Bradley & Co. Ltd

Mount Pleasant, Bilston

7.  1945 to 2005: the products

In outline we can say that after the War the company continued with general domestic ware, based on steel plate, with a variety of finishes, especially galvanised.  These products included kettles, baking trays, saucepans, frying pans, buckets, pails, dustbins and the like.  Their watering cans continued in production.  But the brass and copper art metalwares were never re-introduced after the War.

The company had to keep up with changing demands, fashions and materials.  It seems to have done so throughout its life.  It was not any sort of product or design failure which lead to its ultimate demise. 

This undated flyer shows at least some of the range with a coloured finish of an unspecified type.

This undated flyer is for binettes (which are "suitable for holding bread or flour, or can be used as kitchen tidies or garbage pails).  Up to now they would have been plain galvanised or perhaps japanned black.  But now there are mottled grey, green and blue finishes - though what the finish is, the flyer does not say, only that "it cannot scratch", it can be "scrubbed with hot water and soap" and is "equal to vitreous enamel at much less cost". 

It is possible that some of these coloured finishes were introduced before the war.  If so, government regulation would have prevented their use during the war and not allowed their re-introduction until some years after it.

Michael Doubleday says that in the immediate post-war years Hermon Bradley wanted to take the firm in new directions.  He brought in a lot of new people and many of the older senior employees left.  These included Norman Doubleday, the Works Manager, whose position was taken by George Freeman, who had been his deputy. 

It seems, from the catalogues still extant, that not only did the brass and copperware fall by the wayside but that gradually many of the company's old lines fell out of production as new lines took over.  These new lines included things like step ladders but the most notable of them were ironing boards, which were joined by a range of associated laundry products.  In 1961 the company branched out in to new fields by producing a modular storage system, the first made in the UK. 

In more recent years (some time after Brian Davies left the firm in 1994) the company moved into safety equipment, such as the gates you put at the top of the stairs to stop children falling down, and they produced a wide range of such things.

The old range of products

This folded flyer (which opens out to about 3ft by 2ft) can be dated to 1959 and, although ironing boards appear in pride of place, dustbins, buckets, coal scuttles, watering cans and the like still appear.  The leaflet may not show the entire range and ladders are absent. 
One of a series of studio photographs, presumably taken for advertising purposes.  This dramatically lit cheerful char is using what is presumably a Beldray bucket.

There is a lot of space above her.  This is common in such photos - it leaves room for the advertising text to be added.

A thoroughly unconvincing dustman sits on a chair with a Beldray dustbin on his back and a smart hat on his head.  The model looks as if his next job could be as the old colonel drinking whiskey at the country club. 
A watering can which still has its original paper label. 

From the Reg Aston collection.

The old products were, of course, updated in design, materials and production methods. Wheelbarrows benefitted in this way.

Brian Davies says that this Pak-a-Barrow was added to the range in about 1976.  It was sold in the pack shown at the top, with all the bits loaded into the body.  The idea was to save space for transport and storage and was aimed at the then burgeoning cash and carry DIY operations.

Storage system

Mary Southall says:  "Up to 1960 a German company was the only firm producing a storage system.  The Development Section of Bradley's saw the need of a storage system but in British measurements and not metric.  So in 1961 the company developed the first British modular storage system and gave it the name 'Spacesaver'."  

"A wide range of new open fronted containers, which can be self stacked or accommodated in the unit system is now produced by the firm.  This system has been developed over the past five years with the addition of platforming, dividers, plastic containers, etc..  This form of storage is now in use with most of the largest manufacturing companies in the country".

It is not know how long this apparently successful product was in production.  Although it made use of the company's metalworking skills, it was of a different size and type to their usual range of products.


It is not known when ladders were introduced to the range but in this brochure of 1975 there are plenty of them, along with ironing boards, wheelbarrows, dustbins and mop pails. 

No prizes are offered for amusing comments on the style sense of the bright young things.  But how well acquainted would they have been with mop pails? 

A cheeky chappy displays a Beldray bucket but, oddly enough, he seems to be on a wooden ladder - and Beldray did not make wooden ladders.  Perhaps the photo was taken before the range was introduced. 
Bradleys would have continued to exhibit at trade and other fairs.  This photograph was taken at an unidentified fair, possibly something like the Ideal Home exhibition.  The stand seems to have featured lots of ladders. 

A shrink wrapping machine being used to wrap ladders.

Ironing Boards

Beldray ironing boards became so widely sold and so much appreciated that they became an icon of the firm, if not of Bilston.  (They occupied much the same position as the Hill's Hoist does in South Australia.  Though founded much later, Hills have a very similar sort of manufacturing history and make all sorts of laundry equipment and accessories.  And, of course, Beldray made a rotary clothes drier (as seen in the 1975 colour photo above), in all but a few features a Hill's Hoist.

Ironing boards on an exhibition stand.

According to Mary Southall the first ironing board was made in 1951.  It had fixed legs and a steel top instead of the traditional wooden one.  It was called the Mark 1 and was made exclusively for the Canadian market, as a result of the then Managing Director, R. Turner Hood, and going to Canada and getting a contract with a firm called Eatons.  There were several developments of the board up to the Mark 7, which was the first to have fully adjustable legs and was introduced in 1954-55. 

An ironing board making machine.  Brian Davies says:  "Enormous numbers of items were produced and new machinery was constantly being installed.  Here are two multi-spot welding machines, by the British Federal Welding and Machine Co. of Dudley, which we put in to increase production rates of the famous ironing boards".

Then in 1960 the contract with Eatons "fell through" for reasons not specified.  So Bradley's then developed an entirely new table called the Five Star which was adjustable to 12 different heights.  It sold in large quantities at home and abroad.  At the same time the Europa was introduced which had a retractable well for the iron.  From then on development appears to have been continuous and when Ms Southall wrote, in about 1967, she declared that there were nearly fifty different kinds, some of which were made for other companies under their brand names. 

A photo of an upended ironing board, without the board covering.  Presumably this photo was taken in the factory and was intended to show the height adjustment mechanism. 
An ironing board, with a sleeve board, shown in a more natural position.

The Ideal.  This one had a chipboard top instead of a metal one.
Beldray had many products connected with laundry work, from the old galvanised wash tubs to clothes airers to this "Ironsto" which you could screw to the wall and use it to store even a hot iron. 

Thanks to Vin Callcut for finding this item.

A point of sale display stand, designed and made at Beldray. 
A child's ironing board, complete with a Morphy Richards pretend iron which had a suction plug on the cable end to fix to the wall, just like the real one.

A photo, probably taken at an Ideal Home exhibition, shows the Beldray stand on the far left, falling under the gracious gaze of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.  Goodness knows what the relevance of the nurse is.
An employee's clocking in check.  Aluminium.  50mm diam.  Reverse blank.

Thanks to Jaap Arriens.


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