The Turner Manufacturing Company originated as an engineering business around the middle of the 19th century. Amongst their early products were velocipedes, bicycles, tricycles and cars. The early business had various premises including works in Brickkiln Street, Walsall Street and later Lever Street. It was known as Thomas Turner & Company.

Around 1902 the company’s owner, James Burns Dumbell, a very astute business man, decided that the way forward lay in the production of motor cars, and so the manufacturing rights of a well established vehicle, the Belgian Miesse steam car were obtained. It is believed that Turners, at least for a time, purchased running chassis from the Brussels based company of J. Miesse and simply added their own bodywork.


  The Turner-Miesse steam car at the Black Country
  Living Museum, Dudley.
In 1906 the firm became a private limited company under the name of the Turner Motor Manufacturing Company Limited with Mr. Dumbell as Managing Director. Around the same time they began to manufacture their first petrol engined cars under the name of Seymour-Turner.

 

Read about
Turner cars

Car manufacture continued until the beginning of the First World War when Turner’s manufacturing came under the control of the Ministry of Munitions who gave them a contract to produce machine tools. As a result the company developed one of the earliest motorised capstan machines, at a time when most pieces of machinery were still belt-driven from overhead line shafting. The machine was extremely advanced and it continued in production until the Second World War when the Ministry of Defence directed Turners to sub-contract production to Jowett of Idle, Bradford.

Other machines were also developed including a self-contained motorised tool-cutter, and a gauge grinding machine, both of advanced design. Production again continued until the Second World War, when the Ministry of Defence transferred the work to the Turner Tanning Machine Company of Leeds.

After the First World War, car manufacture restarted with an unsuccessful and short-lived joint venture with Varley Woods, but Turner cars did not reappear until 1923. In the early 1930s Turners produced a small booklet which included the details of the company's early history and described its various departments at Wulfruna Works, Lever Street.

The Capstan Department had an excellent range of over 30 capstan and turret lathes from ⅛ inch to 4 inch capacity. The machines included No. 4, No. 9, and No. 15 Herbert capstans and several machines of the company's own manufacture.


The Capstan Bay.


The Automatic Bay.

The Automatic Department had a variety of 4 spindle and single spindle machines that were used for quick repetition work.

Parts could be machined up to 1⅝ inch diameter.

The Hardening Department had an up-to-date system using the Muffle furnace and the salt bath method. Salt bath furnaces were installed in the machine lines to facilitate rapid production. All furnaces were scientifically controlled.


A corner of the Hardening Shop.


A few machines in the Gear Cutting Department.

The Gear Cutting Department had a variety of machine tools including Fellowes gear shapers, Barber Colman spline millers, broaching machines, gear hobbing machines, and tooth rounders. Efficient testing apparatus was also installed.
The General Machine Shop had many special machines and a large variety of machine tools. There were lathes, milling machines, planing machines, boring machines, and drilling machines. Grinding could be accommodated up to 14 inch diameter by 96 inches long.

The Inspection Department carried out careful inspection of all the material that entered the works, using the most up-to-date equipment. All machined parts were inspected both during and after manufacture.

The Drawing Office facilities were available to customers for the development of their requirements. In the Fitting Shops complete production of a component was preferred wherever possible. Ample space for the purpose was available in the Assembly Shop.

The booklet ends with the company's motto:  "The accurate product at the right price".

During the inter-war years Turners foresaw the slump that took place in the machine tool industry and turned their attention to components for heavy road vehicles. Many valuable contracts were obtained for rear axles, steering boxes, and gearboxes. Other products included air springing for cars, outboard motors, printing machinery, baking machinery, universal joints, and patented tie rods.

By 1926, Wolverhampton heavy vehicle manufacturer Guy Motors had developed a rigid six-wheeled military truck with drive on both rear axles.

This proved to be an excellent cross-country vehicle for use as an artillery tractor, mobile workshop, or searchlight generator lorry. Turners were invited to develop a powered winch for the vehicle, to haul it out of difficult terrain or recover field guns etc. The winch was a great success and became standard equipment for the Guy military trucks, which were produced in large numbers.

In fact Turners became the leading UK vehicle winch manufacturer, producing models for all of the leading vehicle manufacturers and were responsible for the complete range of powered winches used by the British Army.


A Guy six-wheeler in operation.

