Scope and Content

Comprising: Records of Bridon PLC, 1923-1974; British Ropes Northern (Sales), 1936-1960; Allan, Whyte and Co, 1907-1946; British Plexon 1946-1954; W.H. Brown (Bankhall) c1916; Bullivant and Co 1864-1923; William Cooke and Co 1873-1962; Geo Craddock and Co 1907-1930s; Craven and Speeding 1896-1959; Darlington Wire Mills 1904-1960; Dixon Corbitt 1878-1963; Doncaster Wire Co 1906-1957; Edinburgh Roperie and Sail Cloth Co 1751-1937; George Elliot and Co 1903-1954; Excelsior Wire Rope Co 1929-1966; Garnock Bibby and Co 1892-1959; Glaholm and Robson 1899-1963; Gourock Ropework Co 1944-1971; D.H. and G. Haggie 1925-1927; R. Hood Haggie and Son 1901-1972; Humber Rope Co 1913-1959; London Spinning Co 1952-1967; D Morgan Rees and Sons 1947-1962; Newburn Cordage 1933-1963; Northgate Steel Wire Mills 1940-1953; Rollason Wire Co 1850-1963; E. and A. Smith and Co 1889-1930s; Thomas and William Smith 1887-1920; William Terrell and Sons 1880-1964; Webster and Co 1899-1968; Wrights' Ropes 1899-1964; Unattributed Records 1885-1962.

Administrative / Biographical History

British Ropes Ltd, incorporated on 6 June 1924, was formed through a merger of eight companies. Seven of these made wire rope only, whilst one (Craven and Speeding) made fibre products, particularly binder twine. The eight companies were: Bullivant and Co. London, George Craddock and Co, Wakefield, Craven and Speeding and Co, Sunderland, D.H. and G. Haggie, Sunderland, Haggie Bros, Gateshead, R.S. Newall and Son, Liverpool, Thomas and William Smith, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Tyne Wire Drawing Co, Gateshead, a subsidiary of Haggie Bros.

In 1925 and 1926 the new company acquired nine wire rope manufacturers, four firms of specialist wire drawers and five fibre rope makers. The wire rope companies were: Allan, Whyte and Co, Rutherglen, W.B. Brown (Bankhall), Liverpool, Caledonian Wire Rope Co, Airdrie, Dunn and King, Lambeth, Edwin Ellis and Co, Milwall and Stratford, Excelsior Wire Rope Co, Cardiff, F.W. Scott and Co, Redditch, John Stephens and Sons, Falmouth and Warrington Wire Rope Co, Warrington and its interest in the Bristol Wire Rope Co.

The wire drawers were: Doncaster Wire Co, Steel Wire Co, Ordsall Wire Mills Ltd, and E and A Smith and Co.

The fibre rope makers were: Charlton Ropeworks, Charlton, J.T. Davies, Bow, London, a subsidiary of the wire rope manufacturers John Stephens and Co, Edinburgh Roperie and Sail Cloth Co, Leith Frost Bros, London and South Wales Rope Work Co, a subsidiary of Excelsior Wire Rope Co.

Rationalisation followed in order to concentrate production and by the mid 1940s British Ropes operated only seven wire rope factories. These were located at: Cardiff, formerly the Excelsior Wire Rope Co, Doncaster, where there were two plants, the North Ropery of 1935 and the South Ropery of 1938 Gateshead, formerly Haggie Bros, Retford, where a new factory was built in 1935, Rutherglen, formerly Allan, Whyte and Co, and Wakefield, formerly George Craddock and Co.

By the mid 1940s rationalisation of fibre rope and cordage production had led to the closure of all but four rope works located at: Cardiff, formerly South Wales Rope Work Co, Charlton, formerly Charlton Ropeworks Leith, formerly the Edinburgh Roperie and Sail Cloth Co, and Sunderland, formerly Craven and Speeding.

Acquisitions by British Ropes between 1945 and 1971 were: Bristol Wire Rope Co, wholly purchased, 1948, Wm Cooke and Co, part purchased 1948, and the remainder purchased 1954, Humber Ropes, Grimsby 1954, R Hood Haggie and Sons, Tyneside, 1959 with its subsidiaries Glaholm and Robson and Dixon Corbitt which had acquired R.S. Newall and Co D. Morgan Rees, Cardiff 1962, George Elliott and Co, Cardiff, 1962 with its eight subsidiaries including William Terrell and Sons Newburn Cordage, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1963, Garnock Bibby and Co, Liverpool, 1963, Wrights' Ropes, Birmingham, 1963 and its subsidiary Rollason Wire Co, Great Grimsby Coal Salt and Tanning Co, 1965 (rope making interests only). Henry Bannister, 1966 (purchase of goodwill only), Mitchell Ropeways, 1967, London Spinning Co, Deptford, 1967, Webster and Co, Sunderland, 1967, Healey Bros, Heywood, 1968, Hugh Lewis and Sons, 1969, Binks Bros, Milwall, 1970 and Gourock Ropework Co, Port Glasgow 1971. All the factories acquired after the purchase of R. Hood Haggie in 1959 were closed on take over. The purchase of R. Hood Haggie significantly increased the fibre-using plants controlled by British Ropes and the plants at Cardiff and Leith (see paragraph 4) were closed down. In 1971 British Twines Ltd was formed through the amalgamation of two firms, John Homes of East Ardsley, purchased by British Ropes in 1936 and Healey Bros of Heywood, purchased in 1968.

By the late 1960s British Ropes owned entirely or in part some two dozen manufacturers and distributors of ropes in continental Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Canada and the Pacific. The largest concerns were in Belgium, Canada, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.

In 1974 the name of the parent company was changed to Bridon Ltd, with four susbsidiary companies in the UK and Europe, comprising British Ropes, Bridon Wire, Bridon Fibres and Plastics and Bridon Engineering.

Many of the companies whose archives are listed here are represented by a small quantity of records, but there are notable accumulations in the cases of Glaholm and Robson, R. Hood Haggie and Sons, Webster and Co and Wrights' Ropes. Additionally, minutes of meetings of shareholders or directors are extant in the cases of William Cooke, Darlington Wire Mills, Dixon Corbitt, George Elliot Excelsior Wire Ropes, Garnock Bibby, Glaholm Robson, Humber Rope, Rollason Wire and William Terrell.

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Custodial History

The records contained in this list were deposited with the Archives Department of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough in December 1985. They appear to have originated from three sources within the company. The majority are the formal administrative records of the companies which became part of British Ropes Ltd from its formation in 1924 up to the early 1970s. They comprise incorporation documents required by succesive Companies Acts and the registers kept under the provisions of those Acts, board and shareholders' minute books and annual reports and accounts. Other records were brought together by Mr G.M. McLean, a former director of British Ropes. On his retirement, he became the company archivist and began to accumulate materials which in 1973 were catalogued in some detail (see DY/BRI/1/2/30-31). The files he created in the process are to be found at DY/BRI/1/2/1-28. The third source was Mr. D. Morgan Rees of the Group Information Office who preserved much of the material for publicity and information purposes produced by Bridon in the 1960s and 1970s. Production records are almost completely absent from the records listed here. By the early 1970s arrangements had been made to transfer such records to local repositories. Thus the records of the Gourock Rope Work Co are now on deposit at the Glasgow University Archives, those of William Terrell and Sons at the Bristol City Archives and thos of Webster and Co at the Tyne and Wear Archives Department.