The Subsidiaries

The Owen Organisation is always thought of as a Darlaston firm, and rightly so. The Organisation's base at Darlaston, although large in manufacturing terms, is only a small part of the story, which covers much of this country, and spreads across other continents.

By the 1960s the Owen Organisation employed around 15,000 people, in eighty eight companies, operating on five continents, and became one of the country's largest private companies.

The Organisation manufactured products and parts for almost every industry, and manufactured, or supplied, almost everything for use in the home.

The Structural Department supplied the structural steelwork for many of the country's iconic buildings, and even produced pre-fabricated houses for a time, after the Second World War.

There can't have been many British companies that operated on the same scale as the Owen Organisation, it was unique.

A map produced by Rubery Owen, showing the location of the UK subsidiary companies in 1947.
An impression of the Organisation's vast range of products, can be got by looking at the photographs below, which show parts of the company's display at the British Industries Fair in May 1947, and in 1949, at Castle Bromwich.
Products on display, on this part of the stand, include nuts and bolts, pressings, axles, wash basins, shelving and storage units, and parts for machinery.

From the summer 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Pyramid".

This part of the display includes lathes, machinery, component parts, and shelving.

From the summer 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Pyramid".

Another part of the display includes an aircraft wheel and part of an undercarriage, machinery, nuts and bolts, and storage units.

From the summer 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Pyramid".

Another display at the same event was provided by another member of the Organisation, Shuker & Son. It includes garden tools, a lawnmower, kitchen units, and mirrors.

From the summer 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Pyramid".

The Organisation also had stands at the 1949 British Industries Fair, also held at Castle Bromwich. This stand includes a 3 furrow plough, fans, filing cabinets, storage units, and what appears to be motor wheels.

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

The Easiclene display includes kitchen units, sinks, and sink units.

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

The Organisation's stand at the Business Efficiency Exhibition at Olympia in October 1949 showing some of the company's office furniture.

From the spring 1950 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

From Histories of Famous Firms - Midlands Survey part one, 1960.
One of the organisation's companies, which became well-known for its specialised products, was Invicta Electrodes Limited in Bilston Lane, Willenhall, on a corner of the main Rubery Owen site.

The firm produced a wide range of electrodes suitable for welding mild steel, medium high tensile cast iron, steel reinforcing, and stainless steel.

The electrodes were marketed using the trade name "Wey", including "Speedway" and "Deepway", and were produced on machinery built by companies within the Owen organisation.

The factory was extended during the Second World War to enable the firm to fulfil a number of Government contracts which resulted in the production of  millions of feet of electrodes.

The factory had all of the latest facilities including chemical and mechanical laboratories, X-ray machines, and microscopy, to ensure that the products were of the highest quality.

    Read about some of the companies:
  C. & L. Hill Limited, Willenhall
  Bentley Hall Brick Company Limited, Bentley, Walsall
  Chains Limited, Moxley
  Nuts & Bolts (Darlaston) Limited
  Charles Clark & Son Limited, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury
  The Brooke Tool Manufacturing Company Limited, Birmingham
  A. G. Sutherland Limited, Birmingham
  Salopian Engineers Limited, Prees, Shropshire.
  Motor Panels (Coventry) Limited
  Rubery, Owen & Company Limited, Wrexham
  Rogers & Jackson Limited, Wrexham
  Electro-Hydraulics Limited, Warrington
  Rubery Owen (Warrington) Limited
  Camelinat and Company Limited, Birmingham

Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

It is often forgotten that Darlaston's wonderful ironmongers in King Street was part of the Owen Organisation.

J. W. Baker & Company Limited, in King Street, in about 1965.

Courtesy of Bill Beddow.

Rubery, Owen & Company Limited, Coventry

A branch factory was established in 1936, in Paynes Lane, Coventry, for the production of pressed and fabricated assemblies that were used to assist production at Darlaston, and also supplied to industry in general.

