by S. A. Barnett

with Frank Sharman and Reg Aston

After the Family Firm: 1960s to 1986

In 1966 the Group was reorganised into divisions and John Thompson Motor Pressings Ltd became John Thompson Pressings Division Ltd..

This 1967 advert features a photograph apparently taken inside the works and showing plate bending mills which can bend plates up to 9 inches thick for use in power station boiler drums.

John Thompsons still had Thompsons on the Board: Sir Edward Thompson, J.P., Mr. J. H. N. Thompson, MA, MC, MIMechE and Mr. C. R. Thompson; and eight others non-family directors.  Their product list is long and includes axle case housing, vehicle frames, washing machine bowls, chutes, conveyor buckets, ducting, dumper bodies, hoppers, press tools, railcar bogie bolsters, railcar bogie frames, railcar underframes, skips and trays for paper mills.

From 1967 this photo shows a Multipac boiler (one of a standard range) being installed in the Midland Counties Dairy building on Penn Road, Wolverhampton.  Limited floor space meant that the boiler plant had to be located above ground level.

In 1970 the whole John Thompson organisation left the control of the Thompson family and its history becomes unfathomably complex as it became caught up in the amalgamations, conglomerates and other mainly financial manoeuvrings of the late 20th century.  What follows is even less certain than what has gone before.  It appears that parts of the John Thompson group became split off and joined different conglomerates.

The first step seems to have been the takeover of the Thompson Group, or most of it, by Clarke Chapman,  when the unwieldy name of Clarke Chapman – John Thompson Pressings Division Ltd. came into being. 

This 1962 photo shows a John Thompson - Kennicott water treatment plant for contaminated water from Colville Ltd.'s new strip mill at Ravenscraig.

At the end of 1972 the Pressings Division was sold to Rockwell Standard of America and from January 1973 became Rockwell Thompson Ltd.

This 1962 photo shows a 60 ton steam boiler leaving the works for export to a Danish power station.

After Rockwell bought the company, or just the Pressing Division, from Clarke-Chapman it operated under their control until 1986 when they sold the main works to the Parkfield Group and retained the axle bay.  The Aero site was retained by Clarke-Chapman when they sold the company to Rockwell. 

But it also seems that at some time John Thompson, or part of it, became part of NEI (Northern Engineering Industries).   (But the Thompson Brothers part of the organisation, and their works at Bilston, was renamed as Thompson Commercial Vehicles and became separate again from John Thompson. 

The two sides of a medallion giving the dates 1834-1984 for 150 years of John Thompson. The date of 1834 is doubtful.

Rockwell had been trying to sell the Thompson operations for some time and following the separation of the two operating divisions in 1985 the plant was eventually sold to the Parkfield Group effective from 1st October 1986.  It became the Thompson Industries Division of Parkfield Group plc.  The Axle Bay remained part of Rockwell.  It was run from Maudslay in Alcester and eventually closed on 22nd May 1987.


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