by S. A. Barnett

with Frank Sharman and Reg Aston

Parkfield and After:  1986 to 2004

The Parkfield Group was a conglomerate typical of the period.  It had two divisions – Manufacturing and Entertainment.  Initially it seems not to have done very well with Thompson but by 1988 most of the management was replaced and the division regained its feet. 

Early in 1990 Parkfield tried to sell the Pressings and Fabrications section but failed.  The Parkfield Group collapsed in July 1990 because of the failure of their Entertainments Division caused by over-investment in video films which, it turned out, no one wanted to buy.  Every one was happy renting them and did not want to pay the price Parkfield needed to charge to cover the price they had paid to the major Hollywood studios for “sell through” rights. 

The Pressings and Fabrications sector was sold to a management buyout.  This became UPF.  It acquired the Pressings and Fabrications Division of Parkfield Group plc on 31st August 1990.  This was basically the chassis making concern.  It seems to have been very successful.

But something went wrong.  It seems that they company had became over-ambitious and plans to expand into Europe built up debts of about £75 million.

KPHM were appointed as receivers.  They continued production but told Land Rover that they would not supply any further Discovery frames unless they were paid £45 million.  After High Court cases they agreed to continue production with Land Rover taking over some of the debt. 

Then GKN stepped in.  This group, mostly now based at Telford, included Sankeys, the old Bilston company, who were also heavily into motor parts.  GKN set up a subsidiary called GKN Thompson Chassis Ltd., who agreed with Land Rover and the receivers to buy out UPF.  But by then the buildings were in the hands of Advantage West Midlands, a government agency concerned with the development of the region.  GKN took a three year lease of the site and, during this short period, invested over £1 million.  But, even so, it was only a short term move and GKN announced that when the current contracts, for Discovery and Vauxhall Frontera chassis ran out, any new contracts would be met at the GKN Autostructures premises at Telford. 

The Ettingshall works closed in 2004 thus bringing to an end the Thompson enterprise as well as GKN’s equally long association with the Black Country. 


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