Home    Topics    Memorials    Miscellany    Transcripts    References    Family History    Glossary    Latest    Beeston Blog    About us          Site Search   

OverviewFramework KnittingLace MakingSilk MillFlowers to FoundryCycles & CarsEngineering
Choose an Industry
Pop-up notes are active on this page - Click any note number to view

Industry in Beeston, Nottinghamshire - Flowers to Foundry


The story of the Beeston Boiler Company - known locally as 'The Foundry' - is inseparable from that of the Pearson family which, by the time of the mid-19th century when our story begins, had lived and worked as market gardeners in Chilwell, the community immediately adjacent to Beeston, for upwards of 200 years. Then began a remarkable diversification of the family's business interests which was inspired by the family's collaboration with a Beeston greenhouse builder, Robert Foster. The greenhouse business itself was already producing metal castings and heating apparatus by the time that the Pearson family took over completely, but it was then to develop the foundry side to a worldwide brand. Horticulture had involved itself in construction and evolved into heavy engineering within a few decades - it was a remarkable transition.

Chilwell Origins - the Pearson family are believed to have first settled in Chilwell before 1659 1 and certainly, it seems, the evidence strongly supports this. The registers for the parish church at Attenborough - which then served Chilwell as well as Attenborough itself - record baptisms, marriages and burials of generations of the family from about that time 2. In the early days, the family probably made a living in farming and in the hosiery trade that played an increasing part in the local economy in those years, The eldest son in each of several generations - at least four - was named John, and it was a John Pearson (1752-1824 3) who was to convert his interest in flower growing and, it is said, the chance discovery of a pair of fine carnation plants at a flower show 4, which led him to develop his hobby into a nationally recognised horticultural business which brought diversification to the local economy and put Chilwell on the map. An increasing interest in the appreciation of flowers and gardening generally made the initiative particularly well timed and the three generations that followed prospered as a result, acquiring land throughout the village, occupying the old Manor House and gaining a well deserved reputation for innovation in plant propagation.

By the middle 19th century, the landscape and - to a significant degree - the local economy had been transformed 5). By then, wide areas had been planted with fruit trees - the 100 acres of sweet apple orchards 6) alone were said to be largest in England at the time - and there were large swathes of roses and other flowers, an innovation which was to be taken up by others in this area in more recent times 7).

Market gardening on this scale must have catered mainly for the mass market but the family did not neglect its interest in the development of new varieties to interest the horticultural enthusiast. A variety of apple called "Pearson's Plate" was one of many varieties developed by the family and several others - including Bess Pool, Pickering's Seedling, Winter Quarrenden and Mead's Broading were varieties which probably had other origins but were grown commercially in Chilwell 8. Many varieties, now rare, were grown in those years and it is interesting to note that many of these usual old trees may well survive today in private gardens, particularly in the Park Road/Grove Avenue area.

The special characteristics of the tulip plant - a long propagation cycle and susceptibility to virus infection which produced exotic varieties - had led to a runaway period of speculation, mainly in Holland, known as 'Tulip Mania'. The extremes of this speculative price bubble had occurred in a few years up to 1637 and the spectacular crash that followed had led to financial turmoil in Holland 9. Although Britain largely avoided the irrational behaviour that had occurred at the time, nevertheless tulips continued to be valued and sought after and therefor continued to command high prices relative to other plants so, understandably,tulip bulbs were a major part of the Pearson output. It it known, for instance, that in the late 18th century, many of its tulip bulbs were being sold for a guinea each and some for as much as six or seven guineas - prices that show that much of the Pearson's target market, in this sector at least, must have been at the more wealthy end 10.

John R Pearson It is that sector of the market that, together with the market garden's own requirement for a controlled growing environment, led the Pearsons to experiment with greenhouses, conservatories and other horticultural structures that became fashionable in the larger, grand houses around the country. The family's interest in this aspect of horticulture, as we see, became the catalyst for its eventual involvement in heavy engineering in the form of The Beeston Boiler Company. The story that follows, describes that remarkable transition. We start with something about the key family member who was probably the main instigator of that change :

John Royston Pearson - (shown right) was the grandson of the John Pearson whom we identified as having started the family involvement in horticulture. He was the oldest son, the third child, of John Pearson (1778-1845) and his wife Mary (née Royston (c1791-1845) 11, was born in Chilwell in 1819 and baptised in the church at Attenborough on 26th February of that year. Like his father before him, he spent the whole of his working life as a nurseryman and seedsman in Chilwell. His parents both died in 1845 - his mother in September followed by his father in December 12 - and, as the eldest son, he then took over control of the family business at the age of 26. In 1849, he married Elizabeth Hetley 13, the eldest daughter of Henry Hetley, a successful and wealthy farmer from Orton Longueville, Huntingdonshire, and his wife Elizabeth Wright Hetley (née Figg) 14. As we shall see, the 'Hetley' name would be used as a forename in subsequent generations of the family and sometimes more widely in Beeston and Chilwell families.

John Royston Pearson died at a relatively young age - aged 57, in August 1876 15 - but during the 31 years during which he controlled the Chilwell nursery business, he established himself as a highly respected and innovative horticulturalist. In common with, and possibly in collaboration with the pioneer rose grower, Thomas Rivers (1797-1877) of Sawbridgworth, Hertfordshire 16, he developed a deep interest and expertise in growing flowers and fruit and in pots under glass. Both men advocated the use of 'orchard houses', glass houses designed specifically for the cultivation of fruit, and both published books setting out their respective ideas. Rivers book, 'The Orchard House - or the Cultivation of Fruit Trees under Glass' was first Orchard house interior published in 1850 and ran to several editions. Pearson's 'Hints on the Construction and Management of Orchard-houses' appeared in its second edition in 1862 and included much practical advice on the care and cultivation of fruit under glass. On a similar theme, in 1866, he published 'Vine Culture Under Glass' 17.

These methods of cultivation under glass led to a long-time collaboration with Robert Foster (c1813-1899 - see below), the Beeston builder of horticultural buildings and it is clear that both men's reputation and success in business grew as a result. Apparently as a direct result of this collaboration, Foster patented a construction system using cast iron supports without the use of supporting brickwork 18. a feature that meant that the structures could be made portable so that an investment in them was not lost if the owner moved, This use of cast iron components was, as we will see, to lead to the development of foundry working in Beeston and, eventually to major industry in the form of Beeston Boiler Company,

Chilwell land sale It appears that John left his business interests and property in trust for his wife and family, although no will appears to have been probated. Following Elizabeth's death in July 1891 19, the trust was wound up, which included the sale of the land at Chilwell. As can be seen from the sale notice (right 20), the sale took place on 23rd November 1892 and involved the sale of some 140 acres of land, including the nurseries. It marked the end of the Pearson family involvement in nursery gardening in Chilwell. Several of the sons were to continue trading in a nursery at Lowdham, Nottinghamshire - although, after listing John & Elizabeth's children, our story will continue with a focus on those in the family who then lived and worked in Beeston and developed their significant business interests in horticultural building and iron founding.

John Royston & Elizabeth Pearson had ten children, all born at Chilwell, including eight sons.

