Thomas Parker, Limited

After leaving the E.C.C., Thomas decided to form his own electrical manufacturing company and Thomas Parker, Limited was the result. The idea to start the company came from a number of enthusiastic ex-Elwell Parker employees, who greatly respected Thomas, both as an employer and an engineer. They formed the engineering backbone of the company and also invested in the company.

The first directors appointed on 10th May 1894, were:

Charles Tertius Mander, Mayor of Wolverhampton.
Thomas Graham, proprietor of the Express & Star newspaper.
William Thomas, manufacturer.
Thomas Parker.

The Express & Star of Wednesday, 23rd May, 1894 reported that a prospectus for Thomas Parker, Limited had appeared in the advertising columns and that the company was formed to carry on the business of manufacturing plant for electric lighting, electric transmission of power, electric railways, electric tramways, electro-chemical, electro- metallurgical, and such other purposes as are incidental or conducive to any of the above objects, and new developments and improvements in electrical and general engineering.

The location of the works.

The article stated that the  vendor and promoter is Mr. Thomas Parker, F.R.S.E., M.I.C.E., M.I.M.E., M.I.E.E., J.P. of the Manor House, Tettenhall, founder and managing director of Elwell-Parker, Limited and for five years works manager and chief engineer of the Electric Construction Company, Limited.

Thomas Parker acquired the freehold of about seven acres of land on which to build the works. It was on Wednesfield Road, Wolverhampton, within a few yards of the Great Western, London and North Western and Midland Railway stations.

The Thomas Parker dynamo that was installed at Cragside in Northumberland by Drake and Gorham, electrical contractors, based at Victoria Street, London.

This is an early example of  one of the company's products, dating from 1895.

Courtesy of Robin Wright, Engineering Warden, Cragside.

Another view of the dynamo at Cragside.

Courtesy of Robin Wright, Engineering Warden, Cragside.

Railway connections were sanctioned by Wolverhampton Corporation, for a level crossing from the site of the works towards the Midland and Great Western Railway stations. The offices and works were within three minutes walk of the three railway stations.

Thomas entered into a contract with the company, dated 11th May, 1894, to act as managing director for a period of ten years. A capital of £75,000, in 7,500 shares of £10 each, was required, of which 4,500 were quickly taken up, and the balance of 3,000 shares were offered for subscription. The Mayor of Wolverhampton, Alderman C.T. Mander, J.P., was chairman of the board of directors. The temporary registered offices of the company were at Albany Chambers, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton.

The company's factory can be seen on the extreme left.

At the time the photograph was taken the works were occupied by Joshua Bigwood & Sons Limited.

Courtesy of Bill Howe.

At the beginning of June tenders for the erection of the works were allotted and sent out, and building work commenced on 26th June. The buildings were erected by Mr. H. Lovatt, builder of Wolverhampton. 

The first statutory meeting of the shareholders was held on 17th August, 1894. The minutes book, records, that in answer to a shareholder's question, Mr. Charles Mander, the Chairman, said The purchase of the Eickemeyer Dynamo Winding Patents had been completed, and the legal proceedings commenced by the Electric Construction Company remained as they were, but this board was considering the question of granting the E.C.C. the use of these patents on terms to be agreed. The Chairman also reported that the erection of the works was rapidly approaching completion and that there was every prospect of the company at once entering upon a large and remunerative business.

An advert from 1898.

The Eickemeyer Patents mentioned by the Chairman were extremely important in the manufacture of armatures for dynamos and motors, and permission to use them was essential to the E.C.C., who hotly disputed Thomas Parker, Limited's right to the patents.

An old drum armature dynamo showing the maze of wires at each end of the armature.
The old style of drum armature dynamo had a great bundle of wires crossing and re-crossing at both ends, forming a complex maze, which was difficult and time consuming to wire-up, and difficult to sort out under fault conditions. This problem was resolved by Eickemeyer in about 1890. He developed an assembly technique in which the windings were initially made on a former and then neatly slotted into the armature. He patented the process, but it was not generally adopted until about 1898.

