Easiclene

Easiclene was founded at Wembley, London, in 1935 under the name Easiclene Porcelain-Enamel Limited. Three years later it went into liquidation and was purchased by Rubery Owen, and re-registered as Easiclene Porcelain-Enamel (1938) Limited.

The original factory closed in July 1947, and production moved to Darlaston. The head office was in Lord Street, Wolverhampton. Easiclene products were manufactured in part of the Vitreous Enamelling Department.

Easiclene specialised in the manufacture of domestic equipment, built to high standards. Products included  kitchen sink units, kitchen cabinets, wash basins, enamelled table covers, lavatory flushing cisterns, draining boards, washing machines, and refrigerators.


An Easiclene sink unit.


An Easiclene sink unit and cupboards.

The company continuously carried out extensive research into the design, manufacture, and general application of its products in the modern home, which successfully combined labour saving features with an attractive appearance.

The products were made available to housing authorities, architects and builders, and to the general public through leading builders' merchants, and stores, throughout the country.

The well known 'Princess' range of sink units and cabinets also included draining boards, lavatory wash basins, and flushing cisterns, finished in pastel colours of vitreous enamel to withstand hard wear and rust. The 'Duchess' range of sink units and washbasins were also manufactured in various sizes, in mirror finish stainless steel.


Spraying a coat of gloss enamel on sink units, prior to fusing in a vitreous enamelling furnace.


Loading the furnace.


Part of the vitreous enamel plant.


The fusing plant in the Vitreous Enamelling Department.

During the Second World War, the company manufactured refrigeration cabinets, Soyer stoves, and field kitchens to Admiralty and Ministry of Supply specifications. The products were extremely successful. During the war there was a fivefold increase in production.

The Easiclene display lorry. From the autumn 1954 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".


From the Christmas 1948 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

Two adverts from the mid 1950s. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.


From Ideal Home magazine, May 1957.


An advert from 1963.

At the time of the Munich crisis, it seemed that war was inevitable, and Mr. A. G. B. Owen realised that factories would be potential targets for the enemy.

In such circumstances, efficient fire fighting would be essential to minimise damage, and so he formed the Rubery Owen Works Fire Brigade.

The original brigade had a complement of fourteen men, with Mr. H. C. Harris (known as Skipper) in command.

He had previously gained considerable fire-fighting experience in the Merchant Navy, and so was ideal as the brigade’s first Chief Officer.

With the continued threat to the factory in the early war years, from the German bombing campaign, and the liberal use of incendiaries, the brigade grew to one hundred and twenty part-time members, and the appointment of Mr. E. Hoggart, previously from the Nelson Borough Fire Brigade, as full-time Second Officer.


An advert from the mid 1950s. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.


The fire brigade and some of their trophies. From the staff magazine, Christmas 1947.

The works fire team who took part in the annual competition at Brymbo Limited, North Wales, which took place on 10th September, 1949.

They won two out of the four events, the hydrant drill, and the light pump drill. They also won the Aggregate Trophy for the highest number of points.

From the autumn 1949 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".


The fire brigade competition team in action. From the staff magazine, Christmas 1947.

A new brigade headquarters was built in a central position, alongside the canal, offering a more than adequate supply of water. It was fitted with up-to-date equipment, and accommodation for a shift of fifteen men, who would be on duty during the long wartime nights.

Thanks to the high standard of training, the brigade had many successes in competitions organised for industrial fire brigades, and acquired a large collection of cups and trophies.

One of their spectacular successes occurred in 1944 when they won the prestigious light trailer pump competition at the Regional Headquarters of the London Fire Brigade, at Albert Embankment, London.

Another important team was set up around the same time. In October 1938 discussions began on the formation of the Works Ambulance Division, which also played an important role during the war.

The team were selected from volunteers who were trained in the necessary first aid skills. Throughout the war, some members also undertook ARP duties at the works and for local authorities. Unfortunately the first Ambulance Officer, Mr. Farmer who was the late night superintendent, passed away in 1941 after a long illness. Five team members entered various ARP competitions and gained several awards. They were J. Perry and H. Martin from the General Office, J. Turner and P. Marsden from the Motor Frames Tool Room, and C. Newey.

After the war, the Division was reorganised so that first aid equipment was available in all departments, and in the offices, in case of major accidents. Volunteers were asked to join a scheme which ensured that each department had at least one ambulance man. Division meetings were held at the First Aid Headquarters on Thursday evenings between 5pm and 6pm.


The Rubery Owen Home Guard Brass Band, in 1940 or 1941.

