by S. A. Barnett

with Frank Sharman and Reg Aston

The Thompson Family:  1909 to 1918

John Thompson died when returning from a trip to Egypt, Greece and Palestine in 1909.  But by this time his sons, William, Stephen John, James and Albert were taking a leading role in the company.  They, and their sons in turn, ran, and mostly owned, the company, for much of the twentieth century. 

James Thompson became the first chairman of the limited company when it was formed in 1918. He had been educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, entering in 1875.  He was a J.P., a town councillor and became the Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1920‑22.  He was High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1932.  He lived at Ludstone Hall, Claverley.  He was injured in a fall from a horse in 1933 and died in 1934. 

Albert Edward Thompson was born in 1866 and was the first chairman of the public company when it was formed in 1936.   He spent 57 years with the company and died at Llandudno on November 30th 1937. His prime associations were with the original boiler company John Thompson Wolverhampton Ltd. 

William John Thompson was born in 1871. He was a Governing Director from when Motor Pressings was registered as a limited company until he retired.   He also joined the Territorials as a young man in the Worcestershire Regiment and spent the war years an active service.  He was High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1941.  He died 29th September 1959.

An hydraulic press in the Motor Pressings works, about 1920.  Note the two men at the base of the press, giving some idea of the massive size of the machine.

Stephen John Thompson, known as John, was the youngest of the sons of John Thompson.   He entered Wolverhampton Grammar School in 1887 and their Register (published in 1926) describes him as “Thompson, Stephen John.  Son of John Thompson, Muchall.  Major, R.F.A. (1914-19).  D.S.O.  Oaken Court, Oaken, Wolverhampton”.  After leaving the Grammar School he attended Wolverhampton Technical School.  He then joined the company.  A contemporary of his, Tom Salt, recorded that "after the usual round of various departments he thirsted for other conquests and the results of these dreams and desires we see in the new works of John Thompson Motor Pressings".  Tom Salt also records that, later in life, "he still displays the eager impulsive spirit he showed such early signs of”.

Until the turn of the century the company seems to have been concentrating on boilers but, about 1904 a separate Motor Frame Department was set up, apparently on Stephen John's initiative, in a  started up in a corner of the boiler works flue shop. It was created to manufacture chassis frames and pressings for the expanding motor industry.   This department was later to become John Thompson Motor Pressings Ltd. To begin with it used the boiler works presses and equipment but there was a Hartley hydraulic press available in 1904.  

Another photo of a press of about the same date.  The tiny figure (obviously added but presumably reasonable accurate in scale) shows not only the scale of the press but also indicates the size the whole factory had already achieved).

Stephen John became a director in 1909 and a Governing Director in 1912.  He had married Margaret at Penn Church in 1911.  She lived to be 100 years old, and died in 1990.   He had joined the Territorial Army in 1907 and served as a Royal Artillery Battery Commander throughout the First World War.  He was High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1938‑9 and in 1942 he was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “Colonel John”, as he was often known, died on April 30th 1955.

By 1914 the frim was divided into four departments, known as Wolverhampton, Dudley, Water Tube and Motor Frame.  During the First World War William and Stephen John were on active service, leaving James and Albert to run the company, which was heavily involved in war work.  The motor frame section was at full pitch and other sections were making such things as steel cowls for Sopwith aircraft; engine plates and cowls for Sunbeam aero engines;  sponsons for tanks; and cordite boxes

Complete chassis of the Rolls Royce Phantom V/V1, in production from 1959 to 1990.  John Thompson made Rolls Royce chassis frames, almost from the start to the finish of the motor pressings department.
The Rover P4, another of the innumerable vehicles for which John Thompson made chassis frames.

In 1915 the Motor Pressings Department moved from the boiler works into a new factory in Davis Street.  This factory was built on farm land on which a Mr. Thomas Davies has grazed his cows.  The Department met with outstanding success, supplying frames to just about every car manufacturer, including the local firms Star Engineering, A. J. Stevens and Turner Manufacturing. 


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