GKN SANKEY (JOSEPH SANKEY & SONS LTD)
- Document Reference: 4898
- System Reference: X4898
- Level: Collection
- Date: 1911-1980
- Description: The GKN business records were deposited at Shropshire Records Research in 1985. Shropshire's connection with the Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Group (GKN) is with Joseph Sankey & Sons Ltd who joined the group in 1920.
Joseph Sankey founded the business in 1854 and by 1919 the family business operated from four sites: Albert Street, Dudley which manufactured tin trays and hollow ware domestic items; The Bankfield Works, Bilston which produced steel electrical laminations; Hadley Castle Works, Wellington which produced components for the motor industry and Manor Rolling Mills, Ettingshall, Wolverhampton which produced steel sheets for the Bankfield Works.
This collection of records is from the Hadley Castle site. The records in the Publicity section recall the wide range of products produced at Hadley Castle and how much design has advanced from the first Sankey wheel and charabanc coachwork to the commercial vehicle cabs and earthmover wheels of more recent times. There is also advertising material for Sankey Sheldon steel office furniture which began to be manufactured in 1919 and a number of subsidiary product lines developed during the 1930s including steel barrels, radiators, bath panels and steel pulleys. Other publicity material covers the many world-wide exhibitions where GKN had stands from the Olympia Motor Show in 1919 to Detroit 1975 and Tokyo 1977. On a less positive note the collection also includes correspondence, press cuttings and releases relating to lay-offs, short time working, strikes and other disputes which are a reminder of the national industrial unrest of mid to late 1970s. Other records include documents relating to the closure of Sankey Sheldon in 1974 and the subsequent court case between GKN and Blakdale NSE. There are also documents relating to vehicles and other items produced for the Armed Forces and the Admiralty.
Joseph Sankey, born in Bilston in 1827, is described as having many of the qualities of a classic Victorian entrepreneur. Orphaned in 1836 Joseph was adopted and after leaving school at 14 he was apprenticed to a blank tray maker in Bilston. His first employers fashioned tin plate trays which were then japanned. Joseph then joined a firm set up by Samuel Jackson and Charles Harthill as leading hand but the business failed. In 1854 Joseph went into partnership with Samuel Jackson producing blank trays which they then sold to japanners. In 1861 Sankey paid £500 for his share of the partnership. In 1867 he purchased land in Albert Street, Bilston and in the new factory produced hollow ware domestic items as well as blank trays. In 1871 Joseph's eldest son John took over the accounting side of the business. John became a partner in 1878 and Chairman in 1886 when Joseph died. John's two brothers joined the partnership in 1891 as a result of the successful production of electrical laminations for the automative industry. In 1904 Sankey's began pressing metal body shells for wooden frames for Austin cars and also supplied wood and iron coachwork. In 1908 Sankey's developed and patented the first pressed and welded detachable car wheel. As demand for automative products increased it became evident that the Bilston works were not big enough. New premises were eventually found at Hadley Castle, Wellington. By 1911 Sankey's automative business was transferred to Hadley Castle and became largest employer in the area.
In 1919, due to managerial rather than technical or commercial problems, the family decided to sell the business. In 1913 John William Sankey died and his younger brother George temporarily accepted the Chairmanship but had no wish to run the company. Sydney Sankey, the most promising of the next generation to take over was killed in 1915. Anticipating problems both in terms of running the company and future economic instability the board decided to sell. Joseph Sankey & Sons amalgamated with John Lysaght in 1919 and were then taken over in 1920 by GKN. Members of the Sankey family remained as managing directors until 1954.
Jones, Edgar. A History of GKN, Macmillan 1990
The GKN Group of Companies (SRO 4898/H/1/7/1)
The World of GKN (SRO 4898/H/1/7/2)
- Extent: 2.00
- Access Status: Readers Ticket
- For more information contact: Shropshire Archives
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