Back row left to right: Jim Badderley, Joe Ratcliffe,?,Jack Jenkins, Frank Jellyman,?,?,?
Middle row left to right: ?, Mansell,?,?, Les Emery, Phil Wright,?
Front row left to right: ?,?,?, Harry Lowe, Mr. Page, ?,?, Harry Wright
Seated on the ground: Michael ?,?


The Ambulance Division. From the spring 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

During World War II the company turned out all kinds of products to assist in the war effort, including wing flaps, ailerons and tail units for Lancaster bombers, parts for the De Havilland Mosquito, aircraft propeller hubs, aircraft wings, lifeboats, sea mines, bombs, armoured car bodies, Bofors guns and howitzers, Bailey bridges, 'jerricans', and even large quantities of steel helmets.

In January 1943, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester paid a visit to the Darlaston factory, as did Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production, in February, 1944.

In order to fulfil orders for the Admiralty, the Warrington company's engineering department was turned into a separate company. By the end of the war the firm employed around 16,000 people and the future for peacetime products looked extremely bright.

In 1946 the product range included components for horse-drawn vehicles, dry element air cleaners, metal pressings, fasteners, motor vehicle components, and structural steel components for the building industry.

In the same year, Rubery Owen Messier Limited, which designed and manufactured hydraulic and electro-hydraulic equipment for aircraft and industrial applications, were producing the Conveyancer forklift truck, claimed to be the first forklift truck made in the UK.


Ernest W. B. Owen and Patricia O'Reilly of Belfast were married on 26th February, 1947 at the Parish Church, Sutton Coldfield. From the spring 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

Sir Alfred George Beech Owen

Alfred George Beech Owen (1909–1975) was the son of Alfred Ernest Owen from Wrexham. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and after the death of his father in 1929 he became joint managing director of Rubery Owen with his brother Ernest William Beech Owen.

He was a lay preacher for much of his life, and proprietor of the BRM motor racing team from the early 1950s to 1974, and in 1963 received the Ferodo trophy as the man who had done the most for British car racing.

He served on Darlaston Urban District Council from 1934 until 1966 when it was absorbed into Walsall County Borough, becoming Chairman from 1942 until 1946, and again from 1952 until 1954. After the merger he continued to represent Bentley ward until 1972, and was also a councillor in the Borough of Sutton Coldfield from 1937 until 1974, becoming Mayor in 1951.

He was an independent member of the Staffordshire County Council from 1949 until 1966, serving as Chairman from 1955 until 1962.


From the Christmas 1948 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".


From the autumn 1951 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

Sir Alfred had been made an O.B.E. in 1946, and a C.B.E. in 1954. He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 1961 for services to local government.

After retiring as chief executive of all the companies in the organisation, he remained Chairman of Rubery Owen Holdings Limited until his death on 29th October, 1975.

He served Keele University from 1957, first as Chairman of the Council, then as Vice President of the University College of North Staffordshire. When it received a full Charter he became Pro-Chancellor, and was made an Honorary D.Sc. in 1965.

He also served on the Council of Birmingham University, and on a number of national committees including Dr Barnardo's, the Boys Brigade, and the Youth for Christ Movement. He was also closely associated with the Billy Graham Crusades, and served as Vice Chairman of the National Savings Movement, and Chairman of the National Road Safety Council.

Six years after the death of his mother in 1958, he took up residence in the family's home, New Hall Manor estate in Sutton Coldfield, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In 1970 he was made Freeman of the Borough of Sutton Coldfield, the last person to hold the office.

Convalescent Home

A large number of Rubery Owen employees had participated in the Second World War. When peace returned, consideration was given to the erection of a memorial tablet, or a cenotaph, to commemorate those who had lost their lives. It was thought that a better way of recognising their important sacrifice was to open a staff convalescent home in their honour.

At the beginning of 1946 the search for a suitable property began, and soon ended with the discovery and purchase of 'Cadogen'.


The Owen Group Convalescent Home 'Cadogan' at Dyffryn, North Wales. From the spring 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".
The house was ideally suited for the purpose in hand, standing on the Welsh coast about halfway between Harlech and Barmouth, overlooking Cardigan Bay. The nearby railway station made travel easy, and the location, below the Welsh mountains to the east, had a mild climate. The beach, with several miles of good sand, only a few minutes' walk away, was ideal for visitors. There were wonderful views across the bay, and to the mountains, and a reliable bus service from the nearby village of Dyffryn to Harlech and Barmouth.

A view of 'Cadogan' from 1960 showing the new extension. From Histories of Famous Firms -  Midlands Survey part one, 1960.
The house had ten bedrooms on the two upper floors, each with two or three single beds, wardrobes, chairs and a rug for each person.

