MEYNELL VALVES LTD
2. The Company : 1902 - 1918
The year 1902 was
significant because all companies were required to register and to be
subject to the Companies Act coupled with the law of limited liability.
The Meynell family business became Meynel1 & Sons Ltd, registered
to be “engaged principally in the manufacture of high class chandeliers,
gas brackets, gas cocks, water fittings, pumps and general plumbers
manufacture of chandeliers, lamps, pendants and other lacquered fittings
subsequently ceased in 1915, never to be resumed, when the Company
became engaged nearly full time on war work.
The various shareholders were registered and Walter Meynell was the
first Chairman of Directors in 1902 and remained so until his premature
death from pneumonia in 1926.
This would no doubt have been prevented today by penicilin which only
became available after 1940.
Walter Meynell’s greatest contribution was to produce a catalogue of our
products which was so far advanced for that period, with accurate
drawings and dimensions and with all round general excellence of
presentation, that it was described by our customers as “The Bible of
At the turn of the century in the early 1900s an interesting diversion
for the Company occurred when an iron foundry was purchased in Charles
Street and no doubt was of significant value for the manufacture of the
large size cast iron pumps which were quite a significant past of the
company’s production. This
venture must have become quite exciting when the Rex Foundry ventured
into the production of cast iron bridges.
Whilst these would never have been as large or famous as the one
at Ironbridge which spans the River Severn, they must have been quite
formidable as our records show that there was a bridge sent down to
Bedfordshire to span a canal and also that roof trusses were supplied
for the old Wolverhampton bus depot.
History also records that Charles Meynell was General Manager in charge of this iron foundry when it was shut down in 1915 and subsequently leased to the Crown Tool Engineering Company.
It is a matter of some fascination that the Company was also engaged in
the washing of casters’ ashes brought from various foundries in the
Birmingham area by horse drawn barges on the canal which passed along
Lock Street at the bottom of Montrose Street. The residual bronze and
brass filings, remnants of castings, were then purified and used in our
own foundry furnaces.
The different decades of the twentieth century have all shown a distinct
shift of emphasis in the products which have followed the requirements
of the market place of that era. The Gas Age and the Electric Age both
spilled over to the early 1900s but gradually more steam fittings were
made and it is interesting that in 1913 the Company changed the power
supply in its own workshops from steam to electricity for power and
In 1905 a telephone was installed, Wolverhampton 297.
But it was rarely used and only with permission from a Director.
Most of us accept that we live in a world of change but we quickly take
for granted such miracles as television and equally quickly forget the
past before tv was invented. The standards at the turn of the century
seem to be light years away from today but it is interesting to record a
few horrors from 1905 when Walter Meynell’s son, Charles, joined the
Company. He died in 1966 and so I have never had reason to doubt his
memories given to me at first hand.
At that time the motor car was virtually unknown and all travel was by
horse. Walter Meynell rode
in daily from Sedgley and his horse was stabled, watered and fed on the
premises. Horse dung was
collected daily in buckets and taken to the Core Shop where the ladies
mixed it on a half and half basis with the core sand. It was reputed to
make the best cores and had good binding powers when used with the fine
sand brought down from Blackpool beaches.
The dung was better if it was fresh as it was more easily
malleable and could be collected from the local streets if there was not
enough in our stables.
The ladies who worked in the Core Shop and on the Assembly Benches did
not have very genteel treatment from the men or from each other, from
stories told to me by Charles Meynell, of various sexual initiation
parties held by the ladies for one of their sex whom they didn’t like or
just one who should temporarily be taught a lesson, which would make the
stories of today’s Penthouse or Mayfair magazines seem very low key!
The work’s ladies had strength of numbers in such places as the Core
Shop, over 50, where revenge would be given to any male who cheeked them
or they fancied for fun and he would be taken in and de-bagged, taught a
lesson and then tarred and feathered before release.
It was a tough world in many ways and the rule for pregnant females was to take their pregnancy through to childbirth and not take any time off work except the bare minimum. When labour pains came the woman was taken to the Polishing Shop and laid on a pile of moppings and childbirth took place, attended by two of the older experienced ladies who heated some water on the nearby gas ring. After childbirth the woman had a short rest and then resumed work. When I expressed initial disbelief at these happenings I was reminded that this is normal practice by the Chinese in the paddy fields and it was most certainly happening in our Company in 1905.
Herbert’s second son, my father, Cuthbert, was badly gassed in action whilst serving in the Royal Horse Artillery in 1917 and was invalided out. But he re-joined in the Royal Flying Corps as an Observer. His stories to me of engaging Von Richtenstein’s Flying Circus, by hurling Mills bombs at them and firing at them with pistols, had always enthralled me. Herbert’s eldest son, Basil, had been sent to Australia in disgrace for unruly behaviour before the War; but Walter’s second son, Hugo, was also badly gassed and always suffered the effects of this until he died, having retired (still a bachelor) in 1963 after 44 years service with the Company.