In 1928 Turners ceased to produce cars and extended their product range to include components for the aircraft industry. They began to do research work for the Ministry of Defence, and in 1934 the Managing Director at the time, Mr. P.B. Dumbell acquired a licence to manufacture Oleo pneumatic aircraft landing gear. In 1937 the company's engineers began to produce their own designs for pneumatic and hydraulic undercarriages, and at the onset of World War 2 Turners became one of the three companies approved to design aircraft undercarriages. As a result their undercarriages were used on Spitfires, Avro Ansen Trainers, and Stirling, Blenheim, and Lancaster bombers. Tail wheel units were also produced for the Blenheim, and Lancaster bombers.


Moorfield Road Works.

By the mid 1930s the company had outgrown the Lever Street works and in 1936 part of the old Sunbeam works at Moorfield Road were acquired for expansion.

The works has since been substantially modernised and a two-storey car park was built on top of the machine shops.

Large numbers of aircraft undercarriages were produced between 1939 and 1945, but as ever the company kept ahead of the game. Turners realised that after the war there would be little demand for such products and so diesel engines were developed for automotive and marine applications.

In the late 1940s Turners began to manufacture an agricultural tractor, called ‘The Yeoman of England’, built around one of their four cylinder diesel engines. The company also formed Light Delivery Vehicles Limited who operated from the Lever Street works and produced light delivery vehicles such as the By-Van and the Tri-Van.

  Read about the light delivery vehicles and the tractor


A 'Yeoman of England' agricultural tractor.

       


The new factory at Fordhouses.

In 1951 the company acquired a factory on the Stafford Road at Fordhouses, which was expanded and developed to undertake heat-treatment, grinding and assembly work.
In 1961 the neighbouring premises owned by Spring Washers Limited was acquired and the buildings were updated and turned into one of the most modern heat treatment centres in the country. The entire site now covered 15 acres.

The diesel engines continued to sell well and in 1954 at the time of the Korean War, the company received a contract from the Air Ministry to produce parts for the Rolls Royce Dart engine, and parts for Westland helicopters, including rotor heads, tail rotors, and undercarriages. Although the orders for Rolls Royce engine parts soon came to an end, Turners continued to supply Westland for many years.

In 1957 the company branched out into the hydraulics and pneumatics field with the formation of Hydraulics & Pneumatics Limited.

The new company manufactured all kinds of hydraulic equipment including cargo control and handling equipment for many of the world’s super tankers.

 

Read about Hydraulics
& Pneumatics Limited

 One of the super tankers fitted with Hydraulics
 & Pneumatics
equipment.
Turner’s management began to think about the large-scale production of gearboxes and so in 1960 the company acquired gearbox manufacturing rights from the Clark Equipment Company of America. The Clark design was initially used in all Turner gearboxes until the company had designed and developed its own range.


A Baelz triple 25 gallon cabinet.

Expansion continued in 1966 when Turners took over Baelz Equipment of Wolverhampton. The company manufactured oil storage and dispensing equipment, and lubricating equipment.

Read about Baelz Equipment
A view of Turner's machine shop showing a battery of vertical automatics in operation.
Another view of the machine shop showing some
of the copy lathes.
A view of part of the heat treatment plant.

In June 1968 the Turner Manufacturing Company Limited became a public company. At the time there were 1,700 employees. The directors were:

P. B. Dumbell   Chairman.
R. B. Dumbell   Managing Director.
C. F. Dumbell   Financial Director.
B. F. Brown.   Commercial Director.
W. E. Gibbs   Production Director.
W. M. M. Morrison   Technical Director.
M. C. Stoddart.    


Mr. Philip Dumbell, Company Chairman.

Philip Dumbell married Marjorie Sharpe, and they lived at The Gables in Tettenhall. Marjorie died in 1970, and two years later Philip married his secretary, Elizabeth Turton. Sadly the marriage was short-lived. Philip died in 1977.

During the company’s first year as a public company, sales amounted to £6,829,000 and the profit after tax was £784,743. Around 1967 Turners purchased Earby Light Engineers Limited, a sub-contractor who produced precision components for the aircraft engine and airframe industries, and specialised in high precision work including spark erosion and electro-chemical machining. The company continued to expand and a new factory was purchased at Racecourse Road in 1970.

View some of Turner's Products

In 1972 the Dana Corporation of Toledo, America acquired a 35% holding in Turners and later took the company over. Turners suffered greatly during the recession of the 1980s with many job losses, and the loss of the subsidiary companies. The Moorfield Road works closed in 1988, leaving only one surviving factory, at Racecourse Road.


I would like to thank Derek Beddows for his help in producing this section.


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