Aircraft Components

H. M. Hobson Limited, Accuracy Works Limited,
Lucas Aerospace

Hobsons was founded in 1903 as H M Hobson Ltd., by Hamilton McArthur Hobson, George Cheeseman and Edward A. H. de Poorter. It was originally an agency for selling bicycles. It was a London based firm with registered offices at 36 Basinghall Street, EC, works at Pelham Road, Wimbledon and, later, premises in Vauxhall Bridge Road.

H. M. Hobson.

Mr. de Poorter, who seems to have been a Belgian, lead them into the motor trade. At that time the interest in and development of motor transport was much greater on the continent than it was here. Hobsons took up agencies for Mathieu and Dasse cars of Belgium.

They did not sell many and Hobsons swapped to Decauville. They imported chassis and fitted bodies to them. Hobsons found they sold well but Decauville gave up making them in 1909.

Hobsons then got the agency for Delahaye cars. Hobsons imported the cars but altered them considerably for the UK market. They also sold well.

In 1907 Hobson's exhibited the Nagant-Hobson car at the Olympia Show. Whether this was their own design or another agency deal is not clear. But these cars also seem to have sold quite well.

Through de Poorter they obtained an agency for Pognon spark plugs. These seem to have been recognised as clearly the best on the market and were much pirated. They were therefore re-named Pognon Hobson. Hobsons seem to have started with an exclusive agency for the UK but later they got worldwide distribution rights and annual sales started to amount to more than 120,000. Hobsons also distributed Jenatzy Tyres and the Hobson "La Perfecta" non-skid device.

In 1908, on a visit to France in connection with the Pognon plugs, the directors met Claudel, a French engineer who was making a car with his own design of carburettor. The carburettor seems to have been demonstrably superior to existing types.

Hobsons got Claudel over to England and negotiated an agency and manufacturing deal for his carbs. At first Hobsons main business was fitting these carburettors to existing cars, replacing inferior originals.

Later they sold them to Sunbeam, Vauxhall and other car manufacturers.

A collection of old Hobsons carburettors.

The directors had a personal interest in flying and in 1909 Hobsons advertised that they could supply Sommer's Aeroplane, for which they had, presumably, yet another agency deal. In 1910 two of the directors fitted a Claudel carburettor to a Wright biplane which they owned between them. They cast it in aluminium, not the usual bronze or gunmetal, in order to save weight but did not otherwise adapt it. This was their first venture into aircraft carburettors.

So Hobsons started with a group of business men who had a good eye for a good product and great skill at negotiating business deals. The company was principally a sales organisation with a service department and a willingness to try anything which might turn a profit. Their first big success was the Claudel carburettors. These they imported from Claudel in France but soon they were selling so many that Hobsons started making them in this country. Such was the state of the art at the time that the work was given to a firm of instrument makers.

An old, heavily re-touched photo of the original Accuracy Works. In 1909 the French designer Louis Coatalen joined Sunbeam in Wolverhampton. One of the first things he did was to design a new engine which used the French Claudel carb.

 The quantities Sunbeam needed could not be supplied by Hobsons. But, Hobson's company history relates, "the Sunbeam company knew of a small factory in Cousins Street which seemed suitable".

So a meeting was convened of Sunbeam directors (Cureton, Coatalen, Iliff) and Hobsons (Hobson, Searight, Cheeseman, de Poorter) "and a decision made to take over the Cousins Street premises and form a small company, which was eventually registered as Accuracy Works Ltd on May 9th 1911". 

It is not clear what part Sunbeam played in the Accuracy company: they may have helped to finance it or they may simply have given guarantees of orders.

The original Accuracy Works as they are in 2003.

The interior of the old Accuracy Works, a forest of drive belts.
In 1912 James Montgomerie was appointed General Manager of Accuracy Works and was there for nearly forty years. The continuing success of the works is largely attributed to him. His background is not known but he seems to have been a rough diamond in the Edward Lisle mould.

Bill Bradley, the works foreman, said of him: "Mr. Montgomerie and me was the best of friends. I had the sack six times a week! I once had the sack for a fortnight - but he paid me for it".

At the outbreak of War in 1914 most of Accuracy staff were sacked on the grounds that there would be no work for them during the short duration of the war.

Hobsons then found there was a profit to be made from a lengthy war, especially one in which the forces were beginning to rely heavily on mechanised transport. They expanded greatly, with Accuracy working round the clock. 

