F. H. Lloyd & Company Limited - The First Seventy Five Years

The Darlaston based Bills & Mills steelworks at The Green were purchased by the Lloyd family  for a quarter of a million pounds when its owner Samuel Mills retired.


Charging a blast furnace.

Mr. Sampson Lloyd of Wassel Grove, Stourbridge became company Chairman and Mr. Francis Henry Lloyd, Managing Director.

The name was changed to the Darlaston Iron & Steel Company and rapidly expanded.

The number of puddling furnaces grew to 43 with 17 reheating furnaces, 8 rolling mills, a drawing-out forge, 63 steam engines, including three 70hp. blast engines for the blast furnaces. Rails were laid to all parts of the works.

The company's collieries and mines, mining a 12 yards thick seam, covered 850 acres, 350 of which were freehold and 500 leasehold. Some of the seams produced what was called "Brooch" coal, and others "Heathen" coal. The company survived until the depression in the 1880's. After the closure, Francis Henry Lloyd brought a disused timber yard and brickworks at James Bridge, and established a small foundry which eventually became F. H. Lloyd's James Bridge Steel Works.

The original shareholders were: engineer, John William Hall junior, of Bilston; solicitor, John William Hall, of Bilston; engineer, John Hemming of Wednesbury; traveller, Alfred Essington Hemming of Wolverhampton; engineer, Francis Henry Lloyd of Wood Green, Wednesbury; manufacturer, Sampson Z. Lloyd of Arley Hall, Stourport, (brother of F. H. Lloyd); banker, George Braithwaite Lloyd of Birmingham; and surgeon, Samuel Ashley Smith of Bilston.

Soon after its opening in 1879, the factory consisted of a steel foundry, three forges and a fitting shop. Steel was melted and refined in a small gas-fired open hearth furnace. A tilting machine was added for drawing out steel and for making steel forgings. By 1900 the forges had been replaced by a machine shop and an improved fitting shop.
      

Read an illustrated article about
F. H. Lloyd & Co. Ltd. from the
"South Staffordshire Institutions and Trades Illustrated" of about 1900.
 


An advert from 1913.

The business was extremely successful and a foundry for producing small castings was added in 1909. By 1912 the factory produced 2,000 tons of steel castings each year, and during the 1914-18 war, production concentrated on cast steel shells.

Francis Henry Lloyd (born in 1844) died after a railway accident in 1916 and was replaced by his son, Daniel Charles Lloyd, who lived at Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. He would leave home at a quarter to eight each morning and catch the tram to Wolverhampton, the train to Wednesbury, and presumably the tram to James Bridge via Darlaston. After the return trip each afternoon, he arrived back home around 6 p.m.

The senior partner, John Hemming, died in the early 1920s. After his death, Daniel Charles Lloyd became Chairman and Managing Director. Daniel's wife Hilda was convinced that Francis Henry Lloyd got leukaemia from standing too close to the new X-ray machine, bought to detect faults in castings.

Francis Henry Lloyd also founded the Weldless Steel Tube Company at Wednesfield, which was taken over by Tube Investments in about 1927.


An advert from 1916.

In 1919 a new heavy foundry was built and output increased to about 6,000 tons of castings a year. At the time there were nearly 600 employees.

After the depression of the late 1920s production greatly increased with over 13,000 tons of steel products being produced annually.

Their success was no doubt helped by the excellent management-employee relations that always prevailed at the works. A training scheme for young men began at the factory, and by the time the recession had ended, the firm had a large number of skilled workers.


Tapping a furnace to produce pig iron.

 
In 1933 the breaking area where scrap steel and steel castings could be broken up, was moved to a less restricted area. The derrick on the left is being dismantled before being rebuilt at the new location on the right.


Tapping an electric arc furnace at F. H. Lloyd.

In the early 1930s the company started to produce heavy castings for mechanical excavators and earth-moving machines for an engineering firm in Lincoln.

The company's staff magazine "The Steel Casting" appeared in 1938, around the same time as many operations in the factory were reorganised.

Mr. A. B. Lloyd made an exploratory visit to America to discover how large American engineering companies were organised. He visited Bucyrus Erie Company, manufacturers of surface, and underground mining equipment, including steam shovels, draglines, hydraulic excavators, and mining trucks. He also talked to engineering consultants.

On his return to Wednesbury he carried out a preliminary survey of operations at the works, and appointed a firm of engineering consultants to produce a plan to make the factory operate more efficiently. 

The consultants began their investigation on April 1st, 1938, which resulted in the formation of a central production department to take responsibility for the coordination of production throughout the works.

A standards department was also created to oversee and standardise production times. Internal order forms were redesigned, and a printing machine was installed to print them.

Before the reorganisation, productive effort was measured by tonnage produced, which was misleading, due to the increased use of intricate steel castings with lighter sections.

