Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,687 pages of information and 235,430 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Rubery, Owen and Co

From Graces Guide
April 1907.
September 1908. Motor Frames.
November 1909.
1910. Large steam crane excavator.
December 1910.
January 1912.
October 1912.
November 1912.
November 1912.
1913. Vehicle chassis press for Rubery Owen, on display at Black Country Living Museum
October 1914.
March 1916.


January 1920.
May 1921.
June 1923.
November 1926.
October 1931.
January 1934.
October 1936.
October 1937.
Sept 1940.
February 1943.
May 1943
Jan 1945.
Sept. 1946.
October 1951.
January 1952.
February 1952.
April 1952.
June 1952.
2-ton trailer.
September 1954.
October 1956.
Oct 1960.
May 1961.
Oct 1962.

of Darlaston, South Staffordshire. Telephone: Darlaston 130 (P.B.X.). Telegraphic Address: "Ruberowen, Darlaston". (1937)

of Wednesbury

1884 Company founded by John Rubery and his two brothers, as an ironworks manufacturing gates and fences - see Rubery and Co

1893 The Rubery brothers were joined by an engineer Alfred Owen

1903 The company name of Rubery Owen was established.

1910 Exhibited at Aero Exhibition at Olympia, displaying tubes, wires, etc for aircraft construction[1]

1910 "NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us, the undersigned, John Tunner Rubery and Alfred Ernest Owen, carrying on business as Manufacturers of Bridges, Roofing, Motor Frames, Fencing, and General Iron and Steel Work, at Darlaston, in the county of Stafford, under the style or firm of 'RUBERY, OWEN AND CO.,' has been dissolved, by mutual consent, as and from the 30th day of June, 1910. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said Alfred Ernest Owen, who will continue to carry on business at the late firm's premises at Darlaston aforesaid, on his own account, under the style of 'Rubery, Owen and Co.' "[2]

Alfred Owen became sole proprietor of the company.

1910 Made a very large steam excavator (face shovel), designed by A R Grossmith, for J. B. Forder and Son's Pillange Brickworks [3]

1911 Water filtering and softening plant. [4]

By 1912 the company had expanded into Aviation Engineering, Motor Frames and Roofing, in addition to fencing manufacture.

1919 March. Advert for car frames. 22 years experience claimed. [5]

1919 Sold the engineering department to Wellman, Smith, Owen Engineering Corporation[6].

1920 Private company. New company registered: Rubery, Owen and Co, constructional engineers[7]

The company expanded still further during the 1920s and 1930s, to include the production of metal airframes, metal storage equipment, steel pulleys and armour plate. They also acquired a Warrington hydraulic company which became Rubery Owen Conveyancer.

1929 Alfred Ernest Owen, proprietor of Rubery, Owen and Co, died[8]. Rubery Owen was a middle-sized engineering firm with a turnover of some £580,000 per annum and a workforce of approximately 1750. The company had become a successful producer of components for the motor and aviation industries and of structural steel for the building trade.

Owen's sons, Alfred and Ernest took charge of the business.

1934 Alfred and Ernest became joint managing directors of this private business. Their sister, Jean, owned the other third of the business.

1930s The company won major contracts to supply materials for municipal buildings, shops, offices, and blocks of flats in central London, as well as for grandstands at Twickenham rugby football ground and several association football clubs including Manchester United, Derby County, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

1937 Advert for: Pressed Steel, Split Pulleys; Steel Storage Equipment; Structural Steelwork. (Engineering/Metals/Quarry, Roads and Mining/Transport) [9]

1937 Aircraft parts and accessories. [10]

1938 Alfred George Beech Owen was chairman

c.1938 Rubery Owen (Cooker Dept.) was in Coventry

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

WWII Rubery Owen expanded rapidly, manufacturing a huge range of military, aviation, and naval equipment. The company produced parts for war planes including parts for the De Havilland Mosquito. [11] Between 1936 and 1946, turnover rose by some 950 per cent.

Post-WWII. After the war, they expanded their engineering products to include ploughs for Ferguson Tractors, metal pressings, fasteners, motor vehicle components and structural steel components for the building industry.

1946 Messier Aircraft Equipment Ltd, a member of the Rubery-Owen group of companies, designed and manufactured hydraulic and electro-hydraulic equipment for aircraft and industrial applications, including the Conveyancer forklift truck[12]. This has been claimed to be the UK's first forklift truck. Later became Electro-Hydraulics.