Henry John Pearson - born 1850, died 1913, took a leading part in the family involvement in horticultural building and iron founding and his life and achievements will be discussed when that aspect of the story is described below. 21

Alfred Hetley Pearson - born 1851, continued in the nursery business when it moved to Lowdham. He married Mary Deakin in 1875 and they had five children. He died in August 1930. 22

Arthur William Pearson - born 1953, started work as a engineer before leaving for America, where he worked briefly as an architect in California before his death there in December 1880, aged 27. He was unmarried. 23

Walter Ernest Pearson - born 1855. Nothing is known of him after he is recorded as boarding at Trent College in Long Eaton in 1871. 24

Charles Edward Pearson - born 1858, continued in the nursery business when it moved to Lowdham. He married Ethel Taylor Pelton in 1897 and they had four children. He died in November 1930 as a result of being hit by a train in thick fog at Lowdham station. 25

Douglas Hetley Pearson - born 1859, died 1927, became a Director and Manager of Foster & Pearsons, the family horticultural building business and will be discussed in that context. 26

John Duncan Pearson - born 1860, continued in the nursery business when it moved to Lowdham. He married Florence Elizabeth Farmer in 1898 and they had two children. He died in 1932. 27

Edith Elizabeth Pearson - born 1861, married Revd Alfred Henry Samuel Johnson in 1892. He was then a widower, and Curate at Attenborough and brought two young children to the marriage. They had a son of their own, Royston Henry Johnson, who became a senior office in the Royal Navy. Edith died in Devon in December 1941. 28

Louis Frederick Pearson - born 1863, died 1943, took a major role in the formation and development of Beeston Boiler Company. In 1889, he married Gertrude Potter (c1865-1936), the daughter of Thomas, a farmer in Trowell, Nottinghamshire, and Ellen (née Hopkinson), his wife. Other aspects of his life and achievements will be discussed when that aspect of the story is described below. 29

Mary Maud Pearson - born 1868 became the Superintendent of a YWCA Holiday Home in Essex. She never married and died in 1935. 30

Robert Foster - was born in Beeston in about 1813, the eldest son of Robert & Sarah (née Bell) Foster 31. Robert senior was born in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts in about 1784, where he had established himself as a carpenter prior to his marriage to Sarah in 1810, 32 immediately following which they appear to have moved to Beeston. There they settled in the area, north of what is now The Square and were to raise a family of six boys and six girls, two of whom appear to have died young. Their mother also died at a relatively young age, in 1841 aged 57 33. Both surviving sons, Robert and his brother Edward (b. 1821) had followed their father's trade as joiners and were working together at the time of the 1841 census 34. Things soon began to change such that, during the course of the next decade, Robert senior had changed direction to become a maltster and Edward had married and become a butcher 35, trading on Brown Lane (now Station Road) but probably grazing cattle on the family land north of the Square. Significantly, Robert junior, now married to Elizabeth Wright, continued to focus on joinery work and was to develop his business into a substantial undertaking with products that had national appeal 36.

Foster advert The basis of the younger Robert Foster's successful business was the construction of horticultural buildings which incorporated many innovative features - such as the use of iron pillar supports - some of which he was able to patent. His entry into this market was probably inspired by the opportunities that became available when the Glass Tax was repealed in 1845. That, coming at a time when horticulture was becoming fashionable amongst those with time to experiment and the money to indulge their hobby made the supply of glass-houses a particularly attractive business. And, as we have seen, it was also a time when a near neighbour, John Royston Pearson needed such buildings for developing his business and his ideas in horticulture. In particular, Pearson's development and active promotion of the 'orchard house' as a concept and its practical outcome developed by Foster was an important part of both men's success.

This level of growth of business needed adequate production facilities and Foster responded decisively. In 1850 he purchased 1996 square yards of land 37, on which he began to develop his production resources. This choice of location was a move away from the family's existing property on the north of the main road but still within easy reach. The land, part of the ancient Brown Lane Croft, was previously owned by William Dunsmore and had probably been used up until then as grazing land. It lay between Brown Lane (now Station Road) and Chapel Street, separated from the former by a strip of land on which a row of five cottages had been built (but with a narrow access to Foster's land at its north-western end) and up the rear of properties fronting onto Chapel Street 38. Today it is part of the site occupied by the shopping centre on the south side of The Square. Initially, Foster had only two men working there with him but over the next ten years his workforce had grown to 8 skilled men with 2 labourers and 4 boys 39, and the site had developed - as contemporary national advertising, such as is seen right, shows - to be a fully operational steam-powered production unit. With demand continuing, the site and workforce continued to develop. In 1864, Foster made an exchange of land with William Peach - the owner of the five cottages on Brown Lane who wanted to add kitchens at their rear. In a deal that was of benefit to both parties, Foster swapped 326 square yards of his site, adjacent to the cottages, for 241 square yards of Peach's frontage onto Brown Lane to give better access to the site as a whole. 40

Foster & Pearson Station Rd By 1871, Foster was employing 18 men and 4 boys 41 but had not yet completed his expansion plans. As we have seen, cast iron components were an important part of the buildings he supplied and it seems that it was around this time that he started to consider casting them himself. To provide the necessary space at his Brown Lane site, in 1872 he purchased the site of the five cottages on Brown Lane from William Peach, including the piece at the rear which he had sold previously to Peach in 1864 42. Now that the site extended from the Brown Lane frontage to the back of property on the eastern side of Chapel Street, he had the necessary space to construct a foundry and an associated warehouse.

The site was now essentially as it was to remain over the next 90 years - albeit, as we shall see, in different ownerships and with some further acquisitions on Chapel Street at the rear. The foundry building, in particular, was to be a feature of that part of Brown Lane (Station Road) until the whole site was acquired by the Council as part of the re-development of the central area of Beeston 43 and the building of the shopping centre in the late 1960s. The foundry can be seen in the photograph on the left, dating from the late 1950s, standing opposite what was then the Lads' Club, with its distinctive hoist on the upper floor and chimney behind. To its left, with the sloping roof, is the foundry warehouse, to its right a wall stands in front of a yard with timber storage, offices and small workshops. Click to see an aerial view of the area, also in that era, which also shows these features as well as the joinery workshops behind.

As we have seen, John Royston Pearson was a regular customer of Robert Foster and probably contributed his expertise to the design of his horticultural buildings - particularly the 'orchard house' version that became very fashionable at that time - and Pearson's prominence in the horticultural world helped too. In 1871, the magazine 'The Horticulturalist' reported that Pearson already had 18 of Foster's orchard houses at Chilwell and believed them to be 'by far the best' with Foster 'largely engaged in their manufacture' and making constant improvements 44. It seems that this informal relationship was mutually beneficial and it would probably have continued in this informal way if Pearson had lived. As we have seen however, he died, aged only 57, in 1876. It was clearly going to be difficult for all eight of his sons to make a living out of the Chilwell nurseries and now, their father's early death brought more urgency to the need to diversify.

One direction for them to look was at Foster's clearly successful business where the family had already secured an insider's view. And, it was still expanding, notably with the relatively new foundry venture which was now producing the ironwork fittings for the horticultural buildings and had probably already ventured into making heating apparatus for these buildings and beyond that to general foundry work. The workforce had more than doubled in ten years such that, in 1881, Foster - himself now described as a horticultural builder and iron founder - was employing 37 men and 12 boys 45. By now one, perhaps three, of the Pearson sons already had their eye on this successful business which, they no doubt believed, had even more potential. Henry John Pearson, the eldest of the sons, had trained as an architect and was already working in the business by 1881 and, in 1883, bought out Robert Foster, paying £8,200 for the property and business, largely financed by a mortgage to Foster himself 46. Henry Pearson was soon joined in the business by his younger brother Douglas Henry Pearson who concentrated on horticultural buildings and, in due course, by their youngest brother, Louis Frederick Pearson who was to concentrate on, and as we shall see, to revolutionise the foundry side of the business.

Foster Land The amount that Foster received for his business was then a considerably sum - equivalent to nearly £700,000 in today's purchasing power - and was quite enough to allow Foster a comfortable retirement. He and his wife Elizabeth continued to live in their home on the north side of what is now The Square (seen on the right of the photograph, in the middle distance), approached by a gated drive which now forms the pathway leading to Foster Avenue carpark, between HSBC and The Derbyshire Building Society, The house was surrounded by garden ornaments, presumably relicts from his business, and with a large greenhouse (also seen in the photograph) alongside the drive. There he spent his retirement years managing his land and various properties he had inherited or acquired 47. He and his wife had had only one child, a daughter who had died as an infant, but had brought up a niece, Hannah Maria Foster, the daughter of his brother Edward 48. Elizabeth, Robert's wife, died in August 1898 49, followed in May 1899 by Robert 50. He left an estate worth £30,470 51 and his will, it seems, made adequate provision for Hannah Maria who never married and continued to live at the house - Roundhill House - north of The Square. She died in August 1935 52 following which the house and surrounding land, still largely undeveloped as can be seen on the photograph on the right, was offered for sale. It is now the site of Foster Avenue, the Town Office, Civic Offices, the Roman Catholic Church, the Post Office, two banks, showrooms, the library and a large car park.