On 28th May, the Express & Star reported that the Eickemeyer patents must be considered a valuable property in the electrical world, judging by the struggle to possess them. The proprietors, through their agents and power of attorney, say that they are disposing them to Thomas Parker Limited, and nobody else. The Electric Construction Company Limited, are taking the means to establish their right to a license to use the patents. 

The E.C.C. published a letter regarding the patents, in the Midland Evening News, on 22nd May , 1894 (some of the wording is a little strange):

The attention of my Board has been directed to the prospectus of this company, which was advertised on Saturday. One of the chief inducements which is held out to subscribers is the acquisition of the Eickemeyer Patents for winding dynamos; but the prospectus makes no mention of the fact that these patents are in Mr. Parker’s hands – subject to a general license in favour of my company for the whole of the United Kingdom. The statement in the prospectus that “Mr. Parker and his staff designed and superintended” certain works is misleading, as only a portion of our staff employed upon the works in question has joined Mr. Parker since the Board of my company dispensed with his services. We have reason to believe that we shall have to claim certain of the other patents which it is represented on the prospectus will be transferred to the proposed company, as having been taken out by our employees. The whole matter has been placed in the hands of our solicitors, Messrs. Linklater and Co.

Your obedient servant,
By order of the Board
James Grey
The Electric Construction Company Limited, Queen Street Chambers, Queen Street, London, E.C.
21st May 1894

The Eickemeyer Company published their reply in the Express & Star on Friday, May 25th, 1894:

To publisher Express & Star, Wolverhampton.

Sir, - Re Thomas Parker Limited. Please insert in tomorrow’s issue a copy of the wire just received by me,

Robert Willcock, Solicitor, 49 Queen Street, Wolverhampton.

Thomas Parker Limited

The Electric Construction Company Limited hold no general or any license whatever to USE the Eickemeyer patents, or any of them. The only persons entitled to use such patents, so far as winding is concerned, are the Eickemeyer Company, who have agreed to assign same to Thomas Parker.

A. Macdonald Blair, 5 St. James’s Square, Manchester.

Solicitor for the Eickemeyer Company and Mr. Giles Atherton, their Attorney.

The E.C.C. responded with a letter in the Midland Evening News:

To the Editor of the Midland Evening News

Sir, - Re Thomas Parker, Limited. My Boards have taken note of the wire from Mr. A. McDonald Blair and Mr. Giles Atherton, which appears in your paper on the subject of the Eickemeyer patents. I am instructed by my Boards to say that they have directed Messrs. Linklater & Co. to issue a writ against Mr. Thomas Parker and Thomas Parker, Limited, to establish our rights. – By order of the Board, I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

The Electric Construction Company, Limited.

James Gray, Secretary

The following day a further letter appeared in the Express & Star:

Re Thomas Parker, Limited.

My Board have taken note of the wire from Mr. A. McDonald Blair and Mr. Giles Atherton, which appears in your paper on the subject of the Eickemeyer patents.

I am instructed by my Board to say that they have directed Messrs. Linklater & Co. to issue a writ against Mr. Thomas Parker and Thomas Parker, Limited, to establish our rights.

By order of the Board.
I am Sir, Your obedient servant, James Gray, Secretary. The Electric Construction Company Limited. Queen Street Chambers, Queen Street, London, E.C.

The dispute was eventually resolved and the E.C.C. paid £2,000 to Thomas Parker, Limited, for the right to use the patents.

Registration of the New Company

The company was registered with a capital of £75,000 divided into 7,500 shares of £10 each, on Tuesday, 13th November, 1894.

 Its object was to carry on business as electrical and mechanical engineers, and electricians, and as manufacturers of electrical appliances and apparatus of all descriptions.

There were to be not less than three, nor more than seven directors; qualification, £1,000.

One of the company's dynamos.

The Express & Star reported on the progress of the new works, on 13th November. The article stated that the erection of the new premises belonging to this company was nearing completion and that the works will soon be in full operation. Building work has gone on without interruption, though the work of laying the floors of concrete and wood blocks has taken some considerable time. The huge machinery was fixed on the bed plates, and Mr. Parker, the managing director, was well pleased with the progress generally of the works. Already a sufficient number of orders had been secured to start the works and employ a considerable number of hands. A range of offices was also to be built to replace the temporary office in Lichfield Street. 

