8.  The Later 1950s

In 1956 the old method of coke furnaces, which we had used since 1798, was changed over to oil-fired burning, which was cheaper and easier.  The previous coke method was always dirty from coke-dust and expensive on labour, with wheelbarrows being constantly wheeled to and from the coke heap in the yard which was itself replenished by a big lorry driving into the yard once a fortnight.

1958 was the year when we negotiated the sole selling rights in the UK from Econosto of Rotterdam for a type of diaphragm valve widely use in Holland by the rayon producing industry and which we christened the “Rayon Patent Valve”.  The basic design of this product differed from the concept of a standard diaphragm valve as made by the Saunders Valve Company because ours featured a metal reinforced clack which gave it certain advantages but also an extra manufacturing cost.  The Meynell directors never appreciated the huge number of varieties which would be needed and failed to realise that its range of sizes would vary between ½” and 16”, whilst the material requirement could be cast iron or brass or lead or aluminium;  and also that any of these could be required glass lined, hard rubber lined, soft rubber lined, butyl lined, etc.  In short, the whole project was quite mind boggling and the competition from Saunders offered cheaper prices because of their unit being of cheaper construction.  It was sometimes mentioned, as a rather poor joke, that the original diaphragm valve patent was offered to Herbert Meynell in the early 1930s but he rejected it as a newfangled idea which was unlikely to work.

The Rayon Patent Valve Division was run by a Mr. Perkins, who joined us from Qualcast Ltd, but it was an ill conceived venture for our company.  It was eventually sold off with all patterns, tools and stock plus a specialist machine to Wm Broady & Sons Ltd of Hull in 1969, after we moved factory to Bushbury, for a sum of £35,000. We were greatly relieved to see the back of it.  

Hugh Meynell, from a wedding photo. 1 June 1958 was the day I was appointed a Director, approximately ten years after I joined in 1948.  

In 1956 I had married Faine Gibbons, the only daughter of Paul Gibbons, Chairman and proprietor of James Gibbons Ltd, one of Wolverhampton’s oldest companies, founded in 1660.  Faine, an only child, with her father Paul Gibbons. were the last of the line.  He asked me at that time if I would like to join his successful company employing over 1000 people and with annual profits over £100,000.  But after due consideration I refused his kindly and very attractive offer. 

His company was sold within ten years and after he had left a serious decline in its fortunes occurred, firstly under Radiation Ltd and then, they were taken over, under TI Ltd.  It caused this fine old company to become practically extinct.

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