Now under their direct control, the trio of Pearson brothers were able to use the family's status in horticultural circles, their social standing and academic training to their direct advantage, such the the business continued to innovate and to grow. They - in particular Louis Pearson - also began to develop the foundry side of the business, looking beyond providing the direct requirements of the building business towards the potentially lucrative market, making and marketing heating apparatus. By 1983, with a growing and diversifying business, the brothers recognised the need for a more formal business relationship which would recognise their respective roles and allow individual skills and effort to be rewarded more directly. Accordingly, in 1893, they created two corporate bodies to take over the existing business, previously held in the sole name of Henry John Pearson :

Foster & Pearson Limited - was formed in about 1893 to take over the horticultural building business including the part of the Brown Lane property not then occupied by the foundry. The business was to continue at this location, albeit in various ownerships, moving from Station Road and continuing elsewhere after the site was compulsorily acquired by Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council, in the 1960s, as part of its Central Area Redevelopment scheme. The story of the company over these years is explored below.

Beeston Foundry Company Limited was incorporated on 10th April 1893 53, taking over ownership of that part of the Brown Lane premises on which the foundry operated for a short period before moving to a new, spacious site between Queens Road and the railway. The story of spectacular rise to prominence of this company - which was later renamed as The Beeston Boiler Company - its many years of market success, its flotation as a public company and, eventually, its unfortunate decline and closure, will be explored below.

Foster & Pearson 1905 ad Foster & Pearson Limited - as mentioned above, this is the company that was formed around 1893 to take over the long established horticultural buildings business and its associated property at Brown Lane, Beeston from Henry John Pearson, At first, the adjacent foundry property was owned and operated by Beeston Foundry Company Limited, formed around the same time, but this property moved back to Foster & Pearson ownership in 1898 & 1902 54 after the Foundry had established its substantial new works between Queens Road and the railway in Beeston.

Although Henry John Pearson continued to have a financial interest in the company, its day-to-day management was now with his younger brother, Douglas Hetley Pearson and under his control, the company certainly prospered, In the 20 year period up to the Great War, as the 1905 advert (see right) and a surviving 1909 catalogue shows 55. The advert features a grand conservatory supplied to James Crossley Eno (the inventor of the famous fruit salts that bore his name) of Woodhall, Dulwich 56. And that was only one of many up and down the land, as a peep into the 1909 catalogue shows. By then, its client list included many of the big gentry names, Victorian industrialists and others who could afford to keep up with the trends, who bought greenhouses and orchard houses for their estate gardens, or fashionable summer houses and conservatories to extend their houses. Amongst many others, the company had supplied Queen Victoria at Windsor and Osborne House, The Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, the Astors at Cliveden, the de Rothschilds at Ascott, the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth and Lord Middleton at Wollaton and Birdsall. The company had even supplied buildings abroad - including South America, Africa, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Germany. Particularly notable were projects for the Botanical Gardens in Hong Kong and in Sydney, Australia. Locally, the company had undertaken work at Clifton Hall, at Nottingham Arboretum, for George Fellows at Beeston Fields, for Earl Manvers at Thorsby, for The Duke of Newcastle at Clumber, for Miss Bayley at Lenton Abbey, for Henry Kirk at The Oaks, Broadgate, Beeston and for many other prominent Nottinghamshire families.

Many of these building have survived, usually with they original ironwork on which the name "Foster & Pearson, Beeston, Notts" can be found. Careful restoration has preserved many of them, and the quality of the original construction has meant that they have often survived remarkakly well, helped by patent Foster & Pearsons features - such as its improved drip bar which was introduced in the 1880s. Click here and here to see some examples - and please let us know if you spot others.

The War would have brought this activity abruptly to a halt and, afterwards, many of the former clients would have found themselves in a very different world and not in a position to spend on the same scale or to maintain estates on such a grand scale. Nevertheless, the company was able to continue, mainly providing horticultural buildings for large formal gardens.

As both the 1905 advert and the 1909 catalogue shows, despite the formal seperation of the companies' operations, the company continued to work with Beeston Foundry for the supply of ironwork and heating equipment. The catalogue devotes many pages to the Foundry's products which are shown in great detail. Also shown are examples of heating systems supplied to grand houses and there is an invitation to householders to seek estimates for similar work. As this was then work undertaken by the Foundry, it as clear there was much to be gained by co-operation where the products appealed to similar aspiring homeowners and, at least at that time, the brothers certainly co-operated in their mutual interest.

Gatton Park Greenhouses
A range of greenhouses erected at Gatton Park, Reigate, Surrey for Sir Jeremiah Colman (Chairman of Colmans Mustard)
One of many similar projects carried out by Foster & Pearson Limited

Douglas Hetley Pearson died in October 1927 57. He and his wife Ellen Elizabeth (née Thomas) had two children, both sons, one of which had died as an infant. 58The older son, Donald Pearson (1892-1955), trained as an engineer 59 and is likely that he worked in the family business and took over control after his father's death. By 1951, Foster & Pearsons Limited had been taken over by Philip Douglas Hazzledine, a heating engineer, and the company began to operate in that field 60. By the 1960's, Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council (the predecessor of what is now Broxtowe Borough Council) had begun to assembly land in the central area of Beeston in preparation for the major redevelopment of which The Square shopping centre was a large part. This included the site of Foster & Pearsons, which now included property on Chapel Street, to the rear of the site, which had been acquired by the company in 1943 61. The company duly sold the property to the Council in two stages in January 1961 and March 1964 for a total of £44,500 62.

After moving from Station Road, the company operated as heating engineers from premises on Villa Street and then, after a further takeover, from 146 Station Road, Beeston (now occupied by the Conservative Club). After closing for business in Beeston, the company was acquired by new owners in Billingshurst, West Sussex. Happily the company now once again produces glasshouses to the original Foster & Pearson Victorian designs and specification - with all the new castings and timber sections completely interchangeable with those built in the 19th century. More can be seen here

Beeston Foundry Company Limited - later The Beeston Boiler Company Limited - As we have seen, by the time of formation of this company in 1893, Henry Pearson and his brother Louis F Pearson had come to realise the potential of the foundry business. Now largely separated from other distractions, the two men - with additional input from another brother, Douglas H Pearson - could focus on developing the business far beyond the small-scale and often relatively unsophisticated ironwork and heating requirements they had previously catered for. Over the years to come, the company - which was later renamed as The Beeston Boiler Company Limited - was to be transformed into a major local employer with a product range that was known all over the world.

The concept of 'central heating' - consisting of a central heating source providing steam or hot water, piped to radiators fitted throughout a building - had become popular in America from about 1880. By the end of that century, The American Radiator Company had become market leaders there, had had some success with its products in Europe and were soon to set up a British subsidiary, The National Radiator Company in Hull - which eventually became Ideal Standard 63. The experience that had been gained at Brown Lane had meant that the three Pearson brothers were aware of the potential of this developing trend, clearly many times greater than the greenhouse boiler market. With their insider's eye this trend must have been compelling evidence that commercial and industrial premises in Britain, as well as larger residential homes wishing to move away from dependence on open fires, would adopt this new approach. Henry had benefited from an insider's view when he bought out Foster and had responded decisively then. Now, the brothers grasped this new opportunity with enthusiasm and energy and it was to prove a profitable one indeed.

From the start, despite their close family relationship, the three men operated the new business with professionalism and formality. Although this was intended to remain a family business, the 'rules' of the company - including the basis of valuation of shareholdings, rates for any loans by shareholders, directors' fees, etc - were carefully decided and recorded in the minutes of formal shareholders' meetings 64. At the first of these, held on 16 May 1893, Director's remuneration was agreed at £450 per annum for Henry J Pearson and £150 per annum each for Douglas H Pearson and for Louis F Pearson. Douglas was appointed as Company Secretary. The initial capital of the Company was £15,000 - half of which was in the form of Preference shares - but this was to grow substantially and steadily over the years to match the growth of the company. In general, this was achieved for many years by re-investment by the Directors of profits paid to them as dividends or the capitalisation of retained profits.

There was an immediate recognition that the Brown Lane site was totally inadequate to accommodate the scale of the operation they had in mind. The lower parts of Beeston offered the chance of obtaining reasonably priced tracts of land, of a much large size that was no available within the centre of the town. But, at the same time, it remained convenient enough to attract the local workforce. This opportunity had already been recognised by the Humber Company which had opened its cycle works there. Now the Pearsons were able to acquire a block of land - about 28 acres 65 - between the south side of Queens Road and the Midland Railway line. Later, a similar approach was to be taken by The National Telephone Company (later Ericssons) when it located its Beeston factory in the lower area of Beeston and eventually by Boots in the location of its factory. Taken together, these initiatives changed the character of Beeston from a small, self-contained community, dependant largely on the lace trade - which was already beginning to decline - to an outward-looking manufacturing community and 'The Foundry' - as it became known - was very much a part of that change.