The side view of a Thomas Parker dynamo showing the folding pole pieces, which allowed the armature to be lifted out for maintenance.

The new works

The new works were officially opened on Monday, 10th December, 1894. There were erecting, fitting, pattern, and machine shops, and a foundry for brass and ironwork.

The building at the left of the entrance was set apart for the erecting, fitting and machine departments. It had four 150ft. long bays, two with a span of 32ft., and two with a span of 42ft. 6 inches, all complete with travelling cranes. The iron columns which carried the roof also supported the rails for the travelling cranes.

In the first bay were the main engines for driving the whole of the works, and for testing the machinery before it was sent out. The steam for the engines was supplied by two large Babcock & Wilcox boilers.

In the second bay were the larger tools, general erecting and testing machinery. The third bay was the machine shop, with lathes, milling machines, drilling machines, and general tools used for carrying out work of any size. The fourth bay was for light brass work, winding armatures, and other portions of machinery. 

The building had a concrete floor with wood blocks and a railway track connected with the Midland Railway Company’s sidings. The machinery was of an exceptionally fine description, with the latest improvements and every arrangement to secure accuracy and rapidity in working. The building was heated with steam from the main boilers and radiators. The travelling cranes and machinery were driven by motors supplied with electric current from one main dynamo, which also supplied the electric light for the building.
The 12 Kilowatt Thomas Parker, Limited dynamo, that was installed at the National Physical Laboratory.

The foundry building was 120ft. by 40ft., and was complete with a ten ton, electrically fitted, travelling crane. There was a large cupola placed in a convenient position, with a covered stage, and a hoist for taking up pig iron, coke etc.

The pattern shop was 80ft. by 40ft. with a concrete floor, over which wood blocks were laid. It was heated by steam radiators. Mr. A.P. Brevitt, of Wolverhampton, was the architect, and Mr. Henry Lovatt, the builder. Messrs. Heenan and Froude, of Manchester, have supplied the iron work, and Messrs. McTear & Co. of Belfast, the roofs.

Official Opening

The ceremony of setting the machinery in motion was performed by the Mayoress, Mrs. C. T. Mander, in the presence of a large and representative gathering. Amongst those present were the Mayor, Alderman C.T. Mander, Mr. T. Parker, Mr. T. Graham, Mr. W. Thomas, directors, Mr. T. Bantock; Aldermen Saunders, F. D. Gibbons,
S. T. Mander, J. Annan; Councillors Craddock, Lewis, Williams, Jenks, McBean; Messrs. J. Evans, G. Armstrong, R. Shaw, T. Holcroft, H. Holcroft, B. Bantock, S. Watkins, T. Wilson, L.T. Smith, W. Lees, J.T. Homer, W. Bradford, A. P. Brevitt (architect), H. Lovatt (builder), H. G. Powell, M. Wilkie (secretary), W. W. Walker,
J. Brotherton, J. Mould, H. Lea (Messrs. Lea and Thornbury). J. E. Underhill, J. W. Sankey, J. H. Woodward,
E. S. G. Rees, C. H. Iles, W. Armistead (the last 4 named gentlemen are members of staff); Dr. Totherick, the Revs. Dr. C. A. Berry, C. Pockney, T. G. Haughton, Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Burnup, and Mrs. Parker.

After an inspection of the machinery by most of those present, Mr. Parker called upon the Mayoress to set the machinery in motion, which she did amid loud cheering from spectators and work people.

Thomas Parker

Mr. Parker presented the Mayoress with a deerskin blotter, inscribed by the four directors; C. T. Mander, T. Graham, T. Parker, and W. Thomas. The company then adjourned to the pattern shop. Speeches were given by Mr. T. Bantock, Mr. C. T. Mander, Mr. T. Graham and Mr. Brevitt.

