Background

It all started when Absolom Harper and his two sons founded A. Harper & Sons, ironfounders, at Waddams Pool Works in Hall Street, Dudley. Absolom’s daughter Mary married George Bean, a bank clerk who grew-up in Stamford, Lincolnshire, where he was born in 1855. He met Mary while working for a bank in Dudley, and soon became financial manager of Allen, Everitt & Sons of Smethwick. After their marriage George left his job and joined the family business. In 1901 he became the principal shareholder. The name was changed to A. Harper, Sons & Bean in 1907 when George became chairman.

The business greatly prospered during the First World War thanks to a plentiful supply of ministry contracts for munitions. The factory buildings were extended in order to increase the production of shrapnel and shell cases. After the war George Bean received a knighthood for his services to the war effort, and his only son John, known as Jack, who also worked in the business, was made a CBE.

The Bean Car

At the end of hostilities the lucrative munitions orders ceased and something had to be quickly found to replace them, so that the business could survive. At the time motor cars were becoming increasingly popular, and so the decision was taken for the company to become a car manufacturer. At this time the jigs, patterns, tools, and manufacturing rights for the Perry car were up for sale and so A. Harper, Sons & Bean purchased them in January 1919 for £15,000 as a way of quickly getting into the industry by buying a tried and tested design.

The company’s first car, the Bean 11.9, a slightly updated Perry design, was launched at the 1919 Motor Show. Harry Radford was employed as Chief Designer to oversee the initial modifications that were made to the Perry design, and Tom Conroy, an American production engineer took charge of the Tipton factory. Production began in earnest in January 1920 and soon 80 chassis were completed each week, at a newly built factory in Tipton, using the latest machinery and twin moving track assembly lines. The complete car chassis were driven to the Waddams Pool Works in Dudley for the bodies to be fitted.

Unfortunately sales were not good, because the vehicles were sold at a higher price than the competition. Although prices were slashed, the recession in the car industry in 1920 rapidly led to spiralling debts. A receiver was appointed, and production ended at Tipton in October 1920. In November Jack Bean resigned from the company.


The 20/25 cwt. lorry from 1926, that's in the collection at the Black Country Living Museum.

Rejuvenation

During November 1921 a huge investment of capital by Sir George Bean, Barclays Bank, The National Provincial Bank, and Hadfields enabled them to buy a 55% controlling interest from Harper Bean and repay the creditors. This allowed A. Harper, Sons & Bean to manage their own affairs again, but would have serious financial implications five years later.

Car production started again in 1922, and slowly increased to 100 cars a week by August. October 1923 saw the launch of a new car, the much larger Bean 14, powered by a 13.9 hp. engine, and fitted with a 4-speed gearbox. The engine and gearbox would prove to be ideal for the company's first commercial vehicles.

The Type 'W' 30 cwt. lorry from 1930, that belongs to Daniel Batham and Son Limited. As seen at the Black Country Living Museum in 2010.
Commercial Vehicles

In November 1924 the company launched the first Bean commercial vehicle, a 25 cwt. chassis based on the 13.9 hp. engine and gearbox. The vehicles mainly appeared as lorries, but vans, ambulances, coaches and light buses were also made.

The engine and gearbox were mounted on a separate chassis, and initially, the vehicle only had rear wheel brakes. The 20/25 cwt. chassis sold for £265. From 1926 front wheel brakes were available for an extra £20.

Unfortunately the company suffered from an acute shortage of cash, with debts totalling £1.8 million, mainly due to the restructuring in November 1921. As a result Hadfields, the Sheffield steel producer, rescued the company and renamed it Bean Cars Limited, in June 1926.

In June 1927 the chassis was replaced by a 30 cwt. model designed by Hugh Kerr Thomas. It had a 2.3 litre Ricardo high turbulence cylinder head engine, and sold for £325. By this time the commercial chassis accounted for about 60% of the total production at Tipton.

The 30 cwt. chassis continued in production until 1929 when it was replaced by the 'Empire' model, powered by a 3.6 litre Ricardo high turbulence cylinder head engine.

It only remained in production for about 18 months, when it was replaced by an updated version of the original 20/25 cwt. chassis, powered by a 2.3 litre Hadfield engine.

The new chassis was only manufactured for just over three months, because Bean Cars Limited went into receivership on the 19th June, 1931, when vehicle production ended. The cars had not been selling well, and soon gained a bad reputation as a result of many problems with the company's latest model, the 14/45.


Another view of Batham's Bean lorry.


The Tipton factory in 1925.


An advert from The Times Trade & Engineering Supplement, 25th May, 1929.

Later Years

A new chapter started in November 1933 when Hadfields re-launched the business as Beans Industries. The new company would produce castings for the motor industry, and soon became profitable again. In 1937 Beans Industries became a public company.

During World War 2 the company produced lorry engines and parts for army trucks. In 1956 the company was taken over by Standard-Triumph to produce castings for their vehicles, and in 1960 became part of British Leyland, producing castings for their lorries and coaches. In 1975 it became known as Beans Engineering.

In 1988 when the Leyland group was privatised and broken-up by the Conservative Government, Beans Engineering was acquired by its management team, and after the buyout it acquired Reliant. Things went on much as before until Reliant failed in 1995 and took Beans into receivership.

The Tipton factory was purchased by the German engineering group Eisenwerk Bruhl who made a large investment at the works, where 40,000 tons of cylinder blocks could be produced each year. The business became known as Bruhl UK but suffered from financial problems because the large investment had left the company in debt. For a second time the management team purchased the business which then became Ferrotech. The factory had one of the most modern and efficient foundries in Europe and became a large supplier of castings to Rover. Unfortunately Rover went into administration in 2005, and Ferrotech failed to find a replacement customer. As a result the story ends in August 2005 when Ferrotech closed its doors for the last time.


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