The new factory opened on the Queens Road site in 1896 and the company vacated the Brown Lane site, leaving it for the sole use of Foster & Pearson Limited. It had been daring move, with considerable financial risk but, as the predicted wide adoption of central heating became a reality in commercial premises and many middle-class homes over the next five decades, it was to give handsome rewards - though, as we will see, the essentially universal adoption of central heating in the last part of the 20th century was not to be so fortunate for the company.

Henry John Pearson Up until the time the company was formed, Henry John Pearson (shown left), being the much older of the three brothers, had been the driving force in the family business - and, indeed, had acquired the Brown Lane business personally in 1883. His business energy and force of character were clearly evident in that business, enabling him to prosper and to build a large family home at Bramcote - The White House, which still stands prominently, overlooking the double bend in Bramcote Lane 66 - and gave him the confidence and the capital to form Beeston Foundry and to acquire and develop the huge new Beeston site. This dominant position was reflected in his majority shareholding, the size of his director's fee and his role as Chairman of the Board. At the same time, despite the size and complexity of this latest venture. he now felt able to further his life-long interests, including an interest in ornithology which took him, even during the years when these major developments were underway in Beeston, on expeditions to the far north of Scandinavia to study Arctic bird life, geology and botany and enabling him to acquire what was one of the finest collection of Arctic birds and eggs. On his return, he even found time to publish several books which vividly described these expeditions. Remarkably, he led or took part in seven expeditions to this region between 1893 and 1903. He also began to take an active role in local charities, a tradition that was continued in the next generation of the family. He supported the Nottingham Convalescent Homes and the Hospital for Women there and, in Beeston, he gave £1000 towards the Dovecote Lane Recreation Ground 67.

Louis F Pearson Henry John Pearson's increasing interest in these other aspects of his life, meant that his younger brother, Louis Frederick Pearson (shown right) took an increasingly dominant everyday managerial role. This was recognised in 1898 when his yearly Director's fee was increased to £500, now much closer to Henry's increased fee of £650. Louis had a similar dynamic and larger than life personality to that which hade served his brother so well in business and he was to be the dominant figure at the Foundry for the next 45 years. It was a personality that was also, it seems, able to attract invaluable professional and academic assistance in the development of the company's succesful product range. One such associate was Charles Mason, a self employed Civil Engineer who came to settle in Beeston from his native Lincolnshire 68.

At around the same time, in 1899, the other brother, Douglas Hetley Pearson, decided that his involvement at Foster & Pearson - where he was the general manager - meant that he could no longer spend as much time at the Foundry as had been envisaged. Consequently, although he continued in the role of Company Secretary until his death in 1927, his day to day responsibilities were reduced - with his Director's fee reduced to a more nominal £50 per annum. His role, it seems, had been to manage the administration of the business, so it is not surprising that, at the time that he relinquished this day to day role in 1899, the Directors made a move to strengthen the Administration that was ultimately to prove to be particularly beneficial to the development and success of the company for over the next sixty years. George Smith was a young man, aged only 17, when the Pearsons evidently recognised his potential and employed him, initially as a clerk. From this lowly position he soon demonstrated his worth, was clearly trusted by the family and was consequentially given more responsibility within the company. By 1911, he was in charge of the office, had been appointed a 'Junior Director' five years later and, in 1920, was appointed as a Director - the first from outside the Pearson family - and as General Manager 69. He continued to serve as a senior and influential manager within the company until his retirement in 1963. In his senior role, there is no doubt that he contributed greatly to the success of the company throughout his long service, not least, as we will see, in the way that he guided the company through important changes following the death of Louis Pearson in 1943. In 1959 he was appointed Chairman, a role that was taken up in 1963 by his son John Keetley Smith 70 and continued, though what proved to be difficult time during the company's decline in the mid-1970s.

Boiler Company Catalogue 1903 Alongside the opening of the factory, there was a need to design a coherent range of products which would be attractive throughout the various markets - industrial, commercial, residential and not forgetting the horticultural. This task drew heavily on the technical expertise - and drive - of Louis Pearson. It was clear that it was not possible to produce the whole range at once but, over the first few years the basis of the range was in place - as can be seen from a 1903 advertisement 71 (shown left). Already, the company had developed the highly successful 'Robin Hood', a sectional cast iron boiler which used a taper nipple connection to join sections to build up boilers to various lengths, an approach that had become popular in the United States and was then beginning to be adopted in Britain - the Robin Hood being one of the first. The sections themselves were to become available in a variety of sizes - eventually six, and with many available variations of associated equipment - to meet the heating requirements of larger buildings. For smaller installations - including horticultural buildings - there was the 'Mona' 72 and it wasn't long before a wide range of smaller domestic boilers, which were to become a feature in many middle-class kitchens over the next fifty years.

Also shown in the 1903 advertisement are cast iron sectional radiators which were, in fact, the key ingredient for success in this market. This idea had become a fashionable feature in America where they had been pioneered with great success by the American Radiator Company and various British manufacturers had begun to produce similar products. Again, a key feature was a sectional design which allowed standard radiator loops to be joined together with 'nipple' joints to form radiators of the required length. Beeston Foundry joined the race for the British market from the start and produced vast quantities over the next 50-60 years until pressed steel radiators took over as the popular choice. It is believed that its market share in Britain became second only to National Radiator, helped by careful design which recognised British needs - including, in the early days at least, fashionable ornate decoration 73.

While a good proportion of sales were achieved directly, supplying major national and local government projects, hospitals, schools and colleges, churches and similar locations, the company also developed a wholesale trade with a network of builders' and plumbers' merchants to supply smaller needs - particularly, through them, to domestic customers. This dealer network was soon supported by advertising in national and regional newspapers and, a regularly produced - usually annual - bound catalogue which contained specifications of the company's products - which included a comprehensive variety of pipework, valves, ventilators, gratings, etc as well as its boilers and radiators. There too, architects, builders, fitters, etc could find detailed recommendations, performance tables and a much, to assist in planning, sizing, installing and operating a Beeston system. A surprisingly large number of these catalogues, each with the year of issue on the cover, appear to have survived to this day and often appear on on-line auction sites. They demonstrate a remarkable attention to detail.

In 1907, Stephen Hetley Pearson was appointed a Director. He was the eldest of Henry's three sons and was then 25 and unmarried. He had been educated at Charterhouse and had trained as a Chartered Accountant 74. His director's fee in his first year was £175. Two years later he was joined by his younger brother, Noel Gervis Pearson, also an Old Carthusian, who commenced with a fee of £150 75. A third son, John Strachan Pearson, Stephen Hetley's twin brother, had left to farm in New Zealand some five or more years earlier 76. It was in 1909, the Stephen Hetley reformed the Beeston Boys Brigade and set up the Lads' Club with financial help from the Pearson family. Generations of Beeston boys - and later girls - have benefited from this initiative and it continues today as the Pearson Centre for Young People.

In February 1913, Henry John Pearson died in Assiout while on an expedition to Egypt 77. He was relatively young, only 62, but he had achieved much in his life, with the foresight to recognise two significant business opportunities, the courage to back his judgement and the energy to carry them through. And too, he had become an authority in and had traveled widely in pursuit of his interest in bird life, botany and geology 78. He had also established a management structure, from within the family which would ensure that the company he had largely created would continue. Certainly. over the first 20 years, when he had presided, the Company had established itself well and the figures confirmed it -

Averages - per annum Earnings Dividends Capital Earnings/Capital
1894-1899£2,712£2,712£19,50013.9%
1900-1904£7,273£7,161£26,90027.0%
1905-1909£19,179£19,265£36,40052.7%
1910-1914£21,554£21,520£43,20049.9%

It should be emphasised that the table shows average earnings and dividends per year for each of the five year periods and compares them against the average capital employed 79. The company was profitable from the start and grew steadily year-on-year - an impressive achievement for what must have been a complex start-up. As can be seen, the policy during that time was to pay essentially all of the profits in dividends and to reinvest as needed. In summary, the family received over £253,000 in dividends over the 20 year period, had received another £16,000 in Directors' fees and had invested £52,000 to bring their total capital investment to £67,000. At this stage, we have included Preferred Shares (£7500 rising to £21,760 over this period) in the total capital employed and included the 6% dividend in the total dividends as this best illustrates the family's return on investment. At the time of his death, Henry John Pearson is believed to have held about 55% of the Ordinary Shares and about 2/3 of the Preference Shares.