Mr. Parker said that he was glad to see Mr. Bantock present and to know that the Mayor was by his side, upon whom he looked as a tower of strength in connection with that undertaking.

The site upon which those buildings had been erected was a field in July last. The idea of starting those works was fixed upon by the gentlemen who formed his staff, who about nine years ago came to Wolverhampton as pupils to him at the works of Elwell-Parker, Limited, and had grown with and taken a large part in carrying out the works that made the name of Elwell-Parker known throughout the world.

They had been his staff through the term of his agreement and of service with the Electric Construction Company, Limited, as their engineer and works manager.

They made the term of further union to be the initiation of a new concern. They now gave Thomas Parker, Limited, their united services and experience, and had each subscribed largely to its capital. He wished them to receive from the friends of the firm credit for this.

The Thomas Parker rotary converter at the Museum Collections Centre, Duddeston, Birmingham.

Another view of the rotary converter.

By inviting the Mayoress and their friends there that day, to see their progress, they wished them to see they were in real earnest.

Of their buildings they would be able to judge, and they had plenty of ground for development. They were now able to take in hand the largest work which was likely to be required.

They intended to do the higher class of work at the lowest cost. They had plenty of orders in hand.

He had the greatest faith in the greatness of the future of electrical engineering, where the object was sound and legitimate business. This, he was sure, was the one object of the directors.

They had been working upon designs and patterns the last five months, and hoped to be able to offer the public a better class than they had bought hitherto, and improved designs.

They were far more advanced than those present were able to judge, and if they visited the works a month or two hence, they would see a great change.

 A close-up view of one of the commutators on the above rotary

The manufacturer's plate on the rotary converter.

They could see they were making great strides. They had obtained some important patent rights, and he thought the works would be a standing monument to their chairman, the Mayor, during his Mayoralty.

Electric Lighting at Wightwick Manor

Thomas was friendly with the Mander family and on a visit to Wightwick Manor in 1895, he suggested that electric lighting should be installed in the house. The family agreed and the work was carried out by Thomas Parker, Limited, in 1895 / 96. The installation consisted of a steam driven generator, which supplied 100 volts D.C. for the lamps. A set of lead-acid batteries was added at a later date.

Read a contemporary account of Thomas 
Parker, Limited

The following article appeared in the January 11th, 1895 edition of 'The Engineer':

Continuous Current Hinged Pole Piece Dynamo.
Messrs. Thomas Parker, Limited, Wolverhampton, Engineers.


In the dynamo illustrated above one of the special features is the cutting through of the pole pieces, and hinging these so that they can be turned back to allow of the examination, or taking out of the armature by a direct vertical lift, and without upsetting the bearings. The hinge is placed at the angle of the pole piece, so that when turned back halfway, the magnet ferrule can be lifted off, after the armature has been removed, without uncoupling the hinged piece. This arrangement allows of machines being fixed in confined spaces, which would not be suitable with the ordinary type of machine, where the armature has to be threaded in to or out of the magnets. There is also considerably less risk of damage in withdrawing or replacing the armature.

There is an oil well in the pedestal underneath the bottom of the bearing, the bottom bearing being continuous; a ring runs in this well and over the top of the shaft, giving continuous lubrication. Where machines are coupled direct to high speed engines, the armatures are at the bottom, the pole pieces in this case also being cut through, so that the upper portion of the magnets can be lifted away, and the armature then lifted out.

With these new arrangements, the putting in or taking out of an armature is much more simple, and occupies far less time than is required by the old method. All armatures are coil wound under the Eickemeyer patents.

Second Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the directors and shareholders for 1895 was held at the works on Wednesday, 31st July, 1895. The Mayor, Mr. C. T. Mander, presided and amongst those present were Mr. T. Parker, Managing Director, W. Thomas, Richard Armistead, Giles Atherton, representing Rudolf Eickemeyer, Armistead jnr., Woodward, Iles, J. E. Underhill, Rees, M. Wilkie, and H. P. Smith.