There were two separate bathrooms, one for men and one for women, dining rooms, games rooms with a billiards table, dart boards, and facilities for playing draughts or dominoes. The lounge had a piano, a radiogram, books and periodicals so that visitors could feel at home.

There were both inside and outside toilets, and a beautiful kitchen garden, lawns, and fruit trees covering about an acre.

A final view of  'Cadogan'. From the summer 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Pyramid".
In order to be admitted, staff had to get their doctor's signature on a form which could be obtained from the company's Welfare Office.

The rail fare to and from the house was paid by the company.

It was found that the health of visitors soon improved, and often they could be back at work after only a few days stay at the home.

The official opening took place on Wednesday 25th September, 1946 and some time later a plaque was unveiled at the house to commemorate the employees who lost their lives in the war.

The Day Nursery

In order to cater for the many working mothers at the Darlaston factory, the company opened a day nursery, supervised by a matron and several nurses who looked after their young children.

Orange juice was supplied every day at 11 o'clock as part of the Welfare Foods Scheme, and adequate toys were provided along with excellent supervision.

The matron was Miss H. M. Tilley.  


The Day Nursery. From the spring 1950 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".
Another view of the Day Nursery.

From Histories of Famous Firms - Midlands Survey part one, 1960.


The welfare foods publicity meeting that was held in the hall adjoining the nursery on 3rd November, 1949. Seated Left to Right: Miss H. M. Tilley (matron), Dr. E. P. MacWhirter (Medical Officer of Health), Mr. A. G. B. Owen, Councillor Harmar Nicholls, J.P. (Chairman of Darlaston U.D.C.), Dr. V. V. Brown (Works Medical Officer), Rev. R. S. Phillips (Rector of Darlaston), and  Mr. F. B. Jones (Food Executive Officer for Darlaston). From the spring 1950 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".
  
The Childrens' Christmas Party

Christmas parties were held in the main works canteen in Booth Street for employees' children up to twelve years of age.

Several sessions would be held to cater for the large number of children, who were given presents, apples and buns, and entertained with a Christmas Eve show.

The parties were run by members of the Benevolent Committee, the canteen staff, St. John's ambulance men, and works' police.


Father Christmas handing out Christmas presents. From the spring 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

A. G. B. Owen at a children's party to celebrate the Coronation in 1953. From the collection of the late Howard Madley.

Rubery Owen Kepston Limited

In the early part of 1950, Rubery Owen Kepston Limited began producing the 'Rokvee' range of pressed steel vee belt pulleys at the Darlaston site.

The unique pulleys consisted of  pressed steel plates, copper brazed onto a machined boss, to produce an indestructible, lightweight pulley, capable of much higher running speeds than conventional cast iron pulleys.

The whole pulley assembly was heated to a temperature of over 1,100 degrees Centigrade in an artificial atmosphere, and cooled in a manner that ensured that the components would remain undistorted and true to within 0.003 of an inch, of their original shape.

They were available in a range of sizes, up to 18 inches in diameter.


Trueing the pulleys, after brazing.

Special copper brazing furnaces were developed, that did not use heat-resisting steel, which had become acutely short due to the demands of Atomic Energy experiments.

The furnaces were capable of copper brazing assemblies of almost any shape or size. 'Rokvee' pulleys were an important development in the field of power transmission.

Their concave grooves conformed to the convex flexing of a vee belt, which gave even wear to the belt, and a far greater tractive force than a normal turned pulley.


Assembled pulley components, about to be placed in a mobile furnace for copper brazing.
In 1954 the Owen family built the Emmanuel Church, Cairn Drive, Bentley, Walsall as a memorial to Alfred Ernest Owen.

 

 

The Emmanuel Church Bentley in 2014.

 

The commemorative stone plaque on the church.
Surgery


The interior of the surgery. From Histories of Famous Firms - Midlands Survey part one, 1960.

The main factory at Darlaston had excellent medical facilities on hand for the staff, consisting of an ophthalmic clinic, and a dental surgery, both opened in 1959.

They were fully equipped, and operated under the National Health Service. They were run by a qualified doctor and nursing staff, and were available to all employees.

Rubery Owen also had its own savings bank, and the employees were actively encouraged to build-up their savings. By 1947 the employees between them, were saving around £1,210 per week, which works out at 4 shillings and ten pence per employee.


A letterhead from 1947.


Another letterhead, also from 1947.


'Mars', the company's industrial locomotive that ran on the internal railway. As seen on 20th August, 1966.


   
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