Although Henry John Pearson had a controlling interest in the company and, without a doubt, he had held strong views about how the company should operate, made them known and thereby contributed to its success, the day-to-day overall management of the company had effectively been in the hands of his brother, Louis Frederick Pearson for some time, probably almost from the start. It was Louis who appears to have used his personality and social standing to establish himself and the company within the rapidly growing and then increasingly competitive world of heating engineering in Britain. Even before the turn of the century, and within just a few years of the Foundry's opening, he was able to liase (as we would say today, 'network') with other big names in the industry and, in 1903, his standing was such that he served as the President of the The Institute of Heating & Ventilating Engineers 80. Now, following his brother's death, his dominent position in the running of the company was clear - he was now very much 'in charge'.

The big test came almost straight away with war was declared in 1914 and everyday life in Britain was turned upside down. By the end of it, this terrible war would bring tragedy and heartbreak to many families in Beeston and throughtout the land - as it turned out, this would be the case with the Pearson family itself. But, at the start of it, patriotism was in the air and everyone was optimistic for a quick end to hostilities. Members of the Pearson family were quick to play their part - all three of Henry John Pearson's sons (nephews of Louis Pearson) and Louis' son were to serve -

Noel Gervis Pearson, who had been working at the Foundry since 1909, first served as a Captain with the 12th Battalion the Sherwood Foresters as part of the 17th Infantry Brigade. Later, he saw service with the South Wales Borderers (Pioneers) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before taking command the 2nd/16th Queenís Westminster Rifles. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1918, and was twice mentioned in dispatches 81.

Stephen Hetley Pearson, who had worked at the Foundry since 1907, had reformed the Boys Brigade in Beeston in 1899 and opened the Lads Club on Brown Lane (now Station Road) in 1913, with the help of substantial financial support from the Pearson family. When war was declared he mobilised Old Boys of the Brigade to volunteer. 27 marched to the Nottingham Recruitment Centre in the initial contingent in August, 1914 and many more followed. Sadly, 42 Beeston Boys Brigade Old Boys died in the four years of the war. Amongst those who died was Stephen Hetley Pearson who enlisted in December 1915, serving first as a Private in the 28th Northumberland Fusiliers, and gaining promotion to Sergeant before being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Grenadier Guards. He was killed in action on 1 December 1917 and is buried at Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery Extension, France. A memorial to him is included in the Beeston Roll of Honour which may be seen here. His work with the Boys Brigade (see here) and the Lads' Club has become an enduring legacy of his life, a force for good in Beeston which continues to this day 82.

John Strachan Pearson, Stephen Hetley's twin, had not worked for the Foundry. As we have mentioned previously, he had left for New Zealand before 1905 and had established himself as a farmer there. Nevertheless, he enlisted with the New Zealand expeditionary force in June 1915 and served with the New Zealand Camel Corp and the 2nd Battalion, New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron, mainly in Egypt. There, he suffered several episodes of ill-health, including pleurisy in December 1916 and pneumonia in July 1917. He died of malaria on 4 November 1918 and was buried in the Alexandria (Hadra) War Cemetery on the same day 83.

Thomas Royston Pearson, the son of Louis Frederick Pearson, was an 18-year-old cadet with the Nottingham University Officers' Training Corps when the war started and, in October 1914, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the South Nottinghamshire Hussars. He later served with the Royal Horse Guards, part of thr Household Cavalry. In 1919, he acquired Beeston Foundry shares from the Trustees of the estate of Stephen Hetley Pearson and was appointed as a Director of the Company in 1924. In the Second World War he was to serve as a Major 84.

WW1 AdvertAged 51 in 1914, Louis Pearson was, of course, too old to serve directly but he was able to use his energies and personality to further the war effort on the Home Front, most notably as Chairman of the Nottingham Munitions Board of Management. This was part of a network of such Boards, set up towards the end of 1915, responsible to the Ministry of Munitions for coordinating and maximising manufacturing resources in the local area to ensure an absolute focus on the war effort. This would have been a task that absorbed much of his time, both directly and through the need for personal contact amongst local industry, but his efforts did not stop there, As well, he served on the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and the Mayor of Nottingham's Recruiting Committee, represented the Ministry of Munitions on the Nottingham Area Road Transport Committee and worked strenuously for the National War Savings Committee 85. In Beeston itself, he was the Chairman of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Hospital which was established at The Cedars in 1915, providing 26 beds for convalescing wounded soldiers 86.

During these war years, the Foundry, like virtually all factories throughout the country, changed over to war production - in fact, the use of its resources would have been overseen by Pearson's Munitions Board of Management - so, with other family members away fighting, Louis would have had to use his energies and force of character in that direction too, to ensure that the changeover took place as efficiently as possible and that production was maintained despite the inevitable shortages of labour and materials. Although the production of boilers and radiators would have been largely suspended, with an eye to the future it was thought necessary to keep these more traditional products in the public eye. The contemporary advertisement shown here, makes reference to the company's war work, emphasises the product's contribution to fuel economy and reassures the customer that, even though their menfolk are away, 'Ladies can stoke these boilers'!

In 1918, the War was at last over and the country - particularly manufacturing industry - had to again look to reorganising itself to return to peacetime production and to reestablishing the export markets it had had to neglect during the War. But the country was not the same as it had been. Many young men had died and those who had survived where wanting the better life they surely deserved - a 'land fit for heroes' that the wartime Prime Minister Lloyd George had promised at the time of the Armistice. In the country as a whole, many were disappointed and disillusioned as the economy soon turned to recession, high levels of unemployment and civil unrest. While conditions in Beeston and the local area were not as severe as elsewhere, nevertheless local employment clearly depended on a few large employers. of which Ericsson Telephones was one and the Foundry was another 87.

It was against - perhaps despite - this economic background that Louis Pearson - with the support of his nephew Noel Gervis Pearson, following his return from the War - set about restarting peacetime production of boilers and radiators with his usual self-confidence and energy - qualities which would have undoubtedly have been boosted by his appontment, in 1919, as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service during the War 88. His efforts to re-establish the home market for the company's products and to re-connect with markets abroad soon began to get results, building confidence to invest in the Beeston site. Over the next 8 years, capital investment of over £100,000 was made by the family, increasing it from £67,000 at the end of the war, to £172,000 by 1927. Management was strengthened too, with George Smith's appointment as Director and General Manager in 1919. Some idea of the involvement by him and other Directors in these years and the remainder of the inter-war period, can be seen by following their respective level of Director's Fee 89 :

Years LFP DHP NGP GS TRP
1918£900£50£225..
1919£1800£100£700..
1920£2000£100£900900.
1921-23£2100£150£10001000.
1924-25£1900.£1250125050
1924-25£1900.£1250125050
1926£1900.£1250150025
1927-36£1800.£1250150025
1937-38£1750.£2500250025
Key : LFP=Louis Frederick Pearson, DHP=Douglas Henry Pearson, NGP=Noel Gervis Pearson, GS=George Smith, TRP=Thomas Royston Pearson

Aerial View 1921The table appears to show clearly that, although he continued as Chairman until his death in 1943, Louis Pearson had begun to reduce his everyday involvement in the management of the company by 1924. by which time Gervis Pearson and George Smith had taken over day-to-day control. It was in 1924 too that Thomas Royston Pearson was appointed a Director although, given his relatively low director's fee of £50, apparently without day-to-day involvement 90. As part of this transistion, the name of the company was changed to Beeston Boiler Company Limited in 1923.

This aerial view of the factory site (shown right) is dated 1921 and shows how it was already, by then, well established again. In the foreground is its frontage of 550 feet along the Midland Railway and its own private siding, with the rest of the site then covering 10 acres. By 1932, the company was claiming it covered 20 acres and, by 1938, 28 acres 91. In addition, the company provided a Employees' Sports Ground off Beacon Road 92.