This excellent example of a Thomas Parker dynamo can be seen at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley.
The Chairman said that the company was only formed in April 1894 and they had only commenced work at the end of January, and not much had much happened before the middle of March. The balance sheet practically referred to only five or six week’s trade and their invoices for the month of July were 50 percent more in value than the whole of the trading up to April last.

In June 1894 they started with a workforce of just 3 men and now they were employing 268. They should be able to wipe off their debt at the bank and spend more money on buildings, machinery and tools.

At present they had most admirable machinery, capable of turning out the largest dynamos etc., but they wanted offices, another smith’s shop, another bay to their main works, and they would then be able to turn out double the present amount of work. They had orders on the books amounting to over £24,000, so that they would be turning out a lot of work and had every prospect of doing a sound and prosperous business.
Mr. Parker, in seconding, expressed the pleasure it gave him to see the shareholders inspecting the works and noting how they were going on. They did not start a business; they had had to start to build up a business, and that, they had been successful in achieving. Their turnover at the present time would make them a profit on the capital, and if they got further money, which they hoped to do, they would with a very slight outlay in buildings be able to double the output of the place, and so double, in his opinion, the value of the share capital. They could readily have any amount of orders; their difficulty was in being able to execute them.
A close up view of the commutator and armature on the Thomas Parker dynamo at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley. It shows the high standard of workmanship and quality of construction, that is typical of a Thomas Parker product.

The works might look a trifle straggling, but they had been so laid out as to bring in a siding from either the Great Western or the Midland. The balance sheet was a small one, but it showed a good beginning. Today they were making a dividend, and he thought the shareholders would agree with him that they had established a good business, they were an accepted fact in the electrical world, their goods were selling, and that altogether they had done even better than anticipated under the circumstances. A year hence, and he expected they would go away from the annual meeting thoroughly well satisfied.

The Order Book

Thomas Parker, Limited, like most other similar concerns at the time relied on orders from municipal authorities. The £24,000 mentioned in the 1895 Chairman's report included an order from Wolverhampton Council for dynamos etc. for their new power station and electrical distribution system.

Read about Wolverhampton's first power station.

A Disappointing  Future

The annual meetings always took place at the registered offices in Wednesfield Road. Although the directors looked forward to a successful future, it was not to be, as can be seen from the dividend records:

1895 No dividend mentioned
1896 5% dividend
1897 7% dividend
1898 8% dividend
1899 10% dividend
1900 10% dividend
1901 10% dividend. The directors say that they are trying to get a quotation from the London Stock Exchange.
1902 10% dividend
1903 6% dividend.
1904 No dividend mentioned
1905 No dividend mentioned
1906 No dividend mentioned
1907 No dividend mentioned
1908 No dividend mentioned
1909 Company wound-up

At the 7th annual meeting, on Monday, 8th July, 1901, the Chairman said that there was no need for much comment on his part and they proposed to pay a dividend of 10 percent, to which he did not think the shareholders would object. Mr. Elton, a shareholder, observed that the company had made £3,000 less profit than last year, and £3,000 less than the year before, making it £6,000 in two years. In the same period, some thousands more debentures had been borrowed. If that was a small company, and they went on at the same rate, they would soon be in the hands of the debenture owners alone.

Thomas Parker was a benevolent employer as can be seen from the following article that appeared in 'The Engineer' on the 4th September, 1896.

At the works of Thomas Parker, Limited, electrical engineers, of Wolverhampton a re-arrangement of hours has just come into operation. Instead of starting each morning at 8 a.m. and leaving at 6 p.m., with an interval for dinner, the works will in future be open from 6 a.m. till 5 p.m., and an hour and a half will be allowed for meals, whilst the closing hour on Saturdays will be noon instead of 1 p.m.

Unfortunately the reduced hours did not have the desired result, as can be seen from a letter that Thomas sent to Mr. Hulse, of Messrs. Hulse and Sons, Manchester.

Thomas explained that the reason which influenced the firm in trying a forty nine hours week when they started the works, towards the end of 1894, was a wish to fall-in with the general desire which seemed to exist that shorter hours should be conceded to mechanics if possible, and the circumstance that the Government had conceded the eight hours in certain of their engineering departments was also not without its efforts. As time went on, however, the firm was disappointed with the results. The men showed no desire to assist the firm in anyway out of regard for the great concession which bad been made them, and there was just as much time wasted as under a fifty three or fifty four hours week.