During the Second World war, the factory produced large numbers of pressings, and essential war equipment, including floats, buoys, mine containers, steel helmets, fuel tanks and Soyer Stoves for field kitchens.

After the war, many of the small components and assemblies produced at the factory were for the local vehicle manufacturers. The company specialised in general sheet metal working, especially in limited quantities, particularly fuel tanks for commercial vehicles. Orders for larger quantities were dealt with at the Darlaston factory.

Part of the press shop at Coventry.

Assembling pressed ends of fuel tanks for commercial vehicles, at the Coventry factory.

Denfords Engineering Company Limited, Halifax

Denfords Engineering Company Limited, began in a small way in 1931, manufacturing jigs and fixtures. The business flourished, and larger premises were soon needed.

In the late 1930s, the company began to manufacture a range of precision jigs and fixtures, both for general industry, and particularly for the Aircraft Industry. At the same time, development of comparator gauges began, which after Government approval, were produced in large quantities.

A new factory was established at Box Trees Mill, Wheatley, Halifax, where sine tables, sine centres, straight edges and other equipment was added to the product range.

After the war new products were added, including plain 3 inch bench lathes, and a new and improved type of light screw cutting lathe, aimed at general engineering industries, research laboratories, and education authorities. A new model, the 'Box-Ford' 4½ inch screw cutting lathe was introduced, which sold extremely well. They were sold in the UK and exported to New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Norway, Holland, Egypt and Canada.

The firm became a member of the Owen Group in 1949, due to its association with T. S. Harrison.

 A 'Box-Ford' 4½ inch screw cutting lathe.


In 1946 work began on equipping a factory in South Australia to house a subsidiary of Rubery, Owen & Company, Limited. The factory was in part of the Finsbury gun ammunition factory, covering over 200,000 square feet.

The new company would be called Rubery, Owen & Company (Australia), Limited and would produce automotive components such as road wheels, chassis frames, axle casings and motor pressings, for the large Australian car manufacturers in Adelaide and elsewhere, including General Motors, Holdens, and Chrysler.

Mr. Hambleton, Managing Director of the Australian branch, recruited a lot of skilled personnel in the UK to work in the factory, mainly from the London area.

Other Australian subsidiaries included Rubery Owen & Kemsley Pty Limited in Adelaide, who supplied components to the Australian car manufacturers, and to the agricultural industry, and two members of the Conveyancer Group, Conveyancer Pty Limited (Australia), and Paul-Walden Pty Limited (Australia).

Part of the 30 acre Finsbury factory site, occupied by 13 companies. Rubery Owen had the three buildings in the foreground.

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

Part of the Finsbury Factory. From the Christmas 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Yuletide".

The Finsbury staff in 1948. From the summer 1948 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

Rubery, Owen & Kemsley (Pty.) Ltd., Australia

Rubery, Owen & Kemsley Proprietary Limited was incorporated in Adelaide in the State of South Australia in November, 1946, to manufacture automotive components. The factory with a floor area of 120,000 square feet, was previously part of the Finsbury Ammunition Factory, situated 7 miles from Adelaide.

The new company was fully equipped with a modern tool room and machining plant that produced tools and jigs. There was also an extensive press plant with single and double-action type presses, of up to 750 tons capacity, and a processing and finishing plant. The products consisted of components for the automotive and agricultural industries.

The rim and wheel section produced thousands of wheels for leading makes of vehicles, including Chrysler, and General Motor-Holdens. The press shop produced pressings for trucks and tractors, including valve housings, manifold heat shields, water header covers, chassis members and bumper bars. There was also a section that specialised in the general assembly of imported commercial trucks, cab-bodies, and saloon cars.

Two external views of the factory.


Two interior views of the factory.

In the 1970s and 1980s many of the subsidiary companies were either sold or ceased to operate. In 1993 Rubery Owen Holdings Limited decided to move away from manufacturing, and so any remaining manufacturing subsidiaries were sold. It now concentrates on property, investment, and a small number of independent operating subsidiaries.

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