During virtually of the inter-war period, the depressed state of the economy meant that it was virtually inevitable that, despite growing industrial militancy nationally, the employer could largely dictate employment terms. This was undoubtably the case at the Foundry where the company and its management - and the Pearson family in particular - were viewed by its workforce with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, many were glad of a chance of a job in a time of much unemployment - particularly returning soldiers. On the other hand, the company's reputation as a strict employer was keenly felt then and has been remembered over the years since. Sackings were frequent, working conditions were far from good and timekeeping was very strictly enforced. The working day started at 6.30am 93, Monday to Saturday (the latter being a half day, finishing at 12 noon) with the factory gate closed strictly at 6.30am and those arriving late locked-out for the day without pay. With the already low wages, the penalty of losing pay in this way was particularly hard on a stretched family budget and it is not surprising that some men - helped by enterprising neighbours - found ways to avoid the loss of the full day. Many tales are still told of latecomers climbing into the yard from a garden in Windsor Street, later claiming they had forgotten to clock-in - which mean a fine of half a crown but keeping the day's pay! 94

One employee who was particularly scathing about working conditions at the Foundry was George Hodgkinson who wrote of his time there in his autobigraphy 'Sent to Coventry' 95. Working at first as a despatch and loading clerk and later in the machine shop, he described hazardous working conditions - the foundry area itself, where the boiler sections were moulded, he described, somewhat emotively, as 'hell with the lid off' - and he was particularly scathing of management. In summary he found, 'All the elements of industrial feudalism seemed to be epitomised in this factory compound, the overlordship of the boss, an unorganised body of workpeople specialising in the work of casting, fitting and assembling water heating apparatus, and no similar crafts within a hundred miles'. Hodgkinson went on to be a trade unionist, chief convenor of shop stewards, Councillor, Alderman and Mayor of Coventry. It appears that his militant outlook, maintained throughout his life (click to read more), is likely to have been formed during his early experiences at Beeston Foundry.

In their public life, the Pearsons showed a different side with benevolence on a grand scale. Louis Pearson was particularly generous towards the work of Nottingham General Hospital where he was President in 1924-5 and Chairmen of the Monthly Board from 1933 to 1942 and to which cause he made many generous donations - including £5,000 towards the building of the Ropewalk Wing, £7,000 towards a new operating theatre, endowed beds, gave £12,000 towards the building of Pearson House Nurses' Home and paid for a covered walkway from the hospital to that nurses' home in memory of his daughter. In Beeston, in 1923, he gave the Broadgate Recreation Ground which then included a bandstand. He was knighted in 1923 and was appointed High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1934 96. His nephew, Noel Gervis Pearson continued the family connection with the General Hospital where he was President in 1930-31 and 1947-48 and was Chairman of the Monthly Board when the hospital became part of the National Health Service in 1948, going on to serve on the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board. He was High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1935 and was County Commissioner Advert 1932for Scouts. In 1938, he was instrumental in obtaining 250 acres of land from the Rufford Abbey Estate that became the Nottingham Scouts' Walesby Forest Campsite and provided much of the finance required to make the purchase. 97

As far as the company itself was concerned, however, there is no doubt that it did well during the inter-war period, a time when the company established markets - both domestic and commercial at home and, abroad, notably throughout what was then the Empire. The scope of that coverage - and the durability of the product - is demonstrated by the continued appearance of examples of boilers which survive today - some of which, like the example here that was, at least until relatively recently, still heating a restaurant in South Africa 98, are still in regular use. An advertisment aimed at the domestic market which is typical of those that ran in The Times and many regional newspapers during much of this era, is shown on the left - this one from 1932. Small installations were usually sold through a network of builders merchants and agents. Much bigger heating installations were, of course, carried out, often using the company's workforce, in commercial buildings, schools, hospitals, churches etc.

The following table 99 shows the financial results shown as yearly averages during each of the five year periods in the inter-war period, as well as the yearly averages during the five years which included the period of the Great War when the factory was dedicated to war production. While these war years yielded results which continued favourably from the earlier years (see earlier table), the years that followed show the marked improvement which resulted from the increased investment, drive for new markets and refocused management - as well, as the hard work - and many would say, sacrifices - of the workforce. As in the previous table, Capital includes Preferred Shares (£21,760) and Dividends include the 6% dividend on those shares.

Averages - per annum Earnings Dividends Capital Earnings/Capital
1915-1919£25.373£21,551£69,60036.5
1920-1924£70,927£52,527£121,60058.3%
1925-1929£99,480£89,904£164,80060.4%
1930-1934£83,086£76,613£172,00048.3%
1935-1939£90,603£84,945£202,00044.9

In September 1939, the country faced total war once again. And, once again, the Foundry's significant production facilities were needed to assist with the war effort and the moment demanded maximum effort. Again, the Pearson family and the supporting management team that it had assembled over the years, turned their attention to the task at hand. The workforce responded well but, inevitably, there were problems with manning levels as the younger men left to serve in the Forces - a particularly difficult problem in a foundry where the work was arduous and the workforce could not be readily replaced by women or older men. And, as in the Great War, the Pearson family were directly involved too - Louis' son, Thomas Royston Pearson, a Beeston Boiler Director, served as a Major with the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry and it seems likely that all four of Gervis' sons served - Mark Pearson was with the 15/19 Hussars and was awarded the Military Cross, Edward Arthur Pearson was a pilot with the RAFVR and was killed in 1941 and Basil John Pearson was killed in 1944 while serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Armoured Corps, 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars 100.

Two new Directors were appointed in May 1942 - Mark Pearson 101 who would take up a full-time role after the war, and Cyril Ealey 102, who strengthened the administration side of the business. He also served as Company Secretary, a role that was to have particular importance over the next few years, as we shall she.

Sir Louis Pearson's leadership had served the company well since it was formed in 1893 - and with Foster & Pearson before that - a period of over 50 years during much of which he had led the company with his characteristic energy and enthusiasm. Although he was to continue as company Chairman until his death, the inter-war years had seen his involvement in the day-to-day management reduced as his nephew Noel Gervis Pearson and George Smith took over this responsibility, allowing Sir Louis to concentrate on his extensive charitable and public roles. Now, as the company went into war production, he was aged 75 and had already faced a difficult five years. His wife Gertrude had died in May 1936 103 and, less than a year later, in January 1837, his younger daughter, Gladys Marion Pearson had died, aged 44 104. Nevertheless, early in 1938, Sir Louis married Margaret Ethel Grimmer, a member of the nursing staff at Nottingham General Hospital, who had nursed his wife in her final illness 105.

By the early part of the war, a heart condition had worsened and his health had deteriorated generally - although, still as Chairman, he never missed a meeting of the Board. By the summer of 1943 though, there were signs of some improvement in his health such that the Board was able to record this better news 108. However, within months, on 5 November 1943, Sir Louis died at his home at Lenton Grove 107.

Noel Gervis PearsonDespite the difficult wartime conditions, Sir Louis' death necessitated setting in place far-reaching changes to the financial structure of the company. While Noel Gervis Pearson (shown right) took over as Chairman and the recently strengthened day-to-day management was able to continue unchanged, Sir Louis' controlling interest needed to be managed for the benefit of both his family and the company. His will had been made in 1938 in anticipation of his marriage and, although subject to relatively minor modification by a series of codicils, would form the basis of the settlement of his substantial estate 108. After making provision for his wife, members of his wider family, his domestic staff, a bequest of £1000 to the Nottingham General Hospital and an absolute bequest of his farm at Brailsford in Derbyshire to his son, Thomas Royston Pearson, the substantial residue was to be divided between his son (70%) and his surviving daughter, Mrs Phyllis Cattanach (30%). Specifically, it stipulated that half of his shareholding in Beeston Boiler was to be sold within 18 months and the remainder within 5 years. It seems that the this stipulation was motivated by two considerations. Firstly, there would be a need to meet the substantial Estate Duties 109 that would arise and, also, it was envisaged that it was appropriate and desirable to make some or all of his shares available to the wider family - particularly to his nephew Noel Gervis Pearson who, although not an immediate relation, and therefore not a significant beneficiary, was expected to become the most senior family member in the Foundry management.

Although Sir Louis' son, Thomas Royston Pearson, was nominally a Director of the company, it seems clear that there was never any intention or anticipation that he would take a more active role in the running of Beeston Boiler. But even if there was, in a terrible twist of fate, only 12 days after his father's death, he was killed on the farm that he had inherited, when the tractor he was driving overturned while he was attempting to remove tree roots 110. Apart from the terrible tragedy to the family, this can only have further exacerbated the need for funds to settle Estate Duties.