Hobsons did their own development work on the Claudel carburrettors which were used in Sunbeam-Coatalen aero engines, all the Liberty engines from USA, and the Rolls Royce Eagle Falcon and Hawk engines.

A detail of the original Accuracy Works.  Its original builder and use are not known but it was far from the basic factory design of its time.

After the war the company continued its carburettor production, and developed the Automatic Boost Control with Bristol Aero Engines. This was fitted to the Bristol Pegasus engine, and led to the development of the Hobson-Penn Automatic Mixture Control. From this start Hobsons finally developed the sophisticated Master Control Injection Carburettor.

But they were still looking for new products and new opportunities. In 1919 they introduced the Hobson-Perfect Window Regulator, which was the first wind up system for windows in cars, buses, coaches and railway carriages etc. This seems to have been invented by Hobsons themselves and was a market leader for decades. But it does not seem to have been made in Wolverhampton.

In 1922 they acquired the right to make an American petrol gauge. It was sold as the Hobson-K.S. Telegage. They developed this and adapted it to gauges for oil pressure, water temperature, and battery water level and made it in hydrostatic and electrical form. These gauges were widely used throughout the British car industry and were later adapted for use in other industries, such as the brewing, dairy and petroleum industries, to become a major company product.

Sometime post war Hobsons decided to stop relying on the erratic M. Claudel for design and development and engaged as consultant, and then employed, Captain E. Dodson, who was there until his died in 1947. He seems to have been responsible for most of the new ideas, innovations and designs. These included the Hobson Master Control System which incorporated intricate controls in the carburettor as one unit for maintaining engine boost (induction) pressure and mixture strength at any pre-determined requirement . "The first fully automatic carburettor was fitted to an Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah engine in the mid 1930s and so efficiently did it operate that it was not long before the Accuracy Works were making large numbers in various types suitable for Armstrong-Siddeley Motors, the Bristol Aeroplane Company and later de Havilland".

In the post-war years Hobsons were associated with many car and plane speed and endurance records and racing successes. In 1919 Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy was powered by two RR Eagle engines with Hobson carburettors.

In 1927 Hobson moved all of their London operations to Acton Vale. At that time they listed their products as: Claudel-Hobson Carburettors, Hobson-Perfect Window Regulators, Hobson-KS Telegages, Belflex-Hobson Fabric Spring Shackles and Engine Mountings, Hobson Sparking Plugs.

In 1935 what had been a private company was turned into a public company called H. M. Hobson (Aircraft and Motor) Components Ltd. In effect this was a holding company which owned:

H. M. Hobson Ltd.: basically the selling organisation for the other two companies and makers of Hobson-K.S. Telegages and Hobson park plugs

Floats Ltd.: who made the window regulators

Accuracy Works Ltd.: which made "the Hobson-Penn automatic mixture control, Hobson induction pressure (boost) control, Hobson-Swan ice eliminator, Hobson automatic ignition control, and the Hobson fuel pump and control diaphragm" and everything made under the "exclusive licences of the foreign patents right for Claudel-Hobson carburettors and controls".

The factory expanded back from Cousins Street to what is now the Birmingham New Road which this large building (date unknown) fronted on to. 

Its last use was by Yarnolds (curtain makers) who moved out of all but a small part at the rear several years ago.

This view was taken from the top of the eastern end of the original Accuracy Works, looking towards the Birmingham New Road. 

It gives some impression of the size the factory eventually became.  But it also shows that the buildings suffered the usual fate of abandoned buildings and fell prey to vandals, undesirables and the like.

This photo, taken from the Birmingham New Road and looking down one side of the Accuracy Works site towards Cousins Street, again gives an idea of the eventual size of the works. 

It also shows that, as with most factories of this size, the development tended to be piecemeal, with new buildings being erected as need arose.

The company also owned the Integral works in Wolverhampton.

When the Second World War broke out Hobsons, who anticipated that London would be bombed, moved all of their works out of London to Bridgwater and Coventry and Oldham. Their premises in Coventry were then bombed out and all the work from there was transferred to Wolverhampton.  

Their products were in enormous demand for the war effort. Most British aircraft had Hobson equipment. The Accuracy works were working flat out, as were several shadow factories (other companies' factories which were turned over to war work and authorised by the government to make other people's products). The company history also refers to "the relatively new Hobson factory adjoining the Stafford Road at Fordhouses" as engaging in war work. Presumably they had acquired their Stafford Road site sometime in the mid 1930s. The old Accuracy works had been expanded far beyond the original premises in Cousins Street as far as what became the Birmingham New Road. But when Hobsons left those premises is not known.

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