By 1950 the company was part of the Owen Organisation (see advert)

1952 Acquired British Racing Motors Ltd (B. R. M. Ltd) after a meeting of the British Racing Motor Research Trust; this would enable the BRM cars to be raced for the rest of the season[13]

1953 New engines under test by BRM but no intention to produce formula racing cars[14]

1953 Acquired Charles Clark and Son Ltd of Wolverhampton

1954 A new organisation was set up by Alfred Owen to take over the activities of BRM and develop a Formula One BRM car[15]

1956 The company was restructured into seven divisions:

1961 Manufacturing and constructional engineers. 5,000 employees. [16]

1963 Amongst its various products, the group offered Drott mobile tractor cranes and self-propelled straddle lifting systems[17]. There were more than 50 companies in the Group including:

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Car accessories and motor car assemblies. [18]

1964 6,500 employees[19]

1964 Displayed the Rowen dishwasher at the Hanover Fair[20]

1964 Expanded by taking over the Old Park Works at Wednesbury previously used by Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage and Wagon Co[21]

1965 BRM was prepared to supply 3 litre engines to any British team to accomodate the change in Formula 1 Grand Prix rules[22]

1965 BRM entered a collaboration with Lotus to produce 1600cc racing engine[23]

1966 Would construct hydraulic excavators for Warner and Swasey of Cleveland, USA, in the Wednesbury factory[24]

1967 Cash problem faced the company due to the death of Ernest Owen who owned one-third of the shares[25]

1969 The structural fabrications department at Darlaston was closed as part of a group-wide reorganization which included central financial control[26]. Sir Alfred Owen had a stroke; his 2 sons took over the running of the business - David handled Group business; John ran Darlaston which accounted for 40 percent of the company.

1970 Rubery Owen-Rockwell would build a new factory at Wrexham to double output of axles[27]

1971 14,200 employees. After substantial reorganisation, the group's profits had improved but were still low[28]

1972 Sale of subsidiary companies as part of a plan to concentrate on manufacturing and engineering activities - those sold included Charles Clark and Son, the British Leyland distributor, and the merchanting business Rogers and Jackson[29]

By 1973 20 companies had been sold to raise cash whilst concentrating on motor components and materials handling. Darlaston was split into [30] into 2 companies: Rubery Owen Motor and Rubery Owen Contracts[31]. Acquired the 40 percent of Conveyancer not owned by Rubery Owen[32]

1974 January: Rubery Owen established a new company Rubery Owen Conveyancer[33]. The name Electro-Hydraulics seems to have been discontinued about this time.

1974 Flaskless foundry moulding machine produced up to 240 moulds an hour with cores. 'Larkinmatic-3 was a machine without a moulding box. It conformed to coventional foundry practice by pouring moulds horizontally. [34]

1974 Rubery Owen Conveyancer introduced a new computer service that could produce a plan showing the optimum use of warehouse space by calculating the number of pallets to be stacked, height and number.[35]

1974 The Commission on Industrial Relations made proposals for improving industrial relations in the company[36]

1975 Acquired Shelvoke forklift truck business[37]

1970s Motor car assemblies and components made at Darlaston

1976 The Rosafe wheel for preventing skidding after a burst tyre was specially commended by the Don Trophy scheme[38]

1976 Darlaston factory threatened with closure unless industrial relations improved[39].

1977 Coventry Climax acquired the Warrington and Kirkby parts of the forklift truck business of Rubery Owen Conveyancer[40]

1981 The main Darlaston works closed.

1981 The BRM business was auctioned[41]

1982 Kontak Manufacturing Co acquired Rubery Owen Hydraulics[42]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Mar 16, 1910
  2. London Gazette 30 December 1910
  3. The Engineer 1910/04/15
  4. The Engineer of 10th November 1911 p496
  5. The Autocar of 29th March 1919 p LXIII
  6. The Times, 2 February 1924
  7. The Times, Apr 20, 1920
  8. The Times Jan 02, 1930
  9. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p651
  10. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  11. Mosquito by C. Martin Sharp and Michael J. F. Bowyer. Published by Crecy Books in 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6
  12. The Times, Mar 14, 1946
  13. The Times, Oct 24, 1952
  14. The Times Jan 22, 1953
  15. The Times, Jan 22, 1954
  16. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  17. The Times, Oct 09, 1963
  18. 1963 Motor Show
  19. The Times, Mar 19, 1964
  20. The Times, Wednesday, May 06, 1964
  21. The Times, Dec 22, 1964
  22. The Times, Feb 16, 1965
  23. The Times Jan 16, 1965
  24. The Times, Nov 30, 1966
  25. The Times, Dec 18, 1967
  26. The Times, Jul 15, 1969
  27. The Times, Jun 15, 1970
  28. The Times, Jul 06, 1971
  29. The Times, Apr 22, 1972
  30. The Times, Monday, Aug 06, 1973
  31. The Times, Thursday, Jun 28, 1973
  32. The Times, Friday, Aug 24, 1973
  33. The Times, Thursday, Nov 08, 1973
  34. The Engineer 1974/01/17 p 20.
  35. The Engineer 1974/05/30
  36. The Times, Thursday, Jul 25, 1974
  37. The Times, Thursday, Jan 09, 1975
  38. The Times Wednesday, May 12, 1976
  39. The Times, Friday, Dec 31, 1976
  40. The Times, Saturday, Apr 09, 1977
  41. The Times, Saturday, Oct 17, 1981
  42. The Times, Jan 28, 1982
  • [1]Wikipedia
  • AA. [2] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  • Biography of Sir Alfred George Beech Owen, ODNB