Bradley & Co. Ltd

Mount Pleasant, Bilston

8.  1945 to 2005: company history

The firm was originally owned by Walter S. Bradley and, on his death, his eldest son, Hermon Bradley had become the Chairman.  He presumably remained as Chairman until his death which was certainly after 1953.  It is also known that Walter Bradley was a part owner of the Caponfield Furnaces so that this company was not his only interest.  It is perhaps not surprising therefore that the Beldray firm came to lead a group of companies. 

This letter head from 1953 (kindly provided by the Booth family) refers to the company as having been founded in 1872 and to it's being the "proprietors" of the Globe Tank & Foundry (Wolverhampton) Ltd. and General Galvanisers Ltd..  It gives the directors as Hermon Bradley (Chairman), T. A. W. Allen (Vice Chairman), T. T. Hood M.I.Mech.E., M.I.P.E (Managing Director), T. L. Perry, F.C.A., A. H. Thompson and R. F. Walton, B.A..  It also refers to their London address as 321/3 Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square.

Mary Southall says that in 1959 the Bradley Group consisted of Bradley & Co. Ltd., General Galvanisers Ltd., Globe Tank and Foundry Ltd., Halladays Drop Forgings Ltd., Halladays Ltd. and Weston Works Ltd.  When and why any of these companies was acquired is not known. 

Mary Southall adds that "In the latter part of 1959 the Bradley Group ... was absorbed into the Butterfield Group".  The Butterfield Group was a burgeoning conglomerate but nothing else is known about this development.

A search in A2A produces an entry from the Worcestershire Record Office, showing, in the papers of Messrs. Ivens and Hall of Kidderminster, dated 1962-63, documents relating to the sale of Lamb, Hingley & Co. Ltd. to Bradley & Co, of their business of the manufacture and sale of hollowware pressed metal articles.  Nothing more about this takeover has yet been found.

Brian Davies says that "the company was bought out by Butterfield-Harvey Ltd, a conglomerate, in about 1972.  I joined Bradleys on 5th January 1976 as Personnel Manager and Staff Controller in 1976.  At that time John Barnes was the Managing Director and Anthony Corbett was the Chief Production Engineer, having started at Bradley's just a month before me". 

On Thursday 1st December 1977 the company officially changed its name from Bradley and Company Ltd. to Beldray Ltd.  "Beldray" was an anagram of Bradley and had been used as the firm's trade name since at least the turn of the century.

When the company name changed the corporate image was changed too and all the company vehicles were repainted in blue and white.

Brian Davies continues the company story:

 "At the end of 1978 the company announced plans for a massive modernisation and expansion of the factory in Mount Pleasant.  Some of the buildings we were then using actually dated back to the foundation of the company, the layout was inefficient, the warehouse regularly flooded in heavy rain and several old mine shafts were found under the buildings.  The new buildings occupied a site of nearly five acres.  We already owned some of it as it held the paint shop, garage and tool store.  We had to acquire the rest of the land from the Barton Park Industrial Estate and Wolverhampton Corporation.  

An artist's impression of the new buildings

"The disruption was enormous and the risk was that we would not be able to produce sufficient to meet demand.  One way we overcame this was to work a great deal of overtime to stockpile products.  It gives some idea of our production numbers that we planned to produce an extra 50,000 ironing boards; 20,000 Ironstos; 6,000 sleeveboards; and 4,000 wheelbarrows.

The new works, south side, main entrance.  Photographed, sadly, after the firm had closed. This side of the works faced Beldray Road, a new road off Mount Pleasant.
The north side of the works, photographed at the same time, and equally sadly.

"Butterfield-Harvey started selling off bits of their organisation and sold Bradleys to Krug International, a large American concern. They remained the ultimate owners until about 2000, when a management buy out took place."

On 27th September 2002 the Express and Star reported that the firm had made 47 of its workers redundant as part of a restructuring process and the company still retained 324 people. However in March 2003 the company announced that it was moving production to the Far East and was reducing its work force from 300 to 100. But this never happened.  On 21st August 2004 it was announced that the company had called in the receivers, a spokeswoman saying that the company had fallen into difficulties "due to financial underperformance, which was compounded by competition from China".  The usual hope was expressed that the company could be sold as a going concern, but the workers were sent home, unpaid.  There was then a brief splutter of renewed life but in 2005 the whole company closed for good.

A sign near the entrance to the site, now long closed.

The company's trade names, including "Beldray", were bought by Martin Yaffe International Ltd., of Rochdale.  They propose to use the name on a new range of products, including ironing boards, laundry accessories, clothes airers and ladders.  So Beldray might, in some guise, live on. 

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