Forward Radiator – Pt 1

The Forward Radiator Company Limited was formed in February 1919 and I started work with them in September, 1922. I was the first clerical employee set on, all the clerical work up to this time having been done by “the boss’. Mr. C. N. Rawsthorne, the Secretary and Director of the Company.

Forward Radiator Birmingham
Forward Radiator Birmingham. Mr H Newton-Mason (centre with glasses). Bill Sanders (Works Director and General Manager, Standard Triumph) is next to him on the right.

OFFICE WAS A SHED

I left grammar school when I was 15 years of age and came straight to the Forward Radiator Company. The office was a shed in the yard of the premises then occupied in Bristol Street, Birmingham. There was just enough room for a desk, small table and a safe. We had a typewriter and I taught myself to type. In order to further my education I attended the Birmingham College of Commerce at the old University Buildings in Edmund Street, four evenings each week. Together with the homework given to me, this did not leave much spare time.
My times of work were from 9 am to 6 pm weekdays and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. My boss spent a great deal of time in canvassing for orders and he was invariably late returning to the office. This meant working overtime at night, awaiting his signatures for the post, so that I had to go from the office straight to night class.
Three weeks after I started the company moved to larger premises in Macdonald Street. At this time we were involved in making radiators, repairing radiators, lamps, mudguards and doing any other sheet-metal work we could. The total labour force was 11 plus the four working Directors, and my boss who was Company Secretary. By 1925 Mr. Rawsthorne had bought out the four Works Directors and taken Mr. E. W. Horley as a Co-Director. Additional space was rented at the rear of Macdonald Street.
About this time we were panelling timber body frames for Fiat saloons which were being produced by the Birmingham Motor Body Company at Small Heath. We were expanding and making silencers, chain cases, and other parts, for most of the leading motor cycle firms, including Norton, HRD, BSA, Excelsior, and many others.
COVENTRY CONNECTIONS
We supplied bonnets and mudguards for the Bayley Thomas light car, also to Cross & Ellis of Coventry for the Alvis cars, and bonnets to the Hillman Company. These were fitted to each individual car and we had two men in the factory at Coventry occupied full time on this work. I was doing all the clerical work, making out despatch notes, invoicing, keeping all the books of account, calculating and paying out the wages.
In 1926 we took on a contract from the Hillman Company for complete sets of body panels for the Hillman 14 H.P. saloon. These panels were sent loose. and pinned to timber frames at Coventry. The bonnets were still fitted by hand. The production figure was 60 cars per week.
From Macdonald Street we moved to larger premises In Leopold Street and I now had a youth to help me in the office. We were growing all this time and moved to getting suitable staff and this meant working Saturday and Sunday to keep going.
After the war we took on contracts for Land Rover sub-assemblies, for the old Vanguard Estate cars and vans for Mulliners. We also supplied the original TR bodies in sections.
In 1946 we moved to new premises at Kings Norton and it was there we installed our first large power press. This was a big step forward and we progressed from then on.
MERGERS AND MOVES
Mulliners bought a controlling interest in the business in 1958 and this meant monthly board meetings with a new Board of Directors. In 1960 the Standard Motor Company took over the remaining 49% of the shares, having previously taken over Mulliners.
We were given premises at Cherrywood Road and while Mr. Horley moved there, I remained in charge at Kings Norton. We did all the clerical work at Kings Norton. I got involved in production when we were making doors and other parts for Spitfire bodies at Kings Norton, and supplying them to Cherrywood Road for assembly into bodies.
After Mr. Horley retired, Mr. Warren took over as Managing Director. I spent three years in the works at this time and I enjoyed this factory experience very much. When in 1968 Mr. Warren left to go to Liverpool, I came back into the office and my old job. Looking back over my 50 years, I find them full of experiences I would not like to have missed.
ARCHIVE: November, 1972

ED: In October 1972 the Forward Radiator Company Limited, of Bordesley Green, Birmingham, changed its name to Triumph Motors, Bordesley Green, Birmingham

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