Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,396 pages of information and 233,518 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of Vickers House, Broadway, Westminster, London SW
1829 George Portus Naylor started a new firm with Edward Vickers and John Hutchinson, which was called Naylor, Hutchinson, Vickers and Co; this later began making steel castings and quickly became famous for casting church bells.
Edward's investments in the railway industry allowed him to gain control of the company, based at Millsands.
1863 The company moved to a new site in Sheffield on the River Don in Brightside.
1867 The company went public with a capital of £155,000 as Vickers, Sons and Co and gradually acquired more businesses, branching out into various other sectors.
1868 Vickers began to manufacture marine shafts.
1872 Began casting marine propellers.
1882 Set up a forging press.
1888 Vickers produced their first armour plate.
1890 Produced their first artillery piece.
1897 Company name changed to Vickers, Sons and Maxim.
1901 Listed as railway point and crossing manufacturers of Don Works, Sheffield.
c.1900s Purchased the North Kent Ironworks
1901 Further diversification occurred with the purchase by Vickers, Sons and Maxim of the car building activities of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co, which was set up as the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co.
1902 Acquired 60% of William Beardmore and Co in exchange for an equivalent amount of Vickers' own capital.
1905 Engine from Davey, Paxman and Co installed for the 48in plate mill at the River Don Works
At some point Douglas Vickers invited John Henry Soar Dickenson to establish a metallurgical research department at Vickers Works, Sheffield, which, later, became the research organisation of the English Steel Corporation, Ltd.
1911 Electrical Exhibition. Six-phase rotary converter. (Vickers of River Don Works, Sheffield).
1912 Showed the new metal Duralumin at the Non-Ferrous Metals Exhibition at the Royal Agricultural Halls.
1914 Specialities; Armour Plates, Guns, Marine Shafting, Railway Material, Electrical Machinery, Ships of War and Commerce, Motor Cars.
WWI At Barrow, Vickers built battleships and submarines, merchant ships, the larger types of naval gun mountings, airships, howitzers, and projectiles of all types
1915 Vickers Ltd acquired control of T. Cooke and Sons, a scientific instrument manufacturing business.
1918 Employed 16,000 persons at the River Don works
1918 Albert Vickers retired from the post of chairman
Post WWI. Built the Aussi tractor in small numbers
1919 Entered into a partnership with Petters under which the Vickers factory at Ipswich built diesel engines under the name of the joint company Vickers-Petters. This arrangement lasted until 1926. 
1921 Made two Francis-type water turbines for Bradford Waterworks. Each developed 295 HP at 1000 rpm, 168 ft head.
1921 Acquired control of Troughton and Simms
1921 The Vickers hardness test was developed by Robert L. Smith and George E. Sandland at Vickers
1923 Vickers and the International Combustion Engineering Corporation established a new joint company Vickers and International Combustion Engineering Co to manufacture power plant equipment. Part of Vickers factory at Barrow in Furness, which had been used to make shells, would be transferred to the new company to manufacture boilers for pulverised fuel and related equipment
1924 The work of Vickers in aircraft development was largely of the commerical and service machines produced in 1923. This development work was particularly related to the Valparaiso two-seater fighting reconnaissance machine. On the commercial side, the Vulture amphibian was produced, in which Squadron-Leader MacLaren made his courageous but unfortunate attempt to fly around the world.
1924 Advert as engineers and shipbuilders with works at River Don Works at Sheffield; Dartford, Erith, Crayford and Weybridge and the Naval Construction Works at Barrow.
1924 'The hydro-electric department of Messrs. Vickers Limited have received an order for the largest single runner Francis water turbine which has been built in England. This is a 25,000 h.p. water turbine to be installed at Calumet Island, on the Ottawa River, in Canada. At the point where the power station is now under construction the river falls sixty feet, and eventually three units such as the one now order will be installed.
1924 Set up Vickers Research Building in the Palace of Engineering at the Empire Exhibition which illustrated research work conducted at various parts of the Vickers Group, including Metropolitan-Vickers Electric Co as well as Vickers' manufacturing of steel and non-ferrous alloys at Sheffield, Barrow, Erith and other works.
1927 February. Vickers sold Wolseley to William Morris for £730,000. Other bidders included General Motors and the Austin Motor Company. Morris renamed the company Wolseley Motors (1927) Ltd and consolidated its production at the sprawling Ward End Works in Birmingham.
1927 Having made considerable losses since the end of the war, Vickers merged many of its assets with those of the Tyneside-based engineering company Armstrong Whitworth, a company that had developed along similar lines by producing a suite of military products. The new company Vickers-Armstrongs would own assets from Vickers including those at Sheffield, Barrow, Eskmeals, Erith, Dartford, Swanley and Eynsford. Armstrong's contribution was to be the assets at Elswick, Openshaw and the Naval and Walker shipyards. Some subsidiaries would be retained by the parent companies and operated independently, such as Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co which would be retained by Vickers. Vickers was the major partner in the new company with two thirds of the shares; Armstrong Whitworth would receive one third of the shares.
