Today in Motorcycle History

Smiths Industries

of Cricklewood, London, NW2

Smiths is a British engineering company involved in wide-ranging speciality engineering activities. It was founded by Samuel Smith, Senior as S. Smith and Son and later became Smith's Industries

  • 1851 The company that became Smiths started as clock and watch business in the mid 19th century. A family business, it was founded by Samuel Smith in 1851.
  • 1873 Samuel Smith, Junior opened larger premises on The Strand and later had shops in Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square in London
  • 1900 At the start of the 20th century and the age of the automobile they produced the first British odometer ("mileometer") and speedometer.
  • 1913 April. Advert in Autocar for Speedometers. S. Smith and Son of 9 Strand, London.
  • 1915 Factory at Cricklewood built to make speedometers and employed 400 persons. The employees soon increased to 2,000 and they also made aircraft instruments and shell fuses for war time contracts.
  • 1917 Formed as a public company S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd with headquarters at Great Portland Street. The company was run by Samuel Smith Junior's son Allan Gordon-Smith and the turnover was more than £100,000. Over 50,000 speedometers had been made.
  • In 1919 Smiths acquired M. L. Magneto Syndicate
  • 1919 January. Advert for 'Starting and Lighting Systems'. S. Smith and Sons of 179-185 Great Portland Street, London. [2]
  • 1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with electrical lighting equipment for commercial vehicles. [3]
  • By 1927 both KLG Sparking Plugs and British Jaeger Instruments had become part of Smiths
  • 1928 The company formed a department to make escapements having previously bought these from Switzerland. This became A. B. E. Co at Chronos Works, Cricklewood.
  • 1929 The Aircraft Instruments Department was formed
  • In the 1930s Smiths agreed a trading deal with Lucas whereby the two would not compete in certain areas and Lucas took on part of Smiths non-instrumentation assets. Smiths became the dominant supplier of instruments to British motorcar and motorcycle firms.
  • 1931 Acquired the rights for an automatic pilot
  • 1931 Smiths, then called S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd, entered the domestic clock market and formed a new company, Smiths English Clocks, as the Clock and Watch division of S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd, with Cricklewood as the main factory. Smiths were one of the first companies to produce synchronous electric clocks. These were put on the market towards the end of 1931.
  • 1932 Smiths English Clocks was formed. By this time they were making 4,000 clocks each week
  • In 1932 Smiths purchased English Clock and Watch Manufacturers of Coventry and acquired the trade names Astral and Empire which they used extensively
  • In 1934, Smiths bought the Enfield Clock Co and production at the Edmonton factory under the Enfield name until c1950
  • Around 1936 Henry Hughes and Son, a marine instrument maker was taken over
  • From 1937 the trade name "Sectric" appears on Smiths electric clocks
  • 1939 Ralph Gordon-Smith, the son of Allan Gordon-Smith arranged for a new site to be purchased at Bishop's Cleeve near Cheltenham to protect the business from potential bombing in the London area. The site at Bishop's Cleeve was Kayte Farm of 300 acres and it was purchased for £25,000 on the 6th April 1939. On 1st June S. Smith and Sons (Cheltenham) Ltd was formed as a subsidiary of the main business
  • British Precision Springs was set up to manufacture the hairsprings used in clocks as the source in Germany was not available during the war years
  • 1940 In August the the main instrument repair department at Cricklewood was destroyed by bombing
  • World War II Production expanded. There was a demand for motor, aircraft and marine instruments for the Services and the production of industrial instruments, hitherto imported, was begun. Fuses for shells were also manufactured.
  • 1944 A major regrouping of the whole Smiths organisation was carried out.
  • 1944 The name of the principal company was changed to S. Smith and Sons (England) Ltd with four divisions:
    • Smiths Motor Accessories
    • Smiths Industrial Instruments
    • Smiths Aircraft Instruments
    • Smiths English Clocks
  • 1947 The company had 17,000 employees with Cheltenham, the largest, having 2,500
  • 1951 see S. Smith and Son
  • 1958 Separate Smiths Aviation and Smiths Marine divisions were setup.
  • 1960 An Industrial division was formed whose main operations were industrial instrumentation.
  • 1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Listed as S. Smith and Sons and showed Lodge sparking plugs, Radiomobile car radios and instrument panels. [4]
  • 1964 The company employed 25,000 persons in 27 factories in the UK
  • 1965 With increasing diversification and international operations the name Smiths Industries was adopted to reflect wider operations. The contribution of clocks and watches to the business declined and Smiths stopped being the direct supplier of motor equipment to European car producers.

    1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Technological Innovation.

    1966 the name of the principal company of the Smiths group was changed from S. Smith and Sons (England) Ltd to Smiths Industries.

    2000 Smiths Industries merged with the TI Group and as a result of that merger the company name was changed to Smiths Group plc.

Source: Graces Guide

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