here where the plan is again a little incorrect, the final arrangement being to erect some of the machine tools shown in the right hand bottom comer of the plan in the spaces between the second and last row of benches counting from the left. The benches also run in the opposite direction to that shown in the drawing. The group of machine tools marked 5 H.P. will also be erected in the space between the second and last row of benches. Now, turning to the centre row of machine tools, which are already erected, and upon which, as previously stated, the twenty five standard sizes of office safes will be manufactured, the first machine met with on the right is a plate roll by Craig and Donald, of Johnston.

Two sets of rolls are shown in the drawing, but up to the present only one of these has been put down. Here the plates are first rolled, and they are afterwards passed on to the blocks where the flattening process is completed by hammering. These levelling blocks, only one of which has so far been erected, are made of armour plate from the original and now obsolete Dreadnought. The flattening of these plates is an art to which safemakers attach some importance and pride.

Having been flattened, the plates are then passed on to a large edge planer by J. Buckton and Company of Leeds. The work is held down on this and other machines hydraulically, thus saving an enormous amount of time. Next to this edge planing machine there is a heavy punching machine by W. Smith and Company of Glasgow, on which the necessary holes in the thick plates are punched. Then in the same line of machine tools we come to a very handy machine for counter sinking holes, which has been supplied by John Hetherington and Sons, Limited, of Manchester. The drill carriage can be run along in a straight line, and the holes in the various parts used in the construction of these safes can consequently be countersunk with great rapidity.

A point to which attention should be directed is that a centre punch or a foot rule are never used in the manufacture of the company's standard safes. When a man commences a drilling job, for example, he has handed out to him from the stores the necessary jigs and an instruction sheet, and in this way marking off work is entirely dispensed with. The last operation performed on the heavy plates, by means of the machines in the centre of the building, is that of bending, this being carried out by means of two hydraulic presses shown at the left of the row of tools which have just been considered. The larger of these presses, which is used for the longitudinal bending, is by Hugh Smith and Company Limited, of Possil Park, Glasgow, whilst the smaller is by Hollings and Guest Limited, of Birmingham. It should be mentioned that above all these machines, in the centre of the building, there is a mono-rail, and in addition, as can be seen from the plan, there are special roller benches at the sides of these machines, so that the operation of conveying heavy plates from one tool to another and placing the work in position is considerably simplified, and this, together with the close proximity of one tool to another, should be the means of saving much time. The roller benches are arranged to support the work whilst the punching or drilling or whatever other operation is being performed is in progress.

It will be seen from the plan that the welding department is directly opposite the line of machines just dealt with, and that the safes can be lifted by a travelling crane into this department. The welding at these new works is to be carried out by the oxy-acetylene method, an acetylene gas generator, together with the other necessary equipment having been supplied by the British Oxygen Company, of Westminster. The gas generator is in a well ventilated house adjoining the main building. The ordinary system of welding is used at Camberwell, but in  this new factory an endeavour has been made to take full advantage of everything modem, and the oxy-acetylene system has consequently been adopted, and it is possible, we understand, that this process will ultimately be employed for cutting.

When the welding process has been completed the next operation consists of grinding off the rough parts so as to give the safes a perfectly smooth surface. This operation, as will be gathered from the plan, is performed in the apartment next to that in which the welding process is carried out. Here a special grinding machine has been erected, with which all the rough parts set up in welding are removed. This grinding machine has been constructed by John Holroyd and Company, of Milnrow, near Rochdale. It consists of a long vertical column and an overhanging arm similar to that of a radial drilling machine. This arm carries a revolving emery wheel mounted at an angle, by means of which the rough places on the safes are removed. The arm carrying the emery wheel can be raised or lowered over a wide range in order that work of various dimensions may be dealt with. The machine is driven by means of a vertical motor fixed at the top. The proofing chamber in which the proofing material is inserted between the inner and outer cases adjoins the grinding department. From the proofing shop the safes pass into the paint shop and the drying room, and finally into the stores or packing department, depending upon whether they are to be dispatched or kept in stock.