Further, the men, especially as their number grew with the extension of the firm's business, showed a distinct dislike to continue working to six o'clock, and would have preferred to stop an hour earlier, as is the rule under the present changed condition of things. At the present time the men begin work at six o'clock a.m. and leave at five in the evening, taking out half an hour for breakfast and an hour for dinner for five days in the week, and on Saturday stop at noon, thus making a fifty three hours week.

The short week was abandoned after the failed experiment, and the union instantly made a demand for increased wages, which the company refused to pay. The outcome of the dispute is not known, but it resulted in Thomas Parker having a great dislike of the extremes of trades unionism. At the time of the dispute the number of employees had increased to over 400.

In 1897 / 98 the company made the generators for the Folkstone Electricity works, which opened in 1898. They produced 3,000 volts D.C., which was stepped-down at sub-stations, using rotary converters. The system operated until 1923.

A visit by members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1897 to Thomas Parker Limited

These works are situated on the Wednesfield Road, within five hundred yards of the railway stations. They were built in the latter part of 1894, and some extensions have recently been made. They comprise in independent buildings; iron and brass foundries; pattern makers' and smiths' shops; and the main shop, 250 feet long by 150 feet wide, in which are the machine tool, erecting, winding, and testing departments; and stores. The offices adjoin the main shop. The whole of the works including the power cranes are driven electrically; and the lighting by arc and incandescent lamps is also supplied from the same generating plant. Most of the machine tools are driven from line shafting; but some lately added, have their own motor. The works are employed solely in the manufacture of dynamos, motors, and switch gear, etc. and furnish complete equipment for electric lighting, electric railways, tramways, and power transmission. The number of workpeople at present employed is about 400.

On 2nd August, 1899, the Express & Star reported that Mr. T. Parker, the founder of the business, had relinquished the position of managing director, but retained his seat on the Board of Directors. In addition the company had retained his special services in the way of advice, by appointing him consulting electrical engineer. Also in 1899 Thomas developed a method of manufacturing Chlorate of Soda using a version of his "Wednesfield Furnace".

Thomas Parker and his favourite dog, Bruce. Courtesy of Gail Tudor.

Large scale electricity distribution became a reality in South Staffordshire with the formation of the Midland Electric Corporation in June 1897. Thomas Parker was the creative genius behind the venture and the Corporation’s chairman was Wolverhampton engineer, J. F. Allbright. In 1898 it was granted Provisional Orders to supply a number of the local towns, including Bilston, Brierley Hill, Cradley Heath, Darlaston, Kingswinford, Old Hill, Tipton, Wednesbury and Willenhall.

The M.E.C. was the first company to get Statutory powers to distribute electricity over such a large and varied area. A power station was built on 14 acres of land at Ocker Hill to supply the power. It was near to a coal mine and by the side of the Birmingham Canal Navigation. Sub stations were built at Bilston, Brierley Hill, Darlaston, Old Hill, Tipton and Wednesbury. Some local councils including Tipton and Wednesbury decided to distribute the power themselves, whereas others left it to the Corporation.

An article from 'The Engineer', 17th February, 1899:

Enclosed Type Motors

The enclosed type of motor is gaining ground, especially for use in confined situations, or in places such as
engineers' and other shops, where bits of iron, steel, or like substances, might fall on the armature, and for
crane work. The original difficulty with enclosed motors was undue heating, but this, with improved designs, has been entirely overcome.

Our illustrations show two motors made by Messrs. Thomas Parker, Limited, of Wolverhampton. Figs. 1 and 2 show the motor generally used by this firm for driving cranes or for machinery where floor space is a consideration, the motor in this case being either hung to the machine it is driving or placed upon a bracket on the wall, if shafting is being driven.

