The bond that powered the empire of F. H. Lloyd

The great firm of F. H. Lloyd was one of the great manufacturing enterprises, not only of the Black Country but also of England. Established in 1879 by Francis Henry Lloyd, a member of the banking Lloyd's family, it quickly expanded and became famed for its heavy castings. A major employer locally, if you managed to get a job at Lloyd's it was one for life - or so it seemed, until it fell during the 1980s, a disastrous decade for manufacturing in the West Midlands.

Colin F. Webb has strong memories of Lloyd's in its heyday. He is chairman of Webb-Elec Ltd. of Willenhall, a company which traces its origins to 1895 when Henry John Webb started one of the earliest electrical engineering companies in the country. Now more than 100 years later, Webb-Elec is a major supplier to UK companies, having diversified from its roots with a modern customer base encompassing food, metals, automotive, government, quarrying, textiles, plastics, healthcare and the packaging industry amongst others.


In his teens in the late 1950s, Colin recalls: "I would often visit the F. H. Lloyd foundry at Wednesbury to deliver materials and equipment to Harry Parsons, the chief electrical maintenance engineer. I got to know him very well. He was a gruff Black Countryman who did not tolerate fools very easily but who had a heart of gold.

"I remember one day when Lloyd's was booming and was the largest steel foundry in Europe, he put his arm round my shoulders and said 'Me son, one day not in my lifetime, but in yours, all this will be gone. There will be grass growing on this site".

Many years later in my 50s after Lloyds' closure, I remember driving past the locked gates and seeing grass growing round them. What a man of foresight! I must admit, a tear came to my eye as they had been such very happy times.

Tapping one of the ten ton arc furnaces. From the Christmas 1958 edition of 'The Steel Casting'.

Another man for whom I had great respect was chief engineer Charles Nelson. He came to Lloyd's from Morris Cranes at Loughborough and was a quiet man of great integrity. He was a good friend of my father and I remember them travelling to Brown Boveri in Switzerland together, to arrange the purchase of a 31mEV Betatron for the radiographic proving of castings using X-rays. Mech & Elec did all the electrical installation work and I became good friends with Alphonse Fischer, the Swiss engineer who supervised the installation.

Mr. F. N. Lloyd was brought out of the army in 1941 following the death of chairman Frank Hemming to take control of Lloyd's contribution to the war effort. After the war, he was responsible for the development of Lloyds and the acquisition of Noah Hingley of Netherton, of which he was also chairman. He knew my father Frank well and eventually suggested to him the acquisition of Mech & Elec in 1958.

F. N. Lloyd held a seat on the board of Lloyds Bank. One of his ancestors, of course, originally started, together with Samuel Taylor, Lloyds Bank.

Opposite Lloyd's main gate on the Darlaston Road, was a fish and chip shop run by George Rutter and his wife. For many years George was Mr. F. N. Lloyd's personal chauffeur but sadly, in later life, I believe he lost his sight.

During the 1960s, Lloyd's was involved in a consultancy project supervising the building of a new steel foundry at Chitteranjan in West Bengal for Indian railways. This was supervised by Bill Carter, who I also knew very well.

In the 1960s Mech & Elec was involved in the electrical power wiring for two radio telescopes on a disused airfield at Defford near Malvern.

The steelwork was supplied and erected by Carter Horsley of Tipton, the main contractor was Werkspoor of Holland.

The client was the high security radar research establishment at Malvern.

We were told that these telescopes, known as Interferometers, were for studying the Milky Way.

However, we suspected their true purpose was of a more military nature.

One of the two radio telescopes at Defford near Malvern. From the spring 1962 edition of 'The Steel Casting'.


In later years, I remember many notable people, including Professor Roland Smith (known as ‘the prof’) from Manchester University who was a non-executive director and later became a director of the Bank of England. I came to know Leslie Carrier well also. He started originally in a fairly junior capacity with the group and rose to secretary, finance director and later becoming chairman following the tragic death of Michael Lloyd in a hotel fire in Exmouth. Leslie was very helpful to me in his retirement and in 1984 we started Webb-Elec and I recall sitting with him at his dining table until well after midnight on several occasions preparing financial forecasts for the bank.

The Lloyd's character I remember best however, was Jim Dawson. He started as an assistant in the accounts department and eventually became secretary and director of the parent company under the chairmanship of Sir Lewis Robinson, the final chairman. For many years Jim and I spent almost every Friday evening drinking a pint of beer and discussing a multitude of subjects from dogs to high finance and merchant banking. We became very close friends, together with our families, but sadly Jim died in his 50s."

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