1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history.
1927 Also see Aberconway for information on the company and its history.
1928 Due to downturn in the demand for railway wagons, the rolling stock interests of the Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co Ltd were merged with those of Cammell, Laird and Co under the name Metropolitan Cammell Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co Ltd. The amalgamated entity was owned by Vickers and Cammell, Laird and Co and became known as Metro Cammell.
1928 Merger of companies in the steel industry announced, involving parts of Vickers, Vickers-Armstrongs and Cammell, Laird and Co. This would involve all of the steel interests of the 3 contributing groups, except for interests in guns, ammunition and tanks. A new company would be created to take over these interests: the English Steel Corporation Ltd. The contribution from Vickers was Taylor Brothers and Co.
1930 The company was essentially a holding company; was the largest shareholder by far in Vickers-Armstrongs; also holding in Metro Cammell; continued to be the sole proprietor of Vickers Aviation and the Supermarine Co and various smaller companies: Ioco Rubber and Waterproofing Co, Cooke, Troughton and Simms, Boby's
WWII At the outbreak of war, Vickers employed 95,000 people.
1943 At its peak the company employed 170,000 people.
1944 At the end of the year the company employed 145,500.
By the end of 1944 the company had built 188 warships, including battleships and aircraft carriers, as well as 28,000 aircraft and repaired a further 9,000. The company also manufactured 6,200 tanks as well as many other vehicles. The company also produced major weapons, including massive bombs as well as 14,000 guns for the Navy and 150,000 guns for the other Services, and a huge amount of ammunition. It also expanded its programme for providing technical information to other companies and expanded this service to include Dominion countries. Was in the process of establishing a centralized research department for the aviation side of the business under Mr Barnes Wallis as well as equipping a centralized research department for the engineering side of the business..
1947 Making the transition to peacetime work had proved more difficult than expected, due to shortages of certain types of labour and of parts and rising costs
1949 Started making bottling machinery at Crayford.
1950 The transport activities included: shipping , aviation, railway rolling stock, and road passenger transport.
1961 Vickers Ltd was the holding company for over 50 subsidiaries including Vickers-Armstrongs (Engineers), Vickers-Armstrongs, Vickers-Armstrongs (Shipbuilders), Vickers-Armstrongs (South Marston) and Vickers-Armstrongs (Tractors) with 60,000 employees in the group.
1977 After the shipbuilding and aircraft interests were nationalised, the profit potential of the remainder of the business was seen to be substantially reduced. The remainder of the business consisted of: heavy engineering (at Scotswood); printing machinery; bearings; bottling machinery; shipbuilding, Roneo Vickers office equipment. The company acquired other interests using borrowed money in anticipation of the compensation for the nationalised assets
1979 Closure of Vickers Scotswood heavy engineering plant began and 230 of 750 workers were paid off.
1998 Sold Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to Volkswagen. The Leeds tank factory was closed and Challenger tank production concentrated at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Acquired Ulstein, a Norwegian marine engineer
By 2004 The Vickers company name was extinct
1897 Having bought the Maxim Gun Co, the name of the company was changed to Vickers, Sons and Maxim. With these acquisitions, Vickers could now produce a complete selection of products, from ships and marine fittings to armour plate and a whole suite of ordnance.
1899 See 1899 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced.
1901 The Royal Navy's first submarine, Holland 1, was launched at the Naval Construction Yard.
Negotiated a 10-year monopoly on submarines with the Crown
1902 Vickers took a half share in the famous Clyde shipyard John Brown and Co.
1911 A controlling interest was acquired in Whitehead and Co, the torpedo manufacturers.
1914 The company employed 22,000 people.
1920 Solid injection oil engines for the Narragansett. Details in The Engineer.
1920 May. Quick return broaching machine. Details and illustrations in The Engineer.
1926 July. 'The first of two large submarine boats being built by Vickers for the Australian Government has been successfully launched at Barrow. No details of the vessel have been given out, but she embodies all the latest improvements in submersible craft.'
1955 the name of the shipbuilding division changed to Vickers-Armstrongs (Shipbuilders).
1963 Appointed lead contractor to build the new Polaris submarines, Vickers would build two and Cammell Laird the other two
1968 The name changed again to Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group.
1977 The Barrow yard passed into the hands of the nationalised British Shipbuilders, was privatised as Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) in 1986 and remains in operation to this day as BAE Systems Submarines.
Vickers manufactured and sold the Maxim machine gun, in partnership with its inventor.
1897 Vickers bought the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co for £1.3 million, and in the same year acquired the Naval Construction and Armaments Co for the bargain price of £425,000. The company became Vickers, Sons and Maxim. They adapted the design of the Maxim gun as the Vickers machine gun, which was the last major design Hiram Maxim himself worked on. It became the standard machine gun of the British Empire and Commonwealth, serving for some 50 years in the British Army. It was also re-worked in literally dozens of different cartridge sizes and sold all over the world, and was scaled up to larger calibres, particularly for the Royal Navy as a 0.5 inch model).