It will be seen that the motor used is of the horizontal two pole type, arranged so as to economise space to the utmost. The pole pieces are of a somewhat peculiar shape, and are bolted to the side of the motor box. In the interior view, Fig. 2., a liberty has been taken with the drawing, the brushes being shown as they are when at work, although,
as a fact, they are fixed to the end cover, and would have been taken away when this was removed. This end cover is provided with a lid which can be lifted for the inspection of the commutator and brushes. The brushes are of the carbon block type, the carbon being kept against the commutator by means of springs and levers as shown. The weight of the motor complete in its case is 11½ cwt., and its normal consumption is about 220 volts and 30 amperes at 500 revolutions per minute.

Fig. 3 shows a torque curve of this motor. It will be seen that at its normal rated point, 30 amperes, the torque is equal to 83lb. at a radius of 1ft. At 60 amperes the torque is no less than 197 lb. at 1ft. The armature,
as is the case with all Messrs. Parker's machines, is wound with the patent Eickemeyer coils. For ordinary shop work, such as the driving of shafting by belts, or for coupling direct, another class of enclosed motor is used. Figs. 4 and 5 show Messrs. Parker's iron-clad motor.

In this machine no moving part, with the exception of the pulley, is uncovered. This is a useful point when it is desired to have the motor running in such a position
that small tools or bits of metal might fly into it.

The motor is provided with a hinged top, part of this top forming one of the pole pieces. When this is laid open it is easy to remove the armature, and the bearings can be got at for oiling by means of the smaller covers at either end. The coolness with which this motor runs is remarkable.

The temperature inside the box is but little in excess of what it would have been had the machine been running without its covering. No doubt this is due to the design and winding of the motor, and the ribs on the outside assist in the dissipation of the heat. This type of machine is used by Messrs. Parker in their own shops for driving shafting, machine tools, etc., and they appear to give great satisfaction. The brushes are of the same type as in the crane motors, and seem to run with practically no attention.


An article from 'The Engineer', 17th March, 1899:

The Electric "Buff"

The Electric "Buff" or bob motor, shown in the accompanying illustration, has been designed and patented by
Messrs. Thomas Parker, Limited, of Wolverhampton, for polishing silver plate for hotels and ships. Larger sizes
made in the same way are intended for buffing brasswork during construction. The small two pole motor, and the
starting and regulating switch, are fitted inside the pillar, as also is the regulating resistance, so that the whole thing is
self contained, and only requires the two main wires bringing to it. The bearings and commutator are dust proof, so that none of the material used in polishing can get into, and damage them.

An article from 'The Engineer', 5th May, 1899:

A New Variable Ratio Transformer

Fig.1. Variable ratio transformer.

Our illustrations show a new form of variable ratio direct current transformer, three of which have recently been made by Thomas Parker, Limited, of Wolverhampton, for the lighting of Bromley and Chiselhurst. These are the first of this type which have been built, and we understand that the tests have come out very well. The transformer in Fig. l is shown with its hinged pole pieces opened so that the armature is easily lifted, which is extremely useful for such things as transformers, which frequently have to be placed in confined situations with none too much head room. The novelty about this particular type is the arrangement of the auxiliary or regulating pole piece, which, instead of springing from the bed-plate, as has hitherto been customary, is made by an extension of the main pole piece.

The main field, or a portion of it, is therefore diverted into the auxiliary pole pieces, thus minimising the reaction of these independent pole pieces. The armature is wound as shown in Fig. 2, and has two cores. In the ordinary transformer, with two sets of coils wound on one core, any alteration to the field acts on both windings equally, so that if it is required to compensate for a drop of electromotive force in long lengths of feeders, it is necessary to insert a resistance in series with either the high tension or the low-tension winding. In the transformer in question the larger core has one winding complete, the evolutes or cross connections coming between the two cores. This is the high-tension winding. The low-tension winding comes outside this, and extends, in addition, over the smaller core. By thus extending one set of the armature coils over the auxiliary core it is possible to add to or diminish the electromotive force in this particular set of coils by means of the auxiliary field, without affecting the other winding, and thus get the variable ratio.

