My parents and the start of the family business
|My father was a keen young motor cycle owner in the 1920s. I
understand that dad was sitting on his bike, at the corner of Bridge
Street in Hockley, when my mother came along the street and said to him:
"Do I know you?" And that is how it all began. They were married in 1929
and obtained a rented house, 79 Carpenters Road, Lozells, Birmingham. In
order to get possession of the property they had to buy its contents
from the previous tenant, a Mr. Leadbeater.
Shortly after they were married they converted the front room of this
house into a cycle shop. My mother looked after it during the day time
and my father did the repairs when he returned from work in the evening
and at weekends. My mother was a tremendous asset to my father in the
business field. My mother's father, William Toussaint, had a cycle
component manufacturing business, in Bridge Street, Hockley. Prior to
her marriage she looked after the office side of the business for her
father and was therefore well experienced in this field and was
absolutely brilliant at figure work.
||Eventually they moved on from Carpenters Road and
this was the end of the cycle business.
In about 1934 they bought a new semi-detached house, 67 Foden
Road, Great Barr, Birmingham, (shown in the photo on the left)
for £250 - and wondered what they had let themselves in for with
such a high capital expenditure on mortgage.
I was born at Foden Road on 19th June 1936.
In 1938 my father joined Wilton & Co Stampings Ltd as the works
manager. The origins of the company go back to about 1935 when it was
founded as a sole trader business by a Mr Arkinstall, who lived in
Wilton Road, Handsworth. From this was derived the name Wilton & Co.
|The principal product of the company was a
bakelite spinner called the Pools-Poppet. The spinning part had
a slot in it and was mounted on a base with a series of numbers
and Xs, one of which appeared in the slot when the spinner
It was used to select the numbers to fill in
the football pool coupon. I have made a rough sketch of it on
the right. It sold quite well between 1938 and 1939,
although the company was making heavy losses at that time.
Bernard Shewell was the Finance Director at Kalamazoo Ltd.
He bought out Arkinstall's business for his eldest son, John, to run.
Oliver Moorland, was also a Director. He was one of the founders of
Kalamazoo. The company's auditor was Mr Jeff Gillett, of Littleboy
Gillett & Co. All these gentlemen were Quakers. Mr Arkinstall was
retained in the business as a director but he only served until the
On the 15 September 1939 the following was reported in the
company Minute Book.
|The Outbreak of War 1939: The Chairman reported
that Mr J. M. Shewell had been called up to the Royal Air Force on
September 1st, three days before the declaration of war and that Harry
Rollings was carrying on the management of the works.
The trading losses continued and at the Annual General
Meeting in 1940 a loss of £836-13s- ld was reported. This was a
difficult time due to the company changing over to the manufacture of
goods for the war effort. My father secured orders from the Ministry of
Defence for the manufacture of component parts for the Sten Gun Sear Mk
11 such as the magazine catch and the butt; and for a lot of 2" and 3"
circular springs used inside shell ammunition and parachute connecting
On the 26th September 1941 Harry Rollings was appointed a
Director of the company. In the following financial year, 1942, a profit
of £1,596-4s-0d net was made. From this date the company has continued
right up to the present time without making a loss in any year, although
some trading years have been more satisfactory than others.
At the Annual General meeting on the 3rd September 1942
the following was reported to the meeting by J.B.Shewell, Chairman:
"Wing Commander John Morland Shewell is reported missing and we
earnestly hope that news of his safety may soon be received." Sadly the
news that came later was not good. Below this entry is an addition:
"John M Shewell never returned to us. He was killed on the borders of
France and Germany on the night of August 24/25 1942. His memory will
always be cherished by his Co-Directors".
|The factory started to expand a new workshop was
built over the yard. It was equipped with a new plant and machinery
to enable the company to cope with its expanding order book.
On the 22nd October 1943 my mother, Mabel Rollings, was
appointed to the Board of Directors to fill the vacancy created
by death of John Shewell.
She had taken an active interest in
the company for several years in running the company's office,
and she continued to do so up to the time of her demise in 1960.
|My father and I when I was 12 years old. The
photo was taken at Wilton & Co's Annual Dinner in 1948 at the
New Inns, Handsworth, Birmingham.
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