Vickers was involved in the production of numerous firearms. John Pedersen's design for a semi-automatic rifle was trialled by the British between WW1 and WW2. The British version of the rifle was made by Vickers, and as result this version of the Pedersen rifle is usually called the Vickers Rifle.
1924 Captain V.V. Dibovsky was awarded £5000 by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors for the synchronising gears for Vickers Maxim guns
Post-WWI: Vickers Ltd was awarded £61,000 by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors for improvements in breech mechanisms for guns
In the interwar period Vickers also worked on several tanks designs. Medium Mark I and Mark II were adopted by the British Army. The Vickers 6-Ton tank was the most successful; being exported or built by other nations under licence. The Vickers A1E1 Independent tank design was never put into production but credited with influencing other nations.
During the Second World War Vickers built large guns and tanks; the Valentine tank was a design that they had developed privately that was taken up.
Also see Vickers Defence Systems
1909 Vickers began work on a rigid airship, Mayfly, for the Admiralty in mid-1909 in Cavendish Dock, Cumbria. They tried to negotiate a 10-year monopoly on airship construction (as they had done with submarines) but this was not accepted. The contract price for the airship was £28,000 (without goldbeater's skin gas-bags and varnished skin outer cover for which the Admiralty would be required to provide contractors).
Sadly the airship disintegrated upon its second trip out of the floating hangar on the evening of 23 September 1911. Further designs and difficulties followed although non-rigid machines including "Sea Scouts" (popularly called blimps) proved generally less troublesome than the larger rigid examples. Some models featured floating cars slung beneath them. Much experience in mooring techniques and swivelling motors was gathered despite the pressures of wartime.
1911 Vickers formed Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) in 1911 and produced one of the first aircraft designed to carry a machine gun, the FB5 (fighting biplane) Gun Bus.
1912. The company entered the Vickers No. 6 monoplane in the Larkhill Trials.
During World War I Vickers produced the Vimy heavy bomber.
Soon after the War, Vickers produced the Valentia and Viking flying boats (in conjunction with S. E. Saunders).
1919 A converted Vimy became the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. The Vimy was later developed into the Virginia, a mainstay in the RAF during the interwar years. Vickers was a pioneer in producing airliners, early examples being converted from Vimy bombers.
1920 See article of the Aircraft works at Weybridge in 'The Engineer'.
The last airship built at the Walney Island hangar was a small non-rigid reconnaissance machine for the Japanese government that first flew on 27 April 1921.
1923 A subsidiary called the Airship Guarantee Company Limited was formed under Sir Dennis Burney from 29 November 1923 (lasting until 30 November 1935) specifically to participate in the building of a massive six-engined commercial airship, the R100 in competition with the ill-fated R101. Their buildings were at Howden in Yorkshire. The R100 flew initially on 16 December 1929 and achieved some trans-Atlantic flights before scrapping in November 1931 by Elton, Levy and Company.
1923 Commenced coachbuilding for the automotive trade and planned a workshop to produce 400 bodies per week - not realised.
1927 The Vickers aircraft building activity was retained by Vickers when the other armaments activities were merged into Vickers-Armstrongs.
1928 The Aviation Department of Vickers became Vickers (Aviation) Ltd and soon after acquired Supermarine Aviation Works, which became the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd. in order to extend Vickers Aviation activities to include flying boats.
1937 Aircraft constructors. "Vernon" Aircraft. "Wellesley" and "Wellington" Aircraft.
November 1968 The Vickers Group acquired Slingsby Aircraft Ltd.
1979 Vickers acquired Bristol Aerojet.
1915 Vickers Ltd acquired control of T. Cooke and Sons, a scientific instrument manufacturing business. They had long had an interest in the military side of Cooke products such as rangefinders, gunsights and surveying equipment, adapted to military needs.
1922 Cooke’s continued to expand in York and amalgamated with the long established instrument-making firm of Troughton and Simms of London (1824-1922).
1924 The new firm became Cooke, Troughton and Simms and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Vickers.
1939 Another factory was built on a larger site in Haxby Road and during the Second World War, of the 3,300 people employed by the firm, 1,400 were women.
Post-WWII. After the war, microscopes, survey equipment and engineers' measuring instruments became the main products.
1963 Following the acquisition of the C. Baker Ltd microscope factory, the new company of Vickers Instruments was formed. This continued as a profitable business for many years, mainly selling microscopes, surveying instruments and micro measurement apparatus.
1980s The firm’s traditional skills in optics and mechanics were enhanced by electronic and software expertise and Quaestor, a new instrument for handling microchips, was produced as well as other high precision measuring apparatus and on the defence side, laser range finders for Vickers’ tanks.