There is, of course, a considerable amount of comparatively light work in connection with the fittings and lining of these safes, and for punching, drilling, and cutting the lighter parts there is a number of smaller machines at the side of the line of heavy tools previously referred to and shown on the plan. There are small drilling machines, a punching machine by Bliss and Company, shears, a circular saw, and a fine radial drilling machine, the arm of which revolves on ball bearings. This latter tool has been supplied by W. Asquith, Limited, of Halifax. It should be mentioned that nearly all those machines shown on the centre of the plan are at present erected, whilst some of those shown at the top and bottom of the plan will be put up later. The smiths' shop was also in a rather unfinished condition when we visited these works a few days ago. Ultimately it will contain five hearths, which are all being put in by James Keith and Blackman and Company Limited, who are also supplying the blower.

We may remark here that an entirely new departure in the construction of safes is being undertaken which embodies all the best known principles, such as heavy 12 bend bodies with welded corners, asbestos inner doors, and inner and outer doors of new design built on the external lock case principle.

A vertical boiler has been erected in the smiths' shop for supplying steam for heating the drying room. The hydraulic pumps and accumulator are also erected in this shop. The pumps have been supplied by Hugh Smith and Company of Glasgow. There is also an electro pneumatic hammer by B. and S. Massey, of Manchester. It is in this shop that the hardening is to be carried out. A double furnace for hardening two large plates at once for strong- rooms will be provided, and electric instruments for measuring the temperature so as to ensure the plates are not being overheated. The plates are heated to a cherry red and then plunged into a tank of water through which a continuous supply of cold water flows. Although it may appear from the illustration showing the exterior of the works that a power plant has been put down for driving the machinery owing to the presence of the tall shaft in the background, this is nevertheless not the case, the shaft in question belonging to the works of J. Evans and Son, which are in close proximity.

The whole of the machinery in Chubb's new works is driven by three phase induction motors, all of which are of the squirrel cage type. Three phase current is taken from the Corporation mains at a pressure of 5,000 volts. It is transformed down to 400 volts, and the current at this pressure is supplied to thirty motors of various sizes ranging from 2½ to 20 horsepower. Naturally, each large machine has its own motor, whilst the smaller tools derive their power from shafting, one motor thus supplying power to a number of the smaller tools. The whole of the motors have been supplied and erected by the British Westinghouse Company, of Trafford Park, Manchester. They are all of the open type, and many are mounted direct on the machines which they drive, the power being transmitted direct without the use of chains or belts. Many of the starting switches are mounted on the walls, and in the case of the large motors the starting current is limited by means of the star to mesh connection. In the case of the small motors, however, simple resistances are used for starting. The type of switchgear used is simple and strong, and admirably adapted for workshop use. In many instances ammeters are fixed to the starting switch, and enable the operator to see how much current the motor is taking, and so to judge when the change from the star to mesh connection should be made. The wiring is also admirably suitable for workshop use, armoured cables being employed. Usually, where electric power is available, workshops are lighted by means of arc lamps, but in this instance Osram lamps have taken their place. Lamps of 100 candle power are used, and are suspended by flexible wires in the usual manner. Additional lamps, we understand, are to be provided on those machines where a good local light is needed. The periodicity at Wolverhampton is 50.

For lifting the plates in the large shop where the strong rooms are to be manufactured, a travelling magnetic crane is to be erected. Alternating current for a magnetic crane is, of course, quite unsuitable, and to overcome this difficulty a continuous current dynamo is to be driven from the shafting. This will charge a storage battery so that continuous current for use on the crane will always be available.

A small block of temporary offices has been provided, adjoining the main factory, and a foreman's cottage is in course of construction. The protecting fences and walls enclose an area of about 20,300 square yards. The approach from the Wednesfield Road is by a wide private cart road. A large piece of land is retained at the back of the factory for future extensions, to which additional access has been provided from the Woden Road. In the meantime it has been placed at the disposal of workmen and others for sports. A bowling green has also been laid down.

The whole of the factory buildings have been designed on lines carefully thought out by the present directors and successfully carried out by their architect, Mr. G. Gordon Stranham, of Bush Lane, Cannon Street, London, E.C. Mr. C. H. M. Mileham, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, has acted with him as consulting architect, and Mr. F. T. Beck, of Wolverhampton, as local superintending architect. Mr. F. Simpson was the general clerk of the works. The contract for the buildings was placed in the hands of Henry Lovatt, Limited, of Wolverhampton. The steel construction is by Drew, Bear, Perks and Company, of London. The consulting electrical engineers were the British Engine, Boiler and Electrical Insurance Company, Limited, of Manchester.

Return to the
previous page