In fact, it seems that, even before Sir Louis' death, steps had been taken to sell the shares as it was in October 1943 - the month before his death - that 50% of the Ordinary Shares of the Company (112.500 shares of a total of 125,000 with a nominal value of £1 per share)- owned respectively by Noel Gervis Pearson, George Smith and The Walesby Trust 111 - were sold to the stockbroking firm Helbert, Wagg & Co which, in turn, placed the shares privately with its clients. The existing shareholders were paid £6 8s (£6.40) per share and they were sold on, for the most part, for £6 11s (£6.55) which had the effect of placing a value on the company of almost £1.5 million 112. It also provided the funds for the shareholders who had initiated the transaction to again acquire shares from those held in Sir Louis' estate.

Given the war conditions that then prevailed, this first step was all that could then be realistically achieved - and was enough to enable the company to address the financial issues that had arisen from the death of Sir Louis. In the longer time, the new and wider minority shareholders would be looking for a listing on the Stock Exchange so that their holding could be properly and more widely traded. The intention to make an application to The Council of the London Stock Exchange for permission to deal in the Company's Ordinary Stock was advertised in The Times on 25 November 1946 with listing proceeding soon after. As part of the this change, the Company's existing capital of 225,000 Ordinary shares of £1 each were converted into Ordinary Stock, transferable in units and multiples of 5s (25p).

A New Era for the Company - As we have seen, the Company entered the post-war period with an invigorated management team, a new financial structure with outside shareholders to consider and, as it saw things, a strong market for its traditional products - which had established an enviable position as a market leader in the inter-war period - a position it would now strive to maintain. The main difficulty it faced was the shortage of available foundry labour that it had faced during the war years, continued into peacetime - a situation that contrasted with the position after the previous war when there was an abundance of available labour.

Shortage of labour had meant that earnings had been depressed during the war years, with after tax annual profits running at an average of just over £50k - down substantially from the average for the last five pre-war years when the comparable figure was £90k. Now, at the start of the post-war period, with the labour shortage showing every sign of continuing but with every indication that the demand for its products would be strong, management decided upon the introduction of mechanisation - a policy that was undoubtedly appropriate and necessary at the time and one that would be sustained for more than two decades - but one that, as we will see, would eventually and unwittingly bring great difficulties.

1947 CatalogueSo it was that, in 1946, the company built a successful mechanised moulding plant to produce small boiler parts followed, in 1952, by a mechanised radiator plant 113. As had been the practice when the company had been entirely in the hands of the Pearson family, this investment was financed out of earnings. Whereas in the past, in times when further major capital investment was not required, earnings were usually distributed essentially fully to shareholders, now this distribution was partly withheld to finance capital investment. In return for foregoing dividends, investors were issued additional shares to cover the additional capitalisation. In 1953, to finance the two moulding plants and various asset renewals, the Common Stock of the company was increased in this way by £150,000 and, by 1953, totaled £375,000. A further capitalisation of retained profits in 1957 increased the the capital stock by a further £250k to £647k 114.

At least for the time being, everything seemed in place and progress was being made to build further develop the Company's already prominent position in the market. The title page of its catalogue (Left) shows good evidence of this - its Royal Appointment was prominently displayed, it was an approved supplier to a range of Government departments and it had showrooms in London and Glasgow as well as its Beeston Head Office. Of course, as a publicly quoted company, its shareholders and the market generally had to be convinced and, for the moment at least, all was well in that direction with the 5s (25p) stock units trading at the end of 1946 at almost 44s (£2.20) 115 - a healthy 34% premium on the price of the original placing.

Operationally, the company performed reasonably well, continuing to sell well into its traditional markets responding with a strong understanding of changes in need and taste. In fact, however, an analysis of the company's finances in the years between the end of the war and up to 1959, demonstrates a steady decline in its ability to maintain an acceptable return on investment. The following table, which includes the comparable figures for the war years, summarises the after-tax earnings, dividends and return on the substantially increased capital investment in the company for the years up to 1959 and shows the position clearly - while after-tax profits were increasing in numeric terms, return on investment - and shareholder return - was not keeping pace 116. There must have been other factors too that unnerved the investor as, even before extra investment was introduced, the share price had dropped to £1.32 by July 1950 117 - a decline of 19% from the original placing price. While share prices have not yet been found for the next 20 or more years, it is very probably that the share price continued to decline. While some of any decline after 1950 may be attributed to the dilution of the equity base by the issuing of new shares in proportion to existing shareholders' holdings, it might have been reasonably expected that, over time, the increased investment would generate an appropriate yield.


Averages - per annum After Tax Earnings After Tax Equity Dividends Average Equity Capital Earnings/Equity
1940-1944£52,348£52,650£225,00023.4
1945-1948£55,019£46,406£225,00020.6%
1950-1954£92,609£53,625£285,00018.8%
1955-1959£132,411£60,878£525,00011.6%

In summary, since the war years, by 1955/9, profits were up 153%, investment had climbed by 133% while after-tax earnings had dropped from 23.6% to 11.6% and after-tax dividends were up only 16%. An investor in July 1950 (when share prices are known and before the post-war reinvestment had got underway) would be receiving a return on a current investment of 4.17% after tax. The return on an investment made at the original placing price would be 3.37% after tax. While this may seem a reasonable return for that era, it was probably at the lower limit for what was deemed reasonable for an investment that carried some risk. In that context, later diminishing returns coupled with an increasing need for investment would have certainly given rise to increasing shareholder concern.

In November 1958, Noel Gervis Pearson died 118 and the position of Chairman was taken by George Smith who had then served the Company for sixty years. Mark Pearson, Noel's eldest son, took over as Managing Director.

The company now entered the sixties, still with a good market position - although recurring ups and downs in the construction industry, problems caused by variations in Government spending and a devaluation which brought raw material price increases, certainly did not help. And, the company's underlying weakness continued. Despite the investment in mechanisation, in 1961 the company still had 850 employees and the difficulty in sustaining these numbers continued - despite an increasing availability of immigrants from the Caribbean countries and from parts of Europe. Traditionally, despite what was seen by many as an unattractive working environment, new employees were often recruited or encouraged to start there by existing family members - a tradition clearly described by one young man who started with the compamy in 1965 :

Roy Harper - who worked at Beeston Boilers from 1965 to 1985, describes the family connections that were a feature within the workforce, when he started there:

My working life began at Beeston Boilers on Monday the 16th of August 1965 aged 14 - I didnít turn 15 till the Wednesday of that week although I believe the official age for starting work at that time was 15 but that didnít seem to be a concern to anybody at that time.

My place of work was to be the tool room organised by my father Joe who was the blacksmith and the tool room foreman Ernie Glover, which wasnít unusual in those days as a lot of lads would be employed through family connections and I was actually the third generation of my family to be employed at the company. Obviously the biggest family connection was the Pearson family that owned and ran Beeston Boilers for several generations, but apart from the Pearsons a few of the other familyís that I can remember are as follows.

My Uncle, Harry Harper and his two lads John and Geoff who all I think worked in the core shop at this time.

Arthur Haywood (my future father in-law) who was the garage mechanic and his son Trevor who started in the radiator shop, Trevorís wife Jill later joined the company to work in the canteen.

Charlie Eaton who worked in the blacksmiths with my father and his son Bob who was a pattern maker.

Jim Argyle who worked in the top compressor house and his son Dennis who started as an electrician and later another son Reg, who joined the company also on the maintenance team.

Fred Mellors and his son Carl - and also part of the Mellors family there was Fredís brothers Joe in the pattern shop and Johnny who worked in the foundry.

Ken March who worked in the tinsmiths and his son Tony who started as an electrician and also Kenís brother Wally.

Eric Bacon and his son Arthur (Archie) Jack Higham and his sister Iris later joined by their nephew Derek Brown.

- these are just a few of the ones I can remember and I have no doubt there will be a few I have forgotten.

Labour costs were just one of the problems that still needed to be addressed when, in 1963, John Keetley Smith (known as Jack) 119 (below left), the son of George Smith, took over the Chairmanship of the Company from his father and, together with other Directors and senior managers, began to put together a re-organisation plan.