Naturally it is not always that the conditions warrant the use of such a machine. These particular transformers have been built for Messrs. Edmundson and Co., and the conditions which have had to be conformed to are as follows:- One of the machines will either be supplied with high-tension current at from 2000 to 2100 volts, in which case it would have to give 420 to 450 volts and 105 amperes, or with current at 420 to 450 volts, in which case it would give 2000 to 2100 volts and 22 amperes. Thus, when 2100 volts are applied to the high-tension side, 450 volts are available at the secondary, and vice versa. This particular machine, therefore, is either for a "step-up" or "step-down" transformer.

The other two machines are intended simply to be supplied with high-tension current, and are required to give 150 amperes from 420 to 450 volts. The primary electromotive force is to vary from 1900 to 2000 volts, but the machines are required to give their full output at 450 volts with only 1900 volts at the primary when running at 600 revolutions per minute.


In some parts of the area, problems arose due to subsidence from mining. To prevent the cables being broken, "loop pits" were built every 200 yards, each containing 6 yards of slack cable and the cable in between the pits was enclosed in pipework.

Thomas left Thomas Parker, Limited, in 1904, at the end of his ten year contract, and moved to London to work for the Metropolitan Railway.

He was a keen advocate of smoke abatement in industrial areas, and in the same year he invented 'Coalite', a smokeless fuel obtained by the low-temperature carbonisation of coal. The retorts for the production of 'Coalite' were designed by Thomas and produced at a company that he established near Wolverhampton.

The Thomas Parker Alternator at the Museum Collections Centre, Duddeston, Birmingham.
A close-up view of the above alternator showing the revolving field coils and the slip rings.
Things continued to get worse for the company as can be seen in the Chairman's report of 24th July 19057. The accounts showed an adverse balance caused by lack of orders. The report concluded that this state of affairs was general throughout the electrical trade in England and was brought about by the general bad trade of the country, combined with the large amount of capital which had been sunk into the industry during the last few years, and large new works which had been built, leading to new extensions in the old works, to meet the competition.

In 1896 the total capital invested in electrical works in England was about £2,000,000, whereas at the present time it was nearly £12,000,000, and it had doubled even since 1900.

During the previous year they had reduced the workforce and had gone on short time; however during the previous two months they had returned to full time.

An advert from the 'Electrical Review', March 1905.
An advert from the 'Electrical Review', June 1905.

An example of what appears to be one of the company's later products, a ¾hp. 100volt DC motor. Courtesy of Simon Bosworth.

Two high tension, DC dynamos made by Thomas Parker Limited and installed in Hull Corporation's electric lighting station in 1900. The dynamos are directly coupled to compound steam engines made by W. H. Allen, Son & Company of Bedford. From 'The Engineer'.

Wolverhampton Journal, November 1906

A company has just been registered with a capital of £30,000 in £1 shares, to acquire from E. S. G. Rees and Thomas Parker, Limited, the benefit of certain existing inventions relating to centrifugal turbine and similar pumps.

To adopt an agreement with the said vendors, and to carry on the business of pump manufacturers, iron workers, founders, smelters, smiths, engineers, ironmasters, etc. The subscribers are C. T. Mander, J. E. Underhill, C. H. Iles, W. Armistead, C. F. Bekenn, P. B. Down, and E. S. G. Rees.

On 14th June, 1908 at a special meeting, it was decided that the company would be reconstructed as the Rees Roturbo Manufacturing Company Limited.

In 1909 the company was wound up after the directors put it into voluntary liquidation, and transferred all the assets to the Rees Roturbo Manufacturing Company Limited, which survived until about 1936.

An advert from 1909.

An advert from 1909.

Edmund Scott Gustave Rees (1861-1930) was born in Ghent, but soon afterwards the family returned to England and lived in Manchester. He worked for Thomas Parker Limited, and invented the 'Roturbo' pump.

Around 1936 Rees Roturbo went out of business, and the factory was acquired by machinery manufacturer, Joshua Bigwood & Sons Limited.

The factory continued in use until Bigwoods closed in the early 1980s, when the the buildings were demolished to make way for an industrial estate.

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