by S. A. Barnett

with Frank Sharman and Reg Aston

Expansion and Diversity:  1945 to the 1960s

Following World War 2 changes in technology led to a fall off in automotive and aircraft work and there was a move towards the construction industry and its associated products, such as concrete mixers, digger buckets, stillages, etc.. 

During the late 50s and 60s the company produced, amongst a great variety of products, thousands of washing machines bowls for Hotpoint and Servis.  The factory expanded to the other side of the railway in 1948, indicating that the company’s post-war recovery had been rapid. 

In the 1953 Wolverhampton Handbook John Thompson Ltd’s premises are said to cover 80 acres.  The advert from that handbook (shown left) illustrates part of their works at Ettingshall, indicating the size the company had now reached.

The advert refers to sixteen subsidiary companies and the companies (or maybe some of them) which make up the group are then listed, along with their main products:

John Thompson (Wolverhampton) Ltd.  design, manufacture, deliver, erect on prepared foundations and commission shell boiler plant anywhere in the world.   Also superheaters, economizers, pipework. Coal and ash handling plant, chimneys, various types of mechanical stokers for burning various types of fuel, special furnaces for burning wood, combustible by-products or wastes.  And pressure vessels, galvanizing baths, annealing covers.

This 1953 photo shows a Super Economic Boiler installed in a hospital.

John Thompson Water Tube Boilers Ltd.  Natural and forced circulation water boilers.  Boilers of all types for land, marine and for utilizing waste heat. The John Thompson “Etaflo” steam generator – a boiler with a unidirectional flow, supplied for use in power stations.

John Thompson (Dudley) Ltd.  Fabrication of all classes of electrically-welded platework for industrial and chemical trades.  This company included a chemical engineering department which specialised in producing pickling plant, galvanizing plant and acid recovery plant. 

This 1953 photo shows a Distributing Belt Conveyor and Tipper. 

John Thompson Motor Pressings Ltd. 

John Thompson Beacon Windows Ltd.  Produces metal windows for domestic and industrial buildings in steel and aluminium.  The Pressed Metal Department steel door frames and partitioning and other building products.  The Flooring Department open grid steel flooring and ladders for industrial buildings.   The John Thompson Conveyor Company (not mentioned as Ltd. and apparently a part of Beacon Windows):   Mechanical handling equipment for all materials.

This 1953 photo shows a Large Power Station Boiler.

John Thompson-Kennicott Ltd.  “For over half a century” manufacturers of water treatment plant for all purposes.  This seems to be mainly for water going into boilers but includes "clarification and filtration plants for potable purposes".

Metronic Instrument Co. Ltd.  Manufacture instruments and control gear “to suit every possible industrial need”.

This 1956 photo shows "The manufacture of nuclear power plant in stainless steel for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority".

John Thompson Castings Ltd.  Foundry producing light and heavy castings for other subsidiaries and for industry generally.

John Thompson (Wilson Boilers) Ltd.  In Glasgow.  Evaporating plant, causticizers and shell boilers.

This 1959 photo shows a heat exchanger being hoisted into place at Berkeley Nuclear Power Station.

John Thompson (Triumph Stoker) Ltd.  In Leeds.  Mechanical stokers for all shell boilers and coal and ash handling pant.

Five overseas companies:

John Thompson (Australia) Ltd
John Thompson Combustion Engineering Pty. Ltd. (Australia)
John Thompson Wolverhampton (India) Ltd
John Thompson (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd.
John Thompson do Brasil Limtada.

All of them “undertake complete boiler contracts of all types”.

Advert from the 1959 handbook, again listing all the subsidiary companies but featuring an artist's impression of Berkeley Nuclear Power Station.  The list of companies shows 20 subsidiaries, including two in South Africa, two in India (in Calcutta and Bombay) and one in Canada.  It also mentions John Thompson Ordnance Co of Wolverhampton, apparently a foray into the arms industry.

In an advert of 1962 they say that they are members of the Nuclear Power Group which is constructing nuclear power stations at Berkeley, Bradwell, Dungeness and Latina (Italy).

In the 1956 Handbook the John Thompson Instrument Company seems to have taken over from Metronic.  John Thompson Industrial Constructions Ltd,  also appear as producers of equipment for refuse disposal plant.  And John Thompson (Pipework) Ltd, now appear as well, engaged in bending, forming and installing pipework for boiler plant and industry in general.  Includes stainless steel and aluminium.  They produced pipework for UKAEA nuclear reactors. 

This advert, from the 1962 Handbook, features an artist's interpretation of the works.

In the 1962 Handbook John Thompson Compost Plant Ltd. are added to the list and said to be “specially concerned with the problem of municipal waste and is installing plant in Djakarta, Indonesia.”  As they are not mentioned again it is likely this company was formed for this one contract.

This 1962 advert shows the erection of a large water tube boiler.

A trade directory of 1966 shows that the Aero/Construction department had become a separate company called John Thompson Fabrications Ltd.  Their products include Beacon industrial flooring, stair treads and handrails;  and constructional steelwork, dampers, hoppers, silos, concrete pouring skips, scoops for earth moving equipment, vessels, tanks, ducting, 

Also from 1962 is this photo showing an industrial steam raising plant.

The company also had a division at Gloucester called Thompson Trailmobile, producing semi-trailers and containers for bulk transport by road, rail and sea.

Again from 1962 but this time showing something almost completely different: "an electric cooker, one of the Thompson-Tappan range of domestic appliances by J.T. Instrument Co. Ltd.".  How extensive this range was, and what became of it, is not known.

At some point John Thompson seems to have taken over Thompson Brothers of Bilston.  They appear in the 1962 Handbook as a subsidiary of John Thompson.   Thompson Brothers (Bilston) Ltd. who also have the next, separate entry. This company seems to have been set up by brothers of one of the early Thompson in the John Thompson line, and the directors of the two companies were, during the first half the 20th century, cousins. 

A John Thompson boiler being installed at Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in 1962. Four were built on site using parts made in the Black Country and four were built by Head Wrightson, an associate company of John Thompson. Courtesy of Chris Jones.

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