J K Smith<   M Pearson<   W A Smedley

Others who were part of the team at that time included :
Mark Pearson (above centre), who continued as Managing Director - was now the sole remaining member of the Pearson family in the Company.
William Arthur Smedley (above right), who became Sales Director, was born in Beeston in 1916 and had joined the Company as a 14 year old office boy in 1930. He was then typical of the type of promising and deserving young men whom the Pearson family tended to employ. His father had been killed in the Great War when he was less than one year old. He became a member of Beeston Boys Brigade and Lads' Club. It seems that he was a good choice as he served the company well until its final closure - and, indeed, was an active and popular figure within the wider Beeston community. His position in the Company - and his energy and enthusiasm - means that a considerable amount of information about him survives 120.
Cyril Eley - continued as a Director and Company Secretary - he too had joined the company as a young man - in his case as a 22 year old in 1921 121.
Wilfrid Arthur Spicer - a Director, also Beeston born who had started in the office as a young man, in 1925 122.
Sydney William Jones - the Marketing Manager had started with the Company as a 14 year-old office boy in 1922 123.
J M Riley was the Chief Engineer and R E Cox was the Head of Research.

By 1965, they had they put together a plan of action which set out to :

  • Rationalise the product line
  • Develop a new boiler to be known as the Series 5
    and
  • Construct a new automated foundry to manufacture the boiler sections
The successful completion of the project was expected to confirm the company's position as the providers of a state-of-the-art, market-leading boilers which could be produced economically in quantity. It was to be only partially successful

Centre Point The main contract for the provision of the automated foundry, which was expected to cost about £650k overall 124, was given to a German specialist company. When complete, the foundry was expected to be the only one of its kind in the country and probably the most advanced. To partly finance the project, a further capitalisation of profits of £312.5k was made in 1964 to bring the company's total capital stock to £959.5k 125. All in all, it was a daring move and clearly one that was not without its risks - as events were to prove, though in an unlikely way.

Of course, while the reorganisation was underway, it was business as usual, selling and installing heating systems throughout the country and, indeed in its traditional overseas markets in the Commonwealth and in Europe. One of the most prestigious was the provision of the heating system for the Centre Point Tower in London, in 1963-1966. Click the image of the building on the left to see some of the installation highlights. And too, the company continued to exhibit at a range of trade shows throughout this period. Click here to see a typical exhibition stand and the 'Robin Hood Girls' - members of the staff who often promoted the company at these shows during around this time.

Despite a good performance in its traditional markets, with many prestigious contracts won, earnings had begun to decline substantially by the end of the decade. However, it had been possible to increase the dividend although, once more, this increase did not keep pace with the substantial - but essential - capital investment. As a result, as the following figures show, the earnings/equity ratio continued to drop, down to 8.8% in 1965-69 - about half the rate achieved in the 1950s.

Averages - per annum Earnings Equity Dividends Average Equity Capital Earnings/Equity
1960-1964£138,398£74,250£687,50010.8
1965-1969£90,684£82,510£937,5008.8

Now everything depended on the new initiatives and the investment programme that was under way. A major component of that programme - the new automated foundry - was almost in place - click here to see progress - and management, employees and investors looked forward to its completion and the first of many boiler sections to be made for the new generation of boilers. It must have been an exciting - if nervous - time for all of them.

In 1970, the new foundry was commissioned but it wasn't very long before it was apparent that things were not right. No matter what was tried, the new automated foundry failed to deliver an acceptable level of good castings and much too high a level of scrap. This was particularly frustrating for the management team as the product development programme was making excellent progress - the Series 5 boiler was now in production and was widening its range, and a new range of gas boilers was gaining trade acceptance. At the same time, older product ranges were being rationalised.

By the following year - 1971 - the problems were showing up in the financial results and, for the first time in the company's history, no dividend was paid 126. Although continuing as a Director, Mark Pearson was replaced by John H Davies as Managing Director. His strong financial management background in the engineering industry was, no doubt, seen as a valuable addition to the management team 127.

Sadly, despite everyone's best efforts, the company was unable to recover and never again paid a dividend. After a small pre-tax profit of £16,000 in 1972, a loss of £356,000 in 1973, was disastrous. The Board had been encouraged by a strong order position, both at home and abroad, and a profitable first half-year, but high interest rates, continuing problems with the automated foundry and exceptional stock losses of £270,000 in the second half had been been devastating. Despite a strong order book, it was not able to take an optimistic view. Neither could the market, which cut the company's share price from 9p to a new low of 6p 128.

A year earlier, a take-over bid by Thornfield (St Anns) Ltd, the Nottingham-based property developers, which valued the company at 18p a share, had been rejected by the Board. Significantly, it had expressed the view that the company's property was overvalued and the stocks substantially so 129.

The sale of the company's Sports Field on Beacon Road to Broxtowe Borough Council providing much needed funds for the Company 130. Unfortunately, despite this temporary assistance, the company's difficulties continued and, shortly after, it was placed in Receivership. In January, 1977, the business was sold to Leys Malleable Castings, an old-established Derby-based company. Leys also bought the land and building from the Receiver for £320k. Many of the company's management - including Mark Pearson - left the company although William Smedley continued in the vital Sales Director role. Ian Francis Ley took over as Chairman 131.

Leys made every effort to bring the company - now Beeston Boiler Company (Successors) Ltd - into profitability and it seemed that, for now at least, the company had a new lease of life. But it was not an easy job. Trading losses were regularly reported at the monthly Management meetings 132, there was a constant need to spend on repairs to the run-down buildings and working environment, a more reliable financial and budget control system needed to be put in place and, still ever present, was the problem of bringing the automated foundry into efficient operation. During this period, the management team was strenthened by experienced Leys employees and, despite the problems they faced, they continued to have faith, at least for the first four years, that the operation had a future. Boiler development continued throughout the period - including the Brigadier, Bisley, Berkeley and Broxley models and more. Sales were reasonably resilient - after a first year of £2.4 million, they averaging £3.3 million annually over the next four years 133 - but were never enough to reach targets or breakeven and the continuous cycle of losses and reoccuring problems was becoming overwhelming. As well as the ever-present problems with the automated foundry, the older on-going foundry had problems and needed substantial investment, labour costs were excessive, run-down buildings and equipment (Click to see typical workshop conditions) needed attention, there was substantial overstocking and balancing sales demand with production schedules was a constant problem. As a result, none of the five full years during this time reported a trading profit. Initially, each of the losses in the first four years appeared 134 to be containable - particularly as they were offset by tax refunds - but the discovery in late 1981, that stocks had been substantially over-valued, changed everything. After reporting a trading loss of £708k for year-ending September 1981 - more than half of it arising from earlier overstated results in earlier years - the company faced severe liquidity problems once more.

An even greater loss in the following year - £842k - was more than the Leys management could accept or carry and, as a result, at the end of 1982, both Beeston Boilers and Leys itself was taken over by William Holdings, a company that had recently been established in Derby by†Nigel Rudd†and†Brian McGowan, to acquire and turnaround under-performing businesses. New management was put in place 135 and a programme of rationisation was soon implemented, with some parts of the business - notably the machine shop (Click the link for images of the move), the sales department and accounts - moving to Derby. By September 1983, both turnover and profitabilty were beginning to show progress, such that Williams Holdings decided to abandon its earlier intention to move all production processes away from Beeston and to sell the site.

The company had been given another chance and, accordingly, the company's name was changed to Beeston Boilers Limited 136, a new sales brochure prepared and management and workforce was able to face the future with some confidence. Unfortunately, this confidence was to prove shortlived as, in 1985, all work at the Beeston works was finally discontinued - though some servicing functions were the subject of a takeover by their management and moved away - and the site was cleared for redevelopment (Click to see demolition in progress). It was the end of a foundry operation that had made heating apparatus for customers at home and around the world, that had been on this site for almost 90 years and, as we have seen, had much earlier origins. But the fact was, its value was now in the 30 acres of land on which it stood, as it made way for housing and a large retail store - later to become a bingo hall. Times had certainly changed.


Footnotes - (Note: the respective footnote text may now be viewed in a pop-up window by clicking on any blue, underscored note number within the main text)
Where reference is made to the Probate Calender (Index giving brief details of grant of Probate/Administration), unless specifically stated, the full will and probate documentation has not been seen.
Scroll through the notes as required - or display them all by selecting expanded notes here
Notes


Return to Top of This Page


© David Hallam - 2013-2016