Under the new scheme, man hours were taken into account when considering the efficiency and output of each department.

The reorganisation ensured that every department was kept fully employed without congestion, and an improved standard of service was given to customers.


The staff magazine.


The electric furnace, charging bucket and control board.

In 1938 a new electric arc furnace was installed to increase the steel-making capacity at the works.

In 1914 Mr. D. C. Lloyd acquired the company's first electric furnace, for experimental purposes. The 5 cwt. furnace proved to be uneconomical due to high running costs.

By the late 1930s, the advent of the national grid and cheaper electricity, together with improvements in furnace design and operation, made an electric furnace a practicality, and led to the purchase of a direct arc furnace.

The direct arc furnace had a capacity of 4 to 5 tons and was supplied by Birmingham Electric Furnaces Limited, which had the manufacturing rights for the Moore Rapid Lectromelt Furnace, made by the Pittsburgh Lectromelt Furnace Corporation of America.

The installation went well. Within 14 weeks of the initial order the furnace was in operation. The furnace was charged by a swing roof, actuated by a hydraulic ram, which also swung the electrode gear. The steel scrap used to charge the furnace was loaded into a bucket with drop-bottom doors, secured with a hemp rope.


The bucket is swung into position in readiness for charging.


The winch motors controlling the electrodes.

After lowering the bucket into the furnace, the rope quickly burnt away, allowing the scrap to fall. The whole charging operation only took a few minutes.

The roof, the body of the furnace, the electrode holders, the doors, and all metal parts exposed to heat were water-cooled.

The hearth was lined with refractory material to remove as much sulphur and phosphorus from the charge as possible.

The 7,000 volt supply that fed the furnace sub-station was stepped down by an oil-filled transformer with a tapped secondary winding supplying up to 215 volts to the furnace.

The charge was heated by the current flowing through the graphite electrodes, arcing across the gap between the electrodes and the charge.

The gap had to be precisely maintained to supply the correct amount of heat.


The transformer and automatic electrode control.

This was accomplished by a Westinghouse automatic regulator which operated each electrode independently through a winch and motor to lower or raise the electrodes and maintain a steady operating current. The average time taken from charging to tapping was about three hours, giving an output of one ton per hour. The furnace was mainly used for the production of carbon steels, but also for the alloy steels which were being developed at the factory.


The machine shop.

In 1938 the company opened Lloyds (Burton) Limited at Burton on Trent, which would eventually be the last part of the business to survive.

During the Second World War, castings were made for tanks, and for bomb casings. By the end of the war James Bridge Steel Works could produce over 26,000 tons of castings a year in 60 different grades of steel.

In 1946 the company acquired a competitor, Parker Foundry Limited of Derby and doubled production there. Plans were made for the modernisation of the Darlaston works, and for equipping the foundry at Burton for the production of railway castings.

By 1952 when the company's last open hearth furnace was scrapped. Lloyds had 6 electric arc furnaces with a capacity ranging from 2½ to 12 tons.

The foundry could turn out very large castings, and machine them to individual customer's requirements in an up-to-date machine shop.

Around this time large machines such as tyre presses were produced in the factory.


Mr. A. B. Lloyd (on the left) presents a silver tankard to Robert Thynne.


An advert from 1949.


An advert from 1952.


 
The advert on the left is worded as follows:
 

The output for steel castings at Lloyds for this year is expected to reach 26,000 tons, an increase of one hundred percent over 1948. Does this large output mean that craftsmanship is being forgotten? On the contrary, it is because of the traditional dexterity of Lloyds craftsmen that this great increase is possible.

Modern machines - and no other steel foundry in Europe is better equipped with them than Lloyds - are certainly speeding the many foundry processes, but it is the craftsmen of Lloyds with their time-honoured knowledge and skill, who wed hand-made perfection to machine-made efficiency.

Patternmakers, moulders, core makers, metal pourers, fettlers, and machinists, craftsmen all, many with 40 years' experience; these are the men whose skill makes steel castings of optimum accuracy, finest finish and exactly to specification.


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


An advert from the early 1960s.


Mr. M. C, Lloyd, M.B.E., A.I.Loco.E.

Some of the largest castings produced were steam chests for the electrical generating industry. They weighed up to 60 tons. Two cranes would be linked together with a lifting beam to take them out of the casting pit. When freshly cast with the pouring heads still attached, they weighed around 70 tons.

During the financial year ending on the 31st March, 1952, Lloyds produced more than 23,000 tons of black or un-machined castings, consisting of over 650,000 single castings. Large numbers of machined castings, patterns, and ingots were also were produced.

In January 1954 Mr. Michael Charles Lloyd was invited to join the business as Works Director, by his elder brother Francis Nelson Lloyd, Chief Executive. At the time, the factory produced around 30,000 tons of castings a year, with about 2,700 staff.


 
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late 1950s